Spot the differences: “Game of Thrones” vs. “A Song of Ice and Fire”

A Dance with Dragons
A Dance with Dragons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Valar Morghulis, Valar Dohaeris.

George R. R. Martin generously gave the universe of “A Song of Ice and Fire” to the world in the first novel, “A Game of Thrones,” which came out nearly 20 years ago. Commonly referred to as the American Tolkien, Martin and the series have millions of fans worldwide, and the author has made more than $50 million (which he uses to run his own movie theater).


Praise be to GRRM.

Now some people may be thinking, “This show is based off of books?” Or maybe, “Yeah, but aren’t those books like 1,000 pages each or something ridiculous? I can’t be expected to read that much!”

And you’d probably be right.

It is a lot of material. There are whole pages devoted to describing the meal, the people at the event or the most minor of characters. But that’s what makes them so great. It really feels like another reality with the foods and drinks and dragons I want in my actual life. And there’s the murder and famine too, but I would be a Lannister and Lannisters have all the gold.

But a lot of people probably don’t have the time to peruse the entire history and adventures of a fictional thousand-year-old civilization. Not to mention, there is also “The World of Ice and Fire,” a history, which I lovingly read.

For the pure HBO show people, here is what you missed in the books:


—In general, with the whole book series, there are countless flashbacks, hallucinations and dreams. None of this is in the show, because the directors wanted a realistic feel. Ned has dreams about when he found his dying sister Lyanna Stark all the time, and the mysterious promise he made to her. Look up R+L=J if you wanna find out all about that conspiracy.

—Just about all of the kids are three years older in the TV series than in the book. Robb Stark and Jon Snow are 14 when the book starts, and Daenerys is only 13.

—Tyrion is much uglier in the books. He has a stunted leg, a twisted arm, a swollen forehead, different colored eyes and a noticeable waddle. Also, he loses most of his nose at Blackwater.


—The prostitute Ros is not in the books.

—Daenerys and Cersei are both shown to be raped at one point or another in the show by Drogo and Jaime, but in the books it’s entirely consensual. Daenerys in the books will only annoyingly think about Drogo for the remainder of the series.

—Littlefinger is much better at deception in the books. Nobody suspects anything of him at all because of the meek facade he puts on. The majority of people actually trust him because he is so good.

—Varys has the same problem as Littlefinger in the show. He is always clearly up to something, and nobody trusts him. In the books, he seems weak and feeble.

—It’s only hinted that Loras Tyrell and Renly Baratheon are lovers in the books.

—Jojen Reed, Bran’s warg friend, as well as Pyp and Gren who died fighting the giant at the Wall, are all still alive. As well as Daenerys’s handmaidens. And Robb’s wife is still alive and well in the books. She wasn’t even at the Red Wedding.

—When Jaime frees Tyrion, it is not as warm and happy. Tyrion rubs Cersei’s promiscuity in Jaime’s face and confesses that he killed Joffrey before he leaves.

—White Walkers are called “Others” in the books.

—There is a character named “Coldhands” in the books who isn’t in the show. He’s a magical dead man riding a 12 foot tall elk who goes along with Bran on his adventures.

—Gendry wasn’t at Dragonstone having his blood leeched, it was another one of Robert’s children, Edric Storm.

—Joffrey is not nearly as evil in the books. He still does bad things, but he doesn’t torture prostitutes or anything like that.

—Bronn and Margaery’s characters are greatly expanded in the show.

—Arya Stark is the cupbearer for Roose Bolton in the show, not the much more powerful Tywin Lannister, who is basically responsible for the deaths of nearly everyone in her family.

—We don’t get to see the best sword fighters in the realm really go at it in the show. Jaime is supposed to just be a god with a sword in the books, Barristan Selmy is considered the best swordsman alive, and the Mountain has many more fight scenes in the book, and there is always some talk about him destroying everything.

—Brienne and the Hound never fight in the books. The Hound dies of his infected wounds from the fight in the inn. And Podrick Payne followed Brienne secretly, like the lovable dork he is.

—Arya and Jon are both wargs in the books, and they control their direwolves when they sleep. This isn’t even hinted at in the show.

There are a million other tiny differences, but these are the ones with some impact. I think they serve the plot better for the most part, speeding along some story lines and exposing information quicker in others.

Over all, for me, the show is much better. It’s far more dramatic, and it’s clean, clear and to the point.

Collegian A&E Writer Morgan Smith can be reached at or on Twitter @MDSFilms.