Anybody who’s a fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is familiar with just how dense his books are. Adapting them to television meant significant plotlines were altered and important book characters were cut from the show. Those who’ve only watched Game of Thrones and never read the books may not be aware of how differently the story could’ve played out onscreen had the showrunners included certain events or characters.
In honor of the ten-year anniversary of A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in Martin’s (unfinished) A Song of Ice and Fire series, here are seven important characters who never made it from the massive 900+ page book to the screen. (Spoilers ahead for those who never read A Dance with Dragons or have not seen all eight seasons of Game of Thrones!!)
Note: Some of the following characters appeared in books one through four, but I will only be discussing their importance in A Dance with Dragons here.
For a brief period during Robert’s Rebellion, Connington served as Hand of the King to Aerys II Targaryen. He was also cordial to Rhaegar Targaryen, Aerys’ firstborn son. He was exiled after the final battle of Robert’s Rebellion, when Robert Baratheon and his army attacked King’s Landing and won.
Now, he goes by the name of Griff, and his “son” Young Griff is supposedly Rhaegar Targaryen’s son, Aegon. Jon ends up meeting Tyrion Lannister in A Dance with Dragons, and Tyrion figures out who “Griff” and “Young Griff” really are.
Young Griff claims to be the surviving son of Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’s older brother) and Elia Martell: Aegon Targaryen. If he truly is who he says he is, then he would be the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, not Daenerys. Everyone in Westeros today believes Aegon to be dead, killed by Gregor Clegane at the final battle of Robert’s Rebellion. Young Griff meets Tyrion aboard the ship the Shy Maid and explains how he actually survived: Lord Varys swapped him with a random tanner’s baby.
Tyrion figures out that “Aegon” was sent by Varys across the Narrow Sea and raised by Jon Connington (Griff). Aegon eventually makes his way to the Golden Company and earns their allegiance; his identity will be kept secret until they return to Westeros. Back in King’s Landing, when King Tommen’s small council hears of Aegon’s survival, the council insists the boy is a “pretender.” However, Ser Kevan Lannister (Cersei and Jaime’s uncle) remembers Jon Connington from his time at court and begins to question if Rhaegar’s baby might’ve actually survived, as the child killed by Gregor Clegane was “unrecognizable.”
(Note: Aegon’s existence in the books likely means that Jon Snow will not be revealed as Aegon Targaryen like he was at the end of Game of Thrones season seven).
Quentyn is the second child and oldest son of Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne. He and a group of knights are sent to bring Daenerys Targaryen to Dorne. After a series of obstacles and complications, Quentyn gains an audience with Daenerys. While he and his companions are alone with her, he gives her a secret pact that states Daenerys’s brother Viserys was to wed Arianne, Quentyn’s sister. This arrangement would align House Martell to House Targaryen, thus giving the Targaryens the Dornish support for reclaiming the Iron Throne.
Since Viserys died a few years ago at Vaes Dothrak, Quentyn offers to wed Daenerys instead. Daenerys refuses, as she has already been promised to Hizdahr zo Loraq. A few days later, Daenerys shows her dragons (Rhaegal and Viserion) to Quentyn, and then urges Quentyn to return to Dorne. However, Quentyn devises a plan to tame one of her dragons. Later on, when he does arrive at the dragon pit, he tries taming Viserion, but Rhaegal burns him alive.
In the Game of Thrones show, Theon and Yara (called Asha in the books) have one uncle: Euron. In the books, however, they have two: Euron and Victarion. Much of Victarion’s purpose in A Dance with Dragons is centered around traveling to Mereen with the intention of proposing to Daenerys Targaryen himself, rather than allowing his brother Euron to court her. On his voyage, he encounters a man named Moqorro lost at sea. Moqorro is a red priest of R’hllor who can see visions within flames (like the Red Woman Melisandre). He tells Victarion in order to bend Daenerys’s dragons to his will, Victarion must claim the Dragonbinder (a dragon horn inscribed with Valyrian glyphs) with blood.The one who blows the Dragonbinder will die, but the dragons who hear the call will obey the hellhorn’s master.
Penny is a dwarf like Tyrion Lannister. She ends up sailing to Qarth with Tyrion and Jorah Mormont (who is bringing Tyrion to Daenerys). Penny and Tyrion become friends on the voyage, and Penny even develops romantic feelings for her fellow dwarf. While Tyrion likes Penny, he does not feel the same towards her. Their ship is captured by slavers and they are sold at an auction; Penny and Tyrion are sold with Jorah to Yezzan zo Qaggaz.
The dwarves are scheduled to entertain the crowds on the day the Mereen fighting pits reopen, but unknown to Penny and Tyrion, they are to be attacked by lions after their mock joust. Daenerys learns of this plan and prevents the lions from being set on the dwarves. Jorah, Penny, and Tyrion flee to the Second Sons, where Penny must wait at the camp, as she is not permitted to stay with Tyrion and Jorah.
Sansa Stark’s best friend from Winterfell is disguised as Arya Stark (Sansa’s real sister) and married off to Ramsay Bolton, who’s unaware of Jeyne’s true identity. With their marriage, Ramsay strengthens his claim to rule over Winterfell. Jeyne unfortunately endures horrific abuse and torture from Ramsay. Her and Theon Greyjoy (Ramsay’s prisoner and former ward to Ned Stark) escape Winterfell, but are captured and brought to Stannis’s camp at an abandoned village.
Val is a Wildling, a member of the free folk. Her sister Dalla is Mance Rayder’s wife. Many men of the Night’s Watch and Stannis Baratheon’s army are attracted to her and would consider her a princess in Westeros; however she has no significant status among the free folk. Jon Snow sends Val on a mission to bring Tormund Giantsbane to him in hopes of establishing peace between them. To Jon’s surprise, Val returns with Tormund and he agrees with Jon’s terms. Val was arranged to marry a knight named Ser Patrek, but he was killed by the giant Wun Wun before the marriage was performed.