'Game of Thrones' Ramsay Bolton Vs. Books Ramsay: The Show Puts His Depravity Front & Center
I'm just going to say it. On Game of Thrones, Ramsay Snow-now-Bolton is the worst. He isn't a villain you love to hate like, say, Tywin Lannister or — OK, any number of Lannisters. Ramsay Bolton is the villain you hate to hate. You wish Sansa would stab him with a corkscrew. You wish he'd choke on one of those sausages he's always eating. You wish Stannis would storm the gates and give Ramsay a dose of his own violent medicine. You really wish that poor Reek could find one small Theon ember left inside himself and maybe, I don't know, add a little somethin'-somethin' to his wine. But, Ramsay... he just keeps on living and keeps on flaying people. Which begs the question: Where is Ramsay's specific brand of evil headed? Is Ramsay as bad in the books as he is on Game of Thrones?
(Book spoilers ahead.) The short answer is, yes. Ramsay Bolton is evil, and terrible, and the worst in all A Song of Ice and Fire mediums. In ASOIAF, he still betrays the Starks alongside his father, still gleefully mutilates and tortures Theon into his Reek-state, and prolifically participates in the ancient Bolton practice of flaying. With all of those things the same, many of the changes to Ramsay's storyline from book-to-screen are more directly as a result of the changes to Sansa's storyline. What stays consistent from George R.R. Martin's book series to David Beniff and D.B. Weiss' TV show is Ramsay's depravity. But, as the only point-of-view chapters that focus on Ramsay in the books are Reek's, it's the heightened focus on Ramsay on the show that makes him seem even worse than readers may remember.
Littlefinger Seems Very Naive Regarding Ramsay
One of the more subtle differences between book-Ramsay and show-Ramsay is that, in the books, word of Ramsay's diabolical cruelty is widely spread throughout Westeros. His practice of stripping women and having his hounds hunt them down, then raping, killing, and flaying them is common knowledge in the North. That's why it's been a little odd to book readers that Littlefinger would first, betroth his (creepily) beloved Sansa to Ramsay, then so willingly leave her alone with him — a man notorious for LARP-ing The Most Dangerous Game in his spare time. Either Littlefinger doesn't care about Sansa's well-being as much as he puts on, or Ramsay's high-level-crazy isn't as common knowledge in the universe of the show. Either way, Ramsay seems just as terrible in the books as he is on the show, but his cruelty is perhaps a little less effecting because it's not so centrally focused on one character (Sansa) like it is on the show.
Ramsay + Sansa Isn't A Thing In The Books
The betrothal and consequential nightmare-marriage between Sansa and Ramsay doesn't exactly exist in ASOIAF. In the books, Ramsay is wed to Jeyne Poole, a former Winterfell friend of Sansa's, now forced by the Boltons to pose as Arya Stark. Creator David Benioff told Entertainment Weekly regarding Ramsay's storyline with Jeyne Poole, "Do you have one of your leading ladies — who is an incredibly talented actor who we’ve followed for five years and viewers love and adore — do it? Or do you bring in a new character to do it? To me, the question answers itself: You use the character the audience is invested in.” And because the audience is so invested in Sansa, the exact same events that take place in the book with Jeyne hit so much closer to home with Sansa as the recipient of Ramsay's violence.
We See Much More Of Theon's Torture
In the books, most of Ramsay's atrocities come up in passing, or in rumor in other point-of-view chapters. But, on the show, they're front and center. Before Sansa's storyline switch-up, there was the degradation and mutilation of Theon Greyjoy. And, while the results are basically the same, the way in which the viewer/reader gets there is probably the biggest disparity in Ramsay's awfulness from book to screen. In the books, Theon is taken captive by Ramsay in Book 2, and between Books 3 and 4 is only represented by a piece of his skin delivered to Robb and Catelyn Stark at the Red Wedding. Suddenly, in Book 5, Reek shows up — tortured, mutilated, and revealed to be the shell of Theon.
On the show, of course, all of the nasty events at the hands of Ramsay between Book 2 and Book 5 are shown in great detail, from tricking Theon, to castrating him, to making him walk Jeyne down the aisle at the wedding (though that's even worse with Sansa in Jeyne's place). So, while Ramsay's actions are just as deplorable in George R. R. Martin's books, it's the extra focus they receive in the show's narrative that make Ramsay the most vile villain in a sea of vile villains.
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