How Is the Game of Thrones Books’ Ending Different from the GoT TV Finale?

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The Game of Thrones finale has aired on HBO and now Season 8 is up for a number of Emmys. Fans are wondering if the books ended the same way as the series. The answer is we don’t know, since the books aren’t completed yet, but we can find some clues that give us some pretty good hints. This post will have spoilers for Season 8 and the books.

The books left off where Season 4 of Game of Thrones ended. So far we have no idea exactly how the books are going to end. However, we do have clues. George R.R. Martin has said that he talked to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss years ago about how he planned the book series to end, giving them the “major beats” that would happen.  In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Martin said he told them the overarching plot and ending when the show was approaching the books. Martin added: “And, you know, the major beats. I mean, obviously, we’re talking here about a– several days of story conferences taking place in my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But there’s no way to get in all the detail, all the minor characters, all the secondary characters… I don’t think Dan and Dave’s ending is gonna be that different from my ending because of the conversations … we did have. But they may be on certain secondary characters, there may be big differences.”

Based on changes made in the series versus the books, some fans are guessing on how those “major beats” might play out differently in the books. For example, Euron was very different in the books. He was far more mysterious and charismatic. He had just found a rumored dragonbinder horn, for example. Reader u/Kristsun wrote on Reddit: “In the books, Sam and Euron have a horn that might come into play. And Euron is on his way to old town, which Sam is in at the Tower of the Citadel… Think about that lol. My guess is Euron and Sam are gonna blow their horns together and bring the wall down, as well as affect à nearby kraken or something.” 

Essentially, one guess is that the Wall will go down in the books too, but not because of an undead Viserion. Instead, some believe the Wall will fall because of the mysterious horn of winter.

They also surmise that it will be Euron who gains control of Viserion, not the Night King, because of the dragonbinder horn. They believe that Euron may actually be a proxy Night King of sorts, having taken control of the White Walkers through magic for his own purposes.

On Reddit, u/Alkein surmised: “Knowing grrm gave d&d some major story beats I’m assuming the horn of winter will be used to bring down the wall and eurons horn, dragonbinder will be used to either kill or enslave a dragon. I’m unsure if in the books the white walkers will get one the dragons but dragon binder is definitely what killing rhaegal in the show is related do, they just couldn’t do it cause they didn’t introduce his character the same way, or give him dragonbinder.”

In the books, there’s also a fabled Ice Dragon of mythology. Some readers believe the Others (as the White Walkers are called in the books) will have an Ice Dragon rather than taking one of Daenerys’ dragons and making it undead. Here’s a quote from A World of Ice and Fire about ice dragons. As you can see, the fable is quite different from undead Viserion.

Of all the queer and fabulous denizens of the Shivering Sea, however, the greatest are the ice dragons. These colossal beasts, many times larger than the dragons of Valyria, are said to be made of living ice, with eyes of pale blue crystal and vast translucent wings through which the moon and stars can be glimpsed as they wheel across the sky. Whereas common dragons (if any dragon can truly be said to be common) breathe flame, ice dragons supposedly breathe cold, a chill so terrible that it can freeze a man solid in half a heartbeat.

Sailors from half a hundred nations have glimpsed these great beasts over the centuries, so mayhaps there is some truth behind the tales. Archmaester Margate has suggested that many legends of the north — freezing mists, ice ships, Cannibal Bay, and the like — can be explained as distorted reports of ice-dragon activity. Though an amusing notion, and not without a certain elegance, this remains the purest conjecture. As ice dragons supposedly melt when slain, no actual proof of their existence has ever been found.

It’s worth noting that in the books, Euron is quite mystical and has many magical artifacts. It’s not hard to imagine he might play a role in some of the “major beats,” unlike the show.

GRRM orginally wanted 10 to 12 seasons for Game of Thrones rather than eight, but David Benioff and D.B. Weiss got to make the final decision. So of course, quite a few things had to be cut. Vanity Fair explored GRRM’s last script in-depth, noting numerous cuts that were made. These cuts were fascinating, pointing to threads in his books that the show decided to drop. For example, he had more plans for the direwolves, including noting in his script: “A season or two down the line Ramsay’s pack of wolfhounds are going to be sent against the Stark direwolves, so we should build up the dogs as much as possible in this and subsequent episodes.”

Sadly, this direwolf focus did not end up happening.

GRRM also planned a different person would be revealed as trying to assassinate Bran, not Littlefinger, and it was going to be revealed in Season 4. He also had many minor characters mentioned in his script that were left out of the show entirely.

All this points to some significant differences between the books and Season 8. Direwolves will play a much bigger focus in the books, and warging (which more Starks can do than just Bran) will likely have a far more significant role. In addition, that scene with Littlefinger, Bran, and Sansa won’t happen because Littlefinger wasn’t the one who tried to kill Bran in the books. Instead, it was Joffrey (at least, according to the script notes GRRM wrote for D&D.)

So as you can see, things will be very different. This is mostly speculation based on what GRRM has said, but one thing we can depend on: some things will be different.

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