Even George R.R. Martin doesn’t know how Game of Thrones ends, and he created the characters in the first place. The author’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire serves as the basis for the hit HBO show, and Martin famously said years ago that there was no way the show would finish before he completed his books. Well, the final season of Game of Thrones debuts in April, and there are still two books in A Song of Ice and Fire yet to be published. In fact, it’s been since 2011 that Martin published a new book in the series, which was when A Dance with Dragons was released.
When it became clear that the show was going to be concluding before Martin finished his books, Martin convened with showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and told them the broad outline of his plans for the rest of the series. That included the major Hodor reveal from Season 6, and the true identity of Jon Snow’s parents. It also included how Martin intended to conclude the saga, but the show has since made major deviations from the source material, and in an interview with EW, Martin admits he hasn’t even read the scripts:
“I haven’t read the [final-season] scripts and haven’t been able to visit the set because I’ve been working on Winds [of Winter],” Martin reveals. “I know some of the things. But there’s a lot of minor-character [arcs] they’ll be coming up with on their own. And, of course, they passed me several years ago. There may be important discrepancies.”
However, in the interest of keeping Martin’s life’s work somewhat relevant, Benioff and Weiss tell EW they have decided not to reveal how the show’s ending differs from how Martin plans to conclude his book series:
“[The concern] used to be that the books would spoil the show for people — and luckily it did not for the most part,” Benioff says. “Now that the show is ahead of the books, it seems the show could ruin the books for people. So one thing we’ve talked to George about is that we’re not going to tell people what the differences are, so when those books come out people can experience them fresh.”
That’s the least Benioff and Weiss can do. Martin admits he has “mixed feelings” about the show ending before his books:
“It’s been an incredible ride. And almost all of it has been great. Obviously, I wished I finished these books sooner so the show hadn’t gotten ahead of me. I never anticipated that.”
Martin assumed Benioff and Weiss would be adapting all of the books, but since making Game of Thrones is a 12-month-a-year job the encompasses writing, pre-production, production, post-production, then writing again, Benioff and Weiss could only devote so much of their lives to this TV series before bringing it to an end. So they began condensing characters and plot-lines. Moreover, it’s not like the show’s actors wanted to keep making this show for 15 or 20 years just to wait for Martin to complete his books.
I have a feeling that once Martin realized the show was going to surpass the books, he continued writing Winds of Winter but maybe didn’t want to publish anything until he saw how the show would end, so he could make adjustments as he sees fit to ensure the books are distinct. Whether that means he’s changing his own planned ending for the sake of surprising audiences is unclear, but given the long gaps in between books, we’re still no doubt a long ways off from the final book.
Indeed, to put this all into perspective, the most recent development in the books is Jon Snow’s death—which occurred on the show back at the end of Season 5 in 2015