The following blog entry is gonna be gross. Fair warning….
This is how the Red Wedding scene ends in George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, the third book in his series A Song of Ice and Fire. The chapter is told from Catelyn Stark’s point of view:
A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak spotted with blood stepped up to Robb. “Jaime Lannister sends his regards.” He thrust his longsword through her son’s heart, and twisted.
Robb had broken his word, but Catelyn kept hers. She tugged hard on Aegon’s hair and sawed at his neck until the blade grated on bone. Blood ran hot over her fingers. His little bells were ringing, ringing, ringing, and the drum went boom doom boom.
Finally someone took the knife away from her. The tears burned like vinegar as they ran down her cheeks. Ten fierce ravens were raking her face with sharp talons and tearing off strips of flesh, leaving deep furrows that ran red with blood. She could taste it on her lips.
It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb . . . Robb . . . please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting . . . the white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved. Catelyn Stark raised her hands and watched the blood run down her long fingers, over her wrists, beneath the sleeves of her gown. Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes. It tickles. That made her laugh until she screamed. “Mad,” someone said, “she’s lost her wits,” and someone else said, “Make an end,” and a hand grabbed her scalp just as she’d done with Jinglebell, and she thought, No, don’t, don’t cut my hair, Ned loves my hair. Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.
A few years ago I started listening to Martin’s book series off Audible. A Song of Ice and Fire runs thousands of pages, so it’s a lot of hours. I would walk our dog and listen to Martin’s great books. And when the Red Wedding happened, I remember I stopped walking on a trail in the middle of the dog park. My eyes got wide and I just stood there not believing what I was hearing, goosebumps rising all over. Two main characters, Rob and his mother Catelyn, were suddenly, shockingly, dramatically murdered in a spectacular betrayal. These were the good guys.
The Red Wedding finally happened on “Game of Thrones” last night. Here’s a headline from this morning: “‘Game of Thrones’ episode causes shock, outrage, tears.” A New York Daily News article about the episode had this quote from Martin:
“When I wrote ‘A Storm of Swords,’ which is, of course, an enormous book, the Red Wedding occurs two thirds of the way through it, but I couldn’t write it. When I got to that part I skipped over it, I wrote the aftermath and people reacting to it, but it was just too painful to write.
“So I finished the entire book and I had that one chapter left unwritten, where I had to actually go back and write it, and it was very, very difficult. I know it’s crazy, but like many authors, these characters become very real to me, so it felt like I was killing two friends of mine.”
And the actor who played Robb Stark said of filming the scene: “Honestly, it was horrible. It was very difficult for everyone and there was lots of tears from many people, including myself.” He said as soon as he was done shooting he hopped on a plane and cried the entire way home.
The Flip Side already analyzed the difference between the Battle of Blackwater in the book and the TV series (Click here), so let’s consider how HBO’s Red Wedding matched up to Martin’s, because something a little sinister and disgusting (And pro-choice?) is happening on the TV show.
Namely, these guys hate babies. Like, they REALLY hate babies. The HBO show can’t possibly adhere to Martin’s books that closely, because way too many things happen over the course of his 1,000-page tomes. So taking stuff out makes sense. But what about changing things? At the beginning of season two, we watch soldiers all around King’s Landing round up babies and kill them with swords, under orders from Joffrey Baratheon.
(As long as we’re talking Ice and Fire vs. “GoT,” Joffrey’s way better as a spoiled little brat than as the older, masochistic version the show created.)
This season, we saw Daenerys Targaryen free an army of slave eunuchs called the Unsullied. When their master is explaining how the Unsullied become such perfect soldiers, part of the story goes that they are each forced to kill a baby in front of its mother. In the book, though, each Unsullied is given a puppy. After the puppy’s grown up, the Unsullied soldier has to kill it.
Now, why would you change that story? Is the baby killing worse than the puppy killing, or better? It’s a fascinating question.
Robb Stark’s wife is the reason he and his mother and all his men are murdered at the Red Wedding. (He promised Lord Walder Frey, ruler of The Twins, who is way older and grosser in the book, that he would marry one of Walder’s daughters. Instead, Robb married another woman for love. Bada bing, bada boom: Red-ass Wedding.) Robb’s wife isn’t with him for the book version of the Red Wedding, but she’s there on the show. She’s not only there on the show, she tells him just before the awful betrayal that she’s pregnant.
And how does the HBO Red Wedding massacre begin? With a guy coming up behind Robb’s wife and stabbing her in the belly over and over. Then the arrows start flying. (“The Rains of Castamere” is the song being played over the murders in both versions.)
I’m not saying the guys in charge of the HBO show like the idea of killing babies. I’m just saying they have changed a story they’re trying to stick pretty closely to multiple times to work in baby killing. That’s weird. I don’t understand how a writer’s room would decide “We shouldn’t have Catelyn crack up and deform herself before her throat gets slit, but you know what we should do? Stab Robb’s pregnant wife in the baby a bunch of times.”
(Full disclosure: My wife’s pregnant right now.)
Not that I’m complaining. The TV version was great. Horrifying. It missed the boom dooming drums, but how about the way everything got quiet at the very end (like when a character would die on “24” and got the famous silent countdown clock)? And if the internet reports I just read are true, and the Red Wedding suddenly made a bunch of Tweeters decide they don’t wanna watch anymore, that’s even better. This story’s not for pussies.
(Oh, and huge shout-out to Grey Wind, the great unsung badass of the first third of this saga. King Robb may have made dumb choices, but he rode into battles with the great dire wolf at his side and always, always won. The men of the North loved drinking after battle and recounting how many of the Lannisters’ men Grey Wind had killed in the fight.)