So, you thought HBO’s Game of Thrones had a ton of characters, huh? For seven seasons now, fans of HBO’s epic have gotten out their scorecards to keep track of all the Starks, Lannisters, Tullys, Wildlings, Greyjoys, Boltons, Freys, and the rest of the residents of Westeros.
But believe it or not Game of Thrones fans (and any “A Song of Ice and Fire” reader will attest to this), there have been a metric ton of George R.R. Martin characters that have not yet popped up on the series, despite appearing in the novels’ corresponding events. That’s right; there is a legion of fighters, rogues, small folk, lords, and ladies that never got that chance to realize that the HBO night is dark and full of highly rated terror.
Whether showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wanted to tighten the narrative or to simplify things (HA!) for the hourlong installments of Game of Thrones is not for us to say. But we can attest that in some cases, TV fans have missed out on some pretty fascinating players of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. So join us as we delve into the literary world of “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and present to you some conspicuously absent Game of Thrones characters. But be warned, this article is dark and filled with spoilers, so if you want to stay blissfully ignorant, sound the retreat now, my dear Summer child.
One of the most notable exclusions on TV’s Game of Thrones is the gigantic gladiator Strong Belwas. He was sent by Illyrio Mopatis (the dude that originally arranged the marriage of Daenerys to Khal Drogo) to be Daenerys’ new bodyguard. With Belwas came an old squire named Arstan Whitebeard, who turned out to be Barristan Selmy in disguise (hence his literary introduction to Dany).
So, the show kept the Selmy angle but jettisoned Belwas, which is a damn shame because the gigantic pit fighter provides some awesome comic relief to the otherwise usually terse Daenerys in Meereen scenes. When Daenerys arrives in Meereen in season 4 of Game of Thrones, the city sends out its champion to face Khaleesi’s chosen warrior. In the show, Daenerys chooses Daario Naharis to be her champion, but in the book, she does not want to risk the handsome rogue. Nor does she want to choose her trusted advisors Selmy or Jorah Mormont, so she selects Belwas, figuring that if Meereen’s champion defeats a former slave like Belwas, there will be no glory in it.
Daenerys needn’t have worried; Belwas drew the champion out by taking a gigantic dump in front of the city of Meereen (I’m not kidding) and then easily dispatches his opponent. Other than killing, all Belwas really does is eat. He is fiercely loyal to his Khaleesi and can often be seen by her side wearing his signature tiny vest and genie pants. Many fans were disappointed by Belwas’ exclusion, because I think many fans secretly wanted to see a giant gladiator in genie pants poop in front of a majestic city.
Fan image by sprrow.
One of the major subplots of the books not to make it in the television series is the full saga of the Greyjoy family while they vie for control of the Iron Islands following Balon Greyjoy’s death. Euron eventually showed up, but in a truncated introduction that awkwardly combined him and Victarion.
Victarion is, in the books, the bravest of the Greyjoy siblings who are trying to win the kingship of the Iron Islands. He is a skilled sailor and a natural born leader. One of the highlights of A Feast for Crows is the Kingsmoot held to name a new king of the Iron Islands. In truth, Victarion would probably be the most suitable king, but his conniving brother Euron Greyjoy wins the day, much as he does against Yara in the series. Victarion hates Euron but supports his claim out of loyalty to his family.
This is where things get interesting: Euron demands that Victarion sail across the Narrow Sea and offer a proposal of marriage to none other than the Mother of Dragons herself–an aspect that was only teased and then discarded in the series. At this point in the books though, Victarion has grown disgusted with Euron’s cruelty and plans to woo Daenerys himself. This kicks of an adventure in A Dance with Dragons where Victarion meets a Red Priest of R’hllor who informs the Greyjoy that there is a way to bind Daenerys’ dragons to his will. So in the books, this non-TV character actually becomes a threat or perhaps a potential ally to the Silver Queen.
Image by Matt Olson.
Big Walder and Little Walder Frey
Big Walder Frey and Little Walder Frey were two of the Frey family that dwelled in Winterfell. When Catelyn and Robb Stark treated with the Freys to allow Robb’s army to ford the Crossing at the Twins, the senior Frey included the fostering of Little Walder at Winterfell. He was accompanied by Big Walder, and the two became friends with Rickon Stark.
