George R.R Martin points this out first: “My books have a cast of thousands, so for practical reasons they’ve had to cut or combine many characters,” he said.
In other words, the bestselling Game of Thrones author and TV writer understands and agrees that the HBO series must leave out many of his A Song of Ice and Fire saga characters. Thrones has the most sprawling cast on television and some viewers already struggle to differentiate their Aryas, Ashas and Oshas. So leaving out some characters, and combining others, is necessary.
Still, it’s only natural that there’s a few characters Martin would have liked to have seen on the show that did not make it in.
“Strong Belwas, who was part of Dany’s entourage,” Martin said. “I understand why he was cut, but I kind of miss him.” In the books, the massive eunuch warrior is a former pit fighter who joins Dany in Qarth. Belwas’ story elements have essentially been combined with the character of Daario, who is arguably more essential to Dany’s journey.
Another character missed by Martin is Sansa’s young friend Jeyne Poole, who accompanies the Stark family to King’s Landing and later marries Ramsay Bolton. “She’s a minor character in the first book, then vanishes and then—boom—there she is in the fifth book in a major way,” Martin says. The Ramsay marriage storyline has now been given to Sansa, a move that’s caused some controversy among the show’s book-reading fans.
“And in the Tyrell family, Loras is not the eldest son in the books,” Martin points out. “There are two older brothers, Willas and Garlan. I didn’t just put them in for hoots and giggles, they have roles to play in the last two books, and they don’t exist in the show. I’ve said from the start I wish we had more hours, but showrunners [David Benioff and Dan Weiss] work 24/7, 12 months a year.”
And then, of course, there is the character whose absence has received the most attention online — Lady Stoneheart.
[Book spoiler]. Lady Stoneheart is the resurrected vengeful spirit of Catelyn Stark. While the Thrones showrunners have remained silent on this topic, director Alex Graves once dismissed the idea. While fans of the character loved the twist of LS’s introduction and feel she represents some sweet revenge for the Starks, others believe she would undermine the show’s sense of stakes—dead typically means dead for the show’s central characters—and note LS doesn’t impact much of the action in the books (not yet, at least).
“Lady Stoneheart does have a role in the books,” Martin said. “Whether it’s sufficient or interesting enough… I think it is, or I wouldn’t have put her in. One of the things I wanted to show with her is that the death she suffered changes you.”
Continues Martin: “I’ve talked about Gandalf [in The Lord of the Rings], and how the impact of his death was enormous. When I was a 12-year-old kid reading The Fellowship of the Ring and ‘Fly, you fools!’ and he goes into the chasm … it was ‘Holy shit! [J.R.R. Tolkien] killed the wizard! That’s the guy who knew everything. How are they going to destroy the ring without him?’ And now the ‘kids’ have to grow up because their ‘daddy’ is dead. If Gandalf could die, anybody could die. And then just a few chapters later Boromir goes down. Those two deaths created in me the ‘anyone could die’ thing. At that point I was expecting [Tolkien] to pick off the whole Fellowship one by one. And then we also think in The Two Towers that Frodo is dead, since Shelob stung him and wrapped him up. I really bought it because he set me up with those other deaths. But then, of course, he brings Gandalf back. He’s a little strange at first, but then he’s basically the same old Gandalf. I liked the impact we got from him being gone.”
Martin’s explanation initially sounds like an argument against including Lady Stoneheart, but Martin then noted: “Lady Stoneheart is not Cateyln. I’ve tried to set it up beforehand with Beric Dondarrion and his repeated [resurrections]. There’s a brief appearance by Beric in Book One and he rides into the city and he’s this flamboyant Southern knight. That’s not that man we meet later on.”