A Game of Thrones: Song of Screen and Paper
By Elizabeth Eckhart
Following a piece great literature, there is often a high chance of an eventual play, movie, or television series based on the work, and along with these adaptations, inevitably, comes the battle between which is better. Fans of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy would have no problem rattling off a list of annoying changes Peter Jackson made in the movies, in spite of the film franchise’s massive success in the box office. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is no different. HBO debuted its television adaptation in 2011, and the show begins its fourth season on April 6, 2014 (you can find details here on streaming previous seasons for binge-watching) to a chorus of media fanfare, including everything from billboards in major cities to every imaginable merchandising tie-in.
Will the show’s need to entertain and continue its production schedule eventually make it part from the books altogether? It’s too soon to say, but it’s not too soon to take a look at some of the biggest differences between book and show thus far:
1. In the books, many of the characters are significantly younger than the show portrays. Robb and Jon are 17 on the show, but 14 in the books. Bran is 10 instead of 7, and Rickon is 6 rather than 3. Arya is 9 in the books but 11 on the show, and finally her sister Sansa also receives an additional two years (making her 13) on the show. The change in ages might be one difference, however, that most fans don’t mind. A thirteen-year-old Daenerys being forced to wed and bed Khal Drogo might be a little uncomfortable, as would many adult scenes throughout the storyline if the ages were not changed.
2. One of the most noticeable changes involves the scenes between Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister. In the book, Arya serves many people during her stay at Harrenhal, but Tywin Lannister is never one of them. While the switch-up allows the viewer to get a glimpse of both characters’ storylines at the same time, it might result in readers of the book feeling as if the show has lost some credibility.
3. HBO puts many relationships out in the open throughout the first three seasons, including those that George R.R. Martin had so far only hinted at in his work. Most notable is Loras Tyrell’s tryst with Renly Baratheon. While it can be picked up in the reading, HBO took the relationship a few steps further by making it a fairly well-known fact.
4. Of all the character changes on the show, Lady Talisa is one of the biggest differences. Lady Talisa doesn’t even exist in the books, despite her large role on the show. She is a replacement for Lady Jeyne Westerling, whom Robb marries in the books. The original Jeyne is not a nurse Robb meets on the battlefield, as he meets Lady Talisa, though Jeyne does help nurse his wound back to health when they do meet. The change in storyline gives the viewer a better look at Robb’s life on the show (in the novels, Robb’s storyline mostly plays out in the background) but the change of character from Jeyne to Talisa is still questionable.
5. Game of Thrones is known for its use of strong female characters, both on paper and on screen. At this point in the books, much is still unknown about Margaery Tyrell regarding her personality and internal thoughts. The show, on the other hand, has brought her front and center, and made her political prowess one of her most captivating qualities. This is one of the best changes, since television Margaery is much more interesting.
At the end of the day, are there a lot more changes from book to show than those on this list? Of course there are. But many of the changes seem to have been made with careful consideration and for good reasons. Overall, HBO has done the books incredible justice, and it will be exciting to see what they do with the rest of the series!
Thanks, Elizabeth for guest blogging! Follow her at @elizeckhart.