The Game of Thrones That Could Have Been: George RR Martin’s Original Pitch

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Because this is the internet, and people never stop digging up cool things, we now have documents that claim to be the original letters than George RR Martin sent to his publisher Harper Collins pitching his A Song of Ice and Fire series, which, as everyone knows, has come to life on television through HBO’s Game of Thrones.

It’s not only very cool to see the series take shape, but past that, it’s funny to think about what could have been. What we see in these letters mirrors the books and eventual TV show to some degree, with the Starks and Lannisters at each other’s throats, and Dany and her Dothraki a looming threat across the sea, but past that? So, so much is different.

In case you don’t want to read all the fine type for yourself, here are some of the highlights about what exactly is different in the original pitch. It’s quite a lot. As an aspiring author myself, it’s interesting to see how much a work can change in time. I’ve had original plans for books that were dramatically different than the final product, so it’s nice to see the pros edit just as hard.

Book and show spoilers follow.

– Martin begins by saying he doesn’t outline his books, because if he knows exactly where it’s going, he loses interest in it. That probably explains the myriad of changes here.

– The second book was going to be A Dance with Dragons and Dany was going to already be invading with her Dothraki army. As we know in the books, she lost her army, and still has yet to get even close to Westeros by the end of book five. If anything she’s way further away than when she started. It seems like her return is being saved for the final installment

– The third book was going to be The Winds of Winter, the unreleased sixth book right now. That was going to see the invasion of the Others, the White Walkers. Though we’ve seen plenty of them so far, their en masse attack hasn’t happened yet either as they have yet to breach the wall.

– Sansa betrays her family, and actually has a son with Joffrey. We can see the pieces of that being set up in the first book, but it seems once Martin went through with Ned Stark’s death (which was planned from this manuscript), he changed her tune. So far, all Starks remain “good guys,” even assassin-in-training Arya.

– Robb Stark died in battle, not the Red Wedding, and Tyrion burned Winterfell, not Ramsay Snow.

– Catelyn, Arya and Bran all escape King’s Landing together after Ned’s death. They seek shelter with Jon at the wall, but he turns them away on the “Night’s Watch have no families” rule, which makes Bran hate him. Arya is forgiving because…she’s fallen in love with Jon. What.

– There’s actually a love triangle between Jon, Arya and Tyrion, which is a new level of strange past even the Jaime/Cersei relationship (which isn’t mentioned in this manuscript).

– Catelyn Stark dies at the hands of the Others, after they’re captured by Mance Rayder. Maybe at one point the Others were just wildlings, not White Walkers.

– Dany kills Drogo out of revenge after he kills her brother.

– Tyrion kills Joffrey and Jaime succeeds him on the throne.

– Tyrion’s unrequited crush on Arya leads to conflict with Jon Snow.

– The last paragraph of the letter is redacted, and we can only guess at what it contains. Presumably that’s where the craziness stops and actual, potential spoilers begin, including who wins the great Stark/Lannister fight, and who ends up sitting on the Iron Throne in the end. But again, maybe since Martin doesn’t outline, whatever was written there could all change.

It’s just a very cool read, and if you’ve ever considered writing, or are a writer, just know that you don’t have to be married to your ideas, even if you are the best fantasy writer in a generation. Editing is part of the process, as is discovering your own story as you go. Sansa’s betrayal, Dany’s hate for Drogo, the Jon-Tyrion-Arya triangle. None felt like a natural progression of the character, so Martin adapted.

Very cool stuff here, and you can give the full letters a read for yourself here.

[Photo via HBO]


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