As you can probably guess, this article contains tons of Game of Thrones spoilers, for the books and the TV series.
Both in books and on television, Game of Thrones is one of the bloodiest fantasy stories ever told. It seems like every week on TV or in every chapter of the stirring book series, someone is murdered, executed, stabbed, bludgeoned, burnt, killed by disease, eaten, or drowned. Well, would you believe that there is even MORE death on TV than there is in the books?
That’s right, on HBO characters who have died still draw breath in George R.R. Martin’s epic book series. So join us as we take a look at those characters that we have had to bid farewell to on television that are still playing the game of thrones in the novels.
Who can forget brave Grenn’s death in season four of Game of Thrones? Who can forget Grenn and his boys bravely reciting the oath of the Night’s Watch’s as Mag the Mighty, ancient king of the giants, charges the gate that would not hold? Grenn and his companions were all that stood between the Watch and certain death, and Grenn stayed proudly and defiantly…and Grenn then died.
It was one of the most stirring and epic moments of season four and one that will not be soon forgotten. But in George R.R. Martin’s books, Grenn is alive, still serving in the Night’s Watch. Grenn pops up in A Feast For Crows and in A Dance With Dragons, and is still loyal to his new Lord Commander Jon Snow. Grenn doesn’t do much in either of those books, which is perhaps why he was chosen by the Game of Thrones showrunners to make his most noble of sacrifices in season four. In the show, Grenn will always stand out as a stirring example of bravery and sacrifice as he fell so his brothers could live, defeating impossible odds along the way. But in the book, Grenn continues to fight the good fight, because his Watch has not yet ended.
In the same battle that took Grenn’s life in Game of Thrones, the loyal Crow Pyp also died, albeit not as dramatically as his brother in black. Pyp died fighting on the Wall side by side with Samwell Tarly. It was quite a shocking moment for “A Song of Ice and Fire” fans when Pyp, a character still alive in the books, took a Wildling arrow to the throat. Right there, even readers knew that the stakes in the war with the Wildlings was high, and truly, no one would be safe no matter what happened to a character’s literary equivalent.
In truth, Pyp doesn’t have a huge role to play after the battle with the Wildlings, but he is still there on the Wall, serving under Lord Commander Snow. In fact, Pyp seems to resent Snow in the books, a feeling that some of Snow’s old comrades share as the bastard of Winterfell becomes more withdrawn due to his new responsibilities. Well, on TV, Pyp will not feel resentful of Jon Snow or anyone else, not after that shocking arrow pierced his windpipe silencing this mummer’s son forevermore.
Whether it is in the books or in the TV series, Catelyn’s death is arguably the most brutal, unfair, and crushing death of Martin’s entire saga. When the Frey knife opens Catelyn’s throat, the book series lost one of its most capable and fair-minded players.
In the series, Catelyn tragically remains dead, but in the books, oh by the Seven that in the books, Catelyn rises thanks to the magic of Beric Dondarrion. Catelyn rises and the Seven Kingdoms must face the fury of Stoneheart, a viciously vengeful version of the fallen Stark matriarch out to crush the enemies who took her beloved family’s lives. Whether HBO fans will ever come face to face with this lady of vengeance remains to be seen, but as for now, Lady Stoneheart, the brutal mockery of a once noble lady, is a horror only fans of the books have had to endure.
On HBO, poor Jojen Reed’s visions did not help him survive an assault of the undead…or from having his throat slit by his own sister…or from being blown up real good by a little elf kid’s fireball.
But in the novel series, Jojen lives and is still dwelling with his dear sister Meera, Bran, Hodor, Coldhands, and the Children of the Forest. Actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster was brilliant as the prophetic young ally of Bran Stark, but we had to bid farewell to him in season four as he led his group to meet the Children of the Forest; it’s a darn shame too since we will no longer be able to enjoy the young actor’s skills. But we will be able to experience more Jojen when Martin’s next novel hits.
Willis Wode was a warrior who swears loyalty to Catelyn Stark at the Crossroads Inn when she takes Tyrion Lannister prisoner. In the books, Wode successfully helps Catelyn navigate the Mountains of the Moon and also helps her survive the attack of the Hill Tribe.
He bears witness to Tyrion’s first trial by combat where Bronn defended Tyrion at the Eyrie, and is still currently alive and kicking, although his whereabouts are unknown. Wode witnessed all these iconic GoT moments and lived to tell the tale; on television, Wode was killed by the Hill Tribes while defending Lady Catelyn, causing the Starks and Tullys to lose a staunch defender.
