'Game of Thrones': How Dorne Story Completely Diverges From the Books

The Sand Snakes struck back in the season six premiere, and here's why book readers were stunned.
Courtesy of Macall B. Polay/HBO

"Weak men will never rule Dorne again."

These cutting words, dripping with venom, were the last Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig) ever heard. It's the promise of Dorne's latest power player, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), former lover of the late Red Viper, and sworn enemy to House Lannister. There's often talk about how "The North remembers," but the memories in the southernmost lands of Westeros are rather long as well.

Ellaria and her Sand Snakes first made their move against the Lannisters in the season five finale of Game of Thrones, assassinating Myrcella Baratheon (Nell Tiger Free) with a poisonous kiss. Next, they destroyed the existing Dornish power structure in the season six premiere, killing Doran, his son Trystane (Toby Sebastian), and bodyguard Areo Hotah (DeObia Oparei) in one cunning and calculated act of betrayal. 

It was a shocking moment for every viewer, but especially those with intimate knowledge of the books, as the development was a major departure from the source material. Then again, the Dorne of Game of Thrones and the Dorne of A Song of Ice and Fire never quite saw eye to eye. 

With the storyline definitively moving in its own unpredictable direction this season, here's a quick look at how the Dorne plot plays out in the books versus on the show.

1. Myrcella Baratheon

In both the show and the books, Myrcella moves to Dorne and becomes betrothed to Prince Trystane. In the books, however, she's not the object of a Sand Snake assassination plot. Quite the contrary; several power players in Dorne want to make Myrcella the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, putting her on the Iron Throne ahead of her younger brother Tommen. The plot goes awry and a scuffle occurs, severely disfiguring Myrcella in the process. Significant cosmetic injury aside, Myrcella survives the attack and is sent back home to King's Landing, where she'll presumably appear in George R.R. Martin's next book. On the show, she's already at King's Landing, albeit as a corpse covered in a gold shroud.

2. Ellaria Sand

The Red Viper's venomous paramour leads the charge against Myrcella, Doran and all her other enemies on the show, but in the books, she lacks the same vendetta. Once all the people directly involved in the deaths of Oberyn and Elia Martell are dead (rest in pieces Tywin, Gregor and a few other folks who never made it onto the show), Ellaria wishes to end the feud against the Lannisters. Instead, it's Prince Doran's daughter Arianne Martell who spearheads the rebellious acts against the crown, despite her father's warnings to the contrary. The Ellaria of the show has seemingly absorbed Arianne's role in the books, taking things several steps forward by killing Doran and grabbing the Dornish wheel for herself.

3. Prince Doran

Again, he's not dead in the books, despite his shocking assassination on the show. What's more, the Doran of the books absolutely loathes House Lannister and has been scheming against them for years; he merely plays the polite political game so as to mask his machinations. Some of his methods yield quick dividends, like convincing King's Landing to send along Gregor Clegane's severed head. (On the show, Clegane's head seemingly remains in place; in the books, no one knows whose head Robert Strong possesses.) But Doran's biggest scheme involves aligning House Martell with House Targaryen, in a bid to restore the dragons as the rightful source of power in Westeros.

4. The Sons of Dorne

The late Trystane exists both in the show and books, but as was the case with the Skywalkers, "there is another." In the books, Prince Doran sends his other son, Quentyn, on a journey across the world to find and marry Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). It's a botched attempt, due to Dany's interest in other men (see: Daario) and Quentyn's own lack of charisma, not to mention Dany's impromptu escape from Meereen after an assassination attempt. Quentyn tries to stop the Sons of the Harpy's uprising by releasing Dany's two imprisoned dragons, but instead receives a fiery death as a reward for his bravery. The way Trystane dies on the show — a swift spear through the face — somewhat mirrors the "shaggy dog" nature of Quentyn's fatal arc. As for the dragons? Previews for season six's second episode, "Home," suggest we'll see Tyrion attempting Quentyn's "Dragon Tamer" trick …

5. Areo Hotah

At last, there's the axman. Prince Doran's hulking bodyguard, a man of few words both onscreen and on the page, suffers a swift death on the show thanks to a Sand Snake's well-placed dagger. Areo is not only still alive in the novels, he's actually a point-of-view character; readers experience much of the Dornish action through his solemn eyes. Now, the view into Dorne belongs to Ellaria and her Sand Snakes, with their overall goals — and their role in the show — completely unknown.

What's your take on the story in Dorne? Keep checking THR's Game of Thrones coverage for news, interviews, analysis and more.

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