From Lady Stoneheart to Young Griff: 8 Ways 'Game of Thrones' Did Not Spoil Everything for Readers of George R.R. Martin's Books

After eight seasons and 73 episodes, Game of Thrones finally reached its conclusion Sunday night. The story is all over, unless you're one of the millions of fans who have also read the George R.R. Martin books.

The story told in the hit HBO show had long passed the narrative presented thus far in Martin's ongoing A Song of Ice and Fire book series, but even though Martin served as an executive producer on the show and previously gave the showrunners a full outline of how he planned to conclude the saga, that doesn't mean what people saw during the show's finale is exactly what will happen when the remaining novels are published.

The TV version of the fantasy epic differed from its source material in a number of important ways, meaning that even if the two share the same endpoint, how they get there will likely — and in some cases must — be different.

Below are just a handful of prominent aspects of the GoT/ASOIAF saga that will almost certainly play out on the printed page in a different way than they did on the TV screen.

(DOUBLE SPOILER WARNING: Note that what comes below contains some spoilers for both the TV series and the books that have already been published. Also, while Martin has already released some preview sections of the next book, The Winds of Winter, we are not referencing anything that might have been revealed in those pages, since some book readers want to go into the novel without any prior knowledge of what happens.)

While this list is nowhere near exhaustive, it does highlight some of the more salient ways in which what happened (or in many cases didn't happen) on the TV show will have to be different from how these particular aspects occur on the page.


The book version of Sansa Stark may indeed end up as the queen in Winterfell, ruling over a sovereign North, but how the character gets to that point will have to be in some cases wildly different than her path as portrayed on GoT.

Arya and Sansa reunited
Helen Sloan/HBO

The biggest change to her storyline for TV was the decision to have her be handed off into a brutal, sexually abusive marriage with Ramsay Bolton (nee Snow). That has not happened yet in ASOIAF and seems very unlikely it will ever happen.

Ramsay does marry in the books, but to Jeyne Poole, a young woman and friend of Sansa that is being passed off as Arya Stark as a ruse to garner Northern support for the Boltons.

Jeyne's treatment in A Dance With Dragons is similar to TV Sansa's abuse at the hands of Ramsay. She even escapes Winterfell by jumping from a battlement. Thus, it is looks incredibly doubtful that Sansa would somehow also end up marrying Ramsay and repeating this horrid cycle.

The last time Sansa was seen in the extant books was A Feast for Crows, where she is still posing as Littlefinger's bastard daughter Alayne Stone, with plans to marry her off to Ser Harrold Hardyng of the Vale before revealing her true identity.

The change to Sansa's story could have huge repercussions for other plot lines that result in further deviations from the plot of the show.

On TV, she is rescued from Winterfell and brought to Jon Snow at Castle Black by Brienne of Tarth. Her escape from the Boltons was a key part both of Theon's redemption arc and of Brienne's long, fruitless quest to save just one of the Stark children.

However, in the books, Sans has no apparent need for such a rescue — at least not yet. If the character does eventually face peril, it will almost certainly not be at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, which would seem to minimize the odds of Theon being involved. Having Brienne stumble upon her does seem more plausible, but again — it won't be under the circumstances as portrayed on HBO.

The TV show also leaned heavily into Sansa's abuse at the hands of Ramsay as a catalyst for her character development — a move that some fans criticized for using sexual assault in this way — forcing her toward a more jaded and cynical worldview. Of course, this may not be needed in the books when you consider she's seen her father beheaded, she's been married off to Tyrion, been accused of poisoning King Joffrey, and seen Littlefinger murder her aunt in cold blood. That would be enough to toughen up most adolescents.

So what happens to Sansa in the Vale? How does she eventually reunite with Jon? Will Sansa be present at the Battle of the Bastards? Perhaps her in-book storyline will actually make the sudden appearance of the Knights of the Vale at that particular skirmish less of the deus ex machina that it was on TV.



On TV, Dorne played out as an odd destination for a quick road trip for Jaime Lannister and Bronn, neither of whom will likely get near the southernmost region of Westeros in the remaining books.

