10 Important ‘Game of Thrones’ Book Characters Not in the Show

In 2011, HBO released Game of Thrones, an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. It takes place on the continent of Westeros, split into seven kingdoms ruled over by the king on the Iron Throne. As the noble houses vie for power against one another, new threats emerge, including the magical White Walkers in the frozen North and the last of the ancient Targaryen family growing in power in Essos, the continent to the east.



The show was full of rich and detailed characters beloved for their moral complexity. They had their roots in the fascinating literary world Martin created, the five-part book series A Song of Ice and Fire. However, as part of the adaptation process, many major book characters had to be cut from Game of Thrones, either entirely or replaced by other major figures already established in the show’s lore. Some of these decisions had long-lasting consequences that hurt Game of Thrones in the long run.

Game Of Thrones
Release Date
April 17, 2011

David Benioff, D.B. Weiss


10 Harrold Hardyng

Introduced in ‘A Feast for Crows’

Lino Facioli as Robin Arryn
Image via HBO

Following the death of his father, Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) becomes the lord of the Vale, but his age and sickly demeanor mean that his mother, Lysa (Kate Dickie), is the one running things. With her death, her second husband, Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), becomes Lord Protector and begins combing through the Arryn family tree. This eventually leads him to Harrold Hardyng, Robin’s closest living relative and successor, should he die.

Although not much of a character as of the most recently released book, Martin has set Harrold to be one of the biggest pieces in Baelish’s plan for the Vale. Once Robin dies, likely through poisoning, Harrold is to marry Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and use the armies of the Vale to take back the North from the Boltons. The basic idea of Sansa retaking the North with the Vale army does appear in the show. However, omitting Harrold makes Baelish’s plan feel foolish and full of risks, especially when he marries Sansa to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), an act that forever sours her faith in him.

9 Marillion

Introduced in ‘A Game of Thrones’

Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) holding Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) as she cries
Image via HBO

A traveling singer from the Riverlands, Marillion joined the company of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) when she captured Tyron Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and brought him to the Vale to stand trial for an attack on her son, Brandon (Isaac Hempstead Wright). He became a favorite of Lysa and Robin thanks to his singing and was present when Petyr pushed Lysa to her death. Petyr was quick to frame Marillion for the assassination and had him tortured until he pleaded guilty.

A bard similar to Marillion appears in Season 1, played by Emun Elliott, but his storyline ends with his tongue getting cut out on the orders of King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson). Omitting Marillion’s involvement means that Baelish had no cover story for Lysa’s death, forcing him to rely on Sansa to back him up when the Lords of the Vale came inquiring. Having Marillion as his scapegoat also would have gone a long way in preventing his lackluster and embarrassing downfall in Season 7. This is yet another example of the show dumbing down Littlefinger to benefit other characters, which is incredibly disappointing, considering he’s one of the saga’s most fascinating figures.

8 Penny

Introduced in ‘A Dance with Dragons’

Tyrion Lannister stands trial in the the throne room of the Red Keep before an audience of nobles and dignitaries.
Image via HBO

Alongside her brother, Oppo, Penny performed as part of a jousting dwarf entertainers riding atop a dog and pig. Following the death of Joffrey and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) and Tyrion’s escape from King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) placed a bounty on Tyron’s head, leading to many innocents being killed, including Oppo. Penny attempts to kill Tyrion in revenge, but the two become friends on the long journey to Mereen.

After Tywin’s death, Tyrion is in a dark mental place, becoming consumed with thoughts of nihilism and vengeance against his surviving family. Penny’s inclusion in his story serves a similar purpose to Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) for Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Penny helps remind him of his humanity and keeps him from falling completely into darkness. Plus, Penny shows Tyrion what the life of a dwarf is like without his gold and Lannister name, which humbles Tyrion a bit. Instead, the show splits her pivotal role between Varys and Jorah, neither of whom is as compelling as Penny.