Mago was the unfortunate bloodrider who insulted Daenerys and had his tongue ripped out of his throat by Khal Drogo for daring to speak ill of the Khal’s moon and stars on Game of Thrones. The death of Mago punctuated just how badass Drogo could be, particularly when challenged. I mean, he pulled the dude’s tongue of his throat! Yet, in the books, Mago insults Khaleesi and lives to tell the tale. When Daenerys forbids the Khalasar from gang raping its prisoners, this creates a ton of bad blood between some of Drogo’s men and their Khaleesi.
When Drogo falls ill, Mago declares himself Khal and takes the women back that Daenerys spared from him. The Mother of Dragons swears vengeance but as of yet, Daenerys Stormborn has yet to deliver her fiery retribution on Mago, who still rides the grass sea as Khal in the Game of Thrones novels.
Where Mago betrays and abandons his Khaleesi, the bloodrider Rakharo stayed loyal to his queen and joined her as she transverses the Red Waste. Sadly for Rakharo, when Khaleesi’s loyal follower goes on a scouting mission, he does not survive the HBO experience. In a tragic moment, Daenerys and company find Rakharo’s stallion with the bloodrider’s head stuffed in one of his own saddle bags.
The true tragedy is that without a whole body, according to Dothraki legend, Rakharo won’t be able to complete his journey to the Night Lands and his eternal reward. In the books, it is Dany’s handmaiden Doreah who dies in the Red Waste of exposure and illness, as Rakharo not only survives the harrowing journey but still serves at his Khaleesi’s side to this day.
Qarth’s Council of Thirteen
Who can forget the moment the ghostly doppelgangers of Pyat Pree slew Qarth’s Council of Thirteen in front of a stunned Daenerys? When Dany left Qarth, she left its ruling class in ruins, showing every city across the Narrow Sea that Daenerys Targaryen is not a woman to be trifled with.
However in the novels, the Council stands and remains in control after Dany leaves Qarth. In fact, after Khaleesi’s dragons burned the House of the Undying, Dany flees Qarth because the Council orders her death. So in the books, the governing body of Qarth is still an enemy of the Mother of Dragons while on the show, the corpses of the Thirteen have long turned cold.
Pyat Pree murdered the Council of Qarth on HBO only to be burned by Khaleesi’s dragons. But in the literary world of Westeros, this terrifying mystic still poses a threat to the ambitions of Daenerys Stormborn. First off, man, is Dany’s arc different in the books, and second, the TV version of the Mother of Dragons may have been wiser than her literary counterpart, because TV Dany executed this dangerous blue lipped wizard.
In the books, Dany burns the House of the Undying, but Pyat Pree lives. In fact, in A Dance With Dragons, Dany is warned that Pree and three of his warlock followers are still hunting Daenerys. In the books, Dany still must have a reckoning with Pree, while in the series, Pree is a threat long dead thanks to a blast of dragon breath.
Xaro Xhoan Daxos
Ah, poor Xaro Xhoan Daxos, having the hardest name to type in all of the Seven Kingdoms did not stop this chilling and memorable HBO death. Remember, Xaro Xhoan Daxos was locked in an impenetrable vault for helping Pyat Pree steal Khaleesi’s dragons? Well in the novels, Xaro Xhoan Daxos seems utterly devoted to Dany and begs the Mother of Dragons for her hand in marriage.
The always wise Dany suspects that Xaro Xhoan Daxos only wants to marry so he can claim one of her dragons as part of an ancient Qartheen marriage custom. Despite his machinations, Xaro Xhoan Daxos never betrays Dany and so he still lives. In A Dance With Dragons, it is revealed that Dany’s actions have disrupted Xaro Xhoan Daxos’ slave trade. He offers her a fleet of ships provided she leaves for Westeros to finally take the Iron Throne. Dany refuses the gift angering Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who leaves a bloody glove for Dany on a silk pillow, a symbol of war between Qarth and the Mother of Dragons. It seems that Xaro Xhoan Daxos’ death might be coming after all but it won’t be in the fateful vault in Qarth, the location of the slave trader’s death on television.
Poor loyal Irri, killed when Pyat Pree stole Khaleesi’s dragons. In the book, Irri is Dany’s loyal handmaiden, instructor in the sexual arts, friend, confidant, and even paramour. But on TV, Irri’s fate was to bleed out on a cold stone floor, caught in a struggle for power between her Khaleesi and the warlocks of Qarth.