The GoT writers effectively threw out most of the Dornish storyline from the books. There is no complicated, attempted abduction of Myrcella Baratheon with the intention of crowning her queen of the Seven Kingdoms, no Ser Aerys Oakhart having a secret affair with Princess Arianne, no failed assassination attempt on Myrcella by Gerold Dayne, no shipping Quentyn Martell off to Essos to woo Daenerys.

Myrcella died on the TV show in her father/uncle Jaime's arms as they try to leave Dorne, but the last time she's heard of in the books, Myrcella is to be escorted by Nymeria back to King's Landing. If Myrcella survives the trip, then she would either need to eventually die some other way or have her claim to the throne be disregarded for Cersei to sit the Iron Throne.

On TV Daenerys brokered her (ultimately pointless) union with Dorne via Varys (who apparently has the ability to fast-travel, like in a video game or secretly owns a private jet with pilot on retainer). It seems likely that Quentyn, who dies in the books after being burned by Rhaegal's dragon fire, will act as a catalyst for any connection between Dany and Dorne.



It was one the show's biggest and most deadly moments — with virtually all of her King's Landing enemies and frenemies waiting in the Sept of Baelor for her to stand trial, Cersei Lannister decides to just blow the entire building up in a huge ball of wildfire.

Assuming this event still happens in the books, at least one key detail will likely have to be different.

The HBO show had both Margaerey Tyrell and her brother Loras present at the fateful trial. However, in the books Loras is far away from King's Landing, having been severely wounded while taking back Dragonstone in King Tommen's name.

So not only is there the physical difficulty of a gravely injured Loras traveling back by sea to King's Landing, but also the question of why he would choose to go back to stand trial. It is within the realm of possibility that Loras will be in the sept when it explodes, but there will need to be some explaining as to how and why he is there.

Additionally, as mentioned above, Princess Myrcella Baratheon is not yet dead in the books — disfigured by an attack, but not deceased — so even if the big boom at the sept does push young Tommen to take his own life, that would not be the end of the Baratheon royal line.


Catelyn Stark's reanimated, vengeful corpse hasn't made too many appearances in the books, but she was never seen once on the TV show.

Beric Dondarrion and his Brotherhood without Banners played a moderately important role on GoT, to the point where Beric received a hero's funeral following the battle with the army of the dead. But in the books, it's revealed that Beric gave his life when he resurrected Catelyn, and that Lady Stoneheart took over the reins of the Brotherhood. If this gang of rogues does indeed hook up with Jon Snow, will his undead mother be part of the deal?

The last book readers saw of Stoneheart, she was about to execute Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne. Given that their deaths were not seen, it's highly possible these two survive the attempted hanging and ultimately take up with Jon Snow, et al.

And even if Stoneheart plays no direct role in the outcome of either the battle with the white walkers or the fight for the Iron Throne, surely Brienne would mention to the surviving Starks that "Hey all, I saw your mom a while back and she has looked better. Also, she tried to kill me and Pod; not cool."



The big revelation on the show was that Jon Snow was the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, giving him a pretty solid claim to the Iron Throne. That seems likely to play out the same in the books, but Martin has tossed in an additional wrinkle: Someone with what could be an even better claim.

Readers first met "Young Griff" in A Dance with Dragons, as a young man accompanying Tyrion Lannister, exiled noble Jon Connington and others on a boat bound for Volantis to hire the sellswords of the Golden Company, wait for Daenerys to head west, win her over and pledge the Company to her cause.

It's eventually revealed that Young Griff is actually — or at least purportedly — the real Aegon Targaryen, the son from Rhaegar's marriage to Elia Martell. It was long believed that baby Aegon had been killed by Gregor Clegane, but the story told in ADWD is that Varys swapped out baby Aegon with another child before the assassination had the royal tot shipped to safety in Pentos.

In the books, Aegon decides against waiting for Dany to head west and opts instead to simply take the 10,000 men of the Golden Company to Westeros and take back the throne in Aegon's name.

Aegon was excised entirely from the TV series, and the arrival of the Golden Company is explained away by having Euron Greyjoy hire them to impress Cersei. The sellswords also acted as Cersei's private army during her final stand at King's Landing.

