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GRRM On Which Game of Thrones Character Was Most Changed From Book to Show


I’ll give you a hint, and it is this gif.

Game of Thrones-the-show has made a lot of changes from A Song of Ice and Fire-the-series, mostly to do with cutting out characters and subplots and whole swathes of plot. Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have to; the source material is like ten thousand pages long. (OK, not quite, but that’s not as far off as you might think.) Sometimes, however, the show strays from cutting things to changing things that already exist. When that goes well you have Margaery Tyrell, who in her show incarnation is much sneakier and more interesting than her book counterpart. (Being played by Natalie Dormer doesn’t hurt. It never does.) On the other side you have Robb Stark, whose marriage subplot was changed from a poignant commentary on honor and tragedy to a “Starcrossed lovers want to get married! But they can’t! Then they do!” cliché. (Don’t get me started.)

But in an interview for a documentary on Niccolo Machiavelli Martin opened up about the character who was most altered to fit the small screen: Westeros’ own Machiavelli, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish:

“Book Littlefinger and television show Littlefinger are very different characters. They’re probably the character that’s most different from the book to the television show. There was a a line in a recent episode of the show where, he’s not even present, but two people are talking about him and someone says ‘Well, no one trusts Littlefinger’ and ‘Littlefinger has no friends.’ And that’s true of television show Littlefinger, but it’s certainly not true of book Littlefinger. Book Littlefinger, in the book, everybody trusts him. Everybody trusts him because he seems powerless, and he’s very friendly, and he’s very helpful. He helps Ned Stark when he comes to town, he helps Tyrion, you know, he helps the Lannisters. He’s always ready to help, to raise money. He helps Robert, Robert depends on him to finance all of his banquets and tournaments and his other follies, because Littelfinger can always raise money. So, he’s everybody’s friend. But of course there’s the Machiavellian thing. He’s, you know, everybody trusts him, everybody depends on him. He’s not a threat. He’s just this helpful, funny guy, who you can call upon to do whatever you want, and to raise money, and he ingratiaties himself with people and rises higher and higher as a result.”

Preach it, Martin. I love Game of Thrones, but it has its problems. One of those is how it’s turned Littlefinger from a nuanced character—he’s kept his childhood Tully-related issues on the down low for years so he could eventually rise to the top and screw everyone over—into a moustache-twirling caricature. No offense to actor Aidan Gillen, who’s wonderful. This is just what he has to work with. But seriously. How does anyone trust show Littlefinger? How does anyone let him within a mile of their plans? He is clearly evil.

Because it’s 4:15 on a Tuesday and it’s been a slow news day and I will admit to being ever-so-slightly bored, Game of Thrones book readers, let’s hash it out in the comments: What is your least favorite change that the show has made? Most favorite? My (less than serious) answers: Podrick Payne, sexual virtuoso. And Cheese Boy.

(via: blastr)

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  • DawnCandace

    I was most sad about the changes made to the Jaime/Brienne storyline because I was looking forward to seeing that on screen. From taking out lines like “I dreamed of you.” Jaime forever calling Brienne “wench.” I know most of Jaime’s development happens in the form of dreams, which I imagine is hard for a show that only allows dreams for Bran. (Something I hope they don’t keep to, because Arya’s wolf dreams are great.) I was also sad how a certain murder did not occur at the end of season 2. But, I am curious to see how Brienne will adapt to being in Kings Landing that still has a certain much loathed ruler and Sansa Stark.

    But, what I most dislike would be the changes they made to Asha–even changing her name. It looks like they are leaving out the entire kingsmoot storyline. I really wanted to see Asha’s badass and crazy uncles and their showdown at the kingsmoot.

  • Robert McCoy

    It has to be the obvious; the Robb/Catleyn story. They took away Catelyn’s strategizing in politics and the war and gave it to Robb. She became a mopey sad sack instead of the bull headed matriarch and Robb became a jerk instead of the “in over his head but still brave and honorable” young man.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    If they keep cutting out all the Greyjoy plot I will RIOT.

  • Laszlo

    For worst change I’d have to go with the aftermath of Davos saving Gendry/Edric Storm. In the books Davos convinced Stannis by appealing to his sense of duty and justice, in the show it was because the Lord of Light said so.

  • Robert McCoy

    Asha’s such a great character. Her one scene this last season gives me a little bit of hope that we’ll see her badassery.

  • Laszlo

    Nah, it’s probably going to be like Robb’s “attack Casterly Rock” plan, just some placeholder to get show-only people’s hopes up only to be crushed.

