To refer to Game Of Thrones as event television is something of an understatement.
After 7 series, the audience for HBO’s fantasy drama is still rocketing upwards. Even episodes leaked before their arrival have broken records for the series in terms of viewers.
In short: everyone who’s anyone is watching Game Of Thrones.
As the show keeps climbing in terms of ratings, it’s easy to forget the books that inspired the show.
Fans of the books series, A Song Of Ice And Fire, have been critical of the shows’ more recent series.
Many of the complaints are that the TV series has toned down the nuance and intrigue in favour of attention-grabbing action since going off-book.
Still, the books are the source material for what was a pretty faithful adaption, at least for about four series.
It’s also well-known that the show runners have always known the outcome of the novels in broad strokes.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, showrunner David Benioff said:
Last year we went out to Santa Fe for a week to sit down with him [Martin] and just talk through where things are going, because we don’t know if we are going to catch up and where exactly that would be. If you know the ending, then you can lay the groundwork for it. And so we want to know how everything ends. We want to be able to set things up. So we just sat down with him and literally went through every character.
With that in mind, could the original story outline point to what will happen next in the series?
The outline has been floating around the internet for a little while now. But while it isn’t new information it’s definitely interesting stuff if you haven’t picked it up so far.
The three-page document was tweeted by book store chain Waterstones and it does refer to which characters will survive and which will die. So consider this a SPOILER WARNING if you worry about that sort of thing.
Having said that, the outline is a very early idea of the general outline of the series.
Some elements, the author George RR Martin, clearly decided to leave out of his final draft.
For example, this outline suggests that the series would be a trilogy not the seven book epic that we’re expecting. Cersei Lannister, a major character, doesn’t seem to have been invented when this was written.
It’s also important to remember that the books and the TV series have grown into vastly different beasts.
Numerous seriously important book characters such as Arianna Martell, Victarion Greyjoy, and Jon Connington are not in the TV version. So despite the spoiler warning, there’s a good chance that nothing in here is a spoiler at all.
Now, let’s see what GRRM’s original plan for the series was way back in 1993!
Note: In the books, the Others are what the show calls White Walkers.
Here are the first thirteen chapters (170 pages) of the high fantasy novel I promised you, which I’m calling ‘A Game of Thrones.’ When completed, this will be the first volume in what I see as an epic trilogy with the overall title, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’
As you know, I don’t outline my novels. I find that if I know exactly where a book is going, I lose all interest in writing it. I do, however, have some strong notions as to the overall structure of the story I’m telling, and the eventual fate of many of the principle characters in the drama. Roughly speaking, there are three major conflicts set in motion in the chapters enclosed. These will form the major plot threads of the trilogy, [unclear] each other in what should be a complex but exciting (I hope [unclear] tapestry. Each of the [unclear] presents a major threat [unclear] of my imaginary realm, the Seven Kingdoms, and to the live [unclear] principal characters.
The first threat grows from the emnity between the great houses of Lannister and Stark as it plays out in a cycle of plot, counterplot, ambition, murder, and revenge, with the iron throne of the Seven Kingdoms as the ultimate prize. This will form the backbone of the first volume of the trilogy, A Game of Thrones.
While the lion of Lannister and the direwolf of Stark snarl and scrap, however, a second and greater threat takes shape across the narrow sea, where the Dothraki horselords mass their barbarian hordes for a great invasion of the Seven Kingdoms, led by the fierce and beautiful Daenerys Stormborn, the last of the Targaryen dragonlords. The Dothraki invasion will be the central story of my second volume, A Dance with Dragons.
The greatest danger of all, however, comes from the north, from the icy wastes beyond the Wall, where half-forgotten demons out of legend, the inhuman others, raise cold legions of the undead and the neverborn and prepare to ride down on the winds of winter to extinguish everything that we would call “life.” The only thing that stands between the Seven Kingdoms and an endless night is the Wall, and a handful of men in black called the Night’s Watch. Their story will be [sic] heart of my third volume, The Winds of Winter. The final battle will also draw together characters and plot threads left from the first two books and resolve all in one huge climax.
The thirteen chapters on hand should give you a notion as to my narrative strategy. All three books will feature a complex mosaic of intercutting points-of-view among various of my large and diverse cast of players. The cast will not always remain the same. Old characters will die, and new ones will be introduced. Some of the fatalities will include sympathetic viewpoint characters. I want the reader to feel that no one is ever completely safe, not even the characters who seem to be the heroes. The suspense always ratchets up a notch when you know that any character can die at any time.
