Game of Thrones: Plotlines from the books that played out differently (or not at all) in the series

Creative liberties are taken with just about any adaptation, and loyalists to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels have long criticized HBO’s Game of Thrones for its departures from the show’s source material. While there are events that happened in Game of Thrones much differently than they did in the books, there are also a number of occurrences that mirror what Martin originally put to paper.

Even at this late stage of the series, there are some plot points from the books that could potentially still happen. For some, however, the ship has sailed — and with only two episodes left, they’re unlikely to play out. Nevertheless, we rounded up some of the most interesting plot lines from the books that didn’t make the transition from page to screen.

(Note: There will be some discussion of events in the series through the most recent season 8 episode, so consider this a spoiler warning if you’re not caught up with the current season.)

Lady Stoneheart

Catelyn Stark

In the books, Catelyn Stark’s body is recovered from a river, and Beric Dondarrion trades his life for hers. (In the series, Beric instead sacrifices himself to save Catelyn’s daughter Arya much later on.) This isn’t Lady Stark as we know her, however, but rather a silent (due to her throat being slit), vengeful undead being known as Lady Stoneheart, obsessed with murdering anyone connected to the Freys, the Lannisters, and the events of the Red Wedding.

In Game of Thrones, Catelyn is brutally killed at the Red Wedding after witnessing the murder of her eldest son, Robb. That’s the last we’ve seen of her in the show, though. It’s possible she could still show up, but it’s looking more likely that this particular storyline was scrapped.

Manderly vs. Bolton

After the Boltons take over Winterfell and control of the North, House Manderly plots to overthrow them, demonstrating their loyalty to the Starks. There’s a complicated story arc involving one of the lords from that house, Wyman, who plans to fake dedication to the Freys and Lannisters while having secret meetings with Ser Davos, but this never happens in the Game of Thrones series despite featuring prominently in the novels.

Prince Doran’s secret plan

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Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) meets with Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig). HBO

In the Game of Thrones series, Prince Doran Martell, ruler of Dorne, is merely a peripheral character who meets his end fairly early. In the books, however, Doran plays a much larger role in a plot to take the Iron Throne. His plan is to have his eldest son Quentyn find and marry Daenerys Targaryen, then bring her and her dragons back to Westeros to take the Iron Throne together. No surprise: Things don’t work out as planned in the books, and Quentyn meets his end during the ill-fated endeavor.

Arianne Martell’s matriarchy plan

Another abandoned Martell-centred plot from the books has Arianne Martell, the eldest daughter of Doran, plan the kidnapping of Myrcella Baratheon in order to have her take the Iron Throne from her brother Tommen. Her end goal is to restore a matriarchy to the realm. In the show, Oberyn Martell’s bastard daughters — called the Sand Snakes — are the central Martell children to be featured and play a role in murdering Myrcella instead of kidnapping her.

Young Griff

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Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister Helen Sloan/HBO

This storyline could still happen in Game of Thrones, but it would be a huge wrench thrown into the narrative just ahead of the series’ end. In Martin’s novels, a boy named Young Griff meets Tyrion on a riverboat on his way to find Daenerys in Meereen. This young man claims to be Aegon Targaryen, who was presumed dead, but he now insists he is ready to stake his claim to the Iron Throne. In the show, Jon Snow is set up to be Aegon Targaryen, so this is how they’re interpreting that storyline for the adaptation.

A friend’s sacrifice

One of the more controversial plot points in the Game of Thrones series has Sansa Stark sent to marry the dreadful Ramsay Bolton, who violently rapes her and forces Theon Greyjoy to watch. This is a far cry from the way things go down in the books. It’s Sansa’s childhood friend, Jeyne Poole, posing as Arya Stark, who is forced to marry Ramsay in the novels. She similarly endures constant abuse at his hands, confined to a tower and awaiting rescue.

Mance Rayder’s secret

Mance Rayder
Mance Rayder

The leader of the “Free Folk” Wildlings, Mance Rayder, was killed by a mercy arrow in the TV series, shot by Jon Snow before he could be burned to death on the orders of Stannis Baratheon. In the book, this seems to happen, but it’s eventually revealed that a Wildling named Rattleshirt had been disguised as Mance. Meanwhile, the real Mance, who switched his visual appearance with Rattleshirt, attempts to rescue Theon and Jeyne from Ramsay Bolton.

Jojen Reed’s disappearance

Jojen Reed died in Game of Thrones after guiding Bran to the Three-Eyed Raven, having done so in both the series and the books. His greensight gave him prophetic dreams and allowed him to help Bran understand his gifts, but he left Bran to wing it (pun intended) in the show after being stabbed by wights. In the books, Jojen’s death isn’t as certain, having simply retreated into himself and disappeared into the caves, never to be seen again.

Griff’s greyscale

Jorah Mormont infected with Greyscale
Jorah Mormont infected with Greyscale

In the TV series, Tyrion and Jorah end up cornered by stone men afflicted with grayscale, and Jorah catches the deadly disease that turns flesh to stone. In Martin’s novels, however, Jorah never ends up kidnapping Tyrion and contracting grayscale. Tyrion meets a man named Griff in the books, and after Griff dives into the water to save him (just as Jorah did in the series), he ends up catching grayscale.

Joffrey’s death

Joffrey’s death happens in the books in the same way it does in the series, having the cruel king succumb to poisoning. The manner in which his death takes place, however, is so gruesomely described in the book that it’s no wonder it was softened for television. In the book, Joffrey claws open his own throat in a desperate attempt to breathe. In the series, his death was still brutal as he clenched his throat with his eyes and nose bleeding, and his face turned purple before he passed away — anything but peacefully — in his mother’s arms.


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