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?
Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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!
The show has considerably diverged from the books:
In some cases, timelines and plotlines have been bounced around a bit:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some more differences between the show and the books are:
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.
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.