  • Robert McCoy

    With some major exceptions (see above), I’ve been fairly impressed with the show runners. I would be surprised if they would ignore Asha’s potential to be a fan favorite. We shall see.

  • Laszlo

    They’ll have opportunities later, but right now they can’t have Theon be saved, and they’ll probably do at least some of the Euron plotline, and they need her for that.

  • http://www.skreee.de/ Skreee

    I haven’t read the books (yet), and the impression you give of Catelyn and Robb is the one I had of them in the series, if a bit less so.

  • Curuniel

    Catelyn Stark is, to me, the ultimate example of a strong female fantasy character who remains firmly entrenched in traditional gender roles. Her identity is as a wife and mother, her chief motivation is her children and her ways of getting things done are those of a noble female. However, that never stops her being totally badass. She does eventually succumb to despair and mopiness in the books, but it takes a long time and an awful lot of personal suffering before she breaks under it (and then… well).

    She makes me realise how many female character become strong and autonomous by taking on male roles (e.g. the girl who becomes a knight). Catelyn embraces her feminine roles but gets her own shit done anyway!

  • Curt Shannon

    I agree with what you say, especially about Brienne/Jamie, but the whole Pike kingsmoot thing went on WAY too long in the books, IMHO.

    From everything I read about the next season, a certain murder will occur early on in Season 4.

    I totally agree with you about Arya’s “dreams”, though are they really dreams, or something else? After all, we only hear about them through Arya’s POV, and she knows nothing about wargs. But if they are going to go Stoneheart on us, we should see Nymeria.

  • aradia zavion

    I watched all three seasons before I got around to reading the books (haven’t finished “A Dance With Dragons yet) and for me one of the big changes is Shae.
    I like TV Shae, but I didn’t like book Shae at all; she seemed shallow and selfish and kind of stupid and when I got to the end of A Storm of Swords… That just broke my heart. (Sorry, I don’t know how to do the spoiler thing).
    So I’m really hoping they don’t keep that the same – I can’t imagine TV Shae doing that after they made it pretty clear she genuinely cares for Tyrion (asking him to run away with her, not caring about his money) and they hinted at her having some kind of interesting backstory when she, Bronn and Tyrion had that “I never” scene. Plus there’s her protectiveness towards Sansa – maybe they could change it so Shae (again,trying to avoid spoilers) stays with Sansa through her later storylines?

  • Eve

    Shae is also my most favorite change. I hate her in the book, because she was such a caricature of a conniving woman of the night and I didn’t like certain events that unfolded in her plot. She’s much more three dimensional in the show. As much as I hate Cersei, she’s way better in the show. I think her arc in the book has a mysoginistic steak, so I’m hoping it’s a little different in the show.

  • derp

    I like Cersei’s arc in the books. I fnd her personality fascinating, and conflicted. I think that the mysoginistic aspect to it comes from the fact that the society she lives in and tries to rule is mysoginistic.

  • Anonymous

    Everything about Shae is different in the show from her care for Sansa to her matching wits with Tyrion. I would like there to be significant changes to her character trajectory in season 4 as compared to the book Shae post wedding.

  • ALittleBitNerdy

    I don’t know if this counts or not but I really hate the whole thing with the tv-exclusive character Roz. I see that she was valuable with the whole littlefinger-varys tensions, but thats really it. She served really no other purpose than to edit out two awesome woc, Chataya and her daughter Alayaya. Chataya’s brothel held the secret entrance to Shae’s manse in King’s Landing, and Alayaya was Tyrion’s front whenever he went there. Subsequently it was Alayaya who was beaten by the Kingsguard, as Cersei thought it was her who was Tyrion’s lover.
    I suppose Roz was just another Northerner who went south and (SPOILERS) got majorly fucked over. I really hated how they created this moderately powerful white character to edit out non-white characters and then killed her in an extremely violent and sexual way!!! Leave it to HBO…

  • Anonymous

    Least favorite changes: the house of the undying scene in the books, which was incredibly rich in content and extremely creepy, but I understand in not wanting to confuse the non-book readers. Also, the lack of coldhands at the end of last season, and the lack of Belwas. My most favorite change would probably be the Arya-Tywin scenes from last season.

    Overall, I understand why most changes are made in the interest of consolidating/limiting the amount of characters and trying to simply plot lines a bit. I get that they can’t afford to have actors for EVERY character that’s involved in GRRM’s story, and it’s already tough enough squeezing one book down to 1-2 seasons.

  • Herbert West

    “What is your least favorite change that the show has made? ”

    Not that it’s a change, more like an omission: no Coldhands.