7 Quentyn Martell

Introduced in ‘A Dance with Dragons’

Doran Martell looking intently at something off-camera in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

When Daenerys and her brother, Viserys (Harry Lloyd), were young, Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) made a secret marriage pact to support Viserys’ claim to the Iron Throne in exchange for his marriage to Doran’s daughter, Arianne. Following Viserys’ death, he sends his eldest son, Quentyn, to offer the pact to Daenerys. The journey is long and arduous, with poor Quentyn learning that adventures are never as fun in real life as they are in stories but presses on due to duty.

Quentyn’s storyline gives audiences a new character to follow in Slavers Bay, letting them see how badly Daenerys destabilized the area by attempting to abolish slavery. His quest fails, and he dies when he tries to make off with one of Daenerys’ imprisoned dragons, allowing them to escape, which makes more sense than the show’s idea of them conveniently breaking free when Daenerys needs them. Dorne is one of the worst storylines in Game of Thrones, reducing them from cunning political players to largely ineffective nuisances; having Quentyn would’ve greatly helped this issue. Quentyn’s story in the books also shows Daenerys’ fallibility as a ruler, which could’ve helped the show, especially considering her much-hated and abrupt descent into madness.

6 Victarion Greyjoy

Introduced in ‘A Clash of Kings’

The Greyjoy fleet on the move in 'Game of Thrones'
Image via HBO

The second brother of Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), Victarion, serves as the Captain of the Iron Fleet and is widely regarded as one of the greatest sailors and warriors in the Iron Isles. When Balon crowned himself King of the Iron Isles during the War of the Five Kings, Victarion was responsible for taking the strategic fortress of Moat Cailin but had to return to the Iron Islands following Balon’s death. When his older brother, Euron, became king, he sent Victarion to Mereen to claim Daenerys as his wife, but Victarion decided to try and marry her himself.

Victarion is one of the chief Ironborn characters in Martin’s work, having spent his whole life on the islands or at sea, and has so little fear of drowning that he goes into battle wearing full plate armor. His journey to Mereen is a fascinating odyssey involving dangerous storms and a Red Priest of R’hllor saving his life. Victarion also possesses a magic Dragon Horn that, theoretically, will allow him to control one or more of Daenerys’ dragons, which could’ve added a lot more tension to her story. Victarion is a key figure in the books and could’ve been a compelling antagonist in the show, not to mention a worthy opponent to Daenerys.

5 Jon Connington

Introduced in ‘A Dance with Dragons’

Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark marry each other in secret by a lake in 'Game of Thrones' Season 7, Episode 7
Image via HBO

The lord of Griffon’s Rest in the Stormlands, Jon Connington was a close companion to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (Wilf Scolding) and even served as Hand of the King to his father, King Aeryls II (David Rintoul) before he was stripped of his titles following his failure to capture Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) during the rebellion. He was banished to Essos and was believed to have died there, but he was secretly alive and raising a boy believed to be Rhaegar’s son. He hoped to place the boy on the throne of Westeros to make up for his inability to help his father.

Connington is a man haunted by his past failures; after getting infected with a life-threatening disease called Greyscale, he is living on borrowed time. In the books, Connington’s commitment to helping his ward take the Iron Throne offers a genuine challenge for both Daenerys and the ruling Lannister family. Plus, his firsthand experience with Prince Rhaegar and Robert’s Rebellion could have allowed for more insight into this crucial moment in Westeros’ history.

4 Young Grif/Aegon

Introduced in ‘A Dance with Dragons’

The Targaryen house sigil in flames in House of the Dragon
Image via HBO

Everyone believes that the youngest child of Rhaegar, Aegon, was killed by Ser Gregor Clegane (Conan Stevens, Ian Whyte, and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. However, a young boy in Essos claims to be Aegon, swapped out as an infant and sent to be raised by Jon Connington. Now a young man, Aegon heads to Mereen to ally with Daenerys but decides to invade Westeros without her after speaking with Tyrion Lannister.

