Game of Thrones "First of His Name" Preview: Are Differences Between the Show and the Books a Good Thing?

By Tim Surette

May 03, 2014

Game of Thrones S04E05: "First of His Name"

As last week's episode "Oathkeeper" faded to BLUEGame of Thrones fans who are familiar with the source novels were knocked off their Iron Thrones of haughtiness. That final scene—when the White Walkers scooped up one of Craster's babies and turned him into one of them (a White Walker, a Wight Walker, a wight, whatever it was)—doesn't occur in any of the Song of Ice and Fire books that've been published to date. And according to episode director Michelle MacLaren, who also helmed this Sunday's upcoming "First of His Name," deviations from the source material—or at least the already published source material—are going to happen "more and more."

Aside from a few other small changes (like the show's version of Locke being a composite of the book's Vargo Hoat and others, to name one example), Game of Thrones has largely gone by the book. So imagine the spit-take readers did when, for the first time in the series, a big piece of information they didn't see coming was delivered to both audiences at the same time. I know my book-savvy colleagues at lost their sh*t. It's been reported in the past that Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have had conversations with George R.R. Martin about the future of the series, and that the wise old Martin let them in on some secrets of the upcoming books that no one else knows about. So the show-specific new info isn't just being made up on the spot, it's almost certainly coming from books that haven't been written yet.

But what I want to know is, how does everyone out there feel about this? 

Book people: Are you bummed that by watching the show you may be spoiled for events in the books? Is it fair that the show is entering previously uncharted territory, since the books came first? Will you miss spoiling everything for show people in the comments sections of Game of Thrones stories on the internet? (Just kidding! I know it's only a small percentage of you who are absolute monsters. Most of you are awesome.)

Show people: How hard are you laughing at book people right now? Do you feel bad about laughing at book people? You should feel bad about laughing at book people. 

For the record, I've read the first three books, so I'm in that fuzzy area where what we see on the show is starting to be new to me anyway, therefore I don't really feel too affected. But whenever a comic book or a novel is adapted for television or film, I generally think it's great when the adaptation aims to interpret the original work while steering away from the source as it sees fit. To me, they're like two separate pieces of art, and without any distinction between the two, the adapted version would simply be a really expensive book on tape. Both versions will always exist, and there's no rule that says you have to love both. 

However, if I was one of the people who've been reading the novels faithfully and waiting patiently for the next installment of the story since the first one was published in 1991? I might be a little angry. I might even stop watching the show. 

Let's follow the honor system in these two polls and take the temperature of the Game of Thrones fandom:

Play nice, people. And please remember: No book spoilers in the comments!

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  • ElisabethMuld May 09, 2014

    Heres my problem with the shows creators changing some of the plot points, if what they changed in the stories actually made them better I wouldnt mind, but most of the time, I dont think thats true. Like every romance plot they add feels contrived, why change Shae's character around so much and the worst one of all, the Jaime/Cercei/rape scene! Among other things. The most poignant moments in the show so far have been when they have stayed true to the books (in the case of Jaime and Brienne in the bath, almost to the letter).
    Plus I absolutely love GRRM's writing style and the fact that he seems to be able to write such amazing diverse female characters (plus ya, less rape scenes or at least they're handled better).
    I'm now serriously comsidering not watching the show, after having been so excited at them combining books 4 and 5. So yeah, im a bit dissapointed.

  • kevekev302 May 05, 2014

    However they do change it, it can't possibly be as bad as what they did to Under the Dome

  • AnimeMadness May 04, 2014

    I used to be one of those people who would be nitpicky about shows staying true to the books and didn't like it when they deviated from the plot in the books. Now I understand that TV shows NEED to be different from their book counterparts in order for people to stay interested and keep them on their toes.

    Its no fun to watch a show when you have that one friend who's read all the books spoil it for you by being a smartass because they know everything thats ever going to happen. So in this sense, Game of Thrones adding things that haven't happened in the books yet is a form of revenge. To answer the question, yes I am laughing at book people right now.

    I really don't mind that the show is somewhat spoiling what is going to happen in the books. But to others that do mind, its George R.R. Martin's own fault this is happening. He only had 10+ years to finish the series before it got picked up HBO. Call me pessimist but there's no way he's finishing the last two books before the show catches up to him.

  • Scrabble May 04, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • ryntan May 04, 2014

    I haven't read the books, despite being a 'book person', for the simple reason that I find Game of Thrones is the one show on tv that can provide truly shocking moments to its audience. Ever since they separated Ned Starks head from his body it was apparent that Game of Thrones was different to most other shows and so I chose to avoid the books for now.

    Looking at it from that point of view then I think it's great that they're deviating from the novels, as it adds the unpredictability factor back that's mostly gone for those that have read the source material. It also gives the showrunners a bit more freedom, which is always essential for the good to become great.

    As for Martin revealing the end, until it's actually written by him, I guess that's subject to change anyway. They could even seriously shock and have two completely different endings. Not likely, but if there was ever a show to do it with, this is it. Either way it's better that someone knows an end point for the series, just in case.

