This article is a listing of characters who were either renamed between the books and TV series, have particularly different appearances in the TV series compared to the novels, or who have notably different ages.
Even George R.R. Martin himself considered such "cosmetic" differences to usually be insignificant: for example, while Syrio Forel is bald in the novels, the TV version didn't bother to make the live-action actor play the role bald - and Martin directly said he didn't really take issue with this. Another major example is that the book character named "Asha Greyjoy" was renamed "Yara Greyjoy" in the TV series, and while book-Asha has black hair, TV-Yara has brown hair - yet despite these changes to name and hair color, her portrayal was still quite close to the behavior and story actions of her book counterpart.
Many of the younger cast members were aged-up in the TV version, primarily due to younger characters having sex in the medieval world of Westeros at ages as young as 16 or even 13, which would be impossible to present in the TV universe due to various laws restricting portrayal of this. Moreover, several very young children had their age increased simply so they could give a better performance - i.e. Joffrey is several years older than his book counterpart, explicitly because a more experienced actor was needed to shoulder such an important role.
In short, this article is about relatively minor cosmetic changes to characters: renamings which didn't drastically change their storylines, minor differences in physical appearance (i.e. hair color), and character age (usually for the child actors).
A few characters were renamed between the books at TV series, though otherwise, their behavior and actions were not significantly altered. The biggest example of this so far is "Yara Greyjoy", who is actually named Asha Greyjoy in the books. This was done to prevent confusion with Osha the wildling . Ironically, as the daughter of a Great House and one of Balon Greyjoy's only two surviving children, Asha Greyjoy is actually a much more prominent character than Osha the wildling; Asha Greyjoy is even a POV character in several chapters. Thus it is curious why they changed Asha's name and not the other way around. It is probably because Osha was already introduced in Season 1 and the similarity with Asha Greyjoy's name simply wasn't realized until production on Season 2 began.
"Robin Arryn" is actually named "Robert Arryn" in the books. He was named after King Robert Baratheon, but it was apparently felt that having too many characters named "Robert" would be confusing. The name "Robin" was picked because it allows him to keep his nickname of "Sweetrobin" from the books. In either case, the character is most often referred to by his nickname "Sweetrobin" anyway. Otherwise, the character is unchanged from the books.
In the books, after Khal Drogo dies, Daenerys's three bloodriders are Aggo (who is skilled with a bow), Jhogo (who is skilled with a whip), and Rakharo (who is skilled with a sword). Jhogo is very young, while Rakharo is older and has a moustache. In the TV series, her three bloodriders are Aggo, Rakharo, and "Kovarro" - Jhogo was apparently renamed to avoid confusion with Jhaqo, one of Drogo's kos who after Drogo is incapacitated declares himself Khal and takes a portion of the khalassar as his own. Jhaqo thus becomes a bitter enemy to Daenerys, so Jhogo was renamed to "Kovarro" to keep his name distinct.
More importantly, the TV series seems to have basically switched the descriptions of Rakharo and Jhogo/Kovarro. In the TV series, it is Rakharo who shows proficiency with a whip, and is relatively young, like Jhogo/Kovarro in the books. Meanwhile, Jhogo/Kovarro in the TV series is now (slightly) older than TV-Rakharo, and it is Kovarro who has a moustache. Thus the TV series character "Rakharo" corresponds to the book version of "Jhago" (Kovarro), while "Kovarro" corresponds to the book-version of Rakharo. Besides this name switch, the two characters are not particularly different from their characterization in the books.
However, neither Rakharo nor Jhago are killed in the aftermath of Khal Drogo's death, as Rakharo is in the TV series. Nor is this a condensation of a different death scene, as both characters remain alive and well throughout the second book.
In Season 3, several characters from Slaver's Bay were renamed slightly to avoid confusion. In the books, "Grazdan" is a very common first name in Slaver's Bay, due to the fact that the founder of the old Ghiscari Empire over five thousand years ago was Grazdan the Great. Thus there are a multitude of characters with the first name "Grazdan" but who have different surnames. To avoid confusion, the TV series simply gave them different first names: "Grazdan mo Ullhor" became "Greizhen mo Ullhor", "Grazdan mo Eraz" became "Razdal mo Eraz", etc.
In the Mutiny at Craster's Keep, the character who kills Craster is named Dirk in the books, not Karl, though "Clubfoot Karl" is one of his accomplices. The two characters were apparently just condensed into "Karl" in the TV series.
