As popular as George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels may have been, nobody would ever have expected the HBO series to become a global phenomenon. But as is usually the case, the live-action version is just a slice of the real story, and packed with cool easter eggs most people will never realize.
Jon Snow’s Banner
The fact that Jon Snow is an illegitimate son of Ned Stark is driven home early – hence his last name – and bastard sons are all over the story. But one fact that didn’t make the jump from book to TV show is that in this fantasy world, bastards don’t get to carry the banners of their family – but they CAN carry ones with the colors reversed.
Since the Stark sigil is a grey wolf on white, Jon Snow carries a white wolf on grey in the books. It makes his nickname as King of the North – “The White Wolf” – way more meaningful, and confirms that the Direwolves found by the Stark sons was undeniably a message from the Gods.
Ramsay Almost Played Jon Snow
It didn’t take long for audiences to absolutely despise Ramsey Bolton, but if things had worked out differently, they might have been cheering for him. Actor Iwan Rheon (“IH-Wahn Ray-On”) originally auditioned for the part of Jon Snow, and ended up coming down to the final two choices beside Kit Harington. Which makes their rivalry in Season 6 seem like a particularly personal one.
George R. R. Martin Had a Cameo
With George R.R. Martin responsible for dreaming up this treacherous world, you would think he would have landed a part in the show himself – but his cameo actually already happened. Martin played a wealthy nobleman from Pentos at the wedding of Danaerys to Khal Drogo in the pilot episode. But when most of the pilot was later re-filmed – and actress Tamzin Merchant was replaced by Emilia Clarke – the entire sequence had to be cut… the author’s cameo along with it.
Tywin’s Butchering Scene Was Real
The noble and fearsome Tywin Lannister didn’t actually appear until the show’s seventh episode, but he made a memorable entrance, butchering and skinning a stag while giving his son a lecture. The scene showed he wasn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty – and the same was true of the actor, Charles Dance. After being shown how to butcher a stag the day before, he did it for real – on a stag just as real – for the camera. He was happy with the result… but not the smell, which stayed on his hands for days.
King Tommen’s debut
Even for devoted fans, the arrival of Tommen Baratheon to the throne came as a surprise, or downright confusing. The reason why nobody remembered King Joffrey’s innocent younger brother? Because he had already appeared on the show as Queen Cersei’s first cousin, Martyn, held hostage, then murdered in Riverrun (in S3E5). Actor Dean-Charles Chapman made a good impression, and later replaced the MUCH younger version of Tommen who had appeared previously (he debuts in Season 4).
The Show Leading The Books
The current seasons of Game of Thrones have actually gotten ahead of the books, but there aren’t many cases of the HBO series actually changing Martin’s ideas… with one exception. The Wildling named “Osha” had only a small role in the books, but Martin was so impressed with actress Natalia Tena, he admitted he would write her differently when she returns – making her younger, and more sarcastic (first appears S1E6).
A More Scully Cersei
The amount of British actors who were sought out or auditioned for the HBO series is too big count, but one actress would have been familiar to the show’s Comic-Con fandom. Actress Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame has said she was offered a part, but turned it down since it would’ve taken her away from her family. She didn’t say which role, but the part of Queen Cersei Lannister is a frontrunner – along with the Red Priestess, Melisandre. Either of which would have given her fans some truly memorable scenes.
The Targaryens are referred to in the TV show as “dragons,” descendants of ancient Valyria and therefore, almost a different kind of human than the rest (or so they would like to be believed). But one of their most recognizable traits was removed from the show: their platinum blonde hair is rare, but the purple eye color was even more so. In the books, it was a clear sign of Valyrian blood. But when the actors playing Daenerys and Viserys had trouble focusing with the violet eye contacts in place, the showrunners decided to scrap the idea entirely.
The Real Valyrian Steel
If you had made your family into a proud House of Westeros centuries in the past, you might even have gotten a sword of Valyrian Steel to immortalize it. The metal is given almost magical properties in the books and TV show, since swords of Valyrian steel never dull, never break, and are easily spotted by the flowing water pattern on its surface. It may sound like fantasy, but it’s based on the real world Damascus Steel, a strong, sharp metal with the same patterns. Like Valyrian, the recipe for making Damscus Steel was also lost in the 1700s so no more can be made. No word on whether they would kill White Walkers just as easy, but scientists have found carbon nanotubes in the metal, so… that’s something.
The Iron Throne
You gotta hand it to George R. R. Martin” a throne made from the swords of fallen enemies sends a powerful message. And while the throne in the books may be made from THOUSANDS, the TV version is special in its own way. For starters, it seems to include Gandalf’s sword from the Lord of the Rings as a bit of a joke on the part of the prop makers. It’s not alone, either, since the hero swords from Robin Hood: the Prince of Thieves and even Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven are among the dozens visible. Who knows how many fictional kingdoms fell in the history of Westeros…
Those are just a handful of the behind-the-scenes secrets and extra details from the novels that most fans will never know, but what are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments. As popular as George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels may have been, nobody would ever have expected the HBO series to become a global phenomenon. But as is usually the case, the live-action version is just a slice of the real story, and packed with cool easter eggs most people will never realize.