George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, as it has grown from a book series to one of HBO’s biggest hits and even a video game series, has become known for its major plot twists and memorable cliffhangers. But once upon a time, the lives of the Starks and Lannisters could have played out quite differently.
In a tweet that has since been taken down, Harper Collins UK posted Martin’s original pitch letter for his book series, and specifically the first entry, A Game of Thrones. While fans shouldn’t expect the sixth entry in his series to arrive this year, a sixth book wasn’t even part of Martin’s original plan for the series. The original pitch letter, which can still be seen at Fire and Ice fansite Winter Is Coming, promised a trilogy of book.
The structure of what would become Martin’s current iteration of the story is in place, with the rivalry between the Lannisters and Starks, Danaerys Targaryen’s Dothraki army, and the others from beyond the Wall noted as the trilogy’s three main arcs.
Spoilers for the book and HBO series follow.
Martin also promised the story would be told through many differing points of view, but that in the series’ promised bloodshed, some of those characters would not be safe from death. And unfortunately, Ned Stark’s end was planned from the beginning, as Martin’s details promise an end for the head of the Stark family that plays out almost exactly as it does in the book and TV series. Catelyn’s death differs greatly from when she meets her end at the Red Wedding. Instead, Catelyn was to die at the hands of the Others in the north beyond the Wall.
Martin states that five central characters would survive throughout the trilogy—Tyrion Lannister, Dany, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, and Bran Stark. But as Martin still has yet to end his book series, the fates of these five could change for the worse by the time he wraps up his epic.
And while several of the Stark plot points would go on to play out similarly as Martin originally pitched them, the brother-sister bond between Jon and Arya was meant to take a much stranger turn. Jon would originally fall in love with Arya, as would Tyrion, though his feelings would not be reciprocated. It’s unclear what age Tyrion, Jon, and Arya would have been in this original vision, but after seeing the age differences on screen among the actors in Game of Thrones, that might be too bizarre a plot twist to handle for most.
Dany’s plotline also begins on a much different note in Martin’s original pitch, as she rises to the top of the Dothraki army after killing her husband Khal Drogo. She does so to avenge her brother’s death, and after successfully killing Drogo, she flees the Dothraki camp, only to stumble onto dragon eggs that would allow her to command an army.
The full letter, which includes a last paragraph that is blacked out, is dated in 1993, and as the first book arrived in 1996, Martin clearly took the time in between to shift some of these storylines. But most of the main tennents of the series were there from the start, including some specific details, like the name of Arya’s sword, that suggest Martin’s proclamation that he does not like to outline his stories is a bit of modesty.
That three-year wait, however, likely helped Martin’s editors prep for the long wait in between novels that has become the standard.
The fifth season of Game of Thrones will at least arrive much sooner than the next book, as it is set to premiere on HBO on April 12.