‘Game of Thrones’ Left Out This Vital Book Character

The Big Picture

  • Lady Stoneheart’s removal from the show is one of the most disappointing decisions made by the creators, as her character adds an exciting and unique element to the story.
  • The showrunners avoided including Lady Stoneheart to preserve the impact of Jon Snow’s resurrection and to maintain the mystery surrounding Jamie and Brienne’s fate, as established in the books.
  • Lady Stoneheart could have served as a crucial intervention to Arya’s pursuit of revenge, allowing her to witness the consequences of obsessive vengeance and potentially change her path.

Given the sheer vastness of the source it was adapted from, there is no way Game of Thrones could depict every written story and character in the show. The author of the book, George R. R. Martin has said as much, claiming that it would require at least 13 seasons if the series were to remain a faithful adaptation. Indeed, it was inevitable that certain elements of the story would get sacrificed to appeal to the new medium. And still, none of these cutoffs sting as much as the decision to remove Lady Stoneheart from the show. The very introduction of this character has inspired one of the most powerful moments in the books, and given the uniqueness of her very existence, she remains one of the most fascinating figures in all of Westeros.

Who Is Lady Stoneheart?

Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark crying and holding Frey's wife as hostage in Game of Thrones Rains of Castamere, the red wedding episode
Image via HBO

In the A Song of Ice and Fire books, after her husband was beheaded by the Lannisters, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) acts as the counselor to Rob (Richard Madden) in his campaign against them. To help tip the balance in their favor, Catelyn suggests Rob marries one of Walder Frey’s (David John Bradley) daughters since Freys could give them an easy and direct access to necessary warring positions. Rob initially agrees but later falls in love with another woman, and offers his uncle Edmure (Tobias Menzies) in his stead. Walder Frey accepts and throws a grand wedding feast in his hall, inviting all the Starks’ and Tully’s bannermen. There’s food, wine, laughter and music. But suddenly, the jolly music dies and gives way to a more sorrowful tune. Catelyn recognizes it instantly. It’s “Rains of Castamere”, the unofficial Lannister theme song. But it’s too late. The plan is already set in motion and the bloody massacre ensues, killing every man loyal to the Starks, before finishing off Rob and Catelyn. While Rob met his tragic end, Catelyn would continue her journey, albeit, in a different form.

Three days later, Catelyn’s body was dragged out of the river by Arya’s (Maisie Williams) long-lost Direwolf, Nymeria. The body is then discovered by the Brotherhood Without Banners and after witnessing Catelyn’s pitiful condition Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), a priest for Lord of the Light, proceeds to resurrect her. Though Catelyn is alive, her wounds have barely healed, half of her hair is gone, the remaining half is gray and brittle, and her skin has turned ghostly white after being submerged in water for so long. Her graceful personality has also all but disappeared and substituted with an insatiable thirst for revenge.

Now, her only purpose is to find and kill all the Lannisters and Freys she can get her hands upon. She doesn’t care if they had anything to do with the Red Wedding, an association with Freys and Lannisters is enough to warrant their execution, even if they are little boys. This brutal pursuit of vengeance has also brought her another moniker — Mother Merciless. And perhaps this was to be expected since it is believed that people lose parts of themselves after death and resurrection. Catelyn had been dead for three days before she was resurrected, and as a result, the only emotion she could trace back to was the one she felt in her last moments — vengeance.

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Why Did Lady Stoneheart Never Appear in the Show

michelle fairley as catelyn stark lloking concerned in game of thrones
Image via HBO

As the creator of the work, it was Martin’s wish that the show remained a faithful adaptation to its source. But Martin didn’t always get a final say due to various production and executive reasons, and he has been vocal about his disappointments when the studio decided to shun the source in favor of a new (and often worse) narrative choice. But there is one particular deviation from the source that he keeps coming back to — seemingly unable to shake off the regret of having to kill his darling, so to speak — and that is the removal of Lady Stoneheart from the show.

When creators of the show, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, proposed their idea to trim Lady Stoneheart from the show, Martin was vehemently opposed to the idea. But in the end, he had to fold, and it was decided that Lady Stoneheart would never make her appearance. In the book Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon the showrunners have talked in more detail about their decision to remove Lady Stoneheart. They explained that their decision to abandon Lady Stoneheart in the show was driven by the future resurrection of Jon Snow (Kit Harrington). The creators were worried that offering a resurrection for Catelyn early on in the show would give away a special resurrection that they were saving for later.

Another key reason was that Lady Stoneheart’s arc has been left off at a very interesting point, and it also concerns the fates of Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). Including Lady Stoneheart in the show would have ruined the mystery set up by Martin for the books. And finally, the creators were so happy with the Red Wedding and its horrified reactions, they didn’t want to weaken the impact of it all by bringing back a character who died in the event.

Lady Stoneheart Could Have Been Utilized To Improve Arya’s Arc

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

While the show runners had their reasons to abandon Lady Stoneheart, it came as a huge disappointment to the fans of the books, especially because in hindsight, one can see Martin was right to defend Lady Stoneheart’s inclusion. Firstly, Jon Snow’s revival didn’t really surprise anyone. To everyone it felt like a matter of when and not if. Secondly, it’s not like the resurrection of Catelyn in the books cheapened Red Wedding in any way. If anything, Lady Stoneheart’s introduction is one of the most exciting moments in the books. And finally, it’s true that it’s true that Lady Stoneheart’s appearance in the show might have jeopardized the cliffhanger of Jamie and Brienne in the books, but the showrunners could have abandoned that plot line and gone with something new. It’s unclear how exactly her character would impact the books, the show could have used Lady Stoneheart to enrich the journey of another significant character.

There is only one Stark who shares Lady Stoneheart’s obsession with revenge, and that’s Arya. Every night, right before falling asleep she verbally lists down the names of all the people she wants to murder. And for the most part, the show lets Arya run wild and free with her vindictiveness. There was a brief moment when she was blinded for killing Ser Meryn Tryant without permission, but she soon overcomes it and completes her training to go full on god mode. Curiously though the show never suggests that her unrelenting pursuit of vengeance might be problematic. Lady Stoneheart could have been a perfect intervention to Arya’s single-mindedness. By witnessing how the obsession with revenge has poisoned her own mother, Arya could learn about the wrongs in her own ways and finally set down towards a more forgiving path.

Moreover, there is no world where you could see Lady Stoneheart peacefully coexisting with everyone else. She is too violent, unforgiving and obsessed, and would eventually have to meet her end. But instead of being finished off by a stranger or an enemy, it would be more befitting if it were Arya who put her mother out of her misery, slaying her own metaphorical demons in the process.

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