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Pragmatic Adaptation / Game of Thrones

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The series contains large amounts of pragmatic adaptation due to the transition from a series of Doorstopper novels with a rotating third-person limited POV structure complete with inner monologue to a televised ensemble piece with only 10 episodes per season:

  • In the books, the eponymous Iron Throne is vaguely throne-shaped collection of swords hammered together into a colossal, twisted, asymmetrical mess that towers some 40 feet into the air, in a throne room roughly the size of St. Peter's Basilica. George R.R. Martin acknowledges how this would be incredibly impractical for a TV production, and so the throne in the show is much more reasonably sized and fairly symmetrical throne shape in a likewise more reasonably sized but still very large room. This is alluded to in a conversation between Varys and Littlefinger, in which the latter despondently says the throne has less than two hundred swords instead of the thousand or so that many people embellish it as having.
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  • The books often deliver character development and exposition in narration or internal monologue, so the show must find creative ways to deliver the information in dialogue, such as Littlefinger telling his backstory to his prostitutes, Tyrion detailing his first marriage during a drinking game, or Davos and Stannis having As You Know... conversations about their past.
  • The show excises flashbacks almost completely and makes prophecies much more inwardly focused. Flashbacks would require an entire secondary cast and extensive prophecies are tricky to write and pay off satisfactorily. As such, Daenerys' visions in Qarth focus on her own story rather than long-dead or faraway characters, Ned's memories of his sister are replaced with other foreshadowing devices, Quaithe becomes a foil for Jorah instead of a prophecy sounding board, and Bran and Jojen's prophetic dreams provide directions as often as not.
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  • The timespan of the series is expanded compared to the novels - whereas in the books the story has covered at most three years at the end of ADWD (Book 5), events are spaced out so that each Season covers a year's worth of storyline - an important aspect when the 6th Season concluded Book Five's narrative, and the child actors need their growing into adulthood acknowledged in-universe to avoid Dawson Casting. This has created some oddities; for instance, Gilly's baby is still barely a toddler even though at least three years have passed in the show.
  • Numerous events are added, rearranged, or eliminated for the plot pacing of each season, making story arcs resolve at different times. This causes storylines from separate novels to run parallel and makes certain characters present for events they aren't present for in the books.
  • Tywin, Robb, Theon, and Littlefinger are offpage for long periods in the novels, but a television show cannot afford to have such popular or important characters disappear for whole seasons. Instead, they are made more prominent in someone else's story (Tywin with Arya), have offpage exploits shown firsthand (Robb's campaign and marriage, Theon's imprisonment), or a little of both (Littlefinger's offpage work winning the Tyrells plus meeting other characters as well).
  • Arya's story in A Clash of Kings is streamlined in Season 2 as a cat-and-mouse game to hide her identity. Therefore, instead of earning a place as cupbearer to Roose Bolton (who was moved to Robb's camp) by aiding a Trojan Prisoner gambit, Arya is plucked from captivity to be cupbearer to (and hide her identity from) known character Tywin Lannister, who remains at Harrenhal instead of engaging Edmure Tully in battle.
  • Jon and Dany's stories in A Clash of Kings are very introspective with little action until the final chapters. To create more action, the series separates Jon from his squad to spend more time with his love interest and confronts Dany with betrayal and the kidnapping of her dragons.
  • The POV structure of the book necessitates two shadowbaby assassins to understand their creation and use: the first Catelyn sees in action and the second Davos sees born. This second shadow resolved a subplot concerning the surrender of Storm's End and Stannis' bastard nephew Edric Storm, but instead the show presents the same shadow being born and in action and has Gendry replace Edric Storm in Season 3.
  • Storm's End and Penrose were cut and Stannis's bastard nephew Edric Storm was replaced by Gendry in Season 3. Stannis's family was also cut from Season 2. However, his wife and daughter were cast for Season 3. Considering that Stannis does not do much except sulk in Book 3 until serving as the Big Damn Heroes for Jon at the Wall, moving the Storm's End and Stannis's family plot to Season 3 may have been the most pragmatic way to adapt that storyline, especially since the third book was spread out over two seasons.
  • In the books, Jon Snow and Arya are also able to warg their direwolves while sleeping. In the series, only Bran's dreams are kept because they are essential to his Story Arc whereas Jon and Arya's stories can work without them.
  • In the books, Barristan Selmy joins Daenerys under the alias Arstan Whitebeard, which is enough to disguise him from readers since Daenerys has never seen him before. On the show, of course, the actor is easily recognizable or may have been forgotten entirely by people who hadn't read the books so that a later reveal would have no impact, so he reveals his true identity right away.
  • Loras is older than Margaery in the novels, but writer Bryan Cogman has stated that the opposite is true on the show, no doubt because Finn Jones is six years younger than Natalie Dormer. The older Tyrell brothers Willas and Garlan are also Adapted Out completely, with their important roles grafted onto Loras or Margaery.
  • Daenerys encounters two sellsword companies at Yunkai in the novels: The Storm Crows and the Second Sons. The series fuses the characters of both into the Second Sons.
  • At Sansa’s wedding to Tyrion in the books, Sansa takes a long time to kneel for Tyrion’s sake, but since we can hear her thoughts and hear how confused and sad she is she remains sympathetic. Since we can’t hear her thoughts on TV, taking as long a time would make her come off as rude or selfish, so she kneels much faster.
  • Characters with unusual appearances or impractical-to-create afflictions are given more conventional looks to save on makeup/costuming and to avoid looking ridiculous on screen:
    • The vibrantly coloured surcoats and enamelled armor of the lords and knights described in the books is generally muted, as are the garish costumes of characters like Daario Naharis and Salladhor Saan.
