Footnotes of Ice and Fire: The Backstory on 'The Children'

Here's a book-reader-aided deeper look at season four's finale "The Children," including a look at the Hound's injuries, Tywin on the toilet, Stannis' adventure, and Qyburn the deposed maester.

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Before we take a look forward to what lies ahead on Game of Thrones, we're here to give some book-reader understanding to the recent goings-on in the world of Westeros and beyond. Here's a deeper look at season four, episode ten "The Children," including a look at the Hound's injuries, Tywin on the toilet, Stannis' adventure, and Qyburn the deposed maester.

The Hound's injuries

The most riveting sequences in that jam-packed finale was the Hound's lethal fight with Brienne, as well as his final, desperate attempt to get his partner-in-crime Arya to finish him off. But that fight is a show-specific addition — a smart one, for sure — as Brienne and the Hound don't meet in the books. Instead, the Hound gets his injuries from a different source: a fight with the bad guys who used to be Arya's tormenters at Harrenhall.

Those guys were dispatched relatively cleanly in the show after a fight over the Hound's taste for chicken. But in the books, the Hound takes cuts to his leg and to his ear, which quickly become infected. He loses all his strength in a day or two, and Arya leaves him to die by a tree. "You don't deserve the gift of mercy," she tells him. "A real wolf would finish a wounded animal," he responds. And then off Arya goes over the sea to Braavos.

Tywin on the toilet

Revenge is a dish best served while the enemy takes a dump, it seems. Tyrion surprises Tywin while on the john and sends an arrow into his gut, just as in the books, but the best and most memorable line of that murder didn't make the cut of the show. Throughout Westeros, people talk about the Lannister family wealth and joke that Tywin is so rich that he "shits gold." So after killing Tywin on the toilet, Tyrion notes to himself the irony of the situation. "Lord Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold," reads the last line of that chapter. That's an oft-quoted line among book-readers, and there's no reason show-watchers shouldn't be able to join in on that fun turn-of-phrase. 

Stannis saves the day

Sheesh Stannis, the least you could have done is send a response raven to Castle Black to tell them your forces were coming. Stannis's attack on the Wildling army wasn't exactly a Mag the Mighty-sized surprise for show-watchers, as he, Davos, and Melisandre all discuss their plan to help Castle Black at the end of the season three. That trip just took a bit longer than we thought. In the books, though, we don't know of Stannis' plans, and so the well-organized attack that breaks the Wildlings was a big shock. Where did these horses come from? What army is fighting outside? Jon Snow eventually finds out the answer when he hears cries of "Stannis! Stannis! STANNIS!" among the cheering soldiers. What a hero.

There's also the question of why the Night's Watch doesn't just let the Wildlings through the tunnel to hide behind the Wall, as Mance Rayder suggests. They all have a common enemy in the White Walkers, right? Mance makes a compelling argument, but you try convincing the Night's Watch to just forget what has been centuries of wars and battles against the Wildlings. The job of the Night's Watch has always been to keep people from breaching the Wall. Letting the Wildlings through would mean a huge change to that established system, and that's a tough sell.

Qyburn the rejected maester

We first met Qyburn, pictured above, at the beginning of season 3, but he only became an important-ish character when he helped fix up Jaime Lannister's rotting stump of an arm. Qyburn was formerly a trained maester, but had his chain — i.e. his medical license — stripped by the Citadel, the graduate school of Westeros. Why was his chain stripped? Mostly because of his creepy medical experiments on living people, as Grandmaester Pycelle notes in this episode. "That is exactly the sort of arrogance that had him expelled from the Citadel, Your Grace," he says when Qyburn offers to bring Ser Gregor back to life. "His curiosity was deemed dangerous and unnatural. Rightly so, in my opinion."

In the books, Qyburn explains a little more clearly. "For hundreds of years the men of the Citadel have opened the bodies of the dead, to study the nature of life," he tells Cersei. "I wished to understand the nature of death, so I opened the bodies of the living." We don't know Qyburn's last name, but we'll just assume it's Frankenstein.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.