Whenever a beloved written story gets adapted for TV or movies, how the adaption differs is always a big point of scrutiny. What parts of the story will be altered, expanded on, or just left out entirely? Is the adaption just doomed to be inferior by way of being a re-creation, or could it possibly be better than the original? It’s hard not to get caught up in comparing the two versions even if you enjoy them both.
Even before the on-screen adaption comes out, it’s already being subjected to the criticism of the loyal book fans analyzing each casting choice. “He’s not muscular enough to play that character,” someone will say. “They didn’t even get her hair color right!” another fan might say. Every detail is under the magnifying glass, and it’s been no different with A Song of Ice and Fire being adapted into HBO’s Game of Thrones. The TV show is known for making some huge deviations in the story, and the changes they’ve made with some of the characters have been just as big.
These are 15 Game of Thrones Characters Who Look Nothing Like They Do in the Books.
15 BRAN STARK
Something that you’ll quickly notice is a recurring theme on this list is that characters who are young in the books were made older for the TV show. Part of this might just be that skilled child actors can be more difficult to come by, or that given the graphic nature of the show, it could make viewers uncomfortable witnessing minors involved in such dark subject matter. Or maybe it’s that even George R. R. Martin himself has said in retrospect he wishes he had made the characters a bit older to better suit the roles he had planned for them.
Regardless, Bran is one of several characters on this list who is several years younger in the books. Not only that, but he also takes after his mother in regards to his looks, like the majority of the Stark children do. In the show his hair is a pretty ordinary brown color, but in the books his hair would be closer to Sansa’s coloring, more of an auburn color. His eyes are also blue in the novels, a trait common among Catelyn Stark’s side of the family.
14 DAARIO NAHARIS
The show technically had two chances to create the Daario Naharis of the books since he has been played by two different actors now, but neither one is anywhere close to the Daario of the novels. On the show, Daario looks like a pretty normal guy, and it’s easy enough to see why Daenerys might be interested in him. If Game of Thrones mimicked Daario’s appearance from A Song of Ice and Fire though, fans might be questioning Dany’s taste a bit more.
In the books, Daario is flamboyant, to say the least. He enjoys wearing bright, colorful clothing all the time, which shouldn’t be surprising given his cocky attitude. But what is really the memorable thing about his book character is his hair. It’s dyed. And it’s blue. As in all of his hair. Even his beard. Dying hair extravagant colors is pretty common in Tyroshi culture, but yeah, on screen, it would have looked pretty bizarre.
13 ASHA GREYJOY
To book fans, the most noticeable difference between this character and her show counterpart might very well be the name. Those of you who only watch the show are probably scratching your heads right now just trying to remember who Asha is. That’s because on the show, Asha’s name was changed to Yara. The showrunners worried that if they left her as Asha, viewers might get her confused with Bran’s female wildling companion Osha.
Though the name is definitely the biggest difference, Theon Greyjoy’s sister is also physically a bit different between the book series and the shows as well. In the novels, Asha retains her prowess as a warrior, but is also described as being very thin. And while Yara isn’t exactly chubby, being petite isn’t the first thing show watchers would say about her. Asha’s hair is also shorter on the show, likely to give opponents less to grab for when she gets in a fight.
12 JEYNE WESTERLING
This is another character where the biggest difference between the book and the show might just be in the name. Yes, those of you who only watch the show probably aren’t familiar with the name Jeyne Westerling. That’s because, to Game of Thrones fans, you know her better by the name Talisa. Actually, with the name change, and how different her plot has been, it’s probably debatable whether Jeyne and Talisa are the same character, but we’d say they count since they filled the same role of marrying Robb Stark.
As for appearance, this is an example where the show made the character better looking than in the book. Not that Jeyne Westerling is ever described as ugly, but she’s plain enough that people comment that she doesn’t have a face worth throwing away a kingdom for, like Robb essentially did. But the biggest difference between Jeyne’s appearance and Talisa’s? Well, at this point Talisa probably has a bad case of rotting flesh, whereas Jeyne is still alive and well.
11 ROBB STARK
Poor Game of Thrones fans still thought the boy king was going to be the protagonist of the show not that long ago, Unfortunately, he followed in his father’s footsteps just a little too closely and wound up losing his life during the war of the five kings. Still, it was impressive that an untrained young man was on the verge of becoming the king of the north. And it was even more impressive in the books.