    • The outrageous hairdos of Slaver's Bay are omitted, as are Daario's flamboyant blue-dyed hair and Lord Tywin's shaved head and muttonchops.
    • Daenerys and Viserys' purple eyes were left out because the contact lenses interfered with the actors' performances.
    • Sandor Clegane's scars are much less extensive and gruesome than those described in the books, but it's unlikely that the production could create a prosthetic that would be believable and not get in the actor's way.
    • Tyrion in the books is deformed as well as a dwarf and loses most of his nose. Peter Dinklage portrays him without the deformity and with a prominent scar instead of a grotesque one.
    • The criminal Rorge lacks a nose in the books but keeps it in the show.
    • In the books, the ruling class of Slaver's Bay wear overly elaborate garments called tokars that must be handled very carefully and held by one hand to keep from falling off. Since they would be a nightmare for the cast and crew to work with, the tokars were switched out for simpler robes.
    • In the books, the style in Qarth is for women to wear robes which expose one of their breasts - a style which Dany adopts during her time there. In the show, this would have been outlandish and distracting for viewers, so the clothing is changed to more conventional robes or dresses.
    • In Braavos, the upper class wear dark, severe-looking outfits while the lower class dress in gaudy, brightly-colored outfits. Since this cultural element would have to be explained, the shows instead simplifies the class distinction by making it work the way it does in Westeros: nobility in rich, colorful fabrics and peasants in rough, plain, brown and grey fabrics.
    • In the books, Arya's companion in the House of Black and White looks like a waifish child but is really an adult whose growth was stunted by poisons. In the show, she's a normal looking, fully grown young woman. (Though, oddly, she's still called "The Waif" in the subtitles and credits.)
    • Euron Greyjoy in the books wears an eyepatch over his mysterious "Crow's Eye" and has blue lips from drinking the Warlocks' shade of the evening. In the show, he has a scar near his eye instead of an eyepatch and no blue lips.
    • The three-eyed crow's real form is a one-eyed albino man with a faded birthmark over his neck and cheek, revealing his former identity as Brynden Rivers, AKA Bloodraven. In the show, he's just a normal-looking old man with a white beard.
    • In the books, the main colour of House Bolton is pink as opposed to black and red. While the colours of the Boltons in the show are more stereotypically evil, a faithful adaptation would probably just have resulted in them looking ridiculous on-screen, so the change is understandable.
    • In the books, the Dothraki wear bells in their braids to commemorate victories, and there are occasional descriptions of their bells chiming when Dothraki move around. This would get pretty irritating and silly on the show, so this detail is omitted.
  • In the books, the musicians at Edmure's wedding are described as terrible, which foreshadows the fact that they're actually crossbowmen, not real musicians. In the show, they play flawlessly, because including purposely bad music in the soundtrack would be distracting and bizarre to viewers.
  • Due to the unconventional structuring of the story, Season 5 had to fit two books into one season. note  The solution the showrunners devised was to include some storylines in Season 4 (Bran's story and some of the Reek material), delay some stories for season 6 (Sam going to Oldtown to become a maester) and merge a few others (Jaime goes to Dorne instead of the Riverlands while Ramsay marries Sansa instead of Jeyne Poole). The results have been controversial, but a surprising amount of material has been compressed into just ten hours.
  • Much of the dialogue of Davos Seaworth in the TV series does not appear in the books, since much of his character development in these is restricted to his inner thoughts.
  • In the books, Davos' left hand is maimed, which was changed to his right as Liam Cunningham is left-handed.
  • Instead of as a casualty of battle, Torrhen is assigned to guard Jaime during his captivity and is killed by him during an escape attempt. This makes Karstark's obsession with killing Jaime more understandable than in the books.
  • In the book Gregor is screaming murder as the manticore poison is eating him up, in the show since it would kind of ruin every scene in King's Landing to have his screams in the background (the books made it clear his screams can be heard everywhere in the Red Keep) they just have him pass out from the pain.
  • Instead of going through the trouble of finding twin actors or having one actor play the two brothers, Martyn and Willem Lannister are made into younger and older brother.
  • Shireen's hair is more dark brown than the dark Baratheon black described in the books, though the reason is understandable: Ingram is actually blonde in real life, and dyeing her hair that far away from her natural hair color would look painfully artificial (as the production team learned in the pilot episode, when they briefly tried having the dark-haired Peter Dinklage play Tyrion with dyed-blonde hair, but it looked so fake that they later dialed it back to Tyrion having more of a honey-blonde hair).
  • In the books, Ghost does not make any sound. Since in real life, getting a dog to stay quiet all the time is impossible, this is omitted.
  • In the books Littlefinger runs a massive system of grift and organized corruption that has effectively turned the entire Westeros economy into a ticking timebomb of a Ponzi scheme. In the show this is simplified into him taking out so many loans the crown can't pay the interest.
  • At the Red Wedding, Robb's wife is present and killed off when she didn't go in the books and lived. This fits with two changes - the first is that Jeyne was a minor character in the books but was replaced with a recurring presence called Talisa. Jeyne disappears from the narrative after the event, so simply writing Talisa out would be anti-climactic (and with a more outspoken personality than Jeyne, she'd be unlikely to take the murder of her husband, mother-in-law and bannermen so lightly). Secondly, the backstories are different; Jeyne is the daughter of a minor Lannister nobleman, and so is given a royal pardon after the wedding. Talisa is an exiled Volantis noblewoman with no strong political allies, so the Freys had little to lose by killing her. Additionally, as the TV series couldn't develop all the side characters who get killed at the wedding, Talisa being killed off creates a third major character death to help sell the tragedy of it.


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