Another change in Seasons 2 and 3 is that in the books, Rickard Karstark has three sons: Harrion, Torrhen, and Eddard. Torrhen and Eddard were killed by Jaime Lannister in the Battle of the Whispering Wood (at the end of Season 1). Possibly worried that the audience would forget that Jaime killed two fairly minor characters in the past season, Season 2 made a small change in which Jaime kills Torrhen during a failed escape attempt (Jaime does kill several men in escape attempts in the books, but not Torrhen). However, in Season 3 it is stated that the other son of Rickard, whom Jaime killed in battle, was Harrion - who did not die in the books. The TV producers were apparently worried about introducing multiple characters named "Eddard" - similar to how they changed Robert Arryn's name to Robin (even though George R.R. Martin's explicit point was that it is improbable that "Robert Baratheon" is the only person named "Robert" in the entire continent). Thus the specific family tree of House Karstark in the TV series remains unclear: in the books Torrhen and Eddard died, but in the TV series two sons named Harrion and Torrhen died. It isn't known if "Eddard Karstark" will ever exist in the TV series, or if they will simply rename the character to avoid confusion. Even so, it isn't clear if "Harrion Karstark" in the TV series is indeed the eldest son of Rickard (as in the books), or if a later season will introduce a third Karstark son with a different invented name for the TV series, which will also establish that this renamed third son is actually the eldest son.
Renamed characters vs changed characters
"Renamed characters" in this article primarily refers to characters whose names were changed but are otherwise largely the same (i.e. Yara Greyjoy).
Some characters were so drastically changed between books and TV series, however, that they were renamed - and thus are not "the same character, renamed", but "a new character altogether, taking the place of another". One of the largest examples of this would be Talisa Maegyr, taking the place of Jeyne Westerling in the novels, but that is discussed on other articles.
This can be a grey area, as some characters are "heavy condensations" of characters from the novels, yet in some cases can still be quite similar to them: Locke is the renamed, loosely adapted TV version of Vargo Hoat from the novels - but quite similar to his book counterpart.
Conversely, some characters were quite drastically changed in the TV series (i.e. Ellaria Sand) but were not renamed to reflect this, and are thus beyond the scope of this article.
Changes in appearance
In many ways, living actors will never make a perfectly exact, one-for-one match with the physical description of characters in a book series. Most of the actors in the TV series generally match the physical description of the characters they portray.
Certain characters, however, appear quite differently than they do in the books. For example, in the books, Syrio Forel is actually bald, but actor Miltos Yerolemou, who plays him in the TV series, has a full head of tall, frizzy hair. In the Blu-ray audio commentary track, author George R.R. Martin himself said that he didn't care about such minor differences, being more concerned with the satisfying performance of the actor. Thus, such "cosmetic" differences are not very important.
Along these lines, sometimes a character who is right handed will end up being played by a left-handed actor (and vice versa) based on the strength of their performance. In the books, Davos Seaworth is right-handed, but actor Liam Cunningham is left handed, and plays Davos this way. This is significant, because Davos had the tips of the fingers on his non-dominant hand cut off as punishment for smuggling, which was his left hand in the books, but (due to Cunningham being left-handed) is changed to his right hand in the TV series. In the novels, Arya Stark is left-handed, and actress Maisie Williams is right-handed; however, Williams consciously plays Arya as left-handed to be true to the books, including learning how to fight with a sword in her left hand.
Similarly, in the books, members of House Targaryen have a unique set of features inherited in each generation, possessing silver (platinum-blonde) hair and purple irises. The TV series actually tried having the actors use purpose contact lenses early in production, but quickly abandoned their use, partially do to the logistics of matching up the contact lenses in every location shot, and because they felt that "actors act with their eyes" and the colored contacts affected the emotion of their performances.
Another small change is that in the books, "Asha Greyjoy" is described as having short black hair, a lean build, and a sharp beak of a nose. In the TV series, "Yara Greyjoy" has brown hair. Again, other than these minor naming and cosmetic differences, Gemma Whelan's portrayal is actually quite faithful to Asha Greyjoy's behavior and actions in the books.
In the books, Daario Naharis is described as having dyed blue long curly hair and a matching dyed blue beard with three prongs, though he dyed his mustachios gold. He also has a gold tooth. His loud physical appearance is typical of Tyroshi sellswords, who have a reputation for being flashy and flamboyant. The TV series' production team apparently thought that Daario's flamboyant appearance and three-pronged blue beard would have appeared somewhat silly on-screen, so they opted to make him clean-shaved, long-haired, and ruggedly handsome, to try to still capture the spirit that Daario is cocky and self-assured. Otherwise, the portrayal closely matches Daario's behavior and actions in the books.
Changes in character age
One of the initial changes between the books and TV series is that several of the younger characters have been aged-up. This was inescapable in a modern television production. As Westeros is a medieval society, its people have no concept of "adolescence". Girls become "a woman" and fit to marry as soon as they menstruate, and boys instantly become "a man grown" when they reach 16 years old. Several of the younger characters are depicting having sex at age 16 or earlier in the books. Because the TV series is primarily filmed in Northern Ireland, it is subject to the United Kingdom's decency laws for broadcasting, and the legal age of consent in the UK is 16 years old.
