In any adaptation, there are going to be compromises. With a series as huge and detail-laden as George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, it's a miracle that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have managed to keep Game of Thrones as faithful to the source material as it has been. That said, with every season, the gap between the story of the books and the series seems to widening. As if to highlight the issue, George R.R. Martin recently released a preview chapter from his upcoming The Winds of Winter which followed the journey of one character cut from the show as they sought out an alliance with another character who didn't make it into HBO adaptation.
Though it feels like Season 6 is doing a great job of positioning the series to reach a satisfying conclusion over the next two years, it's a shame that so many great characters, locations, scenes and plotlines from the source material have been ignored. We're not just talking about underused characters, here. Lets take a look at some of the casualties, shall we? Here are the 15 Best Characters Cut From Game of Thrones.
15 Brynden Rivers
Technically, a version of Brynden Rivers did make it into the series as The Three-Eyed Raven who summons and later mentors Bran in the ways of greensight. However, the HBO series gave him so little screen time and development that he may as well be a different person. In the show, he's just a sagely old man living with the last of the Children of the Forest. In comparison, the books make it clear that The Three-Eyed Raven is just a moniker and a title for the exiled Brynden Rivers. Brynden was a Targaryen bastard who grew up to become the Varys of his time before being exiled to the wall, where he climbed the ranks of the Night's Watch before becoming Lord Commander. A Dance with Dragons paints him as this fascinating figure with a sprawling history to his name but in Game of Thrones we don't even get that much. In fact, we get so little info that some fans have speculated that the show's version of the character will later be revealed as an older version of Bran who timetravels into the past. Still, Brynden Rivers is undoubtedly one of the coolest figures in the A Song of Ice and Fire series and it's a shame to see him not get the treatment he deserves on TV.
14 The Tattered Prince
After Daario Naharis took control of the Second Sons mercenary company in Season 3, Game of Thrones has had little patience or interest in exploring the vast network of mercenary companies that operate across the continent of Essos. In the books, Daario's company is known as the Stormcrows and it is one of about a dozen notable sellsword troupes introduced in the books. Some of these companies are detailed in name only, but others play a more major role over the course of Dany's war on slavery. Cutting down this aspect of the story is an understandable decision on the part of the people making the show but it has come with some storytelling casualties - one of which is The Tattered Prince. The Prince is an enigmatic and compelling warrior who fled left a life of luxury as the Prince of Pentos behind to form the Windblown mercenary company. Wearing a cloak made from strips taken from his defeated foes, the Tattered Prince casts a distinctive silhouette and it would have been fascinating to explore him had he been cast and included in the series.
13 Aurane Waters
Nicknamed 'The Bastard of Driftmark', Aurane Waters is a sellsword who fights alongside Stannis' forces during the Battle of the Blackwater. After Stannis loses the battle, Waters ends up being taken prisoner by the Lannisters and later pardoned by King Joffrey. From here, he begins to gain the favor of Cersei, eventually rising to the station of Master of Ships on the Small Council. He spends much of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons rebuilding the Crown's fleet. However, once Cersei is imprisoned by the High Sparrow, his position becomes a more precarious one so he leaves Kings Landing and takes the fleet with him. His character represents one of several rotten allies that Cersei surrounds herself with in her attempts to stack the small council in her favor. Given the power that the fleets of the two Greyjoy factions possess in the show currently, it's not impossible that he could be cast next season but at this point it seems pretty unlikely.
12 Strong Belwas
Though some claim that a background character of a similar appearance during the fighting pit scenes counts, Strong Belwas is a character that many books readers were disheartened to see cut from HBO's adaptation of Martin's series. A fan favorite, Belwas is a former professional pit fighter of Meereen who joins Daenarys' forces alongside Ser Barristan. He proves himself a fearsome member of her Queensguard throughout the books, and one more than capable of injecting some humor into her plotline. In addition, Belwas' connections to Illyrio Mopatis offered up some insights into the grander game at play between the Pentoshi and Varys. His appearance in A Clash of Kings also serves to establish the existence of Mereen earlier in Dany's plotline, making her eventual arrival there feel a lot more earned. While a lot of his scenes and dialogue has ended up recycled into both Daario Naharis and Grey Worm, it remains a shame we never got to see him properly represented in the show.