The main characters:
Five central characters will make it through all three volumes, however, growing from children to adults and changing the world and themselves in the process. In a sense, my trilogy is almost a generational saga, telling the life stories of these five characters, three men and two women. The five key players are Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and three of the children of Winterfell, Arya, Bran, and the bastard Jon Snow. All of them are introduced at some length in the chapters you have to hand.
This is going to be (I hope) quite an epic. Epic in its scale, epic in its action, and epic in its length. I see all three volumes as big books, running about 700 to 800 manuscript pages, so things are just barely getting underway in the thirteen chapters I’ve sent you.
I have quite a clear notion of how the story is going to unfold in the first volume, A Game of Thrones. Things will get a lot worse for the poor Starks before they get better, I’m afraid. Lord Eddard Stark and his wife Catelyn Tully are both doomed, and will perish at the hands of their enemies. Ned will discover what happened to his friend Jon Arryn, [unclear] can act on his knowledge [unclear] Robert will have an unfortunate accident, and the throne will pass to his sullen and brutal son Joffrey, still a minor. Joffrey will not be sympathetic and Ned [what appears to say] will be accused of treason, but before he is taken he will help his wife and his daughter Arya escape back to Winterfell.
Each of the contending families will learn it has a member of dubious loyalty in its midst. Sansa Stark, wed to Joffrey Baratheon, will bear him a son, the heir to the throne, and when the crunch comes she will choose her husband and child over her parents and siblings, a choice she will later bitterly rue. Tyrion Lannister, meanwhile, will befriend both Sansa and her sister Arya, while growing more and more disenchanted with his own family.
Young Bran will come out of his coma, after a strange prophetic dream, only to discover that he will never walk again. He will turn to magic, at first in the hope of restoring his legs, but later for its own sake. When his father Eddard Stark is executed, Bran will see the shape of doom descending on all of them, but nothing he can say will stop his brother Robb from calling the banners in rebellion. All the north will be inflamed by war. Robb will win several splendid victories, and maim Joffrey Baratheon on the battlefield, but in the end he will not be able to stand against Jaime and Tyrion Lannister and their allies. Robb Stark will die in battle, and Tyrion Lannister will besiege and burn Winterfell.
Jon Snow, the bastard, will remain in the far north. He will mature into a ranger of great daring, and ultimately will succeed his uncle as the commander of the Night’s Watch. When Winterfell burns, Catelyn Stark will be forced to flee north with her son Bran and her daughter Arya. Wounded by Lannister riders, they will seek refuge at the Wall, but the men of the Night’s Watch give up their families when they take the black, and Jon and Benjen will not be able to help, to Jon’s anguish. It will lead to a bitter estrangement between Jon and Bran.
Arya will be more forgiving … until she realizes, with terror, that she has fallen in love with Jon, who is not only her half-brother but a man of the Night’s Watch, sworn to celibacy. Their passion will continue to torment Jon and Arya throughout the trilogy, until the secret of Jon’s true parentage is finally revealed in the last book.
How it was meant to end:
Abandoned by the Night’s Watch, Catelyn and her children will find their only hope of safety lies even further north, beyond the Wall, where they fall into the hands of Mance Rayder, the King-beyond-the-Wall, and get a dreadful glimpse of the inhuman others as they attack the wilding encampment. Bran’s magic, Arya’s sword Needle, and the savagery of their direwolves will help them survive, but their mother Catelyn will die at the hands of the others.
Over across the narrow sea, Daenerys Targaryen will discover that her new husband, the Dothraki Khal Drogo, has little interest in invading the Seven Kingdoms, much to her brother’s frustration. When Viserys presses his claims past the point of tact or wisdom, Khal Drogo will finally grow annoyed and kill him out of hand, eliminating the Targaryen pretender and leaving Daenerys as the last of her line. Danerys [sic] will bide her time, but she will not forget. When the moment is right, she will kill her husband to avenge her brother, and then flee with a trusted friend into the wilderness beyond Vaes Dothrak. There, hunted by Dothraki Bloodriders [unclear] of her life, she stumbles on a cache of dragon’s eggs [unclear] of a young dragon will give Daenerys the power to bend the Dothraki to her will. Then she begins to plan for her invasion of the Seven Kingdoms.