Bran, Jojen Reed, and Meera Reed did not take kindly to these two Freys as both were brutish bullies. Little Walder is the larger of the pair, but both were skilled fighters who enjoyed pushing others around. The two can be seen as a bit of foreshadowing of the cruel nature of the Freys, something Robb and Catelyn would soon discover at the Red Wedding. The two Walders are also a good example of why “A Song of Ice and Fire” is insanely confusing: there are three characters with the exact same name featured in prominent roles. Maybe, that’s why Martin takes so long writing these books? He confuses himself.
Later on in the novels, Little Walder becomes a squire to Ramsay Bolton, which cannot be fun at all. Fans of the show must be content with just one Walder Frey.
Left and Right
Erryk and Arryk, or “Left and Right,” are the loyal bodyguards of Lady Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns. They are heavily armed brutes that are fiercely loyal to their Lady. On the other hand, the Queen of Thorns can’t be bothered to remember her guards’ names so she just refers to them as Left and Right. These two warriors are a reminder just how dangerous Lady Olenna could be despite her advanced age. If you mess with this rose, Lady Olenna has two giant pricks to make sure you bleed. On TV, the Queen of Thorns does her own pricking.
Jeyne Westerling has never appeared on TV, nor will she because her part in the drama, that of Robb Stark’s wife, was usurped by Talisa Maegyr.
Unlike poor Talisa, Jeyne does not attend the Red Wedding and is still alive deep into the books. While Benioff and Weiss gave Talisa a fascinating backstory, and a memorable character arc, Jeyne was kind of just a plot point—a reason that Robb does not marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters.
Robb meets Jeyne after he suffers a minor wound during a battle and takes refuge in her family’s small castle. The Westerlings are Lannister bannermen, so Robb basically takes them hostage, but Jeyne is kind to the King in the North and takes deep pity on him when he finds out that Theon Greyjoy “killed” his brothers Bran and Rickon at Winterfell.
Jeyne is a devoted and simple woman who loves Robb unconditionally but is overwhelmed by the conflict around her. When Robb died, Jeyne went into a deep mourning and is ordered by the Lannisters not to marry for two years, lest people thing she produced an heir with the fallen boy king. It’s hard to imagine the Red Wedding being worse than it was in the books, but slaughtering a pregnant Talisa (poor Ned Junior) to kick off the carnage was a much more brutal fate than that suffered by Robb Stark’s literary wife.
Image by Kurotsuta Murasaki.
There were certainly many of Robert Baratheon’s bastards to go around in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels. Edric Storm was one such by-blow who lived first at Storm’s End and later on Dragonstone, the land ruled by Stannis Baratheon.
On television, the story of Edric was folded into that of Gendry since Arya’s blacksmith buddy became the all-purpose Baratheon bastard. In the books, Edric went through roughly the same ordeal that Gendry did on the series: he was tortured by the Red Witch Melisandre, who leeched him and used his blood to curse Kings Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy; Like television’s Gendry, Edric was saved from being burned by the Red Witch thanks to Ser Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight.
But to simplify things, Benioff and Weiss made Gendry and Edric one, but in the world of the books, Edric stands as a testament to the mighty libido of King Robert Baratheon.
Image by Xtreme1992.
On HBO, Vargo Hoat was ostensibly replaced by the evil Locke, the vicious mercenary who dared to cut off the hand of the Kingslayer. As fans know, Locke then forced Brienne of Tarth to fight a giant bear in a pit. Locke was every inch the thug and bully that Hoat was in the book, but Hoat suffers a much darker fate than his TV counterpart. Yeah, Locke’s television demise was violent (a Bran-possessed Hodor nearly popped his evil head off), but it pales in comparison to the bodily atrocity that was inflicted on Hoat.
