THE KING EATS AND THE HAND WRITES: an in-depth comparison between George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” & HBO’s “Game of Thrones” – (Guest Editorial by Amber Earley)

George R.R. Martin’s beloved book series A Song of Ice and Fire is full of adventure and mischief, of love and desire, of murderous plots and treasonous men, but what makes it stand out is the complexity of its characters. The HBO television series Game of Thrones does a very good job of portraying these strengths, yet there are discrepancies between the two. The show improved and clarified parts of the story, but fell short where the books rose above. In this special editorial, I will attempt to point out noticeable differences between the Song of Ice and Fire books and HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones series logo (image courtesy of HBO)

BE WARNED! THIS ARTICLE WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS – if you haven’t read the books… do not read any further.

I could almost believe that the author, George R. R. Martin, directed it himself. While watching the series, a lot of the scenes felt familiar to me, particularly in the early seasons. It started out so accurately that I had to wonder if I’d accidentally watched it in the past instead of reading it.

(image courtesy of HBO)

One issue I did have, however, was the scene with Ned Stark and his wife. Instead of urging him to accept King Robert’s offer, Catelyn Stark begs him to refuse to be Hand of the King. Maester Luwin enters and hands Catelyn a letter from her sister. It’s at this point in the book that she begins pushing harder for Ned to go, but in the show she tries harder to make him stay. In the end it’s Maester Luwin who talks Ned into accepting to be Hand of the King, when it should have been the other way around.

In the same episode, we meet Viserys and Daenarys Targaryen. They both have the silver-gold hair, yet both lack the correct eye color. This difference isn’t incredibly bothersome, however, because the characterizations of the two are amazing.

(image courtesy of HBO)

The series shows Daenarys’ growth and strength amazingly—each time there was a scene in which she was commanding or standing up for herself, I got goose-bumps. Still, Daenarys didn’t meet her trusted advisor and companion, Jorah Mormont, until her wedding. In the book, she knew him the day she was sold to Khal Drogo.

(image courtesy of HBO)

One difference, however, that makes me angrier than I can say, happened on Dany’s and Drogo’s wedding night. In the book, the scene was tender. “No,” he told her, wiping away her tears. She undid his braid, and he undid her clothes. “She was afraid of what would come next, but for a while nothing happened. Khal Drogo sat with his legs crossed, looking at her, drinking in her body with his eyes.” (p.89) He combed her hair with his fingers, massaged her back, and page 89 says, “it seemed as if hours passed before his hands finally went to her breasts.” He then pulled her onto his lap and asked “No?” She finally said, “Yes.”

That was a beautiful scene, and the only reason I ever liked Khal Drogo. Instead, HBO shows Drogo and Dany on their wedding night, as planned. She begins to cry, and Drogo repeatedly tells her “No,” ripping off her clothes and taking her roughly from behind. In other words, the show took away a tender and beautiful moment and put rape in its place.

(image courtesy of HBO)

On another note, Cersei Lannister is given a much more sympathetic role in the show than she was in the book. Often we see her mourning or protecting her children. She cried more than once and opened up to Tyrion Lannister, mourned her firstborn with Lady Catelyn. It’s an interesting and refreshing twist, but it’s a problem because it has made me like her. I cried when Joffrey died because of her. I giggled with the book, but when I heard the pain in Cersei’s voice, saw the panic on her face… I couldn’t help but be sad about it.

There are also characters whose roles are bigger in the show. Ygritte is one, and Gilly. Even Sam’s part grew a bit. Petyr/Littlefinger is seen almost constantly, Shae becomes more central, Theon Greyjoy. On the other hand, some parts shrunk, or disappeared completelyShireen, her fool, Viserys.

(image courtesy of HBO)

A lot of characters changedSer Loras, for one. The whole Renly thing isn’t prominent in the book—in fact, I don’t know if it’s ever mentioned. Also, Robert Arryn becomes Robin. Arya Stark is bolder, and Jeyne Westerling turned into a nurse on the battlefield who Robb Stark wound up marrying and impregnating. …And bringing to the Red Wedding.

The show does do a magnificent job, however, of showing Joffrey’s cruelty. He made two “whores” beat each other and sent them to Tyrion “as a message,” which didn’t happen in the book. The actor has got the voice, the face, and the sneer down pat.

(image courtesy of HBO)

Tyrion Lannister is perhaps the most perfectly portrayed character of all. He looks, acts, and dresses just right. Even his mannerisms and speech patterns are utterly flawless. The portrayal of his wit makes me fangirl like no other. His scar, however, isn’t ugly enough. In the books, part of his nose was actually hacked away. In the show, he isn’t as insecure about it either. His pain when Shae testified against him in court, though, was so real that I just needed to hug him. I definitely cried a little (okay, a lot).

I was disappointed, however, in both the dragon eggs and the swords that Tywin Lannister had made. The eggs were described on page 86 as “patterned in such rich colors that at first she thought they were crusted with jewels.” The eggs were also supposed to be green with bronze flecks, “pale cream streaked with gold,” and “as black as a midnight sea” with scarlet patterns. Instead, they were green, beige, red-black, and sort of boring. The swords were supposed to have red ripples worked into the blades, yet in the show they were just silver Valyrian Steel.

(image courtesy of HBO)

Game of Thrones takes so many twists and turns that your head will be spinning before the end of each book. It’s intense and shocking and satisfying and it’s impossible not to get connected to the characters before they die. Both the books and the show portray this well, and regardless of how you decide to get into the story, the roller coaster will be one you’ll never forget.

-Amber Earley
Guest Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine

EDITOR’S NOTE: Amber Earley is a student at Queens University of Charlotte, and elected to do her college internship with us. She is a very intelligent, articulate, and reliable individual that we are very proud to have worked with these past few months. Though hard to believe with her level of professionalism, this was her very first published article, which based solely on its merits was selected as our sole feature on Game of Thrones for 2014. Amber has a very bright future ahead of her, and we all wish her nothing but the very best in everything she does going forward… which hopefully includes coming back to write for us again!

1 Comment


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.