Literary Irri is even still among the living in A Dance With Dragons, as she argues with Jhiqui over the affections of the still living Rakharo. So what have we learned from this list? It is more dangerous to be a supporting character of Daenerys Targaryen than it is to be a red shirt on the Starship Enterprise.
Joyeuse, Walder Frey’s Wife
The most shocking moment of HBO’s Game of Thrones unquestionably is the Red Wedding. Starting with the death of Robb Stark’s wife Talisa, the gore just flows faster and redder than in a climax to a Lucio Fulci film. One of the victims of the TV’s Red Wedding was Walder Frey’s wife, Joyeuse. Of course, the disgusting and traitorous Frey has had many wives, so the brutal patron of House Frey sheds no tears when a devastated Catelyn Stark carves a new smile in Joyeuse’s throat.
Yet, in the books, Joyeuse is alive and well (as well as one can be living under that letch Walder Frey). The last time readers saw Joyeuse, it was revealed she was pregnant (I guess Walder still has some wildfire in the flask). On TV, there will be no little Freys being produced by Joyeuse for she was the final victim of the eternal rage of Catelyn Stark.
What was I saying about the dangers of running with the TV version of Khaleesi? In the books, Barristan Selmy is Daenerys’ most trusted advisor after the exile of Ser Jorah Mormont . The old ser advises Khaleesi and even lends his sword to her cause on numerous occasions.
He is still with Dany at the end of A Dance With Dragons and seems to have a huge role to play if Dany ever crosses the Narrow Sea to take the Iron Throne. But in the show, he is dead, murdered after a brave standoff with the Sons of the Harpy. How Barristan’s death will impact the narrative of HBO’s epic remains to be seen, but Ser Barristan still has a literary role to play in Game of Thrones. Man, Khaleesi really has to start giving workman’s comp.
Speaking of the Freys, Old Walder himself, the traitor of the Starks, still draws putrid death. While the Frey patriarch met a delicious fate on Game of Thrones when Arya Stark pulled his head back and slit his throat after going all Titus Andronicus on his kids, this heady moment continues to be merely wish fulfillment on the page.
Walder has lost several children to Lady Stoneheart, Catelyn Stark’s undead alias, but the old bastard remains safe behind his walls at the Twins while Arya Stark is still an ocean away in Essos.
Because of Cersei Lannister’s action at the Sept of Baelor (y’know, when she blew the whole damn thing to the Seven Hells), this list of Game of Thrones characters that are dead on TV but not in the novels has gotten considerably longer. Blowing the Sept was truly Cersei’s most cunning and vile act, and in doing so, the Queen Regent took out many of her greatest enemies.
Most prominent of these enemies is Margaery Tyrell, the queen that was younger, more beloved, and seemingly at times, more cunning at the Great Game than Cersei. But Cersei proved that not to be the case. With one brilliantly timed explosion, Margaery and all the threats the young, brilliant, and beautiful Tyrell queen represented was nothing but cinder and ash.
Yet in the novels, Margaery still lives. When last we saw King Tommen’s beloved, Margaery had been arrested and set for trial by the High Septon and the Faith. This arrest of Margaery also led to the arrest of Cersei as King’s Landing stands ready for two royal trials. In the TV series those trials never came, but in the books, Margaery still stands, ready to prove to the Seven Kingdoms who the true queen is. With Margaery awaiting trial, the tragedy at the Great Sept is still in play, but the question remains, does Mr. Martin have plans for Margaery or will the literary version of the Tyrell queen also be burnt to nothingness by Cersei’s wrath?
Like Margaery, Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, also was consumed by the fires of Baelor. But while actor Finn Jones went from Westeros to the Marvel Universe so he could endlessly declare that he is the immortal Iron Fist, Jones’ Loras Tyrell smoldered by his sister’s side. Not so in the novels.
In the books, Loras is still alive—barely. Loras was gravely injured in a violent Lannister siege of Dragonstone. In A Dance with Dragons, it is revealed that Loras is horrifically injured but not dead yet. It seems like Martin might have plans remaining for the Knight of Flowers. We may see the destruction of the Tyrell line in the books yet, but it seems like, due to his injuries, Loras won’t be anywhere near Baelor if Cersei’s plans come to fruition in Martin’s next tome.
