The 2011 series, based on George R.R. Martin’s novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire” and Tolkien’s trilogy have a lot of things in common, and it’s not a coincidence: “GoT”, as fans call the TV show, was heavily inspired by Lord of the Rings and the Middle Earth’s universe.
In the words of Martin himself: “Lord of the Rings trilogy influenced Game of Thrones”, he joked about it: “I started doing a trilogy called Game of Thrones. Now my trilogy is seven books — if I finish the last two”, in a reference to the (very) long time he’s taking to finish the sixth and seventh books, which has been making readers furious!
First of all, we can notice some superficial similarities, probably coincidences:
· The clumsy best friend, that, for a matter of fact, is called “Sam”: Samwell Tarly (GoT) and Sawise Gamgee (LOTR);
· The fan-favorite dwarf, such as Tyrion Lannister, from GoT, and Gimli, from LOTR;
· Female characters that need to prove themselves as warriors: Brienne of Tarth and Eowyn;
· The separation of the good and the bad sides, in which the good side choses a “king” to leads them: Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow and Lord of the Rings’ Aragorn;
· Giant animals, mammoths, magical swords, cities destroyed by dragons etc.
We could go on and on… but to learn more about Martin’s inspiration and Tolkien’s legacy, we need to go back to when the A Song of Ice and Fire author was 13 years old and hadn’t killed about 6.887 characters yet (not an exaggeration, it was verified by The Washington Post).
When George Martin was barely a teenager, he read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, like all of us, got shocked when Gandalf died. He could not comprehend it. It was a violation of the rules! However, it was the wizard’s death that made Martin realize that anyone can die, no matter if you are the bad guy, the good guy, or even the main character. “Tolkien just broke that rule, and I’ll love him forever for it. The minute you kill Gandalf, the suspense of everything that follows is a thousand times greater, because now anybody could die.” This point of view of the genre is explicit in Game of Thrones. Even more, and more violently, than in Lord of the Rings.
If Martin wasn’t a Tolkien reader, Ned Stark, the initial main character and the “best of guys”, probably wouldn’t get decapitated at the end of the first book, in a brutal and devastating scene. And Jon Snow probably wouldn’t be resurrected after being violently stabbed. Needless to say: George R.R. Martin completely mixed up the rules of the fantasy word, made up his own and, whether fans liked it or not, made a true massacre, and the readers never stopped counting the corpses.
George Martin also said that Lord of the Rings left him wanting more in a matter of exploring and developing the political dramas of Westeros, and most importantly, mixing fantastical elements with the harsh realities of war, power and human nature. Tolkien’s Middle Earth has the hallmarks of medieval philosophy: if the king was a good man, the kingdom would prosper. When Aragorn became the king, it was known that he was good and wise, but we don’t get much more than this. How did he collect taxes? What did he do when his people were starving? How did he deal with the orcs after the war ended? Did he commit genocide against them? Ruling is hard and not as simple as Lord of the Rings approaches it.
Martin made sure to explore every side of the characters: how they dealt with power, how they treated people and how the powerful ones ruled the country. Even Jon Snow, one of the main heroes, brutally executed his former partners, who betrayed him. And Sansa Stark, the silly and spoiled lady from the initial chapters, ended up feeding her rapist alive to his own dogs. Fantasy may have its own rules, but History it’s much more complex than that. In short: in Westeros, “good guys” can become antiheroes in a snap, just like in real life.
But, if you’re asking yourself right now: “which one is better, then?”, I answer you: no one. Both are different pieces of work that changed fantastic literature, cinema and TV. Both gained the heart of hunger readers and viewers.
In Lord of the Rings we have wizards, elves and dwarves in a beautiful world of fantasy, while Game of Thrones has gone much further: we got dragons, ice dragons, ice zombies, shadow babies, trees that are gods, and fire-summoning witch cults.
Also, while Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece when we talk about the environment and the visual spectacle, Game of Thrones has a complex plot and A LOT of main characters, with their own individual and independent plots. And while LOTR is beautiful, magical and approaches friendship and perseverance, GoT tells a raw, dark, violent, emotional and more realistic story.
Moral of the story: Lord of the Rings had a huge impact on Martin and Game of Thrones, and it also changed the way we view the fantasy genre today, beyond any rules or patterns and without limits to explore new worlds in every single way. Both stories deserve to be read, seen and appreciated.
The article above was edited by Larissa Mariano.
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