Robb Stark's Wife In The 'Game Of Thrones' Books Is Completely Different From The Show — And That's Probably A Good Thing
By now, I think most people understand that the Game of Thrones TV show takes a few significant departures from George R.R. Martin's books. Honestly, even as a book purist, I understand. On the one hand, the show is now so far ahead of the timeline in the books that there is no more "book" on which to base the show. And on the other hand, the books are so long and so stuffed with characters (being, you know, books), that no TV show could ever possibly hope to adapt everything.
But then there are the differences like Robb Stark's shiny new TV wife that make you go, "Why?" but also, "I mean... fine?"
You remember Robb Stark, right? Ned's son? King in the North? Got all stabbed at the Red Wedding? That guy. His wife is totally different in the books. Like... they didn't cut out his wife, because she's, y'know, the whole reason that everyone gets murdered at the Red Wedding. They just completely changed that character, from her personality to her backstory to her name.
And to be quite frank, I'm not mad about it.
I mean, George R.R. Martin actually named the new character himself. And she might be (forgive me, George) slightly better than her book equivalent.
In the show, you see, Robb Stark meets a battlefield healer named Talisa Maegyr. She's a noblewoman from Volantis, one of the free cities across the sea in Essos. But when she was a child, she witnessed her brother almost drown in a the River Rhoyne. He was resuscitated by a slave, shocking the young Talisa, who believed her brother to be dead. That childhood trauma spurred her to give up her life of luxury and instead go to med school and move to Westeros, where slavery is illegal.
Talisa impresses Robb with her selflessness and her medical know-how, and Robb impresses Talisa by being... cute, I guess? Either way, despite the fact that Robb is leading one of the armies that's morbidly wounding half of Westeros, Talisa and Robb hit it off, and end up going to bed together. Unfortunately, that is not allowed, because Robb is betrothed to a Frey daughter. The Starks' whole alliance with the Freys is based on the idea that Robb is going to marry a Frey and not some cool, hot lady doctor he's known for a week.
But of course, Robb and Talisa get secretly married anyway (because Starks are all about those secret marriages). It's decided that Robb's uncle Edmure will have to marry a Frey instead, to keep the alliance going. So the whole family journeys to Walder Frey's place for a totally drama-free wedding, with Talisa revealing to Robb that she's pregnant with their child along the way.
And then... the Red Wedding happens.
And everybody dies, including Talisa and Robb.
In the books, though, it's Jeyne Westerling who gets everybody killed. Robb and his army take a castle known as the Crag in order to get a foothold in Lannister territory. They win pretty easily (no one's trying to hold onto the Crag), but Robb is wounded by an arrow in the process. The family of the Crag, the Westerlings, encourage their daughter to nurse Robb back to health. So Jeyne Westerling stays by Robb's side as he recovers and, wouldn't you know it, they end up sleeping together (after Robb receives the very sexy news that his little brothers have been murdered).
Ashamed of this dishonorable act, Robb marries Jeyne right away. He is Ned Stark's son, after all, and Ned is all about making terrible decisions in the name of honor. The Westerlings were sworn to the Lannisters, but they claim to have switched sides, and follow Robb back to his mom, where he has to break the news that he ruined everything and messed up the Frey alliance in order to marry Jeyne.
It's doubly awkward, because Jeyne is... fine. She's fine. She's shy and pretty, but, as Jaime Lannister puts it, "not a beauty to lose a kingdom for." She's the Anne Veal of Game of Thrones characters. Her main personality traits seem to be that she likes Robb and that she's scared of his wolf.
And then, of course, the whole Red Wedding goes down. Except that in the book version, Jeyne isn't there at the wedding. Robb and all his buds get killed, but Jeyne and her family hang back, because the Westerlings are still secretly on the Lannister side. I mean, Jeyne genuinely likes Robb, but her parents don't. Her mom later reveals that she was secretly slipping Jeyne Plan B pills to ensure that she didn't get pregnant with Robb's kid (her mom is also descended from Maggy the Frog, that witch who told Cersei's future so that's... also a thing?).
So Jeyne survives the massacre. She's just moping around now, stuck with her Lannister-loving folks. That's fine. There's nothing wrong with the book version. Having the Westerlings betray the Starks does add an extra twist of the knife to the Red Wedding. And who knows if Jeyne will get to do something in future books? That's... honestly unlikely, but possible.
But I have to hand it to the show, Talisa is a much more interesting character. She's a lady doctor with her own opinions, she's not as much of a scaredy cat, and we actually care about her and her unborn child when she's murdered. Sure, maybe graphically stabbing her in the stomach was a little much (you didn't have to kill her, TV show), but still. As far as book purity goes, Talisa is different but definitely more interesting.
All that is to say, I yield, showrunners. This is a change from the books that might actually be for the best. Maybe.