In the book, Hoat tries to rape Brienne before feeding her to the bear, but the tough as nails Brienne bit his ear off. Hoat’s wound festers and he becomes delirious but is still determined to hold the Keep of Herrenhal. When the Mountain Gregor Clegane arrives to take the keep back for Tywin Lannister, Clegane finds the delirious and defiant Hoat. The Mountain orders his men to slowly slice pieces of Hoat’s body away and bandage the wounds so the mercenary lives through the horrific ordeal. The Mountain then feeds the pieces to Hoat and the other prisoners, and makes sure that his captive lives to suffer for many days.
Being crushed by Hodor is no day at the beach, but the Mountain made sure that Hoat’s book death was one of the most brutal and disturbing in ASOIAF’s history.
Image by Joel Chaim Holtzman.
Dale, Allard, and Maric Seaworth
In Game of Thrones, Matthos Seaworth, the beloved son of Ser Davos, the Onion Knight, dies in the battle of the Black Water in a furious storm of wildfire. In the books, namely in A Clash of Kings, Davos is the sire of four sons who died in Tyrion Lannister’s wildfire trap. The literary deaths of his four boys were almost too much for Davos to bear, but the ever-loyal Onion Knight continues to fight in his sons’ memory despite his tremendous loss.
Patchface is one of the most chilling characters introduced in A Clash of Kings. Patchface (or Patches) was once a famed jester, known far and wide in the Seven Kingdoms. The famous fool was on his way to Dragonstone to entertain the young Baratheon children when his ship broke up, killing all aboard. Except for Patchface that is, who washed ashore days later hopelessly insane and babbling about undead creatures and ancient evils that live in the waters. So the humorless Stannis grew up with a mad fool who babbled about the things down below.
This adds to the cold and emotionless nature of Stannis Baratheon, who never learned to laugh because his childhood fool went mad. Patchface has his face tattooed in motley and can barely function, but he is a constant companion to Stannis’ daughter, the deformed Princess Shireen who still can find humor in the ravings of a madman. But not on Game of Thrones, where the things down below go unmentioned because there is no mad Patchface to sing their tale.
Image by jesterry.
Jinglebell (Aegon Frey)
Speaking of jesters, in the books, Jingebell was the grandson of Walder Fey. He was a mentally disabled young man who entertained his guests in his fool’s motley at the Red Wedding. When the carnage began, Catelyn Stark grabbed Jinglebell and put her knife to his throat, begging the elder Frey to spare Robb’s life. Walder says that he would gladly trade a half-wit grandson for the life of Robb Stark. As Robb is slaughtered, Catelyn cuts the cognitively impaired jester’s throat.
It was a moment of pure, emotionless rage for Catelyn Stark and was a clue of things to come for the Lady of Riverrun. But in the television series, Catelyn threatened one of Frey’s young wives and cut her throat when Robb is killed. I guess Game of Thrones has something against jesters as both Jinglebell and Patchface, memorable fools both, were left out of the show.
Image by Morgan King.
One of the most unforgettable moments in A Storm of Swords and the whole “A Song of Fire and Ice series” is the epilogue reveal of Lady Stoneheart. In the final chapter of A Storm of Swords, a cravenly member of the Frey family gets abducted by the Brotherhood Without Banners, the group of freedom fighters led by Beric Dondarion. Beric is conspicuous by his absence, but the rest of the Brotherhood is present and led by a cloaked figure. The cloaked figure passes sentence on the Frey and pulls its hood back revealing the ruined, dead face of Lady Catelyn Stark! Calling herself Lady Stoneheart, Catelyn now has to hold her ravaged throat together to speak and is completely devoid of humanity or emotion.
She has become the most vengeful and bloodthirsty character in the Game of Thrones saga, and is a threat to anyone whom Catelyn Stark once deemed an enemy. Benioff and Weiss have chosem not to spring Lady Stoneheart on us, which has divided fans ever since.
Image by Zippo514.
Reek (First of His Name)
Fans saw the transformation of Theon Greyjoy to Reek in Game of Thrones season 3, but TV fans might not be aware that Theon was not the first Reek to be featured in the novels.
