Last Sunday night's highly anticipated Season 6 premiere of Game Of Thrones featured one of the show's bloodiest scenes to date. In one fell swoop, the entire royal Dornish line was eliminated as Ellaria Sand killed Prince Doran and her Sand Snakes simultaneously took out his heir, Trystane Martell, and their bodyguard, Areo Hotah. It was probably the most people to die in one scene since the Red Wedding… which is all the more shocking considering what really goes down in Dorne in George R.R. Martin's source material. How is Dorne different in the books than on Game Of Thrones?
To fully understand the differences between these two storylines, you first have to know about the characters that were eliminated for the show's adaptation. There are three that didn't make the translation: Arianne Martell, Prince Doran's eldest child and the heir to Dorne (Dornish customs allow women to inherit); Quentyn, Doran's middle child; and Ser Arys Oakheart, the Kingsguard knight who was sent to guard Myrcella while she was in Dorne. Apparently showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss wanted to streamline the plot by not introducing too many new characters so late in the game, so they folded part of Arianne's character into Oberyn's paramour Ellaria Sand, and part of Quentyn's into his younger brother Trystane. (Arys is simply nowhere to be found.)
While this choice makes sense on paper, it drastically alters the course of events in Dorne in the following ways:
1. Ellaria Is Not A Murderer
After Oberyn's death, Ellaria has a very minor role in the books. Oberyn's goal was the deaths of both Gregor Clegane and Tywin Lannister, the two men directly responsible for the murders of his sister Elia and her two young children. Once both men are dead, Ellaria is satisfied that justice has run its course. She certainly doesn't condone the murder of Princess Myrcella. (Remember, Oberyn abhorred violence against children and once assured Cersei that, "We don't hurt little girls in Dorne.") Neither does she plot a coup against Prince Doran and his son; the senseless murders of his beloved brother and nephew were certainly never in Oberyn's plans.
2. Arianne Is The Schemer
Of the women of Dorne, it's Arianne who's the real schemer, not Ellaria. She has been plotting against her father for years, ever since she happened upon a fragment of a letter that seemed to imply that Prince Doran was planning to disinherit her and install her younger brother Quentyn as the ruler of Dorne instead. Like the show's version of Ellaria, Arianne's plots also involve Myrcella. However, instead of killing her, Arianne is plotting something much more awesome: making Myrcella the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Since the Dornish recognize a woman's right to inherit before a younger brother, and Myrcella is currently in Dorne, that means that by Dornish law, she should techincally inherit the Iron Throne before her younger brother Tommen. So Arianne plans to kidnap Myrcella and carry her off to a remote location until she can raise enough banners to go to war, pitting sister against brother in a conflict that will simultaneously defeat the Lannisters once and for all and win Arianne the support of her people. To this end, she seduces Myrcella's protector, Arys Oakheart, and enlists him as one of her co-conspirators.
3. Myrcella Is Still Alive
Arianne's coup doesn't go entirely as planned; someone in her group betrays her to Prince Doran, who sends his fearsome bodyguard Areo Hotah to stop the kidnapping attempt. Areo easily defeats Ser Arys in single combat, decapitating the Kingsguard in front of a horrified Arianne. She quickly surrenders, not wishing any further bloodshed — but not before Myrcella is grievously injured in the fighting, slashed across the face with a sword, leaving a hideous scar and a missing ear. However, at least she's alive; and soon another Kingsguard is sent to retrieve her to King's Landing. Finally made privy to her father's true plans, Arianne convinces the young girl to lie about what happened in order to prevent the war with the Lannisters she so desperately wanted.
4. Prince Doran Has A Plan
Speaking of Prince Doran's plans… Arianne is just as frustrated with the gout-ridden ruler of Dorne's inaction as Ellaria is on the show. However, unlike on the show, it is eventually revealed that Doran's stubborn unwillingness to take action is simply a mask; it's just that he prefers to supplant the Lannisters through subtle schemes rather than a costly all-out war. He never intended to disinherit his daughter at all; in fact, he wished to make her queen of all of Westeros by crafting a secret marriage pact between her and Viserys Targaryen. Once Viserys sat on the Iron Throne with Arianne at his side, that would have left her younger brother Quentyn to rule Dorne in her stead — hence the misunderstanding.
However, this perfect scheme was obviously botched when Khal Drogo killed Viserys. Forced to make a sudden change in plans, Prince Doran decided to wed Quentyn to Viserys' sister Daenerys instead and sent him off to Essos in search of the Mother of Dragons.
5. Quentyn Goes On A Quest
Unfortunately, this is where things go horribly wrong with the books' Dornish subplot. Nothing about Quentyn's quest to marry Daenerys goes well. He has none of the charm necessary to woo a queen; after a long journey, he arrives in Meereen literally the day before she marries Hizdahr zo Loraq; and, after Daenerys has ridden off on Drogon's back, and not wanting to return to his father empty-handed, Quentyn gets the bright idea to try to tame one of her remaining dragons. To say this doesn't go well is an understatement. While attempting to wrangle Viserion, Quentyn is ambushed by Rhaegal and roasted alive. And thus ends all of Prince Doran's grand plans in one fiery moment.
It's easy to see why some of this was changed for the show — Quentyn's long journey to Meereen is ultimately rendered moot by his grisly fate — but other aspects would have been nice to see make the leap from page to screen — like the decision to crown Myrcella instead of killing her. But now, with the deaths of Doran, Trystane, and Areo Hotah, it's impossible to say what Benioff & Weiss have planned for Dorne next on Game Of Thrones. We're officially in uncharted territory now.
Images: Macall B. Polay/HBO