  • Not So Young Democrat

    I actually like the show portrayal of Littlefinger because it makes a lot more sense and is a lot more realistic than the book portrayal. Littlefinger as a character makes absolutely no sense in the novels from beginning to end. Why he does anything makes no sense, why any of it works makes no sense. In the show most of his actions don’t make any sense either, but at least they portray him as what he is: an unctuous petty schemer who no one trusts and inch instead of some great Machiavelli.

  • Laszlo

    Earlier I thought she might take the role of Dontos, but now it’s confirmed that actual Dontos will appear. And looking at what happened to Ros and Talisa, I don’t expect her to survive. I actually hope if she dies it’s going to be her book death, the only alternative I can think of would make her just some thing for Tyrion the hero to avenge.

  • Jason Atkins

    Just playing devil’s advocate here: regarding Arya’s storyline, it’s worth considering the age of the actress and the limitations that may have had on the amount of time that was available for shooting. While she is fantastic, and will hopefully go on and have a successful career after Game of Thrones, it’s important for her to be able to devote the time she needs to her education as well. I’m pretty sure Maisie would have been doing her GCSEs this last year (the British equivalent of a high school diploma, which we do at age 16), so that’s pretty dang important.

    Not all production decisions in television and movies are for creative reasons: Margaery Tyrell getting more screen time this season so that Maisie can focus on GCSEs is fairly forgiveable, IMO.

  • athenia45

    I wouldn’t say book Littlefinger has any “friends”–he just can get people what they want, same as TV Littlefinger. I think the major difference is TV Littlefinger is much more attractive, whereas book Littlefinger is not so much. Perhaps that makes a difference of perception.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    We are not at that part of Arya’s story, this season ended immediately after the Red Wedding, that part doesn’t happen until the end of the book.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Yeah, but then they recast him.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I loathe what was done to Ros, she was one of my faves, plus I felt she provided a perspective the books lack, which is that of a commoner.

    In addition to the rumors that hit the news the week before that episode aired, that an actress had refused to do any more nudity, makes me suspect it was her, and makes her death feel like retaliation to the actress, not an organic growth of the story.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I don’t think there are going to be any changes, it’s just gonna be done in a way that THAT CHARACTER will think the worst of what she did, but the audience will know better, for ALL THE FEELS.

  • Lady Viridis

    They really can’t change that event. It’s too crucial to Tyrion’s character development and where he goes after Book 3. If anything, I suspect they’re building up Shae’s character as more sympathetic so that that moment is a bigger emotional punch to the face.

    And I don’t think it’s OOC for Shae in the show, either. In the book, we don’t know why she is there. It’s possible she was there to be protected from Cersei, who would almost certainly try to kill her. Tyrion only sees the betrayal, but honestly… Shae is a prostitute with no power and no options once she loses Tyrion’s protection. If she wants to live (and I’m sure she does) she has to take whatever deal is offered to her.

    Tyrion keeps making this mistake of paying commoners and then thinking that makes them his friends. They’re not. They can’t be. The power balance is too inequal. Bronn and Shae care about Tyrion, they do. But as commoners they really have to act in their own self-interest, and can’t go out of their way to help Tyrion, or they’d just end up dead.

  • Lady Viridis

    I suspect they coudn’t do the House of the Undying as it was in the books because it would basically spoil everything. Seriously, I reread that scene some time back and it clearly and blatantly describes all kinds of events all the way up to Book 5 (including the Red Wedding). The problem with Daenerys and prophecy is that basically every prophecy around her comes true. In the books you can make these images cryptic and short enough that the reader doesn’t always catch it, but if you show them visually the audience will catch on too quickly.

  • Kerry Dolan Timony

    Spoilers ahead, I don’t know how to cut them, you have been warned.
    Because TV Shae is a nice, sympathetic character and not at all like Book Shae: when we get to the end of the season, I think she will be asked to betray Tyrion like she did in the book, but she will refuse. Then Tywin will murder her, and that will be the extra impetus (see what I did there) that will make Tyrion kill his father. The show hasn’t really made the whole Tysha backstory as important to Tyrion so I think this is how show watchers will be ok with Tyrion committing patricide.

  • http://www.spaceunicorn.net Jayme

    All of the child/teen characters were aged up in the TV version. I believe numbers even come up in season 1, but I can’t remember exactly. I think Rickon was supposed to still be an infant in the first book, but he’s at least 4 on the show. But yeah, it was probably done so the audience isn’t as creeped out with what happens to these kids and/or what they actually do.

