From the Maester’s Desk is a new weekly column about the book-to-show adaptations of the characters, world and other elements from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. Apart from analyzing the differences between the two mediums, it offers bits of trivia, speculation and educated guesses about the future of the story in both the books and the TV show. The article contains spoilers from ASOIAF, including a sample chapter of The Winds of Winter.
After last Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, the third of the seventh season, “The Queen’s Justice”, it appears the fate of both House Tyrell and House Martell was sealed.
Cersei drew first blood indeed, outsmarting her exiled Lannister sibling, who’s now serving as Hand for Daenerys Targaryen. Fighting his own relatives is turning out to be more difficult for Tyrion than when he had to face the army of Stannis Baratheon during the Battle of Blackwater Bay (unfortunately for poor Ser Davos) and deal with the Sons of the Harpy in Meereen.
As a result of adapting the story for television, several characters from the books were cut. Some of little consequence, such as Strong Belwas, whose role was ultimately fulfilled by Daario Naharis. Others, though, are an example of how even if the show and the books will reach the same destination, the journey will be quite different.
Enter Ellaria Sand, who was wonderfully played by Indira Varma.
The TV incarnation of the character is more of an active player in the story, seeking revenge after her paramour Oberyn Martell met his demise at the hands of Gregor Clegane. She’s the one who decides to move against the Lannisters, against the wishes of Doran Martell, in contrast with the book version, who’s actually worried about her daughters getting involved in a quest for vengeance.
Much has been said about the TV interpretation of the Sand Snakes, and at this point everyone has made up their minds about them, so I’m not going to add more to that particular discussion.
I’ll say, however, that even if the execution was somewhat flawed, their inclusion (and reduction from eight to three characters) was a clever way to condense the Dornish plot from A Feast from Crows and A Dance with Dragons into a handful of scenes, getting straight to the point: the murder of Myrcella Baratheon, thus fulfilling a part of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy (before it went full circle with Tommen’s suicide).
Of course, the book version of Myrcella is still alive, only getting disfigured as a result of a botched plot hatched by Arianne Martell, a full fledged POV character from the books who was cut from the show. Despite many fans have lamented her absence, I feel like her omission was the right call to make. We really don’t know the road the Dornish characters will take in the books (and under which circumstances will Myrcella ultimately die), but having a limited number of episodes and screen time for each character, you can only add so many side stories before you start drifting away from the main plot.
Much less missed was another Martell with his own POV chapters in A Dance with Dragons, the infamous Quentyn Martell. For book readers, the reason behind his absence from the show seems obvious: he took a long road only to end up burned to a crisp by Daenerys’ dragons after his failed attempt to tame one of them. His role was more or less fulfilled in the show by Tyrion, who entered the pyramid to release Viserion and Rhaegal while their ‘mother’ was absent. Only that, obviously, Tyrion didn’t get roasted, probably because his intentions were only to set them free and not to try his hand at dragon taming.
The Sand Snakes (and Ellaria) are still alive in the books, and one of them maybe is currently in Oldtown, disguised as a man to study and become a maester, if fan theories prove to be correct.
Two of their show counterparts (Obara and Nymeria) went out in a blaze of glory, in an exciting battle sequence (and better choreographed than their encounter with Jaime and Bronn in the Water Gardens) against Euron’s forces. Cersei reserved a crueler fate for both Ellaria and Tyene, in a scene that was a callback to the Season 5 finale, “Mother’s Mercy”, and also (seems to me) to the way the Mad King Aerys II killed Rickard and Brandon Stark (a moment that coincidentally got mentioned during the meeting of Daenerys and Jon).
As for House Tyrell of Highgarden, its last surviving representative after the fiery wildfire explosion that destroyed the Sept of Baelor and ended the lives of Margaery, Loras and Mace, was Lady Olenna Tyrell, better known as “The Queen of Thorns”.
A favorite among book readers and show fans, the role was beautifully played by Dame Dianna Rigg. The spirit of the character survived the transition from book to screen, and she got some of the best lines, some among the most memorable in the show’s entire run (such as the “Cheese” one).
Olenna in the books has a much smaller presence, and the same could be said of all the other members of House Tyrell. She only appears in the third and fourth volumes (A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows) and doesn’t get many moments interacting with other characters, like Varys or Tywin Lannister, unlike her show counterpart.
After having supper with Sansa and learning of the treatment she got from Joffrey, she plots to marry the Stark girl to her grandson Willas Tyrell, a character that doesn’t exist in the TV version of the story. Willas hasn’t appeared in the books so far, and all we know about him is that he’s the eldest son of Mace Tyrell and the heir of Highgarden, despite being a cripple with a bad leg, as a result of a horse falling on top of him during his first tourney, in which he competed against the Red Viper himself.
