It has been a while since I've read the books and I recall the show being fairly accurate. What plot differences are there between them?

Are any substantial, or are they all particularly minor?

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    There were several issues with this question: a) asking about one episode is the way to ruin. Are we going to ask about every single episode? I made the question about the entire series. b) The spoiler is completely unnecessary, even if this was about one episode: anyone who's going to be able to answer the question knows where the episode ends. Consequently the lame padding is unnecessary. c) If you have a question about what's on-topic, ask it on the meta-discussion site, not in your question.
    – user366
    Apr 19, 2011 at 19:26
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    Note: if anyone thinks this question is too localized, or that questions about ongoing shows are inappropriate, please read Joel's position. Then, if you still have issues with this question, raise them on Meta.
    – user56
    Apr 21, 2011 at 0:16
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    It would be awesome if this question had one compiled answer that just sums up all the differences, rather than several answers adding just one bullet point. Still its an interesting comparison, especially thinking about why they changed things
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jun 16, 2011 at 13:24
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    This is too big and too broad and it's just going to get worse. Go read the Game of Thrones Wikia if you want to know all the differences. Jul 17, 2014 at 11:56
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    The problem with this question is that both series are still being expanded. Answers will have to be adjusted as the series progress. Perhaps it would be better to limit the question to the story so far, asking new questions when new books or seasons are released.
    – SQB
    May 27, 2016 at 8:09

19 Answers 19


It is, so far, a fairly good distillation of the plot, though there were a few differences that stood out to me. From memory (and from the small portion that has currently been aired):

  • Dialogue is, understandably, truncated drastically. I'm sure this was a necessity

  • In the previews it appears Cat objects to Eddard becoming the Hand of the King, whereas in the book she encourages it

  • In the HBO series, there was no red sap faces in the Weirwood trees, rather they appeared to be created from knot holes

  • Most of the kids are aged a few years in the HBO series. For example, in the TV series Bran is 10 when Robert visits Winterfell, in the book he is 7

  • Daenerys wedding night consummation on the HBO series was alot less consensual than it eventually became in the book

  • Tyrion is less ugly and twisted in the HBO series, instead portrayed as a relatively attractive dwarf

  • Tyrion appears more debauched in HBO series, with an apparent obsession with whoring, well beyond what is described in the books.

  • Arya is not the least bit horsey looking in the HBO series

I yelled at the television (a habit my wife finds fairly annoying) a few more times than this through-out the first episode, but most of them were fairly petty grievances, brought on largely by the fact I had just finished reading Game Of Thrones so it was fairly fresh.

Most of the differences were, I am sure, to impart the most amount of plot information as possible in the limited time (and attention span of the average viewer) that the medium of a television series offers.


I have spotted many more, subtle and blatant, in the ongoing series, but have decided not to update the list here, primarily as it just sounds bitchy.

Also, I believe, I have already made my point, that HBO have kept true to the spirit of the book, although they have culled a lot (and changed a little bit) to make it a worthy television adaptation. I am enjoying it, but not as much as I did the books, but I think that was to be expected.

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    * In the prologue a different Black Brother survives. Apr 21, 2011 at 23:26
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    @Vitaly Check my comment to your other question on the matter. Apparently there was a survivor. It was indeed a different person than in the TV show, but still a survivor. May 3, 2011 at 18:56
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    "Tyrion appears more debauched in HBO series, with an apparent obsession with whoring, well beyond what is described in the books." I guess it's just me, but I feel like we must have been reading different books.
    – Kirk Woll
    Oct 12, 2011 at 3:42
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    @Kirk Woll, it was really the first episode I think, where they were trying to set up characters, and they kind laid on the 'Tyrion likes whores' a bit to thick, afaik
    – johnc
    Oct 12, 2011 at 4:04
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    "it just sounds bitchy" - bitchy or not, it's what the question is asking. Besides, after 3 seasons and then some, I think a significant number of changes has accumulated, and the differences are not irrelevant if one wishes to understand show events that are in part consequences of removed book events.
    – Superbest
    Apr 20, 2014 at 1:37

The Targaryens have purple eyes in the books, but not in the tv series. Apparently, they tried purple contacts and such, but this looked too fake.