In the novels, all of the Stark children are younger than they are in the show, so Robb is actually only fourteen at the start of the book series. Seeing someone in their early teen years take up a sword as well as the mantle of king is hard not to be impressed by. But though fans probably remember him as Ned Stark’s oldest son, he actually takes after his mother and the Tullys in his appearance. In the books, his hair is auburn like his mom’s, and he has the Tully family blue eyes.
10 EDMURE TULLY
Just as the Lannisters are known for their gold hair (which tipped off Ned Stark to Cersei’s infidelity), the Tullys of Riverrun also share distinctive physical resemblances. Though you wouldn’t know it from watching the show, a common trait among the Tully family, and even among many of the Stark children thanks to Catelyn, is having auburn hair and blue eyes. In the books, most people can recognize a Tully at a glance based on these features. But in the show, you probably wouldn’t even realize Edmure Tully was Catelyn’s brother without them saying so.
Another noticeable feature that the Edmure of the show lacks is one that he could actually still acquire if the writers decided to make it happen. The Edmure of the books is also known for having a thick beard. And admittedly, with perhaps only one season left of the show to go, he doesn’t have much time left for it, but Game of Thrones’ Edmure still has a little while left to grow into his book counterpart if he’ll just lay off the shaving.
9 JORAH MORMONT
The protector and guide of Daenerys during her formative period as Khaleesi is another one whose appearance was made less unappealing than his image of the books. In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jorah has the body of an aging knight, meaning he still has muscle to him to back up his fading fighting prowess, but he’s also starting to show some wear and tear. His body would be better described as bulky than sculpted, and he has the features of a gruff older man.
Even past fifty years of age, the real life Iain Glen isn’t really someone you could describe as gruff. His youth might be behind him, but fans have still commented on his good looks before. And unlike his book counterpart, his hair is a little more evenly distributed. The Jorah of the books is a bald man, though he retained a thick amount of body hair.
8 EURON GREYJOY
Yes, another Greyjoy makes the list, and this won’t be the last one either. To viewers of the show alone, Euron Greyjoy is a fairly recent addition to the Greyjoy family, a lineage that has had a lot of their story omitted from the TV series. But to book fans, the various members of the Ironborn have featured prominently since the second book A Clash of Kings. But in the books, Euron looks a bit more like a true pirate.
The most noticeable different between the two iterations of Euron is that in Game of Thrones, he has two eyes, whereas in A Song of Ice and Fire, he’s down to one. Besides the eye patch, his dark, mysterious personality is further accentuated by his black hair. And his hair might actually match what is beneath his eye patch, since his family actually whispers he keeps a hidden black eye concealed beneath there.
7 SYRIO FOREL
Syrio Forell ultimately does not have a very large part in the books or the TV show, but fans of both remember him well for being Arya’s introduction into the ways of a warrior. The swordsman from Braavos immediately gains the interest of Arya with his unusual sayings, and his artistic method of sword fighting. But the “dancing instructor” also didn’t have quite as much of an Inigo Montoya vibe going for him in the books.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Syrio doesn’t have the curly black locks we see him with in the show, and is actually totally bald. He’s also known for a having a rather prominent nose as well. But while the Syrio of the show doesn’t look much like his original iteration, it’s easy to forgive for how easily he exudes the same charisma book fans knew Arya’s sword master for.
6 SANDOR CLEGANE
Maybe there aren’t that many talented, ugly people out there, or maybe the show runners didn’t want to invest a lot in trying to tone down the looks of their actors, but it’s definitely a trend that ugly characters in the books don’t look quite as bad in the show. Looking at Sandor Clegane’s face in the show, you might find that hard to imagine, but his burns on the show aren’t actually as bad as they could be.
In the novels, the Hound not only has half his face covered in scar tissue, but also lost body parts as a result of his brother's torture. The burned half of his face wound up losing its ear as a result of the incident, and patches of his skin were so severely burned that they couldn’t even heal. Sandor’s jaw bone is left permanently exposed in the books as a result of his melted flesh.
As has become a common theme to talk about on this list, Missandei was another character who was aged up for the show. Though she is probably the most drastic example of this happening. So you know how in the show she’s got that whole subplot between her and Grey Worm, and people probably best know her for adding some romantic elements into the events surrounding Daenerys? Not only does that subplot not happen in the books, but it couldn’t happen, because it’d be super creepy. In the novels, Missandei is a ten year old girl.
