Ned Stark. Khal Drogo. Catelyn Stark. Robb Stark. Ygritte. Oberyn Martell. Game of Thrones, both the show and book series, is littered with fan-favorite characters who were either brutally murdered or… they were pretty much all brutally murdered, actually. Why does A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin (and his HBO disciples, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) take such violent delight in killing his characters and our joy? Blame J.R.R. Tolkien.
During an interview on The Great American Read, an eight-part PBS series on America’s 100 favorite novels, Martin praised The Lord of the Rings (all three novels made the cut), which he first read in junior high school. “By the time I got to the Mines of Moria,” he said, “I had decided this was the greatest book that I had ever read.” It was also a huge influence on his own work:
“…and then Gandalf dies! I can’t explain the impact that had on me at 13. You can’t kill Gandalf! I mean, Conan [the Barbarian] didn’t die in the Conan books, y’know. Tolkien just broke that rule, and I’ll love him forever for it. Because the minute you kill Gandalf, the suspense of everything that follows is a thousand times greater. Because now anybody could die. Of course that’s had a profound effect on my own willingness to kill characters at the drop of a hat.”
And what a hat it is.
You can watch the entire interview below (and see the 100 novels here).