This means there is an entire storyline involving yet another claimant for the throne to be dealt with by Martin in the books. Will Aegon be a friend or foe to Dany when she arrives in Westeros? Will he help her and Jon in the battle against the army of the dead? Will he side with Cersei and pledge his mercenaries to her cause, or maybe the Golden Company will choose to switch sides with the promise of Lannister gold?



Speaking of Jon Connington, it is he — and not Jorah Mormont — who contracts the deadly disease greyscale. Presumably because it was too closely linked to the Aegon/Griff plot, Connington's arc was omitted from the TV show, but the GoT writers decided it was still important to give someone the disease that quickly ossifies the victim's skin until it kills them.

Without Jorah getting greyscale, he has no reason to go seek care from the maesters at the Citadel, thus no need to interact and be cured by Samwell Tarly, which expedites Sam's return to the North and the revelation that Jon Snow is actually a Targaryen.

It's possible that this story all plays out similarly in the book, but with Jon Connington replacing Jorah. Even so, given the mysterious goings-on in Old Town and the Citadel in the book — What really happened to Pate the pig boy? What is Marwyn the Mage up to? — Samwell will likely do more than cure Connington overnight after cleaning out a few bedpans.



While the final two seasons of GoT gave not insignificant attention to swaggering pirate Euron Greyjoy and his efforts to bed Cersei Lannister, they ignored the other Greyjoy brother, Victorian.

On TV, Euron first intended to sail to Essos and take Daenerys as his queen, only to give up on that idea after realizing his niece and nephew will get there first.

But in the books, Theon and Asha never even attempt that trip to the east. Instead, Euron sends Victarion to Mereen to bring back Dany and her dragons. He was last seen in the books sailing east, but not without losing a number of ships in his fleet along the way.

Of possible importance — but what could also be a red herring — Euron has given Victarion a horn called Dragonbinder, which will supposedly bind a dragon to the horn's master but kill the person that blows it.

Theon and Yara's quick visit to Essos went with minimal friction between the Greyjoys and Dany and resulted in the mother of dragons using, among other ships, the Iron Fleet to return to Westeros.

It's difficult to imagine that Victarion's pop-in to Slaver's Bay will go so swimmingly, what with him possessing a horn that threatens to strip Dany of her winged children.

Given that Victarion and Dragonbinder made no appearance on TV, this is yet another storyline that will almost have to be a surprise to readers.


The TV show never really figured out what to do with Mance Rayder, killing him off after only a handful of appearances and shifting all wildling-related focus to Tormund.

Dance does die in the books — but not really. Just like in the TV show, Stannis Baratheon attempts to execute Mance via fire, only to have Jon Snow put an end to his misery with the help of some arrows.

However, unlike the TV show, it's later revealed that the person in that fire was not Mance, but instead his former associate Rattleshirt, and that Melissandre had used her skills to make Rattleshirt appear to be Mance.

Additionally, Mance is later dispatched to Winterfell — under the guise of a bard named Abel — along with six spearwives to rescue "Arya" from the clutches of the Boltons.

In order to ensure Mance's participation in this endeavor, Jon Snow holds on to Mance's newborn son. What Jon does not tell him is that the baby Mance thinks is his had already been swapped with wildling Gilly's son, and has left Castle Black.

Though Mance and the spearwives are successful in freeing the fake Arya from her confines at Winterfell, it is not yet known if these free folk made it out themselves.

Toward the end of Dance with Dragons, Jon receives a letter — dubbed the "Pink Letter" by many fans — from Ramsay wherein he claims to have not only defeated Stannis Baratheon, but to have captured and begun torturing Mance.

In the letter, Ramsay demands that Jon bring Melisandre, Stannis' wife Selyse, his daughter Shireen, and Mance's baby son.

Though Mance's TV arc ended with little fanfare, it appears that Martin may be planning to use the character to a greater end in the books, possibly setting up his apparent capture by Ramsay as a catalyst for what became the Battle of the Bastards on TV. There is also the possibility that his infant son — last seen as "Aemon" with Sam and Gilly, heading toward a life at Sam's familial home Horn Hill.