It’s probably no coincidence that the show runners aged up so many of the younger characters for that very reason. Using actors who are over eighteen opens them up to being able to depict the characters in romantic situations on screen. So maybe the show writers felt inhibited over the idea of writing for children and decided to add in more possibilities for what they could do with these characters. But if you’re ever reading the books, forget whatever you were thinking about Missandei in the show. She’s ten. The only people allowed to look at her romantically are elementary school kids.
4 THEON GREYJOY
The Greyjoys just can’t catch a break for being represented accurately. And Theon just might be the most inaccurate of the bunch. In the books, he’s yet another young character who was aged up for the show. Robb and Jon Snow are both fourteen at the start of the book series, and Theon is close to their age. In the show, he’s clearly in his twenties.
Also, the show is actually much more graphic in the depictions of Theon’s torture at the hands of Ramsay. In the books, once Theon is captured, we actually don’t see him again until he already becomes Reek. Oddly enough though, Theon is more maimed in the books. In the novels, he not only loses body parts that can be hidden by clothing (like his genitalia), but also loses teeth and fingers. Unfortunately, Alfie Allen is left with a few too many digits on each hand to match his counterpart from the book series.
3 YEZZAN ZO QAGGAS
In probably the biggest example of the show deviating from how ugly the characters can get, we have Yezzan zo Qaggas, one of the wealthy slave owners of Yunkai. In the books, he purchases the enslaved Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont as both travel to meet with Daenerys. And while his role in the show is similar, his appearance is decidedly different. Fans of the show likely find him to be a pretty nondescript character, but book fans are a bit more repulsed by his appearance.
Known as the “yellow whale” in the novels, the Yezzan zo Qaggas of the books is a morbidly obese man left stricken by disease. He can’t walk, and can’t even hold his own bladder. He’s known for being doused in perfume to try and conceal the smell of his incontinence, but, well, he’s known as the yellow whale for a reason, and it’s not for how much gold he has.
2 DAENERYS TARGARYEN
The Targaryen bloodline in general didn’t translate very accurately to the screen, since the family has some very distinctive physical characteristics. As you should be well aware, incestuous relations are the norm for the Targaryens, so they all share two uncommon traits: they all have the same hair color, as well as the same eye color. Before you go running off to Google to check if Daenerys and Viserys had the same eye color on the show, you should know that neither one of them exhibits the Targaryen physical traits. Because in the books, all the family members actually have silver hair, and purple eyes. And in case you didn’t realize, no Emilia Clarke’s eyes are not purple, nor does she wear colored contacts. They just skipped over this detail on the show. She doesn’t even lose her hair when her dragons are born like she does in the books, where it’s all burned off in the flames.
And in case you didn’t realize the trend by now, Daenerys was yet another character whose age was changed for the show. While in the beginning of Game of Thrones she is 17, in the books, she is only 13. And yes, the events between her and Khal Drogo remain largely unchanged. Even by HBO standards, that would have made for some uncomfortable watching, so they understandably aged up her character. Though for book fans who only picture Dany as a kid, it’s got to be really uncomfortable whenever the show fans talk about the attractiveness of her character. Remember the age gap between the book and the show, everyone!
1 TYRION LANNISTER
The showrunners and even author George R. R. Martin have straight up said that Peter Dinklage was the only casting choice they ever had in mind for Tyrion. And it’s easy to understand why. How many talented, well-known, shorter actors are out there who could have taken up the role? And while Dinklage does great work, his height really only checks one of the boxes for the physical description of Tyrion. In the books, Tyrion is also supposed to be a hideous person, hence his nickname “the imp.” Obviously, Dinklage doesn’t fit that description at all.
Book Tyrion not only lacks the pleasant features of his show counterpart, but his ugliness is exacerbated by him having an enlarged head, swollen joints that cause him to walk with a waddle, hair that grows in a patches of different colors, and even two different colored eyes. And if that wasn’t enough, you might think Tyrion’s scar from the battle of the Blackwater makes him look more dashing on the show, right? Well, if his injury were accurate from the books, you probably wouldn’t feel that way. In the books, half of his nose gets chopped off during the fight.
How about it, fans of the book series? Are there any other characters whose appearance surprised you in the show based on what you read in the novels? Tell us about it in the comments!