11 Willas Tyrell
The youngest of the Tyrells, Willas is the eldest son of Mace Tyrell and next in line to inherit Highgarden. Willas ends up crippled after losing a joust to Prince Oberyn Martell some years before the beginning of A Game of Thrones. Despite this, he ends up becoming both a good friend of Oberyn and an accomplished scholar. Though the lord of Dorne and The Reach have a long history of conflict between them, it's the crippling of Willas which cements the feud between the Martells and Tyrells that we see in the books. Consequently, Willas' absence makes the animosity between the two great houses feel a little more shallow. Willas is also briefly touted as a potential suitor for Sansa Stark by Margaery before her Lannister captors marry her off to Tyrion. Given the interesting roles that the show has offered up for characters both disabled and multidimensional, it's a shame we didn't see Willas make it onto our screens.
10 Jeyne Poole
One of the more auspicious omissions from the books to the series, Jeyne Poole is a childhood friend of Sansa Stark who is later imprisoned by the Lannisters and sold off to Ramsay Bolton as a "fake Arya" for him to marry and further solidify the Bolton's strategic position. Jeyne Poole's tragic fate acts as a clear illustration of what could have happened to Sansa after Ned's death had she not been born a Stark. In the show, Poole only appears briefly in the background of a few of Sansa's scenes in Season 1 before being killed off-screen when Ned is arrested for treason. Her absence in the show might initially seem like a small one but it's also one that paves the way for Sansa to take Jeyne's place as Ramsay's bride - a creative decision that many fans, book-reader or not, took issue with.
9 The Kettleblacks
Osney, Osfryd and Osmund Kettleblack are a trio of thuggish siblings and sellswords who are knighted after the battle of the Blackwater. As with Aurane Waters, Cersei rewards them for their continued loyalty to her and they become footsoldiers and pawns in her ploys against Tyrion and then later against the Tyrells. Alongside Qyburn and Aurane Waters, they allow Cersei to keep her own political position strong in the wake of Tywin's death. Unfortunately, they prove to be her undoing after one of the brothers breaks under questioning by the High Sparrow. Osney reveals both Cersei's adultery and conspiracy to have the previous High Septon murdered, providing the legal basis of her arrest by the High Sparrow. Not a single one of the three brothers has made it into the show thus far but with Meryn Trant dead and Cersei in dire need of allies, it's not impossible that they could make it in as a late 'henchman' addition next season, assuming Cersei survives it.
8 Wyman Manderly
Though one of his sons appears and is killed during Season 3's Red Wedding, we've yet to see the Lord of White Harbor make it into Game of Thrones properly. Despite his gluttonous and placid appearance, Lord Wyman is one of the few strong allies remaining to the Starks, eventually pledging support for Stannis' claim in secret, should Davos retrieve the missing-in-action Rickon Stark. There's a lot more to Wyman's character than meets the eye and it would have been fascinating to see him bring his long-term revenge gambit for the Freys-Bolton alliance (called "The Grand North Conspiracy" by fans) make it in as a proper plotline. He's a memorable character with more than his fair share of great lines and there are more than a few fans irked that he didn't even make an appearance in Season 6 when Jon and Sansa sought out allies in "The Broken Man".
7 Arianne Martell
In the show, the Dornish conspiracy to enact vengeance upon the Lannisters through the murder of Princess Myrcella is one led by a grieving Ellaria Sand, but in the books, things play out a little differently - and through the eyes of the ambitious scion Arianne Martell. Arianne is the female heir to the Martell legacy, introduced in A Feast for Crows, and her plotline sees her conspire with Tyene Sand to press Myrcella's claim to the Iron Throne over Tommens (as Dornish law permits older female siblings to inherit). Her plan ultimately falls apart when her father Doran steps in and puts a stop to things, but a more faithful adaptation of her plotline would have added a lot more depth to the show's version of Dorne. However, given the death of the entire royal family and the coup of the Sand Snakes it's unlikely that she'd be introduced this late into the story.
6 Gerold Dayne
A knight who goes by the nickname of 'Darkstar', Gerold Dayne is one of Arianne's chief co-conspirators in her attempt to get Myrcella on the Iron Throne. He's an accomplished swordsman and his relation to the late Arthur Dayne offers up some interesting insight into how the legendary swordsman fits into the greater narrative of the series. In the books, he's currently on the run after Arianne's scheme fell apart - cutting Myrcella's ear off as a parting gift. Given how truncated the Dornish narrative on the show has become (and Dayne's mixed-status within the ranks of fans) it seems unlikely that we'll see him squeezed into Game of Thrones before the series wraps. Still, there's always room for another great swordsman on our screens and he'd be a great demonstration that Dorne has more to offer the story than just Martells and Sand Snakes.