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    This question is asking specifically for plot differences, which this is not. Jul 25, 2014 at 9:11

I don't think there are any really major departures. That said, there are a few nitpicky things that could make their lives more difficult in the future:

  1. Making Renly's sexuality explicit shortcuts any interest in the later storylines about the consummation of his marriage to Margaery. On the same subject, Renly's the one bit of casting that doesn't work for me, as you can't really believe this man is charismatic enough to lead 100,000 men to war against the rightful king. He's almost as whiney as Sansa.
  2. Making Varys and Illyrio the obvious participants in the conversation under the Red Keep removes any ambiguity and tension about Varys's motivations.
  3. This may just be me, but despite his crimes, I didn't feel Jaime stuck out that much as evil in the early books, compared to the TV series. I hope they've not gone too far for people to enjoy him in the later stories, where he's one of the most compelling characters.
  4. There's no way Tyrion can kill Shae with that tiny brooch they give the Hand of the King. ;)

But really, they've not hamstrung themselves in any way. There were always going to be changes, not just because of the length of the books, but because they're all written from within the characters' heads.

Now that the final episode has aired, only one more quibble arises: we never got any sort of Ned reminiscence or dream sequence in his cell recalling the events at the Tower of Joy. This means TV viewers haven't been inducted into one of the most interesting mysteries of the books.

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    Your comment on Littlefinger is incorrect. In the book, the chapter actually ends with Littlefinger using Ned's own dagger, putting it against his throat and saying that he told Ned not to trust him. The TV show cannot be more accurate than that.
    – Zottek
    Jun 16, 2011 at 9:47
  • Ah, fair point. For some reason my brain decided not to believe that. :)
    – Thom
    Jun 16, 2011 at 18:02
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    from memory he strangled Shae with a gold chain, not the Hand pin
    – johnc
    Jun 27, 2011 at 0:17
  • re #3 I thought Jaime was being painted pretty clearly as a villain in the early books as well, so this doesn't seem like something the HBO show missed out on. That said I initially thought the actor for the role was horribly miscast, but he ended up growing on me towards the end.
    – kekekela
    Aug 24, 2011 at 18:45
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    I actually thought, particularly after watching Tywin shoot down his snotty attitude, that Jamie became significantly more sympathetic as the series went on. I seem to be the only person I know who thinks this, so maybe I'm just weird.
    – Chris Lutz
    Mar 13, 2012 at 0:03

Couple more. I've only finished the first book though, so they may have been mentioned in subsequent books.

Joffery is supposed to be handsome but in the series he is not that great looking but rather crafty.

During the confrontation with Jaime Lannister, Ed Stark's leg was impaled by a guard in the series but in the book he was injured when a horse fell on him.

It was not shown in the series that Sansa was the one who betrayed the Starks by telling Queen Cersei that they were leaving King's Landing. I thought this was an important part.

In the series, Ed Stark saw Arya at the feet of a Baelor statue and told Yoren. There was no mention of it in the book.

Lord Renly is gay in the series. Did not get that impression in the book.

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    If we're restricting to differences just between the series so far and book 1, agreed - although later on there are some subtle hints about Renly and his relationship with the Knight of Flowers. Jun 15, 2011 at 10:05
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    It's odd, if you accept the relationship between Renly and Loras whilst reading, it is blatantly obvious in the book, whilst never being overtly pointed out in it.
    – johnc
    Jun 20, 2011 at 23:03
  • I rewatched that episode, and while, I agree it probably is meant to look like he sees Arya, it could be read either way
    – johnc
    Jun 27, 2011 at 0:20
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    I did get the very distinct impression in the series that Sansa betrayed her family, even if it wasn’t explicitly mentioned. Aug 20, 2011 at 11:52
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    Renly being gay was strongly implied in the book, but not directly confirmed as has been the case in the HBO series.
    – kekekela
    Aug 24, 2011 at 18:43

A notable difference is that all the child characters are significantly older than in the books, some (danny,older stark boys) significantly so.

I suspect this is an understandable combination of it being easier to work with and cast older actors, some of the things the characters do just not seeming plausible on screen with young characters versus sounding plausible in writTen form, and the opportunities for 'sexing up' afforded by older characters (e.g. there certainly would be a lot less sex scenes for danaeris if she were cast as the thirteen she is at start of the books, rather than the significantly eighteen plus she looks on the show!)

however, this really doesn't seem to impact on the plot at all. overall it seems to be a surprisingly good, faithful adaptation.

