With season 6 of Game of Thrones quickly disappearing behind us, we’re in the final stretch of HBO’s medieval fantasy drama, with only 2 (shortened) seasons to go. Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have pitched the number of remaining episodes left in the series as somewhere between 13 and 15 and as we approach the end, and the differences between the series and its source material are becoming more and more apparent.
Major players from the books have had their roles diminished while smaller characters have found their roles expanded. Often, the show has even introduced its own original characters in the World of Ice and Fire. Though early attempts at this were met with mixed-success, they’ve gotten much better at integrating them into the main story over time.
We’ve already looked at the cream of the crop when it comes to characters who were cut from the narrative, but here are the 15 Game of Thrones characters you won’t find in the books
15. Lady Mormont
Season 6’s standout new character, Bella Ramsey’s Lady Lyanna Mormont, is a twelve-year old She-Bear who isn’t afraid to steal the show from under series’ veterans like Kit Harrinton and Iwan Rheon. She isn’t entirely an invention of the show, but given her recurring prominence throughout the second half of season 6 and her major role in “The Winds of Winter,” when it came to proclaiming Jon the new King in the North, she might as well be.
She’s mentioned in the books but the role she plays when it comes to bringing House Mormont into the fight against Ramsay Bolton is actually played by her sister, Alysane Mormont. Alysane becomes the heir of Bear Island after the death of her sister at the Red Wedding and ends up retaking Deepwood Mott from the Ironborn. Meanwhile, the book-version of Lyanna does little outside send Stannis the angry letter he receives in Season 5.
When we last saw her in A Dance with Dragons, she had sworn fealty to Stannis Baratheon but early chapters for The Winds of Winter suggest she’ll be heading north to meet up with Jon Snow and play much the same roles as Lady Mormont did this season. Still, the show’s young She-Bear makes for a fierce sight that plays well on the show, and we hope to see more of her in season 7.
A man-at-arms sworn to House Bolton and played by Noah Taylor, Locke is the ruthless and cruel warrior responsible for severing Jaime’s hand in Season 3. In the books, that task falls to a sellsword from Qohor named Vargo Hoat. By slotting in Locke – a Northman fighting for Robb – instead of a foreigner for this role, the show further played up its exploration of how there are good and bad people on both sides of the war.
The show also expanded the role of this character, making him a staunch ally of the Boltons and one of the few friends of Ramsay Snow. Locke ends up also replacing the role of one of the Kettleblack brothers, being sent to The Wall in an attempt to assassinate Jon Snow. Brought together by Taylor’s performance, Locke made for a great addition to the series and one that you knew was trouble from the moment you saw him.
Ros was a prostitute introduced in the first season of Game of Thrones. She served to give us a look at characters behind closed doors and as a gateway to many of the series’ early ‘sexposition’ scenes. She went on to become a brothel manager in the employ of Littlefinger and then later a mole for Varys.
Given the limited-power sex workers have in the world of Westeros, it’s remarkable how much the writers featured her in early seasons. Played by Esmé Bianco, the showrunners originally brought her in for a short unnamed role but were impressed enough that they expanded her character’s arc into a ‘country girl moves to the city with big dreams’ parable. Ros also filled in for the book role of Alayaya, a sex worker arrested by Cersei on suspicion of consorting with Tyrion.
12. Karl Tanner
The leader of the mutiny against Jorah Mormont and the massacre at Craster’s Keep. Karl Tanner is a somewhat-original creation of the show that amalgamates the roles of two characters mentioned in A Storm of Swords – Dirk and Clubfoot Karl.
In the books, Clubfoot Karl openly challenges lord Mormont during their second stay at Craster’s Keep, while Dirk actually kills him. The show’s combined version of the two characters does both of those things. Played by British actor Burn Gorman, Karl Tanner becomes a fierce and cruel figure to the wives of Craster he takes captive. The self-described legend of Gin Alley makes for a pretty hate-worthy antagonist and when he’s killed by Jon Snow in season 4, it feels like as just an outcome as you can expect from the Westeros.
11. Lady Crane
Season 6 saw Arya assigned to assassinate Lady Crane by the House of Black and White and the Faceless Men. Played by Essie Davis, who gives a charismatic and effective performance throughout her time as part of a Braavosi theatre troupe.
