Features and Columns · TV

The Original Game of Thrones Plot Was a Little Bonkers

By  · Published on February 5th, 2015


In 1993, George R.R. Martin wrote a three-page letter to his publisher outlining his plan for A Game of Thrones, the first book in a proposed trilogy to be known as A Song of Ice and Fire. Today, we know that this was all expanded, quite vastly, into what will become at least 7 books and 7 seasons of a massively popular television show called Game of Thrones. What’s interesting, however, isn’t just the relic of Martin’s letter – which was preserved and published by book retailer Waterstones only to be later deleted – it’s all the differences in that original story, including one fan theory brought to life.

If you don’t want to know any more about this, here would be a good place to stop reading.

Also, this is about to get super nerdy.

The letters live on in various corners of the Internet, giving us great insight into Martin’s earliest intentions. The early premise remains the same, with Ned Stark meeting his fate in almost exactly the same manner (although he is able to smuggle Catelyn and Arya out of King’s Landing together before his death). This ignites war between the Starks and Lannisters, one that eventually sees Robb Stark and Joffrey meet on the battlefield. The way it’s described, it almost seems like a heroic moment for Joffrey, who then goes on to actually marry Sansa Stark and have a son with her. That’s right, a little Joffrey/Sansa baby.

The Lannisters end up in a complete state of anarchy, with Jaime Lannister doing a lot of killing (including knocking of Tywin) in his own quest to take the throne. He also exiles Tyrion, who takes up ranks with the Starks.

This is where things really start to go off the rails. Following Ned’s death, Catelyn, Arya and Bran (who they pickup on the way) head to The Wall to meet up with Jon Snow. It is at The Wall where Jon Snow and Arya fall in love, but they never really do anything about it as Jon is a sworn man of The Night’s Watch. That is, as Martin describes, until Jon’s true parentage is revealed. This all but proves a very popular fan theory about Jon Snow’s parents, which is something that could still very much come into play in the final version of Game of Thrones. Also worth noting is the mention that Tyrion too falls in love with Arya, although his love is not reciprocated. It creates what is certainly Westeros’ creepiest love triangle. I don’t even want to consider the fan fiction potential here.

Cat, Arya and Bran are ultimately forced to leave The Wall and head further north, as The Night’s Watch isn’t allowed to help out their family. The ultimately meet Mance Rayder and Catelyn is killed by a White Walker.

In the final plot point before the letters are blacked out and redacted (it’s a cruel world!), Martin describes the journey of Daenerys, who kills her husband Khal Drogo as revenge for the death of her brother before returning to Westeros much sooner than expected with an army of Dothraki.

By far the most interesting thing is on the first page of the letters, where Martin describes his vision for “The Winds of Winter,” which was at the time slated to be the third book. In his description, this third book would focus heavily on The Wall and the battle between the Others and The Night’s Watch. Their story is called “the heart” of the final volume, all culminating with a massive battle that brings all of the major storylines together “in one huge climax.”

To assume that it will all end with one huge climax at The Wall still feels pretty safe, given the stories that have been presented thus far. Martin’s five existing books play hard in that direction and in season four the show began hedging in that direction as well, especially with some of the off-book material (remember the Others and the baby?). Whether or not Jon Snow’s parentage comes into play will remain a mystery until it becomes relevant in the show, which is now slated to end before the books are all published.

What is most interesting about this original plot is how the story has grown since. There is no mention of Stannis Baratheon, who now feels like a vital character. There are few mentions of any of the free cities, including the now pivotal Bravos. We also don’t see much about religion whatsoever, which has become a major thread in Martin’s books. It’s interesting to see where Martin started and to consider how far this story has come. Do these letters mean that, as he states in 1993, the likes of Daenerys, Arya, Jon, Bran and Tyrion will all survive to the end? It could. Martin has long referenced these characters as his “children,” or the ones he’s least likely to kill off.

In the end, these letters might ultimately give us nothing. The story has been so drastically expanded since 1993 that it’s hard to imagine that it will turn out the same as the original trilogy was planned. But it is interesting. And it’s fun to consider the strangeness of the story Martin describes in these letters. He also accomplishes a lot of similar things – for example, Catelyn’s death and Bran going very far north of The Wall, Tyrion’s defection from House Lannister, even Jon Snow’s becoming a leader among The Night’s Watch – but in different manners. The DNA of the story is there. So perhaps there is something to it. As with any great Game of Thrones fan theory, we can file this safely under: Probably not, but maybe.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)