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    The actions of the young characters in the book are out of whack with their age. Bran at 7 as the maturity of a 25 year old, Robb is a master stratege at 15, Rickon has a teenager's personality at 4. I suspect, this is easier in a book, where you don't have a constant dissonance between the look of a character and their personality.
    – JDelage
    Jun 11, 2011 at 13:42
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    A year in this universe may not be the same as a year in ours. I always treated the years in the books as relative, rather than exactly equivalent to what we think of as a year. Nov 14, 2011 at 17:30
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    All of the characters are older, not just the children. In the books Ned and Catelyn are only 35, but they look much older in the series. Tywin is 58 and Walder Frey is 92, meaning the characters of the books span at least 4 generations. Apr 2, 2014 at 4:04

Spoilers if you have not read the books

Several semi-important characters are conspicuously absent from the show making some scenes rather awkward later on in the series (as dialogue is swapped to other characters.) Obviously this is difficult for the show since the books have far too many characters but there are 3 which I noticed who are set up in the first book and play significant roles throughout the next 4 books.

Brynden Tully, Catelyn's uncle is probably Robb's most important advisor, and his absence means that Robb seems to be surrounded by a very undistinguished bunch, Great Jon is a bit of an oaf, Theon is a sleaze etc

Tyrion asks for his squire, to which Bronn replies he doesn't have one. This is a bit of a wink at those who have read the books because Podrick Payne is Tyrion's squire and plays a minor but continuing role throughout the next 3 books, and when last we saw him was left in a cliff hanger alongside the Maid of Tarth. I wonder if Martin knows he is unimportant later on already or if the show writers figure they could just write him in later if required.

Roose Bolton is probably the most important character to be missing from a thematic point of view because he keeps the North Men from being the 'good guys,' and shows the readers that in war every side has their heroes and villains (or at least villains.) Not only is Bolton gone, but so too are the 10,000 men he is supposed to be commanding. Rather than winning an indecisive victory against half of Robb's force left under Bolton's command, and then having to withdraw to gather his strength at Harrenhal, Tywin crushes 2000 men left to die by Robb. This really doesn't make much sense, since first of all Robb has fewer men than the lannisters to begin with, and why send 2000 to whole sale slaughter anyway. More to the point it would be pretty reckless of Robb to leave the Twins and the Neck completely open to attack by Tywin (since he wouldn't know of Stannis/Renlys plans.)

Geography is not really focused on in the show though so some license is reasonable. However leaving Bolton will affect the Brave Companions, Arya, Jaime, Brienne, and without Bolton introduced the events in the north involving his bastard son will also be a bit out of left field.

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    I assume you know by now (2012) that Roose Bolton has appeared in season 2, has already expressed his preference for flaying men, and has said "his bastard" will retake Winterfell... They couldn't have cut House Bolton anyway, since they are a major storyline in the later books!
    – Andres F.
    May 25, 2012 at 23:57
  • I agree that the nerfing of the Bolton's battle made little sense, and if taken seriously, would make Robb out to be pretty callous and ridiculous. In the book, he splits off his cavalry to ride to Riverrun and ambush the Kingslayer, not his whole army including foot. And sending 2000 men to their doom as a weird surprise suicide attack is just weird and horrible and pointless and just wouldn't happen, or if it did, would deserve a lot of attention instead of barely a mention. Just seems a sloppy change to avoid "having to show" (or not show) a large battle.
    – Dronz
    Feb 22, 2016 at 22:35

Rickon is hardly referenced in the show. I had to watch the episode twice before I was even sure he is there. He's not identified by name, he's just this kid standing next to the Starks when the king arrives. And he's rather grown up in comparison to the book. Even on the IMDB page he's not listed by name. At first I thought they cut him out of the show, but Jon does say "5 pups, one for each of the Stark children".

  • and you see 2 older males carrying them, I am assuming Robb and Theon (holding Rickon's). Confused me for a bit
    – johnc
    Apr 28, 2011 at 4:52
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    He is referenced explicitly in the second episode though. Apr 28, 2011 at 6:32

In the series Littlefinger tells Sansa about how the Hound's brother burned his face, but in the book the Hound tells her himself. I find the Hound to be one of the most interesting characters and I don't know why they made this change.


Another small difference that the series added is the whore Ros, whom we see in scenes with Theon Greyjoy, Lord Littlefinger, and Maester Pycelle. She really gets around.

  • I read somewhere (IMDB I think) that she was the first 'HBO character', not actually featured in the book. By first, I presume there will be more HBO characters in the future
    – johnc
    Jul 12, 2011 at 3:26
  • This question is asking specifically for plot differences. Does this character's introduction impact the plot at all? Jul 25, 2014 at 9:13

Khal drogo's fight with Mago did not happen in the book at all. The wound that eventually killed him was from an arrow he caught in the chest while they were raiding that village. That fight was pretty bad ass though, when he took out Mago's tongue.


It's been a while since I read the books but I remember this part for some reason: After Arya's direwolf bites Joffery, Sansa is pleading with the Queen and Ned not to harm her direwolf, Lady. In the book, Sansa's pleading suddenly reminds Ned of watching his sister, Lyanna, die.

In the book, Ned seems haunted by the death of his sister and the promise she begged him to keep. Not so much in the show. This is not a complaint in any way! I'm loving the show!

  • Not that we know, but depending on what theories you follow (e.g. Jon Snow is Lyanna and Rhaegar's son), that promise could end up being incredibly important to the stories, so it's sad none of the Tower of Joy stuff was covered.
    – Thom
    Jun 20, 2011 at 15:16

The show has considerably diverged from the books:

  • The Martells are considerably removed from the original. Neither Quentyn nor Arianne Martell make any appearance. Myrcella Baratheon, Doran Martell and Trystane Martell are assassinated in the show. However, all are alive and well (albeit scarred, in the case or Myrcella). Indeed, Arianne's POV is the recently released sample chapter, where she goes to meet …
  • Jon Connington and Aegon Targaryan, who have have landed in Westeros and are establishing a base here. They are also missing in the show. They are currently attempting to take Storm's End.
  • Speaking of Storm's End, the show has moved on further in the case of Stannis Baratheon. Stannis has apparently been executed by Brienne, after being abandoned by Melisandre and soundly defeated by the Boltons. Melisandre, the queen and his daughter were left behind with the Night's Watch in the book. In the show, the queen has committed suicide after watching Shireen being sacrificed to R'hllor.
  • The Boltons were planning to marry "Arya Stark" (Jeyne Poole) to Ramsay, and she is rescued by Theon Greyjoy and some others. In the show, Littlefinger brings Sansa Stark to Winterfell, where she is married to Ramsay. Sansa later on escapes with Theon, teams up with Brienne, and reaches Castle Black, where she is with the now-revived Jon Snow. In the book, Sansa is still in the Vale, where Littlefinger plans to marry her to Harry the Heir, who is Robert Arryn's next-in-line.
  • Theon Greyjoy makes his way back to the Iron Islandsin the show, whereas he and Asha Greyjoy are prisoners of Stannis in the book. In any case, he's with his sister.
  • Catelyn Stark has apparently been revived by R'hllor and is now known as Lady Stoneheart. She's last seen about to execute Brienne (who is later on revealed to still live). Lady Stoneheart is missing from the show.
  • Barristan Selmy leads the defence at Meereen in the book, whereas he's dead in the show. In the book, the Masters have laid siege to Meereen, and Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont are with them. In the show, Tyrion now leads Meereen, having already met with Daenerys. He has Lord Varys alongside, who is instead in King's Landing in the book, where he assassinates …
  • Kevan Lannister, who is the Hand of the King in the show. Varys assassinates him and Pycelle in the book.
  • While the priest in the Temple of the Many-Faced God is revealed to be Jaqen H'ghar in the show, in the books it's not known who the people in the Temple really are.

In some cases, timelines and plotlines have been bounced around a bit:

  • Balon Greyjoy dies much earlier in the book. Euron becomes king, as in the show, and he is in possession of a powerful horn, which is yet to turn up in the show. Victarion Greyjoy leads an armada to Meereen, to aid Daenerys. The show is still getting around to building said armada.
  • Maester Aemon dies at Castle Black in the show, instead of at sea, where he, Samwell Tarley, Gilly and another brother of the Night's Watch are heading to Oldtown. This last person is absent in the show.
  • Yes. This question was asked in 2011 (Season 1), which kept closer to the books than the later seasons, though there were already some differences. The differences started becoming greater and greater particularly in Season 3, and now in 2016 when this answer was added, has diverged quite a bit and gone beyond where the books have reached, as you note. They're a bit like similar alternate universes at this point.
    – Dronz
    Jun 13, 2016 at 6:21

Each chapter of the book is a limited point of a view of a particular character. In the first book, The Game of Thrones, only Ned, Catelyn, Jon, Tyrion, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Tyrion and Daenerys have chapters on them. This means that much of the scenes in which these characters didn't appear wasn't in the book. For example, the book doesn't have the sex scene between Lord Renly Baratheon and the Knight of Flowers, although Renly's homosexuality was hinted throughout.

  • This question is specifically asking for plot differences. Do you think this POV-related change ever impacts on the plot? Jul 25, 2014 at 9:14

Dont get me wrong, I do like the show. But here are some differences that stuck out to me:

Theon was not given a perspective at all in the first book, but he speaks and has much more of a role in the tv series, spoiling some of the twists later given in the second book. Potential reader beware.