    I mean, IIRC, book Daenerys is only 13 when she marries Drogo. They couldn’t have that sex scene with a 13 year old character.

  • Laszlo

    I wouldn’t like that at all. Tyrion is already too heroic and nice in the show, I would prefer if he was allowed to do bad shit for less noble reasons. And it would be bad for Shae’s character too, all this shit to make her a stronger character, only so that she ends up amounting to nothing but a passive victim to provide a motivation for Tyrion.

  • Anonymous

    That – and the soppy love story he has with whats-her-name. Instead of the uch more interesting and in its way tragic story with Jayne Westerling. It was just cliché

  • Laszlo

    It also felt slightly racist, making Xaro black, and also a villain, straight and eventually dead.

  • Ann Onimous

    Maybe we were watching different shows called “Game of Thrones.” I saw no evidence of this “hot” Daario Naharis.

  • derp

    Aye, but the one she kills in that part is already dead in the show. Some of the changes to her story were cool, but over all they made her story less compelling.

  • Robert McCoy

    Just a couple of examples. They gave some of Catelyn’s memorable lines to other characters. It was Catelyn’s idea, not Robb’s, to go to the Stormlands to negotiate a peace between Renly and Stannis. And bookRobb would never have treated his mother the way showRobb did.

  • derp

    Roz’s storyline felt like an excuse to add sex where there wasn’t any, if you ask me.

  • derp

    I’m conflicted on the Arya-Tywin scenes. On one side, they are extremely good, some of my favourite scenes from the show. On the other side, it makes little sense that the implacable Tywin Lannister would know she is a highborn ennemy and do nothing about it, and Arya’s time in Harrendal was much more meaningful for her as a character in the books.

  • Madeleine Odowichuk

    Yeah. I miss Weasel Soup, as twisted as it was.

  • Madeleine Odowichuk

    Agreed. Sansa also has significant scenes involving nudity, especially the one in the throne room in season 2. That wouldn’t not fly with a character who’s only 12. Aging the characters up for the show, IMO, was a very smart decision.

  • Madeleine Odowichuk

    Reminds me of an old joke:
    How many Tolkien purists does it take to change a lightbulb?
    None, the lightbulb wasn’t in the book.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I can’t agree that a scene that hasn’t been filmed yet is “less compelling” because I don’t know what they will do with it.

    I have no complaints about any of the changes they’ve made to Arya’s story, because I’d have rather had those scenes with Tywin than with Roose.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I’ve heard that rumored too, but never seen any confimation.

  • derp

    By ‘compelling’ I’m mot talking of the scenes that haven’t been done yet, but rather of what has already changed.
    The scenes with Tywin are very cool , true, but, character wise, Arya’s time in Harrendal in the books is much more significant than in the show. Her prayer and the tickler are just an afterthought in the show, and what she lives there is not as nearly as traumatizing and hardening. She doesn’t kill a man to get out herself or lie to Gendry on why they should escape, and instead she just runs to Jaqen to get her out of trouble. I understand that they can’t integrate all of this, but that doesn’t change the fact that her time there is more compelling in the books. Also, although Roose is less interesting than Tywin, Arya not trusting him was good foreshadowing of his future betrayal, and the fact things got worse after Roose came added to the story some great moral ambiguity.
    It’s not that I don’t like what the show did -I do. But I just think the books did better.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    I thought she could be a Senator of Westeros is they had those. She knew everyone, and knew what buttons to bush on all the big characters, knew whom to play against whom, had her Riverrlands connects plus her northern connects.

    Also I wish the show had incorporated the Blackbird more often, especially given the actor who they cast for his role. That goes for the whole Riverrun thing, I wish there had been more of that and less of the mopey Robb/whatever her name was love story.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    Wish more was talked about the swamp people too. Jojen’s coming north to meet bran at some random spot didnt really work. In fact a lot of what i saw in the show seemed less appealing after I read the books. The whole Quarth resolution was contrived, I thought and was much better in the books, including how Dany got her ships to take her to slaver’s bay. Not to mention it sort of puts the show runners in a tough spot given all that happens in book 5.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    I liked Ros, I think she was a nice little addition. I do get Shae’s residence in the keep as a simplification for the show, it works well enough. But I would have liked to see more of the mountain barbarians. Cutting the Shae storyline also cut down on the goat men storyline. Maybe there is more of them in a directors cut we will get someday.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    YEah and having Sam not sending the ravens was a small change but it made Sam look a lot more incompetent than he was in the books, i would have preferred that he did send the ravens. Speaking of that, I’d also have preferred the whole battle at the fist been done more along the book lines. When I first saw it in the show I didn’t really get what was going on. On a final note as to the ranging beyond the wall, I think that the way the book handled Jon’s flipping sides much better. I think it was much more interesting how Quorin just wanted to see what Jon would do, and also felt better about Jon when it wasn’t his mercy that killed the others in his party.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    That was one change I really enjoyed. It gave a whole new perspective on Tywin. However I think that they should have tried to at least keep her flipping the castle in the show, that was a huge point and when in the show Robb showed up to the slaughter at Harrenhal it made no sense to me without that part.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    After reading the books I couldn’t reconcile how well he treats his “daughter” with his character in the show. I kept expecting him to turn out to be a rapist in the books, when he seems sort of a nice guy despite his rutheless treachery.