The High Sparrow
And the High Sparrow who kept the Tyrell siblings trapped in the Great Sept also met his fiery and deserved end. He thought he could play the game of thrones and topple the elite, but he couldn’t take good advice from one of them (who also was a woman). And his pride cameth before the emerald-tinted fall.
Lady Olenna Tyrell
The Queen of Thorns may have escaped the destruction of her clan during the burning of the Great Sept, but the old, brilliant OG of the Tyrell family still met her end like a boss thanks to a cup of poison served by Jaimie Lannister. But not before Olenna pimp slapped the Kingslayer by revealing that it was she who murdered King Joffrey on his wedding day. Olenna’s words will forever echo in Jaime’s ears as she went out on her own terms, proud and unbroken.
The literary Olenna is still alive to scheme and plot, and eat as many prunes as she damn well pleases in Martin’s text. The books make it very clear that the Queen of Thorns was indeed responsible for Joffrey’s brutal and oh, so satisfying assassination. It remains to be seen what the still living Lady Olenna and all her connections in High Garden have in store for Cersei and the Iron Throne.
Last season, fans were horrified to bear witness when Cersei Lannister imprisoned Ellaria Sand and forced the former consort of Oberyn Martell to watch the slow and painful death of her beloved daughter. Ellaria might also still be alive in the bowels of the Red Keep, but as her daughter died before her eyes and she is left to rot… does that really count as living?
But things are a bit more complex when it comes to the literary Ellaria Sand because the TV Ellaria Sand is an amalgamation of two characters. The TV series basically morphs the book arcs of the literary Ellaria and one Arrianne Martell. Arrianne swears vengeance against the Lannisters and plots in Dorne while Ellaria leads her Sand Snakes. Ellaria was forced to witness Oberyn’s death at King’s Landing at the hands of the Mountain while Arrianne stays back in Dorne and plots vengeance.
So you can see that the TV version of Ellaria basically mashed together into one narrative, a tale that ended with Cersei’s cruel kiss. But both parts of TV’s Ellaria Sand are still alive and well in the book, although Arrianne’s plot was discovered by an unimpressed Prince Doran in the book, and we know not what will come next for the princess. Still, we think her odds are better than either television’s Doran or Ellaria, as Doran is secretly plotting to align his family with the Targaryens in the books still (although as his second son, who isn’t in the show, died in Meereen while courting Dany, that might change…)
He rules yet in the books, despite being assassinated by Ellaria on the show.
The Sand Snakes
Like Ellaria, the book version of the Sand Snakes are still stabbing, whipping, and flaying their way into legend. Obara, Obella, Tyene, Elia, Loreza, and the rest of Oberyn Martell’s bastard daughters are ready to take the fight to the Lannisters as the plotting of the Dornish continues unabated in the novels. TV’s Cersei and Euron Greyjoy might have ended the threats of the Tyrells and the Martells, but the book Cersei still has both families to contend with.
The Sand Snakes are also making Lannister loyalists bleed in Martin’s world of prose and that can only lead to more violence and chaos for all involved. Euron Greyjoy may have ended the threat of the Sand Snakes on TV, but the Greyjoys and the Sands have yet to meet in the novels and it does not look like their paths will cross anytime soon.
Who can ever forget the Battle of the Bastards? What Game of Thrones fan doesn’t have the indelible image of Jon Snow and Sansa Stark taking back Winterfell from the ultra-violent Bastard of Bolton burned into their brain? Of course it all ends with Bolton’s own dogs making a chew toy of the Bastard’s face meaning that Ramsay Bolton is no longer a threat on TV. In fact, the novel’s Bastard of Bolton’s tale diverges significantly from the sadist featured on the HBO series.
In the book, Bolton did not marry Sansa, he has yet to kill his father Roose Bolton, and his central scheme centers on a mummer’s farce marriage to a faux Arya Stark. Bolton is still a major literary player and is ready to geld Westeros. Can you just imagine how Martin would make with the blood red narrative in his version of the Battle of the Bastards? It’s all possible because Ramsey Bolton has yet to become prose puppy chow.
We should also note that Roose is also still technically the Warden in the North. His son hasn’t betrayed him either, albeit that is because Roose has already let Ramsay murder another bastard without repercussions and his wife has yet to give birth to a threat to Ramsay’s claim.
