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6 Famous Books That Almost Ended Very Differently

Posted by Hayley on June 14, 2017
Here be spoilers, dear readers! Our curiosity prompted us to investigate some of the most fascinating cases of alternate endings in fiction…and that meant we had to wade deep into spoiler territory. If that's not for you, no hard feelings. We'll catch you on the next blog.

Specific spoiler alert for Thirteen Reasons Why, A Farewell to Arms, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Great Expectations, The Fault in Our Stars, and Matilda.



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Matilda
by Roald Dahl

The ending you know: Matilda lives happily ever after! On the run from the police, her parents hastily agree that Matilda should live with Miss Honey, her sweet and nurturing kindergarten teacher.

The ending that might have been: Matilda dies. To be fair, the Matilda of this earlier draft was far less charming—she was a wild child fond of mean-spirited pranks. But still, did she deserve to die? Thankfully, Dahl had a change of heart and delivered us the feel-good ending we know today.





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Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens

The ending you know: Pip reunites with the widowed Estella, his first love, and believes they will never part again—or, in his words, "I saw no shadow of another parting from her."

The ending that might have been: In his first draft, Dickens ended his novel with Pip and a remarried Estella meeting, shaking hands, and parting ways with no real hope of a future together. Dickens' friend Edward Buller-Lytton complained this ending was too depressing and that no one would enjoy reading it.





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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by J.K. Rowling

The ending you know: The climactic Battle of Hogwarts ends Voldemort's reign, but claims the lives of Lupin, Tonks, Snape, Fred Weasley, and many more.

The ending that might have been: Rowling has teased numerous potential endings to her beloved series (possibly including this strange version that has Voldemort surviving as a "living" statue). In one alternate ending, Lupin and Tonks don't die. Rowling originally planned on killing off Arthur Weasley in the fifth book, but when she spared his life, Lupin and Tonks took his place—albeit two books later.





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A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway

The ending you know: …is bleak. Frederic's lover dies in childbirth, prompting these dismal final lines: "It was like saying goodbye to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain."

The ending that might have been: Hemingway wrote over forty different endings to his novel. Perhaps the biggest departure is this almost upbeat variation: "When I woke the sun was coming in the open window and I smelled the spring morning after the rain and saw the sun on the trees in the courtyard and for that moment it was all the way it had been."





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Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher

The ending you know: The tapes Hannah left behind before committing suicide prompt Clay to reach out to a struggling classmate.

The ending that might have been: In the book's 10th anniversary edition, Asher revealed he originally had Hannah survive. This second chance ending for Hannah was scrapped when Asher realized he had a duty to his readers. "With suicide there are no second chances," he told Penguin Teen. "But readers are shown that people can change for the better, even after a tragedy, and that was very important to me."





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The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

The ending you know: Augustus' cancer returns. He dies soon after, leaving Hazel his own sequel to Peter Van Houten's An Imperial Affliction.

The ending that might have been: Brace yourself because even Green admits this alternate ending is "epically terrible." After Augustus dies, the author originally had Hazel and Van Houten team up to kill a drug lord…as a way of honoring Augustus. As if that's not enough, Green also admitted he has another draft where his tearjerker love story ended with Van Houten tying someone to railroad tracks as an exploration of "The Trolley Dilemma," a famous philosophical thought experiment.





Do you ever imagine alternate endings for the books you read? Give us your best "endings that might have been" in the comments.

Check out more recent blogs:
7 Great Books Hitting Shelves Today
In Defense of Happily Ever After: Nalini Singh on Hope, Love, and 'Realistic' Endings
5 Musicals That Give "Inspired by a Book" a Whole New Meaning

Comments (showing 1-42 of 42) (42 new)

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message 1: by John (new)

John Pellow Love this great book.


message 2: by Lia (new)

Lia The supposedly ending for Mathilda was too horrible. It will break every heart of every children (and adults) and leave them depressed for a long period of time :(


message 3: by Neil (new)

Neil John wrote: "Love this great book."

Which book, John? :-)


message 4: by Lopa (last edited Jun 14, 2017 08:03AM) (new)

Lopa I was 13 or 14 when I first read Great Expectations and even back then I preferred the Alternate/Original Ending. Our version we were reading for school included both of them. My love for realistic endings over what sometimes feels like forced unnatural happy endings hasn't changed in all the decades since.


message 5: by R.F. (new)

R.F. Gammon The whole Fault in Our Stars thing?!!!


Fluffy Unicorns Voldemort a living statue? Sounds interesting...


message 7: by Anna (new)

Anna Faith wrote: "The whole Fault in Our Stars thing?!!!"