Aegon’s invasion of Westeros adds a massive wrench into a continent already ravaged by war. His existence is an even greater roadblock to Daenerys’ claim to the throne than Jon Snow (Kit Harington). In the books, Varys (Conleth Hill) is working to put Aegon on the throne, which makes more sense than his vague motivations in the show. Young Griff is one of the most interesting characters in the saga due to his unpredictability. His presence in the show would’ve completely altered the balance of power, and his intervention would’ve also added another factor to justify Daenerys’ descent into madness.

3 Arianne Martell

Introduced in ‘A Feast for Crows’

Myrsella Baratheon and Trystane Martell holding hands in a garden in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

As the eldest child of Doran Martell, Arianne will inherit Sunspear under Dornish law. However, she had long suspected that her father would try to give her birthright to her younger brother, Quentyn, after discovering Doran’s secret marriage pact and not understanding its full context. To that end, she decides to try and crown Myrcella Baratheon (Aimee Richardson and Nell Tiger Free) as Queen of Westeros following Joffrey’s death to defy her father, only for the plan to go horribly wrong.

Arianne is yet another amazing female character from Martin, with a good head on her shoulder for politics, confidence in her sexuality, and a fire in her belly that leads her to stand for her rights. Though her plan backfires, it convinces Doran to bring her into his inner circle, which helps her become a better player in the game. Unfortunately, Arianne was cut from Game of Thrones, and the attempts to make the Dorne plot work without her resulted in one of the show’s worst storylines. It’s especially bad, considering how much Oberyn goes on about the strength of Dornish women, something fans never actually see in the show.

2 Jeyne Poole

Introduced in ‘A Game of Thrones’

Ramsay Bolton and Sansa-Stark in the dinner table in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

A member of a lesser Northern house, Jeyne Poole’s father worked as the steward at Winterfell. She grew up a close friend of Sansa Stark and traveled with her to King’s Landing when her father, Eddard (Sean Bean), was made Hand of the King. After Eddard’s death and Sansa’s imprisonment, Petyr Baelish took Jeyne and trained her in prostitution. The Lannisters then sent her North to pose as a fake Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) to marry Ramsay Bolton and strengthen House Bolton’s claim on the North.

Omitting Jeyne Poole had massive consequences on the show, especially when the writers decided to replace her with Sansa. Through her role as the fake Arya, Jeyne sends ripples through the North, which causes many to join Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dilane). She’s instrumental in Theon Greyjoy’s (Alfie Allen) redemption arc, as while Sansa was a surrogate sister to Theon, Jeyne is an innocent soul who has been used and abused by everyone around her. Jeyne is among the saga’s most tragic characters, and while her story could’ve added more difficulty to an already sprawling show, removing her was ultimately detrimental to Littlefinger and Sansa’s stories.

1 Lady Stoneheart

Introduced in ‘A Storm of Swords’

Catelyn Stark crying and holding Walder Frey's wife as hostage in Game of Thrones Rains of Castamere, the red wedding episode
Image via HBO

After watching her eldest son, Robb (Richard Madden), die at the Red Wedding, Catelyn Stark’s throat is cut, and her body is dumped naked into the river. She is found a few days later by Beric Dondarrion (David Michael Scott and Richard Dormer), who transfers his life to her, allowing Catelyn to take over his Brotherhood Without Banners. Her prolonged death leaves Catelyn a different person: now called Lady Stonehart, she directs the Brotherhood to capture and hang anyone even remotely associated with the Red Wedding.

Lady Stoneheart is the poster child of Martin’s themes of how the cycle of vengeance and the horrors of war can turn good people into monsters. She is the embodiment of the saga’s main thesis and represents one of the biggest magic usages. Her omission meant that Arya took revenge on House Frey in a scene that was cathartic fan service but made little to no sense within the show’s context. Meanwhile, Beric’s extended life sees him go beyond the wall in Season 7 in one of the show’s worst episodes before dying at Winterfell. Lady Stoneheart is, perhaps, the single greatest omission in Game of Thrones, one that fans are still mourning.

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