  • Grazzy May 04, 2014

    I don't entirely buy this story of George R R Martin telling the producers of the show how the story ends... Why would you give away the work of a lifetime and have a TV series spoil your story for future books? It makes no sense to me. As far as I know, authors should be very protective of their work. Is the White Walker king scene really what the author has envisioned? We don't know for sure since the series has been changing things so deeply (The house of the Undying, Dany losing her dragons, Robb's bride, the whole Craster's Keep plot... to name but a few). Still, like some people mentioned in this thread, there was a reference in the books that the babies might have been turned, not eaten or something. Do the producers of the show really know how the story ends or just one of the possibilities the author has come up with?

  • ionee24 May 04, 2014

    I see it as the same thing with Gendry's brothers:

    • On the book, it was hearsay one character told another character, only because one of the mothers died with the baby.
    • On the books, it was the most devastating scene of the second season premiere, with every child Robert ever fathered being slaughtered on-camera.

  • tkm420 May 04, 2014

    I know this isn't what you're asking, but I was always a little on the fence on whether or not I made the right decision to not read the books, until the red wedding episode

    I stumbled onto the show and watched the first seaons before I tried the books, but two things happend:

    1) i wasn't able to imagine the characters myself, i always imagined the actors on the show and that kind of ruined it for me, a lot of the fun in reading fantasy is imagining all the characters and such

    2) i didn't want the books to spoil the show for me
    -& which it turns out is exactly how I felt after watching the red wedding episode, i was SO GLAD i decided to not read on past book 1 because there is no way my imagination could have topped watching the red wedding on tv and not knowing it was coming, i sat there with my hands on my opened mouth for 20 minutes when i watched that, best decision ever (in my opinio, some people may have imaginations that rival tv show productions but not myself)

  • edge1710 May 05, 2014

    the experience of reading the Red Wedding is totally different than watching it. I have the feeling that it was a total surprise for those who watched it first. The experience of reading is that slowly you start to realize over a couple of chapters that something is going to happen, but you don't know what, so you start imagine things that could happen, but when sh*t happens you just can't believe what's happening and you don't know exactly what's happening as you only see what Cat sees until you see Arya's point of view.

  • kevekev302 May 04, 2014

    I've read all the books and love the show. I don't mind if they deviate from the books on certain things. It was refreshing to be surprised. Brans storyline needs spicing up. Hopefully they will change Dany's Mereen storyline.

  • Nikell May 04, 2014

    Omg... your poll is sooo childish!... xD

    Let's hope that this last "applaud" huge deviation don't be the first nail of the coffin eh...

  • Uncle-Bryn May 04, 2014

    I started with the show and have loved every second. The only annoying factor has been all my book-folk friends snarkily informing me that the show is rubbish compared to the books. As such, I'm attempting to conceal my desire for snarky rebuttals, but not entirely succeeding ;)

  • ionee24 May 04, 2014

    Now you can use "Baby Walkers. Ha!" (kidding, I haven't met annoying book-reader in real life, they are all awesome)

  • Scrabble May 04, 2014

    I know I'm supposed to say I'm 'super cool with it', 'they're different mediums, different interpretations' and that usually is my attitude. Changes with adaptations have never bothered me before even on this show. But..

    I started reading these books years ago, way before there was even any chatter about a TV series. It is *the books* I fell in love with. I'd be lying if I said the idea of any big twists remaining being spoiled for me via the TV show wasn't disappointing. That's my concern more than any small changes. I'm not angry because with GRRM's writing pace most of us knew it was inevitable. It's still disappointing though.

    Of course, I could stop watching the show. (I actually am taking a break from it because some of their character decisions lately have been very off putting and I'm less tempted to watch) The problem with that is GoT is so mainstream now and the only thing worse than having a plot point spoiled by the TV show would be having it spoiled by some internet headline.

  • ButterMeUp44 May 04, 2014

    I am also a book reader, but I never saw that scene as a spoiler only because I highly doubt that a White Walker would be a POV character and that scene will never be in the books. I feel it only clarified what my imagination was creating when reading the books.

    At this point, though, I just want the story to continue any way possible. Ole' George is taking too long.

  • Scrabble May 04, 2014

    I agree that scene isn't a huge spoiler since it's pretty much what most people thought was happening with Craster's sons. Deviations like that I can deal with. But we also know GRRM has told D&D; all the biggest upcoming plot points. It's learning about those through the show I'm less excited about.

    I understand people would rather have the story finished in any way and I empathise with that. (I wish I felt the same.. Would make it a lot easier). Personally, after the huge wait for aDwD the 3 years I've been waiting for book 6 doesn't feel *that* long. I can wait longer. (Within reason. I won't be so understanding if I'm still waiting three years from now)

    I suppose the difference is, at this point I don't want the storyline in any format. How that story is delivered is just as important to me or I might as well just read the summaries on wikipedia. For plenty of people having the story delivered by the show is just as good (or even preferable) and that's fair enough.

    But it is what it is. Too bad for me, really. And on the off chance the series never gets finished in written form, I will be glad that (most of) the answers are out there.

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