In the books, there’s a similar character named Lady Stork who plays the role of Cersei in a Braavosi theatre troupe, but Crane’s role as a mentor to Arya Stark is unique to the show. After debuting in “The Door”, she turned the small role into a genuine highlight of Arya’s season-long arc – even if she ends up dead at the Waif’s hands by the end. Still, it was great while it lasted. Both Davis and Maisie Williams found a great chemistry between their characters and an unforeseen depth to Lady Crane that feels right out of the books.
10. Brother Ray
Played by the venerable Ian McShane, Brother Ray is a character invented by the show to help a weary Sandor Clegane find his path to redemption in “The Broken Man”. In the books, this role is (speculatively) split across two characters – Septon Meribald and The Elder Brother.
A preacher to the common folk, Meribald leads Brienne and Podrick to the Quiet Isle where The Elder Brother tells Brienne and Pod that Sandor Clegane is dead and buried by his hand. It was one thing for the show to finally address the long-running fan speculation that The Hound might still be alive but another entirely to deliver such a turn with the help of an actor like Ian McShane. The show seamlessly combined the two roles and McShane’s performance made for one of the most evocative personas of season 6, even if Ray didn’t even make it through to the end of the episode.
9. Talisa Stark
In the books, Robb Stark ends up married to a woman called Jeyne Westerling instead of Talisa. After hearing about Bran and Rickon’s deaths at Winterfell, Robb is crippled by grief and ends up sleeping with Jeyne as a reprieve. His subsequent choice to marry her is one not motivated by love but by honor and his belief that to sleep with her without committing to a marriage would be dishonorable.
In the show, Talisa is a war-nurse from Volantis and played by Oona Chaplin. Still, Talisa was a relatively well-received addition by the show. As well as a love-interest for Robb, she also acted as a constant reminder that the war between the Lannisters and Starks carried real human costs. The vagueness of some of her backstory even led some fans to speculate that she might be a mole planted by Tywin Lannister – though her brutal death at the Red Wedding quickly put an end to that.
The show presents Myranda as the twisted and sadistic mistress of Ramsay Bolton. However, there’s no direct parallel in the books. After Charlotte Hope’s first appearance as the character in season 3’s “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” impressed the writers, they had her character return and expanded the role to beyond just another nameless henchman in the Bolton’s arsenal.
In a lot of ways, it’s a very similar experience to that of Esmé Bianco’s Ros. Myranda acts as a bit of an analogue of the Bastard’s Boys from the books as well as a love interest for Ramsay himself. What’s more, the show plays up this history between her and Ramsay to great effect. In life, her character added some additional menace to Sansa’s brief tenure as Ramsay’s wife, and her death at the hands of Theon Greyjoy/Reek in season 5 affected Ramsay in a way that no other fatalities of his cruel and reckless leadership did.
Introduced as a young farm boy living on The Gift south of The Wall, Olly goes on to fight in the Battle of Castle Black. Later becoming Jon Snow’s steward, as well as an instrumental figure in the mutiny against him. The show also sets him up as the marksman who fires the arrow that kills Ygritte – returning the favor for her role in the murder of his family.
In the books, it’s a boy named Satin who becomes Jon’s steward, and a member of the Night’s Watch named Bowen Marsh who delivers the killing blow to Jon. There are a number of orphans who take refuge from the wildling raiders in A Storm of Swords but the books keep these characters and none even approach the prominence of Olly in the show. Olly’s expanded role reportedly came out of writer Dave Hill, who suggested that Olly’s expanded made more ‘dramatic sense’ – though some fans disagree.
6. Orson Lannister
In the lead-up to the Red Viper’s showdown against Gregor Clegane in Season 4’s “The Mountain and the Viper”, Tyrion and Jaime have an extended conversation about one of their cousins by the name of Orson Lannister. When he was younger, Tyrion became obsessed with Orson’s smashing of beetles with a rock in the gardens. The discussion acts as a prologue to the Mountain’s brutality and a scene that many fans have speculated is a nod to Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory.
