George R.R. Martin Blames 'Lord of the Rings' for Why He Kills 'Game of Thrones' Characters

As fans of Game of Thrones -- book or television series -- will tell you, you probably don't want to get too attached to any favorite characters. Creator George R.R. Martin tends to shock fans with surprising character deaths, but according to Martin he can't take all the credit for that. He was inspired by "The Lord of the Rings".

Martin's novel "Game of Thrones" is one of novels included in PBS' The Great American Read, an eight-part series exploring and celebrating the power of reading by looking at the 100 novels Americans chose as their best-loved in a national survey. The series will culminate in the selection of one book for the title of "America's best-loved book" and anyone can vote their choice. J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" is also on the list and in a conversation with PBS, Martin advocated for "The Lord of the Rings" over his own novel, explaining that it was the death of Gandalf in that shaped his own writing.

"Tolkien's greatest invention was the characters who struggled with the temptation of the ring and what to do with it." Martin said. "They're all fighting these battles inside their hearts. That can take place anywhere in anytime in any space in all of human history. And then Gandalf dies!"

"I can't explain the impact that had on me at 13. You can't kill Gandalf. Conan didn't die in the Conan books, you know? Tolkien just broke that rule and I 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 Martin's characterization of his willingness to kill characters isn't an exaggeration. A Washington Post study noted 1,243 deaths on HBO's Game of Thrones through the show's sixth season. Numbers weren't available for the seventh season, but with the show heading into its eighth and final season in the first half of 2019, fans can likely expect even more deaths -- potentially ones of Gandalf-level devastation -- before the series ends its run.

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As for the beloved characters in Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", fans will be able to immerse themselves in the tales of Middle Earth on the small screen soon. Amazon's Lord of the Rings series is in development and last month it was announced that the studio had tapped Star Trek 4 writers John D. Payne and Patrick McKay to develop their small-screen take on the classic.

"The rich world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is filled with majesty and heart, wisdom and complexity," Payne and McKay said in a joint statement. "We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Amazon to bring it to life anew. We feel like Frodo, setting out from the Shire, with a great responsibility in our care -- it is the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime."