Only the books are canon
GRRM has said this on at least two occasions.
angelos_l: I recently played the Telltale Game of Thrones game. I know that House Forrester exists in your books, so I just wanted to clarify: Is the information that we get about them and the Whitehills (their seats, their sigils and their words) valid, or is it only canon within the tv series universe? Thanks.
GRRM: Only the books are canon.
GRRM: Not A Blog
RL: How much back story have you created? Have you mapped out the world’s physics, geography, history, astronomy, etc.?
Martin: I have a huge number of genealogies that are in the appendices. The appendices grow with each book. I also have a fair amount of back story in my head. In the genealogy for a house, I’ll list the three children of a particular lord and lady. As I write them down, I have something in my head or in my notes. I have some secret about them or their personality or their fate. There is back story-but it is subject to change. Nothing is actually canon until it appears in the novel.
I’ve made this point with some of the spin-off products. Some of the gaming products want to use my notes or some materials I have. I’ve allowed that, but I caution them that I’m still telling the story. If I change it, the version in the books is canon. The spin-off products are fun, but not canon.
Reader's Lane interview
This includes the seven books in the main series:
- A Game of Thrones
- A Clash of Kings
- A Storm of Swords
- A Feast for Crows
- A Dance with Dragons
- The Winds of Winter (unpublished)
- A Dream of Spring (unpublished)
This also includes the short stories and prequel novels written by himself.
The Tales of Dunk and Egg series:
- The Hedge Knight
- The Sworn Sword
- The Mystery Knight
- The She-Wolves (unpublished)
- The Village Hero (unpublished)
- The Sellsword (planned)
- The Champion (planned)
- The Kingsguard (planned)
- The Lord Commander (planned)
The following short stories were posted in various anthologies:
- The Princess and The Queen (Dangerous Women)
- The Rogue Prince (Rogues)
- The Sons of the Dragon (The Book of Swords)
The World of Ice and Fire and The Lands of Ice and Fire are both considered to be canon but they fall under the "unreliable narrator" (see foot-note).
@westerosorg Hello, I've been looking into the various levels of canon and recently wrote up what I believe to be correct. I was wondering if you could have a look over it to see if everything looks fine from your understanding. Thanks!
Pretty good. TWoIaF and TLoIaF are canon, as GRRM authored them, but TWoIaF is a special case in that it's a maester's account of history and so on and that can be wrong, just as accounts of history from characters in the novels can be mistaken if they were not involved.
And sometimes even if they were involved, as with Barristan and his foggy memory about events decades past. :)
Is TWoIaF another case of the "unreliable narrator" then?
Yep. Not everything is deliberately unreliable, but history itself is unreliable.
There is also Fire and Blood which is a history of House Targaryen. This is meant to be published in two volumes the first of which was released in 2018 titled Fire & Blood.
There is also a list of semi-canon sources where GRRM has given information to the authors but reserves the right to change anything. The information is considered canon unless contradicted by the novels.
Non-Canon or separate continuity
The following sources are considered non-canon or seperate canon.
Game of Thrones TV series: This is considered to be in a separate continuity from the books. Any of the supplementary material for the TV show is considered to be in this separate continuity too. Bryan Cogman has used the words "show canon" several times himself and of course we also have GRRM saying his quote.
Which means it’s been decided that Loras and Margaery are the only children of Lord Tyrell, I take it? No Garlan or Willas?
“At this point, in show canon, they’re the only children of Mace Tyrell. Margaery is eldest, Loras is the heir. Considering this plotline dominates the season, it was felt we needed the Tyrell engaged to Sansa (and then Cersei) had to be the Tyrell the audience is familiar with, as opposed to an unseen character.”
Season 3 Interview: Bryan Cogman
The show is the show, the books are the books; two different tellings of the same story.
The Show, the Books
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series: According to Elio this should be considered part of the TV show canon and is probably also semi-canon for the books. For more information see this related answer of mine.
Still, in most respects the game feels reasonably plausible as part of the Game of Thrones series, but it should not be considered canon for A Song of Ice and Fire unless GRRM confirms that various aspects are canon. Per a user on our forum, Martin replied to a query concerning the canonicity of the game:
“All I really control is what is “book canon” (the novels and the Dunk & Egg stories and the worldbook). It’s up to HBO and David & Dan to determine what is “TV canon.”
The Telltale guys worked with Ty Franck, who was my right hand here for half a decade.”
westeros.org, Review of Game of Thrones: Episode 1
Game of Thrones: The RPG (Computer game): Apparently this is not considered canon for either the books or the show.
- Anything else: Essentially any fan made material or stuff that has not been approved by GRRM himself.
Just a quick side note on that there are sometimes canon conflicts in the novels themselves. Sometimes these are mistakes but sometimes these are intentional as GRRM likes to use the "unreliable narrator".
[GRRM is asked about Sansa misremembering the name of Joffrey's sword.]
The Lion's Paw / Lion's Tooth business, on the other hand, is intentional. A small touch of the unreliable narrator. I was trying to establish that the memories of my viewpoint characters are not infallible. Sansa is simply remembering it wrong. A very minor thing (you are the only one to catch it to date), but it was meant to set the stage for a much more important lapse in memory. You will see, in A STORM OF SWORDS and later volumes, that Sansa remembers the Hound kissing her the night he came to her bedroom... but if you look at the scene, he never does. That will eventually mean something, but just now it's a subtle touch, something most of the readers may not even pick up on.
So Spake Martin SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, And More
Q: How do you stay plugged into the story and keep track of the details?
A: "Most of the stuff is kepts in my head. I do have notes and charts, but not as many as I should." And he emails Ran with questions about character details. :) He said he gets upset with himself when he makes a mistake, because there are already intentional mistakes in what characters say. "Some inconsistencies are deliberate. There are unreliable narrators, especially when they are remembering things."
So Spake Martin, Union Square Signing