Lol, it's John Green though, have you seen his YouTube videos and checked out his Twitter account?


message 8: by Soumya ~CrazyAngelicVamp~ (last edited Jun 14, 2017 09:44AM) (new)

Soumya ~CrazyAngelicVamp~ Lopa wrote: "I was 13 or 14 when I first read Great Expectations and even back then I preferred the Alternate/Original Ending. Our version we were reading for school included both of them. My love for realistic..."

Yeah, even I have an illustrated edition which ends like that. I didn't even know they have a happily ever after because I've not read the novel version yet!


message 9: by Sarita (new)

Sarita Dudani What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔


message 10: by Anna (new)

Anna Sarita wrote: "What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔"

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person you love on the side track. You have two options:
1.Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
2.Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person you love
Which is the most ethical choice?


message 11: by Clurr (new)

Clurr Fluffy Unicorns wrote: "Voldemort a living statue? Sounds interesting..."

I agreee


message 12: by Sumeet (new)

Sumeet Mahendra Someday I'm gonna read every single of them!


the Artful Dodger ~{On Hiatus August 12-18}~ I would pay to read that alternate ending, and I think I would have liked it better. It would have been more heartbreaking.


message 14: by Maya (new)

Maya Anna wrote: "Sarita wrote: "What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔"

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley i..."


2 but I don't know what I would do probabley get the trolley to stop and then untie them all


but let me guess I probebley can't get the trolley to stop can I?


message 15: by Chloe (new)

Chloe Lopa wrote: "I was 13 or 14 when I first read Great Expectations and even back then I preferred the Alternate/Original Ending. Our version we were reading for school included both of them. My love for realistic..."

I agree with you actually, I think I read it when I was a similar age or a bit older and actually the alternative ending sounds pretty good, can't make my mind up whether I prefer it or not.

In some ways I don't think the final/actual ending is overly happy, as despite Pip's development through the novel he basically ends up in a doomed to be unhealthy relationship (as I see it) with Estella. I suppose there's two ways of looking at it, as Pip living 'happily ever after' with the love of his life since childhood, or Pip being unable to escape his obsession with someone who hurt him in so many ways. And to be honest, I'm not sure which way I see it.

I'd love to hear your opinion on how happy the ending really was :)


message 16: by Isabella (new)

Isabella Um, John Green... What the frick?


message 17: by Annika (new)

Annika Maya wrote: "Anna wrote: "Sarita wrote: "What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔"

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. ..."


Nope. That trolley is going to kill people no matter which side you choose. There's no stopping it or the problem doesn't work.


message 18: by Lopa (new)

Lopa Chloe wrote: "Lopa wrote: "I was 13 or 14 when I first read Great Expectations and even back then I preferred the Alternate/Original Ending. Our version we were reading for school included both of them. My love ..."

Wow! I never thoughts about it that way. I also haven't read the book since. From what I remember. In the HEA ending, Estella has gone through so much in life that's she changed and is no longer the manipulative girl she used to be so Pip ends up with a changed and "better" Estella. In the original ending, they see each other but so much time has passes and they've both moved on so it's just a quick meeting in passing.

That's just from memory and you've made me want to reread the book!


message 19: by Julie (new)

Julie All the way through 13 Reasons Why I was thinking "I like her, I would have been her friend." I would have loved her to have survived to form a lasting friendship with Clay... but he is right, it would have sugar coated the real issue.


message 20: by Mwanamali (new)

Mwanamali Hmmm. Voldemort should have somehow survived as a living statue so that years from the ending, we fans can enjoy a fresh story with our offspring... :-)


message 21: by Nina (last edited Jun 15, 2017 03:57AM) (new)

Nina According to Adam Sisman, author of John le Carré's Biography, some of le Carré's novels had undergone through various endings before the final decisions were reached. Maybe more optimism would be welcomed by readers, but in my view it would have deprived the novels of their unique character vis-à-vis spy stories of other authors.


message 22: by Francesca (new)

Francesca As much as I love/loved Lupin and Tonks, I'm actually glad it was those two instead of Arthur Weasley. I couldn't have handled it if he died. Losing one Weasley was bad enough (and was the one death I still haven't gotten over), plus I was so much more attached to Arthur than Lupin or Tonks.


message 23: by Francesca (last edited Jun 15, 2017 03:12AM) (new)

Francesca Also, although I hated 13 reasons why (for so many reasons) the book only works to some degree if she actually is dead. If it had turned out that she'd survived somehow it would've made a complete joke out of the whole book and destroyed the message that they were trying to get across.


message 24: by Dyanna (new)

Dyanna Anna wrote: "Sarita wrote: "What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔"

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley i..."