Tyrion is more of a letch in the tv series, but in the books his penchant for women seemed more restrained- he hasnt touched a woman in at least a year when he finally meets Shae, for example.

In fact, while the books arent prudish at all, it seems like some of the nudity in the show is just there for the sake of nudity and seems more distracting and cheesy. As a result, for me anyway, its harder to take some of the scenes seriously.

Sansa seems pissy and bored in the tv show, where she was childishly naive and star struck in the book.

Joffery on the other hand seems more thoughtful than the book portrayed him. In the show he has almost a philosophy behind how he thinks authority should rule, whereas in the book he seems like a spoiled brat with unlimited power, and in another instance, in the series Joffery seems struck by Sansa at one point, where in the book he always seemed like a sullen kid who's too self centered to be interested in Sansa at all romantically.

The wolves in the book are much bigger than on tv, but thank goodness they didnt waste money trying to make some hokey CGI wolves, that would have been stupid, imo.

As others pointed out, Drogo is actually somewhat emotionally tender and with Daenerys and shows her some dignity when consumating their marriage in the book.

And, in the book, Sandor Clegane confides in Sansa himself about what happened to him. The contrast bewteen his views of knighthood and Sansa's fairy tale outlook was pretty nifty, I was sad to see it left out.

  • This question is specifically asking for plot differences, which most of these aren't. Jul 25, 2014 at 9:13

Joffrey cuts out Marillion's tongue in the show. In the 3rd book he is in the Eyrie singing for Lady Lysa and also part of a very important scene involving Littlefinger and Sansa. How can they address this issue in the series?

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    I think any similar bard would do. Marillion is a truly minor character in the books; it's not like his role cannot be fulfilled by another character.
    – Andres F.
    May 26, 2012 at 0:01

In the book Joffrey is seen as handsome, I think. In the show, he looks like the child of incest he is. Well, just a little different looking, not ugly.

On another note I think Bolton will be seen in the next season. I also think Tyrion did not have Podrick as a squire until he became the King's Hand in King's Landing. I could be mistaken.

Most of the other differences have been pointed out, but obviously in the show you don't have insight of what the character is thinking. Well at least not as clearly as you do in the book, but that is just the nature of the mediums.

  • This question is specifically asking about plot differences. Jul 25, 2014 at 9:14

I thought the books were fantastic, but then I watched the HBO series and thought the sex scenes were more like soft porn and were much more graphic than the books. In the book the sex seemed part of a narrative. In the series it seems as though it was focused on out of proportion to other scenes just so more sex could be aired or made up (e.g. Daenerys' lesbian scene with her slave, which didn't happen in the book). A shame really. Everyone in our house started to get bored. Cut the gratuitous sex and put more dialogue in. Too many scenes were nothing like the book and some of the scenes that were changed didn't add anything to the narrative e.g. when Ned cuts Lady's throat and Bran suddenly wakes from his coma - cheesy.

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    Well, Doreah was the Lysene handmaiden specifically chosen and present to teach her the 'womanly arts of love'
    – Josh
    Mar 26, 2012 at 15:17
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    You need to re-read the books. Daenerys quite explicitly had her maidservant stimulate her sexually on more than one occasion. Apr 5, 2013 at 9:11
  • This question is specifically asking about plot differences. Jul 25, 2014 at 9:15

Some more differences between the show and the books are:

  • After the fight at the Fist of the First Men, Coldhands shows up and helps Sam and Gilly back to the Wall and then guides Bran & Co. to the three eyed Crow.
  • Daario isn't like he is displayed on the Show. From the Wikia:

He keeps his beard cut in three prongs, all dyed blue. His eyes are blue and his curly hair is dyed blue. His mustachios are painted gold and he has a large, curving nose. He is lithe, smooth skinned, has a golden tooth and dresses in loud colors and finery.

  • Theon's sister is called Yara Greyjoy in the Show, but Asha Greyjoy in the books
  • 1
    This question is specifically asking about plot differences. How about explaining about Asha/Yara's different story line? Jul 25, 2014 at 9:16

This reads to me as a particularly important oops on the part of the series creators: Is Cersei Lying to Cat about Cersei's First Born?

In the books, Cersei has three children, as prophesied by Maggy the Frog (in the books and the series). In the series, Cersei had four children. The first was a "black-haired beauty" who died in infancy and was presumably a product of Robert and Cersei. That's problematic for the series because it contradicts Maggy's prophecy even as told in the series.

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