    Also the dagger storyline was lost. Don’t know how they can pick that up after discarding it. And while I’m on it, don’t know how they will fit Dontos back into the story after ignoring him for a whole season.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    I thought Margery in the show was much more interesting than the book, I love how she is the only one who seems to control Joff. Plays him like a fiddle! It made reading her character after seeing it better for me. Sure would have liked to see more Arya though!

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    Although yeah with how she plays the king it kinds o fmakes Olenna’s action at the wedding sort of pointless.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    The aging thing didn’t make sense especially given how much the characters in the book seemed to act beyond their ages (except Sansa!) But then I thought well if winters and summers last years then we aren’t exactly talking about an earth like orbit. Who’s to say that a year in the book isn’t like 1 and a half earth years or so?

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    And shortened her prayer considerably!

  • athenia45

    Yeah, I was pretty much waiting for the shoe to drop with his “daughter” too. But perhaps Littlefinger/GRRM felt she has a more interesting “use” than merely to be a victim.

  • Laszlo

    Not necessarily, there’s a limit to how much he can be played, and the show actually touched on that, her stuff actually made him more vicious, as seen with Ros.

  • Anonymous

    I LOVED that about her :) A badass LADY

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, this Cersei is great, seemingly less crazy, better motivated. FANTASTIC actress

  • Anonymous

    Either way you lose
    – The Moral of Martin
    :D

  • House Arya, We Do Not Sew

    Coldhands next season!!! And hopefully KOTLT!!!

  • Wong Chia Chi

    I know. Daario in the books seemed like he looked like a walking ecstasy hit. Daario in the show however he was walking sex.

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    Yeah thats true, he is a sociopath and can turn on a dime

  • http://www.gall-holl.com/ Dan Miller

    I love his plotting in the book with, what was her name, Alayse? That was clever of LF and GRRM’s mind is amazing to string all that together.

    But in the book’s treatment of Littlefinger up to that point I thought it was in character. However, his being made more evil on screen, even having Ros and Shae hinting at the possibility of rape seems incongruous with the book version. Having watched first then read the book the difference was stark (lol no pun intended)

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    No, but we don’t know what characters they will introduce this season for her and Sandor to go up against. And the guy who has Needle is still out there.

  • Laura Herzlos

    Well, I sort of liked that fact that Rob, like his father, died for having been “too much of a Stark”. Besides, I would even say that because he is older in the series, he should have gone for honor and thought with his head instead of his hormones.

  • Laura Herzlos

    That is very interesting! Of course, without the constant reminder of Tysha’s story, Tywin’s last words are meaningless. Unless Jamie mentions it to Tyrion when he is releasing him, but you may be on to something!

  • Laura Herzlos

    I only got here 3 months late… oh well, why not.
    In general, I disliked several changes in a character’s main personality. Some examples that I particularly disliked:
    * Book Rob died like a Stark, for honor; he married the Westerling girl out of a sense of duty. TV Rob just lost his head. AND they pray to the seven at the wedding! No, no seven!
    * Book Littlefinger is VERY smart. We don’t understand the motives after much of what he does because he has no POV, but he is really sly and cunning. TV Littlefinger lets everyone guess his intentions. He even antagonizes with Cersei in the most stupid way!
    * Book Kahl Drogo, on the wedding night, does not just bend her over and take her. He takes the time to caress her and turn her on until she wants him. I understand why they changed that in the show, but still, I didn’t like that.
    * TV Dorea betraying Dany was painful for me. Book Dorea was faithful to Dany to the death and died in her arms during the red waste crossing, if I am not mistaken (read the books some time ago, so I may remember wrong?).

    There are others, but they bother me less or not at all. The show is great, all in all.