Even if is very hard I will choose saving 5 people


message 25: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Matilda is one of my favourite books, ever! What a horrible alternate ending.


message 26: by Celia (new)

Celia This post was interesting and fun. I'd love to read more "almost endings."


message 27: by Julia (new)

Julia I like the external links for Harry Potter, though I am not sure they ever would have happened in the book.... Still, very fun to read about!!


message 28: by Billy (new)

Billy Fleming Wow Voldemort as a living statue it sounds awesome , being imprisoned for life as a statue and without be able to make any move


message 29: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale Anna wrote: "Sarita wrote: "What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔"

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley i..."


In the original version of "The Wrath of Khan" it's called "The Kobyashi Maru" test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6Gp2...


message 30: by Geoff (last edited Jun 17, 2017 09:11PM) (new)

Geoff Even the ending of 'Great Expectations' that Dickens published can't be said to be a 'happy ending'. Just because Pip says he saw no shadow of a further parting from Estella doesn't mean that there wasn't one. It is brighter than the original ending, sure, but it is more ambiguous than just a 'happy ending'.

Good editions tend to have the original ending in an appendix.


message 31: by Carla (new)

Carla Voldemort in a living statue? Very interesting! I couldn't imagine Matilda ending that way. :(


message 32: by Storm (new)

Storm Arashi TFIOS stopping a drug lord would've actually made that book intriguing. I just was not a fan.

Same goes to Thirteen Reasons Why because problem in the author's logic - suicide can have a second chance if that person's attempt fails. He had a chance to show that someone attempting to kill themselves can get through that darkness in their lives.


message 33: by SℓιM (new)

SℓιM Matilda,Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows > I want to read Thirteen Reasons Why, I am trying to figure out if this book related to that show, I'll read the description, and I have The Fault in Our Stars but haven't started reading it.


message 34: by Julia (new)

Julia Lopa wrote: "I was 13 or 14 when I first read Great Expectations and even back then I preferred the Alternate/Original Ending. Our version we were reading for school included both of them. My love for realistic..."

I completely agree. The original ending is significantly stronger.


message 35: by Ceri (new)

Ceri Dyanna wrote: "Anna wrote: "Sarita wrote: "What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔"

Even if is very hard I will choose saving 5 people


Would you really? Certainly that's the most ethical choice, but if one of my kids was the single person on the other track I don't think I could make that choice. If it was another loved one perhaps I could, as maybe they would choose to save 5 people at their expense. It might sound terrible but it's an honest answer.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

For the ending of Rupert The Rabbit Goes To Twinkletown, it might have been better if Henry the Hedgehog hadn't tried to cross the busy road. But, apart from that, I thought the ending was petty exciting - if a little sad...


message 37: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 23, 2017 05:39PM) (new)

I can't even process the whole Voldemort "living statue" thing. It's unreal. It kinda sounds interesting, but if I better finish up this comment b/c if I think about it too much, my head might explode.


message 38: by Patti (new)

Patti Boeckman My deceased husband and I were professional writers. I wrote a book that included a lovable grandpa and an aging dog. When my
husband proofread my manuscript, he told me he didn't agree
with bumping off the grandpa. It was too sad. I said, "When women read a book that brings them to tears, they think that's a great book because it really made them feel." So instead of resurrecting the grandpa, I also bumped off the lovable dog!


message 39: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Ceri wrote: "Dyanna wrote: "Anna wrote: "Sarita wrote: "What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔"

Even if is very hard I will choose saving 5 people


Would you really? Certainly that's the most ethical choice, but i..."


If I didn't know the five people and someone I loved was on the other track, I'm not sure I could make what seems to be the more moral choice. I'm picturing the man I love there and I don't think anything could make me change the train's path.


message 40: by Katie (new)

Katie Carver I think I read somewhere - I could be wrong - that J.K. Rowling regretted killing Fred Weasley - and I agree - bad choice.
I agree with a previous comment on Matilda, that the alternate ending would have broken my heart and I would have hated the book.


message 41: by Ceri (new)

Ceri Elizabeth wrote: "Ceri wrote: "Dyanna wrote: "Anna wrote: "Sarita wrote: "What is " The Trolley Dilemma"?🤔"

Even if is very hard I will choose saving 5 people


Would you really? Certainly that's the most ethical ..."


I couldn't do it either.


message 42: by AStein07 (new)

AStein07 An alternate ending for Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel series: Jem actually dies. He wouldn't have been afraid.


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