Will George R.R. Martin give us the ‘Game of Thrones’ ending we wanted?
HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on the bestselling novel series The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, became notorious at the end of its superb first season with the death of the character many assumed was one of the protagonists around whom the show would center: Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean).
Young, insane King Joffrey’s unforeseen beheading of the beloved Northern lord made lifetime fans of millions of Game of Thrones viewers. Over the following seasons, many other important characters died, usually savagely at the hands of dire enemies. We’ve mourned each one, which makes us think: what if some had one more chance without the resurrective intervention of the Lord of Light?
Luckily for us, many do. Martin’s book series is about to gain a sixth installment, The Winds of Winter, planned to be followed by a seventh, A Dream of Spring. As such, the story drops off some time around the middle of season five in TV’s Game of Thrones – with many considerable differences. As Martin put it:
“How will it all end? I heard people asking. The same ending as the show? Different? Well . . . yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.”
At the very least, the author can take solace in the extensive free marketing research he’s gotten from the negative reception to the television show’s late plot arcs.
Below, we’ve gathered some of the more beloved characters from Game of Thrones who remain alive in the books. Start reading now so you’re ready when the new book drops – and enjoy the continued shenanigans of these saints, sinners, and rabblerousers.
Viserion & Rhaegal
Naturally, all of Dany’s reptile babies are still alive and soaring over, wave, hill, and dale. They’re already very fearsome, although possibly not quite up to torching King’s Landing to ashes.
Missandei wasn’t brutally murdered just to upset Dany until pretty late in Game of Thrones. In the books, Dany’s best chum is much younger, as is the case with many characters. The 11-year-old girl is an expert in languages and a very capable scribe & advisor to the Dragon Queen: one of her greatest assets.
Ser Barristan Selmy
The veteran warrior who, after being relieved of his supposedly lifetime post, bragged he could cut down Joffrey’s second-rate Kingsguard “like carving a cake” remains in Dany’s service as Hand of the Queen in Meereen, running the city in her rather mysterious absence.
In A Dance with Dragons, Jorah and Tyrion are slaves in Meereen; at the end of the book, Tyrion arranges for Jorah to sign on with sellswords the Second Sons for his freedom.
The Wall and Beyond
Brothers Dolorous Edd, Pyp, and Grenn
Jon’s buddies are all still alive in the books; loyal Edd is Lord Commander Snow’s steward. Snarky Pyp and his sidekick Grenn got a bit uppity so Jon sent them way over to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea at the far end of the Wall.
The King Beyond the Wall’s fate in Game of Thrones was a major departure from the books, in which Melisandre glamered the wilding Rattleshirt (remember that guy?) to look like former Nightswatchman Mance just before he was supposed to be burned at the stake. There are all sorts of theories about the scheming he’s been up to since.
The Red Woman is at the Wall when Jon is murdered at the very end of A Dance with Dragons. His last word was the same as ours during every episode of the latter three seasons of Game of Thrones: “Ghost!”
Ser Alliser Thorne
Megadouche Alliser Thorne remained a thorn in Jon’s side at the Wall in the books – until Jon sent the Ranger beyond the Wall on a challenging mission. So he wasn’t behind the Black Brothers’ mutiny against Jon either.
Jojen is a bit weak after the journey to see the Three-Eyed Crow (not “Raven” in the books), and wants to go back home. What a sweetie pie.
In the show, Benjen became a sort of semi-wight. It’s possible that the half-undead books character Coldhands is Benjen too, but we don’t really know as no one who could recognize him has ever met him. Ah, the days before social media.
Rickon Stark & Osha
Rickon, a mere three years old at the outset of the books, remains a boy on the journey beyond the Wall with Osha, headed for the arctic island community on Skagos.
Rickon’s unruly direwolf remains alive, guarding his master and Osha on their journey. Aw, pup!
Bran’s soulful direwolf companion died valiantly fighting off wights in the show, but in the books he’s faithful at the giant weirwood where the Three-Eyed Crow dwells.
The gentle giant remains with the Reed kids, Bran, and Summer as well after having saved their lives multiple times on the trip north.