Sansa’s trust in Dontos Hollard proved to be the undoing of the marriage plot, since Dontos spilled the beans to Littlefinger, who in turn went to Tywin Lannister. Tywin acted quickly and married Sansa to his son Tyrion, and offered Cersei instead as a match for Willas. The Tyrells weren’t amused and rejected the idea, a luxury Olenna couldn’t take in the show, in which Loras was the only heir and the alternative offered by Tywin was to make him a Kingsguard.
Loras does become a Kingsguard in the books after the Battle of the Blackwater Bay, probably as a measure to keep a watchful eye on Joffrey, considering the cruel boy king was going to marry his sister, Margaery
While heavily implied, Loras’ homosexuality isn’t as evident in the books, and therefore Cersei’s way of disposing of him doesn’t involve the Faith, but rather a doomed mission to take Dragonstone, which is still in control of Stannis Baratheon’s soldiers, if only a small garrison (It’s worth mentioning that Stannis is still alive in the books too, or at least hasn’t been confirmed dead. Rather curious to see how many of these characters already kicked the bucket in the HBO version of the story). Dragonstone is successfully seized by the Crown, but Loras ends horribly injured during the battle after getting hit with burning oil. Last we hear of him is that he’s possibly dying because of his wounds.
Apart from Willas, the other Tyrell sibling that got the axe was Garlan Tyrell. His role so far has been rather small, so his most notable moment, donning the armor of the deceased Renly Baratheon during the Battle of the Blackwater Bay, was given to Loras instead.
Book Margaery ends up imprisoned by the faith not because of lying to protect her brother, but because of Cersei managing to having her accused of fornication and being unfaithful to king Tommen. This was made possible after Cersei made Grand Maester Pycelle confess he has been providing moon tea to Margaery. The moon tea hasn’t been mentioned in the show so far, but its purpose is to work as a contraceptive for women who don’t want to get pregnant, or to make them abort if a pregnancy has already happened.
Also instrumental in Margaery’s downfall was Blue Bard, a singer in service of House Tyrell. Cersei ordered Qyburn to torture the bard and make him tell a false story of Margery’s many lovers. The bard is then mutilated by Qyburn and tells Cersei’s version of the story after getting released, successfully framing Margaery.
As if that wasn’t enough of a bad time, the bard ends up tortured again, this time by the Faith, in order to find out if he’s telling the truth. But Blue Bard seems to be more afraid of Cersei and Qyburn, since he doesn’t change a word.
Margaery is, however, released in the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, because the evidence is lackluster to say the least, and she intends to wait for the Faith’s judgment, sure that she’ll be declared innocent.
Poor show Mace Tyrell didn’t get something his book version did: being named Hand of the King by Lord Regent Kevan Lannister. The show dispatched both Mace and Kevan Lannister in the sept explosion, but the former is still alive and kicking, and the latter meets his end in the fifth book’s epilogue, murdered by Varys in a moment that was given to Qyburn in the show (and played quite differently, being Pycelle the one who was killed).
We can safely conclude that the show is done with the Martells and the Tyrells, having served their purpose in the adaptation, but we can only guess which are George’s plans for the characters in the book.
We can assume that Loras will die because of his grave injuries, but even if Cersei blows the Sept of Baelor up with Margaery and Mace inside, there are still two other Tyrell siblings very much alive, apart from the Queen of Thorns.
Plus, the murder of Kevan (and Grand Maester Pycelle too) by Varys (who seems to have never left King’s Landing, as opposed to the show version who traveled to Essos to meet Daenerys) opens plenty more of possibilities after his corpse is found. Varys intends Cersei to suspect Tyrion (he kills Kevan with a crossbow) and to keep feeding her paranoia against her allies, betting for a complete unraveling and weakening of the Crown, a quite different scenario from the one in the show, in which Cersei is a quite competent and ruthless queen.
When it comes to the Martells, it’s safe to assume Ellaria won’t have Doran and Areo Hotah murdered to become the de facto leader of House Martell, so the way all these characters will die (if they do indeed die) will be completely different.
An alliance with Daenerys seems dubious as well, since yet another character that was cut from the show, Aegon Targaryen (or someone who is posing as him, we don’t know yet) shows up during the events of the fifth book. This Aegon is (allegedly) the surviving son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell, snatched by Varys and replaced with a commoner baby, so he wouldn’t get killed during the Sack of King’s Landing.
In a sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, we learn that Doran has sent his daughter Arianne to meet Aegon (who is already in Westeros, as opposed to Daenerys, who is just about to be taken prisoner by the Dothraki), who’s asking for the help of Dorne in order to march on King’s Landing and take the Iron Throne.
Perhaps we’ll learn the answer to those questions (or most of them at least) when the sixth book sees release.
For the time being, pour one for the show versions of House Martell and House Tyrell. They may be gone now, but we’ll always have the terrific acting from the talented actors and actresses who gave such a vibrant life to characters who may have been secondary, but made quite an impression in more than one show fan.