Much of the decision to age-up the younger characters hinged on Daenerys Targaryen specifically. To begin with, while some of the other teenaged characters have sex later in the books (i.e. Robb Stark has sex at age 16 then marries Jeyne Westerling), Daenerys explicitly has a sex scene on her wedding night in the very first episode. This instantly grabbed the attention of UK censors, so Daenerys had to be aged-up. However, Daenerys's age is inherently linked to the timeline of the series, because her mother was pregnant with her when Robert's Rebellion ended and her father the Mad King died. The TV series increased Daenerys's age by two years to be fifteen years old in Season 1, but this meant that Robert's Rebellion accordingly had to be pushed back two years. This affected the age of other children who were born to characters returning from the war, i.e. Robb Stark and Jon Snow were newborn infants immediately after the war ended. Thus, to keep the chronology and character relationships intact, most of the child characters were aged-up, usually by roughly two years.
Keeping in mind that in medieval times the age of maturity was lower than it is today, this younger age in the books isn't quite as unusual as it sounds. Robb Stark is "on the cusp of adulthood" when the story begins, which in the fantasy world of the books is defined as "almost 16", but to a modern TV viewing audience is defined as "almost 18", etc. So in many cases, this simply makes it more appropriate to a modern audience's sensibilities, due to age differences in a medieval society. Still, this can at times lead to some discrepancies with some of the younger characters: when Joffrey Baratheon torments Sansa Stark in Season 2, he is portrayed as being about 15 years old, while in the second book, he is 13 years old. Thus, Joffrey's torment of Sansa doesn't have quite the same inherent sexual tension to it in the books, because they're both two years younger.
Another way that character ages are affected by UK decency laws is that their rules are very specific. According to the rules for underage nudity in UK broadcasts, what matters is how old the character being portrayed is, regardless of the actor's actual age in real-life. In other countries with different decency laws for cinema, a 22 year old can portray a 15 year old character in a nude scene, albeit unconvincingly. Such is not the case in the UK. Sansa Stark is only 11 years old in the first book, making her 12 years old during the second book, and because Sansa has been aged-up in the TV series, this makes her 14 years old in Season 2. In episode 4 of Season 2, "Garden of Bones", King Joffrey Baratheon has his guards beat and strip Sansa in front of the entire court. The TV series scene, however, had to be drastically toned down: in the book, her gown is quickly ripped off down to the waist, and she is left covering her breasts with her hands as Ser Meryn continues to pound away at her bare flesh with his sword. Even though actress Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, had actually turned 16 a few months before this scene was filmed, "Sansa Stark" - the character being portrayed - was still only 14 years old, and thus UK decency laws restricting depicting of under-aged nudity still applied. Tyrion's line in the episode ordering "Someone get the girl something to cover herself with!", which is from the book, thus seems somewhat out of place because she isn't very exposed in the TV version, but this is because it had to be toned down.
An unrelated change was the decision to increase the age of major character Margaery Tyrell, who is slightly older in the TV series than she is in the books. At the time of her marriage to Renly, in the books Margaery is 16 years old (making her the same age as Robb Stark). As with most teenage characters, Margaery's age has been increased in the TV series, but viewers must again keep in mind that sixteen was the age of adulthood in medieval societies: Margaery is treated as a young adult, one of marrying age. Even so, Margaery is still slightly older than Robb Stark in the TV series, as Natalie Dormer is four years older than Richard Madden (who plays Robb). The TV series producers enjoyed Dormer's audition so much that they decided to overlook this minor difference, which does not significantly change her character.
Overall, while some characters have had their ages slightly changed for the sensibilities of modern audiences, or because of a preference for a specific actor whose age was different from their character's by a few years, there has been no particularly significant change in the age of any established characters.
The one major exception is Missandei, who is drastically older in the TV series: while actress Nathalie Emmanuel was 23 years old when she was cast in the role, in the books Missandei is only 10 years old when she is introduced, the same age as Arya Stark at the time. In spite of her age, she is incredibly intelligent well beyond her years and serves as a key advisor and aide to Daenerys. Thus the growing attracting between Missandei and Grey Worm doesn't occur in the books, because she is just a child.
- , "Asha Renamed and Cast?", July 7th, 2011.
- Magic and Storytelling with George R.R. Martin, podcast interview conducted by Maureen Ryan (TV reviewer for the Chicago Tribute and Huffington Post) with GRRM at Worldcon 2012. GRRM's comments on character ages, explaining how Daenerys' sex scene in the pilot was the focal point of the age changes, are from 1:00:30 - 1:03:00
- Magic and Storytelling with George R.R. Martin, podcast interview conducted by Maureen Ryan (TV reviewer for the Chicago Tribute and Huffington Post) with GRRM at Worldcon 2012. GRRM's comments on adolescence being a modern concept are from 1:03:00 - 1:05:00.
- Magic and Storytelling with George R.R. Martin, podcast interview conducted by Maureen Ryan (TV reviewer for the Chicago Tribute and Huffington Post) with GRRM at Worldcon 2012. Comment on Margaery's age change at 1:00:00.