Whether or not Mance's story ultimately alters the main plot remains to be seen. What can be stated with certainty is that the resolution of his arc will have to be wildly different than it was on TV.




The books have also not dealt directly with the leadership structure of the white walkers. On TV, there was the Night King, whose demise at the hands of Arya Stark ultimately put an end to the threat of the walking dead. However, the books have not established such a character. There is an historical character from legend dubbed the Night's King, who had been an early Lord Commander of the Night's Watch before falling in love with an undead woman and briefly ruling as the Night's King. However, Martin has addressed the theory that this particular individual could still be alive during the time of the ASOIAF books, saying that "he is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have."

The battle at Winterfell with the army of the dead will almost certainly play out differently on the page than it did onscreen; at the very least you won't have to adjust your book settings to be able to see the words. In discussing "The Long Night," the show's executive producers talked about hearing of the fracas from Martin during a meeting in a hotel room years earlier, so it's doubtful he gave them anything more than the broadest strokes. Additionally, they and the episode's directors talked about a number of choices they made regarding characters' actions and fates, indicating that what ultimately appears on the page could be very different. Hopefully, Bran will have more to do than pointlessly warg into a crow while sitting under a tree.

Assuming the white walkers do get their hands on the dragon Viserion it almost certainly won't involve Jon, the Hound, and others trapped on an ice island while waiting for the world's fastest raven to send a message to Dragonstone, then for Dany to fly north with her dragons. Considering that Martin has paid great attention in the books to the amount of time required to travel around the world he's created, it would be out of character to so casually disregard that reality here. At the very least, he'd need to explain how the Night King obtained the massive chains and winches needed to drag Viserion from the deep.

The direwolves, particularly Jon's Ghost, will likely get more attention in the books, where Martin doesn't need to worry about the cost or hassle of a computer generated animal.

The TV show made a hero out of Gendry, but what about Robert Baratheon's other bastards? At least two of them have featured prominently in the books without ever making it to the small screen. Edric Storm is taken from his home in Storm's End to Dragonstone, where Melissandre uses the young man's blood to curse a trio of Stannis Baratheon's rivals for the throne. Davos rescues Edric from almost certain damnation and sends him off to live in Essos. He may not return in the books, but his half sister, Mya Stone, could still play a part in the action to come, as she gets closer to Sansa Stark during her stay in the Vale.


Both the HBO show and the novels put a lot of emphasis on Arya's training to be a Faceless Man in Bravos, but — at least according to the show — upon her return to Westeros she uses that particular skill just once, and not during the battle at Winterfell or the insanity at King's Landing. Yes, she used some apparent ninja-esque ability to come out of nowhere to catch the Night King slightly unawares, but did not deploy her hard-earned disguise talents. Perhaps it is all a red herring and Martin will try to use Arya to teach a lesson about the futility of vengeance, but the ending for TV Arya also seemed to indicate that she was setting off for a rollicking adventure straight out of the Assassin's Creed games.


One of the first major breaks from the book plot occurred at the Red Wedding, where — on HBO — Robb Stark's new and pregnant wife Talisa was brutally murdered along with the King in the North and his mother Catelyn.

Robb's spouse in the book doesn't just have a different name and origin — Jeyne Westerling, a low-level Westorsi noble — but a much less bloody fate. She never makes the trip to The Twins for the nuptials of Robb's uncle Edmure Tully and Roselyn Frey. She hasn't been seen since Jaime Lannister seized Riverrun and arranged to have her shipped back to her father, but some fans have theorized this too-tidy end of her story could indicate that she might reappear later in the books.


On the topic of Riverrun, Ser Brynden Tully — aka the Blackfish — was killed on the TV show when Edmure turned the castle over to Jaime Lannister. Yet the seasoned warrior in the book makes like his namesake and escapes by swimming away from Riverrun as Lannister and Frey soldiers move in. He's been mentioned since, but hasn't popped up again. One never knows, but it's hard to believe that Martin would engineer Brynden's aquatic escape just for a lark and never bring a prominent character back for some sort of an encore.

From Lady Stoneheart to Young Griff: 8 Ways 'Game of Thrones' Did Not Spoil Everything for Readers of George R.R. Martin's Books | Culture