Fair warning to viewers and readers who aren’t up to date: There will be MAJOR SPOILERS ahead, both for HBO’s Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire books they’re based upon.
Disclaimers out of the way, this is pretty cool: Back in 1993, George R.R. Martin wrote a letter to his agent detailing how his forthcoming trilogy would play out. You read that correctly: This was originally intended as a three-part series, instead of a wildly popular ongoing epic, the sixth installment of which will unfortunately not be released this year.
Yesterday, a Reddit user saw a tweet by the U.K. bookseller Waterstones, and managed to save the images of the attached letter before the tweet was deleted. They’re spreading like wildfire now, and you can see each of them below. Among other things, the letters contain what could be seen as Martin’s mission statement—the bold philosophical choice that tormented television viewers two decades later:
“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.”
Many of the plot points are different, and some of the character motivations have shifted in subtle or overt ways. I’ve compiled list of the highlights, but as a second warning, I’ll say that future spoilers may be included in the second section here. It’s tough to know which machinations GRRM has dispensed of, and which may be executed in a future installment.
Original plans that played out differently:
*Catelyn Stark was originally meant to flee to The Wall with Bran and Arya, only to be rejected by Jon Snow due to the “no family” oath taken by members of the Night’s Watch. Rickon Stark doesn’t seem to be a character at this early planning stage. The rejection creates a bitter feud between Bran and Jon.
*Catelyn, Bran, and Arya are forced to flee north of The Wall, where Catelyn is killed by “the others.”
*In this version of events, Robb Stark maims Joffrey on the battlefield before dying in battle, rather than at the Red Wedding, and Tyrion is actually the one who lays siege to Winterfell and burns it to the ground. There’s no indication that Tyrion is a dwarf.
*Sansa Stark not only marries Joffrey, but bears him a child.
*Jon Snow becomes commander of the Night’s Watch after a great career as a ranger, and there’s no mention of him joining Mance Rayder as a spy, or ever deviating from the Watch.
*Tyrion eventually removes Joffrey from the Iron Throne, but Jaime becomes the new king when he kills everyone else in the line of succession and blames Tyrion, who is then exiled and flees north, not south, to join forces with the Starks.
*Daenerys kills Khal Drogo in revenge for the murder of her brother Viserys, and flees from the Dothraki into the wilderness before the dragons allow her to “bend the Dothraki to her will.”
Possible Spoilers for the Future:
(Seriously, this is really where you might want to stop reading.)
*GRRM says that five characters will survive to the end of the series: Bran, Jon Snow, Arya, Daenerys, and Tyrion. If he stays true to form, this could mean that Sansa Stark and Jaime Lannister are bound for death. It could also firm up what many of us have long suspected, which is that Jon did not die at the end of the last book.
*Jon Snow and Arya will fall in love, and be “tormented by their passion” until “the secret of Jon’s true parentage is finally revealed in the last book.” More ammo for this theory, although that would still make them cousins.
*Tyrion falls in love with Arya, but his love is unrequited, leading to a rivalry with Jon Snow. (This now seems unlikely.)
That just about covers it. Check out the full letters below: