- In a new book by Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd, “Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon,” author George R.R. Martin reveals that the HBO showrunners once wanted to cut Rickon Stark from the TV show.
- Martin told them he had “important plans” for the youngest Stark kid, so he should be kept in.
- But we never saw Rickon’s story amount to anything particularly important in the show.
- Those “important plans” will likely manifest in the next book, “The Winds of Winter.”
- In the books, Rickon is still alive, and Ser Davos Seaworth is on his way to meet him.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For a new oral history about HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” titled “Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon,” Entertainment Weekly editor-at-large James Hibberd spoke with author George R.R. Martin about the show’s original, unaired pilot episode.
When showrunners David Benioff and Dan “D.B.” Weiss took their first swing at adapting Martin “A Song of Ice and Fire” novel series, they missed the mark in several key areas. (For a deeper look at what went wrong, you can read a longer analysis here.) This led them back to the drawing board.
“The biggest thing was Dan and David called me up and had the idea of eliminating Rickon, the youngest of the Stark children, because he didn’t do much in the first book,” Martin told Hibberd in this excerpted chapter of the new book. “I said I had important plans for him, so they kept him.”
But what important plans? In the show, Rickon’s story culminated with the underwhelming deaths of both him and Osha under Ramsay Bolton’s cruel rule in the North.
So let’s take a closer look at how Rickon’s story in the show differs from his journey in the currently published “A Song of Ice and Fire” books, and why Martin’s next planned book will likely reveal more about those “important plans” that never made it into the show.
The key differences between Rickon’s story in ‘Game of Thrones,’ and what happened in the books (so far)
Rickon’s story in the first three seasons of “Game of Thrones” tracks very closely with his journey in Martin’s first two “A Song of Ice and Fire” books.
At the end of season three, Rickon and Osha split up from Bran, Hodor, and the Reed siblings. Bran told Osha to take Rickon to House Umber’s castle, the Last Hearth. Then two whole seasons went by without any appearance from Rickon and Osha. In season six, with Ramsay Bolton now ruling the North from Winterfell, it’s revealed that the Umbers have forsaken loyalty to the Starks.
Osha and Rickon (along with Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggy Dog) were killed off. Rickon didn’t even speak in the sixth season.
In the books, not only are Rickon and Osha still presumed to be alive, but Rickon’s separation from Bran plays out slightly differently. It’s Maester Luwin who tells Osha to take Rickon to safety — but he doesn’t specify where.
Rickon hasn’t been directly seen or heard from in the books ever since.
Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” books use alternating point-of-views (POVs) for each chapter. This means that sometimes information about a character’s fate comes by way of message or rumor to one of the POV characters while we’re reading from their perspective.
So Rickon hasn’t been seen by any POV character since his departure from Winterfell at the end of Martin’s second book, “A Clash of Kings.” Most of Westeros believes both Rickon and Bran are dead because Theon Greyjoy staged their executions at Winterfell using two smallfolk children.
But in the most recent book, “A Dance with Dragons,” Ser Davos Seaworth has a POV chapter in which he’s told that Rickon is alive and had been brought to an island called Skagos.
Martin’s ‘important plans’ for Rickon will likely come to fruition in the next book since Davos is on a mission to find him
In the books, Davos gets caught up in the fight between Stark-loyal Northerners and the Boltons. While the show largely ignored this storyline, Martin’s novels include an entire covert Northern rebellion against the Bolton’s rule in Winterfell.
One of the lords, Wyman Manderly, is faking a new allegiance to Roose Bolton while working to undermine him. You can read more about the fan theories and analysis around this plot in many places, but a great spot to start is the series of essays on “The Grand Northern Conspiracy” here.
The important takeaway for non-book-readers is that Martin, in his last published book, was setting up for a much more complex battle between the Boltons and Stark loyalists than what we saw play out in the show — and Rickon Stark plays a key part in that.
In Ser Davos’ last POV chapter in “A Dance with Dragons,” Manderly tells Davos to go to Skagos and retrieve Rickon Stark. With Robb Stark dead, and Bran Stark missing (he’s really just beyond the Wall), Rickon is the heir of House Stark. For the Northern lords, he’s the key to reestablishing Stark rule in the North.
Surely Martin’s “important plans” for Rickon are only just beginning in the books. So why didn’t any of this play out in the show?
Benioff and Weiss had to chart their own path for Rickon when they overtook Martin’s published books
As we already explored in great detail here, the more it became clear that Martin wouldn’t finish his last two books ahead of the show, the more Benioff and Weiss starting speaking more openly about how the show and books might end differently.
Back in 2013, Benioff and Weiss sat down with Martin and he told them certain “broad strokes” plans he had for the ending to his story. Then, in seasons four and five, Benioff and Weiss drastically trimmed the books’ storylines and almost fully caught up with the published material.
Season five ended with the same big cliffhangers left in “A Dance with Dragons.” Jon Snow was assassinated by a group of mutinous Night’s Watch men, and Dany escaped from the dragon pit in Meereen on Drogon’s back. But there was no word of Rickon.
As the years pushed on, we started learning that Benioff and Weiss were diverging from Martin’s plan as outlined in that 2013 meeting.
“Certain things that we learned from George way back in that meeting in Santa Fe are going to happen on the show, but certain things won’t,” Benioff said in a 2017 interview with Time.
Season six had aired by that point, and Rickon was dead in the show. So were the Boltons, for that matter. The question of House Stark’s rule fell instead to Jon Snow and Sansa Stark. By the end of the series, Sansa was named Queen in the North while Bran Stark ruled the other six kingdoms from King’s Landing.
The last time Martin spoke publicly about the end of “Game of Thrones” was in a January 2020 interview with German news site Welt.
“People know one ending — not the ending,” Martin said. “The makers of the TV series overtook me, which I didn’t expect. Nevertheless, I’m still doing what I have been doing for years: I’m still trying to finish the next book ‘Winds Of Winter’ first, and then the follow-up novel ‘A Dream Of Spring.’ That’s what I’m focusing on. After that, we’ll see what happens.”
The only character’s fate in “Game of Thrones” that we know came directly from Martin was the crowning of King Bran.
But Queen Sansa? And a dead Rickon Stark? Those aspects of Martin’s story are still fully up in the air. And anyone who was disappointed by Rickon’s fate in “Game of Thrones” should prepare themselves for that character to engage with a much more important story in the books, especially now that we know Martin had big plans for him from the start.
Martin has been working on the sixth book in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” titled “The Winds of Winter,” for close to 10 years now. There’s no planned — or expected — publication date yet. If and when it comes, we’ll be eager to see the continuation of Rickon Stark’s story.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.