Game of Thrones is back on screens this week, as Season 7 begins.
Over the years, the popular fantasy series has made a ton of changes from George RR Martin’s original A Song of Ice and Fire novels – doctoring plots, culling extra characters and bringing that extra cable TV sheen.
Sexuality is no different – and several characters have had their sexuality changed or enhanced for the HBO show.
Here are just some of the characters who have had their sexuality altered for the adaptation.
In both the TV show and the books, Daenerys is shown to be sexually interested in men.
Aside from her partly-tactical marriages to Khal Drogo and Hizdahr zo Loraq, she is also shown falling in love with sellsword Daario Naharis.
However, viewers of the TV series may not be aware that in the books, Dany is bisexual.
The character is shown several times bedding her handmaiden Irri, in explicit sex scenes which did not make it into the show.
In third book A Storm of Swords, the pair’s encounter is described in intimate detail:
“The handmaid put a hand on her breast, then bent to take a nipple in her mouth. Her other hand drifted down across the soft curve of belly, through the mound of fine silvery-gold hair, and went to work between Dany’s thighs. It was no more than a few moments until her legs twisted and her breasts heaved and her whole body shuddered. She screamed then. Or perhaps that was Drogon. Irri never said a thing, only curled back up and went back to sleep the instant the thing was done.”
On another occasion a restless Dany considers sex with her handmaiden – only to decide to stay away, as she is in love with Daario:
“That night she could not sleep but turned and twisted restlessly in her bed. She even went so far as to summon Irri, hoping her caresses might help ease her way to rest.”
The arc did not make it onto the TV show, with Irri edged out in favour of male lovers.
It’s all change for Theon Greyjoy’s Iron Islander sister – not only did she have to change her name for the TV show, she also had her sexuality changed.
In the books, Theon’s sister Asha is straight, as confirmed by writer George RR Martin.
Responding to a fan on his blog, he said: “I have a number of lesbian and bisexual women in the novels (and a couple who experiment), but Asha is not one of them.”
It was a bit of a surprise, then, when her TV counterpart Yara was revealed to be gay.
The character was shown getting intimate with a girl in a tavern.
She tells her brother: “Since it’s my last night ashore for a long while, I’m gonna go f**k the tits off this one.”
Of course, not a word of it happened in the books.
In both universes, the eventual Queen of the Seven Kingdoms’ pursues incestuous relationships with her brother Jaime and male cousin Lancel.
But in the books, her arguably most intense sexual encounter is with a woman.
While serving as Queen Regent in book four (A Feast for Crows), Cersei begins an affair with the beautiful Taena of Myr.
In one chapter, Cersei is overcome with lust at the thought of Taena:
“Taena rolled onto her side, her olive skin shining in the candlelight. Her breasts were larger than the queen’s and tipped with huge nipples, black as horn. She is younger than I am. Her breasts have not begun to sag. Cersei wondered what it would feel like to kiss another woman. Not lightly on the cheek, as was common courtesy amongst ladies of high birth, but full upon the lips. Taena’s lips were very full. She wondered what it would feel like to suckle on those breasts, to lay the Myrish woman on her back and push her legs apart and use her as a man would use her, the way Robert would use her when the drink was in him, and she was unable to bring him off with hand or mouth.”
The Queen Regent is later shown engaging in a steamy, though unsatisfactory, affair:
She twisted Taena’s other nipple too, puling until the other woman gasped. “I am the queen. I mean to claim my rights.”
“Do what you will.”
Taena’s hair was as black as Robert’s, even down between her legs, and when Cersei touched her there she found her hair al sopping wet, where Robert’s had been coarse and dry. “Please,” the Myrish woman said, “go on, my queen. Do as you will with me. I’m yours.”
But it was no good. She could not feel it, whatever Robert felt on the nights he took her. There was no pleasure in it, not for her. For Taena, yes. Her nipples were two black diamonds, her sex slick and steamy. Robert would have loved you, for an hour. The queen slid a finger into that Myrish swamp, then another, moving them in and out, but once he spent himself inside you, he would have been hard-pressed to recall your name.
She wanted to see if it would be as easy with a woman as it had always been with Robert. Ten thousand of your children perished in my palm, Your Grace, she thought, slipping a third finger into Myr. Whilst you snored, I would lick your sons of my face and fingers one by one, all those pale sticky princes. You claimed your rights, my lord, but in the darkness I would eat your heirs. Taena gave a shudder. She gasped some words in a foreign tongue, then shuddered again and arched her back and screamed. She sounds as if she is being gored, the queen thought. For a moment she let herself imagine that her fingers were a bore’s tusks, ripping the Myrish woman apart from groin to throat.
It was still no good.
It had never been any good with anyone but Jaime.
Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell
TV viewers will be very familiar with the show’s most prominent gay characters.
The pair are shown cavorting on a number of occasions while Renly is challenging for the Iron Throne
After Renly’s ghostly murder (booooo!), Loras’ sexuality becomes a even more major theme on the TV show.
He returns to King’s Landing, and is persecuted by the puritanical Faith Militant for his sexuality.
The only issue is, barely any of that actually happens in the books.
Though there are many hints that Renly and Loras are together in Martin’s novels, it is never explicitly confirmed, and there’s certainly no gratuitous sex scenes.
Loras’ persecution at the hands of the High Sparrow was also new for the TV show.
In the books, he isn’t even in the city.
Xaro Xhoan Daxos
The merchant Prince of Qarth’s plot arc in the show and books are perhaps the most divergent of any character.
The wealthy businessman encounters Daenerys on her visit to Qarth in Season 2, flirting with her openly.
He later proposes to her, offering to fund her invasion of Westeros.
Xaro ultimately betrays Dany to lead his own revolt, declaring himself King of Qarth. He is later shown bedding Dany’s handmaiden Doreah.
The character does propose to Dany in the books, but pretty much every detail is different.
First of all, he makes no attempt to flirt with the Mother of Dragons, proposing a purely tactical marriage.
She observes multiple times that he appears to be the only man with no sexual interest in her.
On one occasion, when the pair are watching scantily-clad dancers, she notes he appears to be observing the men and not the women.
Ultimately, in the books he doesn’t have any part in the plot to betray her, and the pair part on positive terms.
What stays the same?
In both the show and the books, people from the land of Dorne are shown to have a more fluid understanding of sexuality.
The show explicitly portrays Prince Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand as interested in men and women, which is pretty consistent with their book counterparts.
Game of Thrones Season 7 begins on July 16 on HBO, and July 17 on Sky One.