And it may not matter either, because even though Ramsay claims in A Dance with Dragons to have defeated Stannis Baratheon’s army (we haven’t had confirmation yet on the page if this is the truth), the North remains much more loyal to the Starks in the books. And Lord Manderly has a scheme that could spell Roose’s death.
Also on the note of the Boltons, the fate of Stannis Bolton is still unknown in the books. When last we left off with the man who would call himself king, Stannis appeared to be heading to a possible defeat as he marched on Winterfell with an army drowned in early winter snow. However, he was still alive and notably, his sweet daughter Shireen was nowhere to be seen.
Conversely, he is as dead as Jacob Marley on the show, defeated before the walls of Winterfell and then summarily executed by Brienne of Tarth. But given what he did in his final days, no one really misses the TV version of the brittle monarch.
Selyse Baratheon is also still alive in the show, far from going the full Lady Macbeth on herself in the woods. However, she is keeping Shireen, a daughter she loathes, pretty close to herself and the Red Witch. So there’s time…
Oh, poor innocent Shireen! The pain is still too great to speak more than fleetingly about, but the sweet child lives still in the books! But as according to the showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, this poor babe has already been conscripted to the flames by George R.R. Martin… who told them about this horribleness.
Also on the count of belvoed characters, we were forced to say goodbye to Hodor in an end that Martin likewise concocted. Which explains why, like Shireen, it hurts so much. You’ll never hear “hold the door” the same way again.
The Three-Eyed Raven
Also on that count, Max von Sydow’s mentor is still being a mentor to Bran.
Randyll and Dickon Tarly
Sam Tarly also is now heir apparent to Horn Hill since his father and brother have been turned to ash. Randyll Tarly was obviously a bastard and had it coming, but at least on the show Dickon didn’t seem like a bad bloke. He just had a bad father who led him to ruin.
On the page, however, they’re still riding around, and in fact Randyll is riding to King’s Landing to aid in the rescue of Margaery Tyrell, and to see Cersei taken to justice. This makes his bending the knee to Queen Cersei still seem like an invention of narrative convenience on the television show’s part.
And thus fell, Petyr Baelish, one of the major players of the Great Game. The combined brilliance of Arya and Sansa Stark finally outplayed Lord Littlefinger and the conniving Lord of the Vale bled out on Winterfell’s great hall floor. The TV Littlefinger that is, because in the books, Littlefinger is still moving his pieces and his end game is still unknown.
As stated, in the novels, Littlefinger does not marry Sansa off to Ramsey Bolton and is still playing that long game. When last we saw Littlefinger in A Feast for Crows, he was Lord Protector of the Vale, plotting to win the Lords of the Vale over to his side. Only Littlefinger knows that Sansa is actually disguised as a simple servant girl. He is Sansa’s protector, but I think we all know that Littlefinger’s attentions are never pure of heart.
Literary Littlefinger controls the Vale and he controls Sansa, and he is just beginning to plot to take Winterfell back from the Boltons. This all could put him at odds with the Stark sisters if Sansa and Arya ever enjoy the same reunion they do on TV. But truthfully, Littlefinger has yet to make some of the same repellant moves in the books that he did on TV. There’s no forced marriage to Roose Bolton, and the book Baelish seems to be playing a much longer and subtler game than he did on HBO. Whatever Littlefinger’s fate, he is still plotting and conniving with Sansa Stark as his favored game piece. But he should always be wary because Arya Stark’s dagger is waiting should Littlefinger step out of line. Until then, in Martin’s tale, the Game continues with Littlefinger still holding the dice.
Thoros of Myr
Ah Thoros, he met a violent end at the hands of the White Walkers when the greatest D&D party of them all led by Jon Snow quested to capture a Wight. Thoros was the first to fall and his flaming sword and bravery (and penchant for potent mead) will not be forgotten. In the books, Thoros is part of a different party, a grouping led by Lady Stoneheart, the undead, vengeful Catelyn Stark. Thoros is troubled by Stoneheart’s methods, and who wouldn’t be, as the Red Priest and his Brotherhood without Banners continue to serve as Stoneheart’s enforcers.
When last readers met Thoros in A Feast for Crows, Thoros is protesting some of the former Lady Stark’s more violent methods. Will Thoros still be loyal to Stoneheart or will he somehow find his way to the side of his fellow worshipper of R’hllor, the Red Witch Malisandre? Whatever the case, the blazing sword and good heart of everyone’s favorite drunken cleric still serve the Lord of Light. Just not on HBO, alas.