Tyrion Lannister will continue to travel, to plot, and to play the game of thrones, finally removing his nephew Joffrey in disgust at the boy king’s brutality. Jaime Lannister will follow Joffrey on the throne of the Seven Kingdoms, by the simple expedient of killing everyone ahead of him in the line of succession and blaming his brother Tyrion for the murders. Exiled, Tyrion will change sides, making common cause with the surviving Starks to bring his brother down, and falling helplessly in love with Arya Stark while he’s at it. His passion is, alas, unreciprocated, but no less intense for that, and it will lead to a deadly rivalry between Tyrion and Jon Snow.
[The next graph is blocked out.]
But that’s the second book …
I hope you will find some editors who are as excited about all of this as I am. Feel free to share this letter with anyone who wants to know how the story will go.
George RR Martin
The stuff that didn’t end up happening:
Okay, there was a lot of information there, so we’d better get to summarizing!
Here’s all the stuff that Martin chucked out as started writing the book series:
- The series was going to be only 3 books long!
- Sansa marrying Joffrey.
- Sansa and Joffrey having a baby.
- Joffrey being Robert Baratheon’s trueborn son.
- Sansa befriending the Lannisters and joining them.
- Bran’s magic being more in the vein classic fantasy wizard characters.
- Joffrey physically going into battle with Robb Stark and receiving a significant wound.
- Robb dying in battle.
- Tyrion besieging and burning Winterfell.
- Catelyn surviving and heading up to the Wall with Ayra and Bran in tow.
- A ‘bitter estrangement’ between Bran and Jon.
- Arya and Jon falling in love.
- Catelyn dying at the hands of the Others.
- Daenerys killing Khal Drogo to avenge her brother.
- Daenerys just happening across some dragon eggs while fleeing the Dothraki
- Tyrion killing Joffrey.
- Jaime ending up on the Iron Throne after blaming Tyrion for murdering his enemies.
- Tyrion falling in love with Ayra.
Safe to say, Game Of Thrones could have turned out very differently if any one of those ideas had stuck!
What can we take from these notes?
While it’s undeniable that the series evolved a lot during the writing process there are some common threads.
We can make a few guesses and ponder about the future of the series based on the information here.
Firstly, it seems reasonably likely that the idea of Jon, Bran, Ayra, Daenerys, and Tyrion surviving the series will happen.
They are five of the seven characters who appear most often in the series (the others are Catelyn and Sansa.) If anyone is going to survive all the way through, it’s probably this lot.
Sansa might be next in line for the chop
Clearly the original plan was for Sansa to end up on the side of the villains.
The fact that Martin doesn’t make clear that she’ll survive doesn’t bode particularly well for her.
Plus, watching the TV version, it does seem like the writers are setting Sansa up for a fall. Perhaps she’ll end up with outline-Catelyn’s fate and die at the hands of the White Walkers.
Jaime is probably also going to die
Yep, in this outline, Jaime is clearly set up as the major villain of the book series.
His death seems pretty likely at the resolution of the series. His plot line in this draft echoes the TV version of Cersei so she’ll probably die at some point soon.
Maybe TV Jaime will survive instead.
Jon and Daenerys is probably going to happen
Safe to say, the Jon and Ayra story is not going to happen.
So maybe Jon and Daenerys will get that instead. Because what’s an epic fantasy series with a romance?
Those hints we got in the dragon glass Cave? Those are probably going to build to something after all.
Daenerys might die
This outline seems to prove the idea that Martin’s plans for Daenerys have never been clear.
Out of all the character arcs, hers gets the least explanation. We never get Daenerys’ invasion of the Seven Kingdoms here, much less her eventually winning the throne.
It might be possible that she doesn’t make it in the end. Then again, we’re pretty tentative on this suggestion so don’t take that as wrote.
And that’s basically it. To be fair to old GRRM, he knew how to create intrigue right from the start. He’s not giving too much away.
Of course, it takes a special kind of stupid to attempt to merge book canon with TV series canon.
Adding the canon of an old-time story outline probably confuses things even further.
In short: don’t feel like any conclusions you can draw from this are necessary correct. Still, it’s fun to speculate!