It's the little moments of character-building and insight that make George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones such a spellbinding book. And there's no way that HBO can make every incident fit into a ten-episode miniseries. But here's hoping.
With its huge cast of characters and its tangle of complicated intrigues, the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire is addictive reading — but it'll also be challenging to convert into a television series. We're sure the television version will cover the major incidents — but here are 10 little moments from the book we hope make it onto television.
Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't read the book...
1) The bannermen try to test Robb.
After Catelyn Stark goes South and leaves her son Robb in charge in Winterfell, some of his bannermen start trying to test his authority. One of them, Greatjon Umber, actually insults Robb, threatens to leave and draws his sword. But then Robb's direwolf, Grey Wind, attacks Greatjon and bites off two of his fingers. After that, Greatjon is Robb's most fervent supporter and the first person to proclaim Robb the King in the North.
2) Arya catches pigeons and trades them for soup
This is really the first time Arya has to be completely self-reliant, after she's run away. And it's the beginning of her male persona, Arry, which saves her life. She uses all the skills she's learned from Syrio, catching cats in the palace, to catch the pigeons. And this is one of the first inklings we get of how much the common people suffer from the nobles and their Game of Thrones.
3) All of the great Jon/Tyrion moments
The pairing of Jon Snow, the bastard, and Tyrion Lannister, the Imp, is one of the great surprises of the first book. They share so many great exchanges, like when Jon says "I don't know who my mother was," and Tyrion replies, "Some woman, no doubt. Most of them are." And when Tyrion gives Jon advice on how to deal with being an outcast with no status: "Never forget who you are, for surely the world won't. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness."
4) The whole Petyr/Cate/Brandon love triangle
Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish turns out to be a very untrustworthy ally for Ned Stark — as Petyr warns himself in one of his moments of wry humor. But you won't get the full backstory of why Petyr has no great love for Eddard unless you know all about Petyr's doomed love for Ned's wife Catelyn, which led him to challenge Ned's brother Brandon for her hand.
5) Viserys tormenting his sister
When you're reading the book, Daenerys' humiliations at the hands of her idiot brother Viserys feel endless and horrible, and you come to loathe the young prince in exile. But really, there are just a few incidents where Viserys abuses his sister, including a couple of nasty violent outbursts and his repeated warnings not to "wake the dragon." It would be easy to boil this stuff down to just one or two scenes — but really, we need to see Viserys' full arrogance and mistreatment of Daenerys, so we can celebrate when she finally takes him down a peg or two.
6) Bran and Rickon visit the graves of the Starks
Before the people at Winterfell even hear the news that Ned has been executed, there are plenty of portents, including Bran's dreams and the behavior of the direwolves. It all comes to a head when Bran and Rickon go down to the tombs with Osha and Maester Luwin, and the Maester shows them the statues of the past Starks, from Jon Stark all the way down to Lord Rickard. It's a spooky, portentous moment that also teaches us just how rich the heritage of House Stark is.
7) Tyrion and the Clansmen
Just when you think that Tyrion can't have any more bizarre/hilarious team-ups after Jon Snow and Bronn the sellsword, he joins forces with a group of brutal mountain clansmen, including Shagga, Chella and Ulf. They're huge brutes with a thirst for battle. Shagga loves goats, looks like Casterly Rock with hair, and is constantly threatening to cut off Tyrion's manhood and feed it to the goats. Timett son of Timett stabbed out his own eye when he reached adulthood. They're comically, insanely barbaric, and a great foil for Tyrion's sense of irony. Let's hope we get lots and lots of Shagga threatening violence to the manhood of his foes.
8) Donal Noye schools Jon Snow
Our sympathies are entirely with "Lord Snow" as he thrashes the bullies and "rapers" among the trainees of the Night's Watch in the training yard. Until he gets taken aside by the Lord Armorer of the Night's Watch, who teaches him an important lesson:
Four that you've humiliated in the yard. Four who are probably afraid of you. I've watched you fight. It's not training with you. Put a good edge on your sword, and they'd be dead meat; you know it, I know it, they know it. You leave them nothing. You shame them. Does that make you proud? ... Now think on this, boy. None of these others have ever had a master-at-arms until Ser Alliser. Their fathers were farmers and wagonmen and poachers, smiths and miners and oars on a trading galley. What they know of fighting they learned between decks, in the alleys of Oldtown and Lannisport, in wayside brothels and taverns on the kingsroad. They may have clacked a few sticks together before they came here, but I promise you, not one in twenty was ever rich enough to own a real sword. So how do you like the taste of your victories now, Lord Snow?
And in that moment, Jon starts to grow up and become a real member of the Watch.
9) Ned is too honorable for his own good.
It's hard to believe how many chances Eddard Stark is offered to do the smart thing rather than the right thing, and he turns them all down. His last days are full of honorable mistakes — he warns Cersei rather than catching her by surprise. And then he turns down Renly's 100 swords, and the chance to strike before the Lannisters can prepare. He also turns down Littlefinger's offer of an alliance to rule through Prince Joffrey. He rejects the path of cunning and strategy not once, but several times, before he finally dooms himself. Let's hope we get to see the full progress of Ned's self-destruction.
10) Sansa's loss of innocence
Another character who learns a harsh lesson in Game of Thrones is Ned's daughter Sansa, who believes in her fairytale romance with Prince Joffrey, in spite of many signs that Joffrey is a foolish bully. It costs Sansa her wolf, Lady, early on. But still, Sansa keeps believing in Joffrey long after she should know better — even after her own father is accused of being a traitor. It's heartbreaking how easily Cersei is able to play Sansa, over and over again. She keeps protesting her love for Joffrey and trying to cling to the shreds of her romantic dream, as they come apart in her hands. It just makes things all the worse when Joffrey finally orders his men to beat her.
It's these little motifs in Martin's saga that make it such a consuming read — and even though some events will inevitably have to be compressed and combined for television, let's hope these terrific gracenotes still come through.
Thanks to Kelly Faircloth, Adam Whitehead and Michael Ann Dobbs. Big props also to ToweroftheHand for gathering so much info.