It should be no surprise that Theon is still alive in the books given his late death at the hands of the Night King in the show. When we leave him, he had recently escaped from Bolton-controlled Winterfell with a girl pretending to be Arya Stark . . . long story.
Lords Ramsay & Roose Bolton
Ramsay is up to all sorts of charming stuff, forcing Theon/Reek to help him rape the girl pretending to be Arya on their wedding night in Winterfell recently. Kindly Lord Roose, meanwhile, has taken up residence in Winterfell for the time being, hanging the locals after they helped him repair the castle. Hey, at least he didn’t flay ‘em.
Lord Baelish is administering things in The Eyrie and trying to arrange a marriage there for Sansa, who is of course remains in disguise as his bastard daughter “Alayne Stone”. Always a scheme, this guy!
Ladies Shireen & Selyse Baratheon
Fans of the diminutive sweetie will be pleased to learn she and her mom are alive and well in the books at Castle Black.
Lord Stannis Baratheon
Stannis’s whereabouts are unknown in the books – his last certain position was near Winterfell, which he was about to attack to try to cease from the Boltons, but his regiment got caught in a nasty blizzard.
Lady Catelyn Stark
Great news: the mother of the Stark children was a bit too pissed to let a little cut throat keep her from wreaking revenge on those who betrayed and murdered the King in the North. With some surprising magical help from Ser Beric Dondarrion (after Thoros refused the gig), Catelyn became the vengeance-saturated semi-zombie known in the books as Lady Stoneheart. Never come between a she-wolf and her pups!
Ser Brynden “Blackfish” Tully
The badass warrior played with gruff panache by Clive Russell in the show would never get such short shrift as a death behind the scenes in the books. He remains at large in the Riverlands, harrying the Lannister troops guerrilla-style as best as he is able.
Lord Walder Frey
While Lord Frey may yet end up in a large pie baked by Arya, in the books he’s assisting the Boltons with troops and, as always, busy arranging marriages for his endless heirs.
Thoros of Myr
Thoros hasn’t been heard from in a while as the books’ focus has shifted elsewhere from the Brotherhood without Banners. But thank the Lord of Light, he’s still around.
Lady Olenna Tyrell
Lady Olenna is alive and well in Highgarden following the wedding of King Tommen and Queen Margaery. Long may she harangue!
Ser Loras Tyrell
In A Feast for Crows brave, capable Loras volunteers to hasten the siege on Dragonstone after Stannis declared himself King. Apparently, he was gravely wounded in the successful battle, his fate in the balance. Cersei got just what she wanted with that twist.
Queen Margaery Tyrell
In A Dance with Dragons, Margaery remains in prison after being wrongly accused by Cersei of sleeping with a Kingsguard thug, Ser Osney Kettleblack.
Lord Mace Tyrell
Lord Mace abandons his siege of Storm’s End to ensure his daughter Margaery’s trial proceeds fairly in King’s Landing. Not sure what he hopes to achieve by that, but hey, knock yourself out, Mace.
The High Sparrow
We have no idea if Cersei will be nuking the Great Sept of Baelor with wildfire in future books; the High Sparrow is still getting up to mischief in the capital. In fact, he’s got Cersei locked up in a cell for incest waiting for trial!
Ser Lancel Lannister
Lancel remains part of the Warrior’s Sons, highborn knights devoted to the Seven. We’ll see if he gets blowded up or not later.
King Tommen Baratheon and Ser Pounce
King Tommen, around twelve years of age, and Ser Pounce – not to mention his sisters Lady Whiskers & Boots – are alive and well in the Red Keep.
Lord Doran Martell
In the books, the Martells are a wild card with their irons in too many fires to count, including an additional dark horse heir over in Essos. Doran is keeping a low profile, scheming and writing a lot of letters from his wheelchair.
Lady Myrcella Baratheon
Poor, sweet Myrcella was attacked after an ill-advised plot to install her as queen and cause war between Dorne and the Lannisters, losing an ear and getting a massive facial scar. ‘Least she ain’t been deaded, though.