In A Clash of Kings, it was revealed that Ramsay Snow, the bastard of Bolton once terrorized the North, raping and pillaging with his murderous companion, an odorous monster named Reek. The residents of the North thought that Reek was arrested and imprisoned in Winterfell, but the Bastard of Bolton still roamed the countryside. When Theon Greyjoy takes Winterfell and is in danger of being slaughtered by Stark bannermen, Theon frees Reek who promises to bring Ramsay Snow and his men to aid Greyjoy. When Reek returns, it is revealed that he was actually Ramsay Snow the whole time.
The newly revealed Ramsay betrays and imprisons Theon, and Greyjoy’s torturous road begins. The original Reek disguised himself as Ramsay and sacrificed himself so the bastard could live. All that is known about the original Reek was that he smells like excrement and is a vicious killer. Whether he was tortured and transformed into Reek like Theon, or whether Theon’s transformation into Reek is a tribute to Ramsay’s first Reek, has not been revealed. But what is known is that the legend of Reek began the story of the Bastard of Bolton. The TV series simplified Ramsay’s story and made Theon the first Reek and Game of Thrones’ version of Gollum.
Arianne Martell, the sister of Oberyn Martell, is the central Dornish character after Oberyn’s shocking death at the hands of the Mountain. Arianne is stunningly beautiful and a young woman who has great ambition. She was originally going to be married to Viserys Targaryen, Daenerys’ weasel brother, but Khal Drogo’s golden crown put an end to all that.
Arianne is horrified by Oberyn’s violent death and plots revenge using Cersei’s daughter Princess Myrcella in a complex power play that results in many startling Dornish secrets being revealed. After Oberyn’s death, George R.R. Martin’s Dornish subplot centers on Arianne, so it was a bit of a surprise that Game of Thrones shifted much of her storyline in a broad sense to Oberyn’s consort Ellaria Sand. But the looseness of a bastard replacing the role of a highborn is one of many indications that the writing around Dorne left something to be desired in Game of Thrones Season 5.
Image by Arys Oakheart.
Aurane Waters fought for Stannis Baratheon, but is pardoned after he bent the knee to King Joffrey after the Battle of the Blackwater. Soon, Aurane becomes a favorite of one Cersei Lannister, who makes him admiral of the King’s fleet. He soon joins the Small Counsel of King Tommen and becomes a major player in King’s Landing. Waters takes part in many of Cersei’s machinations but has yet to join the king’s court on television. It appears some of his functions were transferred over to Euron Greyjoy in season 7 of the TV series.
Onsey, Osmund, and Osfryd Kettleblack
Aurane Waters is not the only consort of Cersei Lannister to not make the television series.Osney, Osmund, and Osfryd Kettleblack are three ambitious brothers and sellswords (turned supposed knights) who are used in Cersei’s machinations to disgrace her courtier enemies. They are the main chess pieces in a game between two ambitious queens and are a major part of the courtly intrigue in King’s Landing. When things go pear-shaped for Cersei, the Kettleblacks were a major part of her fall from grace. The show opted to go for a less 1:1 comparison between Cersei’s scheme against Margaery Tyrell and England’s Anne Boleyn, which was much more visible in the books as we detailed here. Instead of creating false witnesses of alleged lovers of the young queen, Cersei merely roped Margaery into Loras Tyrell’s trial as a gay man (which is also different from how he is villified by Cersei in the books, as well as how he is disposed of by the ruthless Queen Mother).Image by Pojypojy.
Jeyne Poole was Sansa Stark’s best friend when she lived in Winterfell. Think of Jeyne and Sansa as the Westerosi version of Heathers. With Sansa, Jeyne took great pleasure in mocking Arya Stark and was a major part of Sansa’s more innocent (if less endearing) days. Jeyne Poole returns as part of Ramsay Bolton’s grand plan for Winterfell and is forced to endure Ramsay’s heinous predilections when she marries Ramsay under the false identity of Arya Stark. Jeyne Poole’s fate is not a happy one, much like how Ramsay treats Sansa in Game of Thrones, albeit with more graphic cruelty in the novel. Last we saw Jeyen, she and Theon are making a desperate escape from Winterfell, much like Sansa and Theon did at the end of season 5.
Image by JeynePooleEsp.