A Song Of Ice And Fire was a very different beast when George R. R. Martin first sat down to write it 22 years ago. As reported in Variety, British book retailer Waterstones recently tweeted—and then deleted—pictures of a three-page letter Martin sent to publisher Harper Collins in 1993, outlining his plans for the series. (All three pages can be read, in their potentially spoiler-filled glory, here, here, and here, courtesy of A Song Of Ice And Fire news site Winter Is Coming.)
The letter provides a fascinating look into how Martin’s story evolved, and offers some tantalizing clues as to where its current iteration might be headed. Here are some of the major and minor plot points from that original vision; obviously, what follows is full of spoilers, either for future books or the rich fantasy world contained within George R. R. Martin’s head.
- Sansa and Joffrey have a baby, and, “when the crunch comes she will choose her husband and child over her parents and siblings, a choice she will later bitterly rue.”
- Arya escapes King’s Landing and returns to Winterfell. Later, Tyrion razes Winterfell, causing Arya, Bran, and their mother Catelyn to flee to the Wall. Jon chooses his loyalty to the Night’s Watch over his family and doesn’t help them out. The half-brothers have a falling out, while Arya “realizes, with terror, that she has fallen in love with Jon.”
- Catelyn, Bran, and Arya travel farther north, falling into the hands of Mance Rayder, King-beyond-the-Wall. Together with the Wildlings, they battle White Walkers, a battle which Catelyn does not survive.
- Tyrion kills Joffery, “in disgust at the boy king’s brutality.”
- Jaime kills everyone else standing in his way to the throne, blaming the murders on Tyrion. On the run, Tyrion sides with the surviving Starks and falls in love with Arya, who doesn’t love him back. A “deadly” rivalry develops between Tyrion and Jon.
- Robb maims Joffrey on the battlefield, but is killed by Tyrion and Jaime in battle, with no mention of the Freys or the Red Wedding.
- Daenerys and her brother Viserys plan to lead the Dothraki to amass and invade the Seven Kingdoms, but it becomes clear that Khal Drogo has no intention on following through with these plans. As in the book, Drogo kills the annoying Viserys, but is in turn killed by Daenerys. When she flees the Dothraki, she stumbles upon dragon eggs, later returning with the dragons to control the horseriders and lead them to invade Westeros.
- Martin intends that only five main characters survive: Daenerys, Arya, Jon, Bran, and Tyrion.
- The series was originally a trilogy. A Game Of Thrones would focus on the Starks’ battle with the Lannisters; A Dance With Dragons on Daenerys coming into her own; and The Winds Of Winter on what goes on north of the Wall. The last book would also include a final battle that would “draw together characters and plot threads left from the first two books and resolve all in one huge climax.”
- Bran learns magic after he awakens from his coma, “at first in the hope of restoring his legs, but later for its own sake.”
- Jon’s true parentage is revealed in The Winds Of Winter, though we can likely still expect this to happen, if Martin doesn’t want to get chased by a pitchfork-wielding mob.
It’s not surprising so much has changed in the time since the letter was written, as Martin remarks up front that he doesn’t outline his novels. “I find that if I know exactly where a book is going, I lose all interest in writing it,” he states. He alludes to how huge the project is, too, noting that it will be “quite an epic,” with all three volumes being “big books, running about 700 to 800 manuscript pages.” That might represent a rare burst of optimism from the author, given that the collected paperbacks of the unfinished series currently clock in at a page count of 5,216.
In case all the disgusted killings and bitter ruing didn’t clue you in, though, Martin’s tone has remained remarkably consistent over all this time. In fact, the letter even contains a central thesis statement for A Song Of Ice And Fire that could qualify as the Words of House Martin, plot divergences be damned: “I want the reader to feel that no one is ever completely safe, not even the characters who seem to be the heroes.”