5 Victarion Greyjoy
We got our first taste of Pilou Asbaek's performance as Euron Greyjoy earlier in the season but in the book there are actually three other Greyjoy siblings vying for control of the Iron Islands in the aftermath of Balon's sudden death. Aeron Greyjoy, a prophet of the Drowned God, sits the election out while the middle-child of the family, Victarion, runs against both Euron and Yara/Asha. Victarion is one of the few remaining veterans of the previous Greyjoy rebellion. He's a military man whose strict discipline and respect for tradition make a sharp contrast to the reckless, impulsive and exotic Euron. In fact, he's a character painted as so hardcore, and one who takes himself so seriously, you're left wondering if Martin intended for him to be read as parody. Still, he provides a lot of insight into the tangled web of feuds and taboos that divide Ironborn society and adds another dimension to their storyline. While his role of leading the Ironborn fleet to Meereen to form a pact with Daenarys seems to have been serviced regardless, it's a shame that Victarion himself was cut.
4 Quentyn Martell
Alongside Arianne, the other major Martell perspective cut from Game of Thrones was that of Quentyn. Introduced in A Dance with Dragons, Quentyn is sent by his father to form an alliance through marriage between the Dorne and the forces of Daenarys Targaryen. However, he arrives in Meereen slightly too late, with Dany having just married Hizdahr zo Loraq. Undeterred, he then attempts to prove himself worthy by releasing Dany's dragons into the city - an endeavor that ends with him seemingly burnt to a crisp. Quentyn's story is the tale of someone who thinks themselves too much of a hero to notice the obvious dangers of their actions. Given how similar in nature Oberyn's arc in Season 4 was, it would have been great to see Quentyn introduced as an echo of that story - another hero who arrives with the promise of game-changing destiny, only for his quest (and life) to meet an unexpected end.
3 Old Griff
One of only a few surviving generals of Robert's Rebellion, the venerable Lord Jon Connington spends some time travelling with a Meereen-bound Tyrion Lannister in A Dance with Dragons under the moniker of 'Old Griff'. Before the rebellion, Connington was a close friend and ally of Rhaegar Targaryen and the books later reveal he worked with Varys to fake the baby Aegon's death at the hands of Gregor Clegane. As if that wasn't enough of a bombshell, the books also reveal that Connington and the now-grown Aegon have enlisted the soldiers of the Golden Company, and are preparing to make their own bid for the Iron Throne. Griff's introduction throws a whole new faction's worth of plotlines and histories into the texture of the series, so it's not too hard to imagine why he ended up on the cutting room floor. Still, as a canonically gay character with a fascinating history to him, would have been great to see him make it in.
2 Young Griff
Young Griff is the guise adopted by the exiled and in-hiding son of Rhaegar, Aegon Targaryen. He's dyed his hair blue to avoid discovery and trained in secret while his mentor, Jon Connington, prepared him to make his triumphant return to Westeros and reclaim the Iron Throne. Young Griff is a fascinating late-story addition to the landscape of the series and, at least so far, Martin has left Griff's claim to the Seven Kingdoms unprovable. It's ambiguous whether Aegon is really a Targaryen or a fraud being used as a pawn by Illyrio and Varys. In either case, his return to the spotlight brings with it some major ramifications for Dany. On one hand, she's no longer the last of the Targaryens, but on the other, Aegon's claim to the throne overrides hers. Given the convolution and duplicitity that Aegon's return brings to the story, it's pretty understandable that they cut him. He's still sure to play a major role in the books to come, in any case.
1 Lady Stoneheart
Lady Stoneheart is kind of the be-all-end-all when it comes to characters ommitted from HBOs adaptation of George RR Martin's fantasy series. Ever since Catelyn Stark's death at the end of the third season, book readers have been eagerly waiting to see if the show will follow in the book's footsteps by resurrecting her as the vengeful undead entity who seizes control of the Brotherhood without Banners. In the books, Beric Dondarrion comes across her body (thrown into the river from the Twins after her death) and sacrifices his own immortality to bring her back to life. However, this incarnation of Catelyn isn't the one we knew but a ruthless and inhumane killing machine who wants only death for the Freys and those involved in her son's death. Even on just a visual impact level, the return was a huge storytelling moment so it's a shame that the HBO series seems intent on excluding it.