In any case, no Orson Lannister ever appears or is even mentioned in the source material. As a character, he’s wholly unique to the show and one that acts as an interesting commentary on the gratuitous violence it features. Who knows, with Casterly Rock speculated to appear next season, we may have even run into Orson had he not been kicked to death by a mule.
5. Alton Lannister
Alton Lannister is introduced in season 2’s “The North Remembers”. Played by Karl Davis, he’s a young knight and cousin of Ser Jaime. Alton spends much of season 2 running back and forth between Kings Landing and Robb’s forces, delivering messages. He ends up briefly locked in the same cell as The Kingslayer, becoming a pawn in his latest attempt to escape.
Though Alton’s role on the show was a small one, it’s had a number of consequences. His death gives Jaime the opportunity to kill the young Tohhren Karstark, sowing discontent in Robb’s camp and disrupting his campaign significantly. The closest analogue for Alton in the books is likely Ser Cleos Frey. Cleos spends much of A Clash of Kings running terms of surrender back and forth between the two sides of the war, eventually being set free to help Brienne escort Jaime to King’s Landing.
At the start of season 6, Meereen is a festering city in revolt. By the end, Daenerys and Tyrion have restored order and prosperity to the city. The alliance he establishes with the Red Priestess Kinvara plays a major part of this, despite Varys reservations about her fanaticism.
In the books, the High Priest of Volantis is a man named Benerro and he sends another red priest named Moqqoro to Meereen. Moqqoro eventually ends up captive in the company of Victarion Greyjoy, converting the military commander to the Lord of Light during their travels. Israeli actress Ania Bukstein brought a great presence to the character – echoing Carice van Houten’s Melisandre in all the right ways. Given that Daenerys has now left Meereen behind, it’s uncertain whether we’ll see her character again. However, given the ongoing tension between Kinvara and Varys, it’s hard to say for certain.
Karsi is a wildling warrior both introduced and killed off in season 5’s massive battle “Hardhome”. She is played by guest star Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and while she’s initially skeptical of Jon’s efforts to evacuate the wildling horde, she’s eventually won over with the promise of her children’s safety. She goes on to be a powerhouse presence in the episodes epic action scenes.
Considering just how little screen time she gets, she’s arguably one of the best show-only characters they’ve ever introduced. In the space of forty minutes, she goes from the background to the foreground of the episode in fierce fashion. She’s every bit as much of a warrior as Tormund or Jon, making her later death at the hands of the wights all the more tragic. Although a wildling warrior and woods witch named ‘Morna White Mask’ does play a similar role in uniting the wildlings to Jon’s cause, there’s no direct version of this character in the books.
Played by Will Tudor, Olyvar is a recurring show-only character across seasons 3, 4 and 5. He’s initially introduced as a sparring partner and romantic interest for Loras Tyrell but later revealed to be in the employ of Petyr Baelish. Season 4 sees the character take on some of Littlefinger’s businesses while he’s away in the Eyrie, spending a number of scenes sexually involved with Oberyn Martell and Elaria Sands.
Season 5 was the last time we saw Olyvar, with his confession to the High Septon, leading to the arrest of Loras and Margaery. Like Ros, his character acts as a behind-closed doors look at other characters, giving the writers the chance to develop them further. Interestingly, Olyvar’s scenes in season 3 with Loras were originally meant to be much longer and explore more of Loras’ past relationship with Renly and his grief about Renly’s death.
1. The Spice King
Nicholas Blane’s Spice King is one of Qarth’s Council of Thirteen, with his character being one of the many liberties taken with the Dany’s story in season 2. Initially a force of resistance to Daenerys’ attempts to enter Qarth, the Spice King later becomes a potential ally when Dany approaches him with the hope of acquiring ships and an army with which to return and reclaim Westeros.
While A Clash of Kings does make mention of Qarths’ ancient guild of spicers, there is no ‘Spice King’ as such. In a lot of ways, his character very much embodies everything about Qarth. He’s egotistical, arrogant and flamboyant to cartoonish effect – the kind of character that probably couldn’t survive in Martin’s world but has found prosperity in the far-away havens of Essos. Still, Blane brought a fun enough performance with him that his sudden betrayal and death at the hands of Pyat Pree came with some sadness.
Can you think of any other Game of Thrones characters that weren’t in the books? Let us know in the comments.