‘A Game of Thrones’ vs. ‘The Lord of the Rings’

It took me a long time to get to it, but I finally read A Game of Thrones after commenters here recommended it.

The first volume of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” epic fantasy series clocks in at nearly 700 large-size, small-print pages. I almost abandoned the novel after a few chapters, because the author kept jumping to so many different characters that it was hard to get absorbed. But I finally did, and found the book really compelling from then on.

Rather than write a straightforward review of A Game of Thrones — which, along with its sequels, inspired the hit TV series — I thought I’d compare it to the other epic fantasy tour de force read by many people (like me) who usually don’t read fantasy. I’m of course referring to J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings, and its prequel The Hobbit.

Overall, Tolkien’s wonderful classic is more of a page-turner — the storytelling is mostly linear, and the quest to destroy that titular ring is riveting. Martin’s most noticeable plot line — various families striving for power — is also exciting but a bit more diffuse. Yet A Game of Thrones (I haven’t read the sequels) surpasses The Lord of the Rings in certain ways.

Both epics have great writing, memorable characters, and excellent humor (though Tolkien is somewhat funnier — at least in The Hobbit). Each also features all kinds of death and war, but Martin’s depiction of violence is much more graphic and realistic. Perhaps partly a product of our current time.

Martin expertly juggles a somewhat larger cast of principal players, and, to his credit, has far more female protagonists in major roles. That might also be partly a product of a later era, but, heck, plenty of novels in Tolkien’s heyday had prominent female characters.

Perhaps most importantly, Martin’s characters are more three-dimensional than the vast majority of those in Tolkien’s cast. Few of the Game of Thrones denizens are all good or all bad — and that kind of moral ambiguity makes things very interesting.

Another interesting difference between the Martin and Tolkien works is that A Game of Thrones is mostly populated by humans, while The Lord of the Rings features a variety of bipeds: humans, hobbits, wizards, elves, orcs, etc.

Also, both series are set in long-ago, pre-modern-technology times. Martin does a better job of depicting the squalor and difficulties of living in such an era; things are more sanitized in The Lord of the Rings.

Will I read more of “A Song of Ice and Fire”? Not sure. A Game of Thrones was a large investment of time (about two weeks), and I’m not a fantasy buff. But I might. The novel ended on a very intriguing note, and I’m curious about what will happen to such characters as Daenerys Targaryen, the timid teen girl who turns into a ruthless dynamo; Arya Stark, the resourceful “tomboy”; Jon Snow, the outcast “bastard” son who makes something of his life; Joffrey Baratheon, the appalling young prince-turned-king; and Tyrion Lannister, the witty/crafty dwarf with perhaps the biggest personality in the book. (Tyrion, as played by Peter Dinklage in the HBO series, is pictured above.)

If you’ve read them, any thoughts on George R.R. Martin’s and J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous creations? (For those counting, that’s four “R” initials you just saw. 🙂 ) What other fantasy works have you enjoyed?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about climate change, a Board of Education resignation, and a school stairway collapse — is here.

70 thoughts on “‘A Game of Thrones’ vs. ‘The Lord of the Rings’

  1. Pingback: ‘A Game of Thrones’ vs. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ — Dave Astor on Literature – Sulz.com

  2. I’m in Nashvegas at the mo, and away from my books (though surrounded by others), but in any case, I doubt I can add much to the week’s discussion, having read Tolkein 50 years ago, and having had no wish to return, via print, to the orcs and Sauron and elves subsequently. The movies, all of which I watched out of solemn duty to my seventeen-year-old self, did not, overall, satisfy, as the books, at least when I read them, were better in my head than what I saw on screen.

    I have missed all media forms of George Martin, and so, am in no position to comment.

    I do enjoy the occasional Lovecraft story, and more often,ghost stories (MR James and Algernon Blackwood are faves), but worlds alternate to this one, to me at least, abound: the term for them is ‘fiction.’

    I am devoted to several series of books, mostly of the detective variety. But,as Jerry Reed once opined: “Honey, that’s something else.”

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    • “Nashvegas” — ha, jhNY! Hope your stay is going well.

      I read “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” several times in my younger years (first time was in college), but haven’t had a desire to reread them since the 1990s. I did see the “LOTR” movies, too, in the early 2000s; they were good, but, like you, I thought Tolkien’s books were better.

      I was also George R.R. Martin-challenged until a few weeks ago. 🙂

      The occasional ghost or horror story is definitely a draw. In those genres, I also enjoy Lovecraft (I think you might have recommended some of his work to me a few years ago) as well as Edith Wharton, Ambrose Bierce, and Shirley Jackson, among others — and of course Poe and Stephen King.

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  3. Dave, after this very interesting topic, I’ve got one new goal in mind: read at least one of the three fantasy books: “A Game of Thrones” or “The Wheel of Time” or go back to “The Mists of Avalon.” Each one will take a good bit of time, but time is what I have most of that I have right now. I know I’m supposed to think that since I have all this time, I can watch only one at a time, but if one thinks about it, does it really matter if I only watch one of those, or all three?

    If jhNY is tuning into this thread, thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite detective series, the Lew Archer novels by Ross MacDonald. I’ve now got 8 or so books of that series, so don’t ask me how I’m going to fit them in with any one of fantasy books mentioned above. 🙂

    However, it’s going to get cold and snowy up here I think very soon, Yesterday we used the new gas fireplace for a short time and it was lovely!

    I also have a question as to what makes a fantasy series as opposed to a sci-fi epic, such as “Dune” for example.

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    • Thank you, Kat Lib! It can be fun and interesting to occasionally read (or watch) something outside of our comfort zone or usual preferences. For me, that includes fantasy and westerns, among other genres.

      Excellent question ending your comment. Fantasy and sci-fi do seem to blur in more than a few cases. Nothing wrong with that… 🙂

      The weather is definitely starting to cool. Good luck with your first winter in your new place. Hope it won’t be too…wintry.

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    • I am reading the comments and I too have lately read seven or eight of the Archers, and look forward, once I steel myself once more to the process of ordering from a libris, to reading all the rest. Last time, when I attempted to buy them, I got lost in a logic loop on site, and after attempting to change billing address and shipping address, was disturbed by the fraud division of my credit card company, as each of my attempts appeared as an attempted purchase— eight times(?), which of course looked fishy to the overseers. Much fun on the phone ensued.

      May you have no such luck!

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      • Ha, jhNY! I hope not, because I’ve got a very short fuse when it comes to talking to any customer service rep. I don’t know why that is, especially since part of my job responsibilities were to talk to nurses, members, pharmacists, executives, and doctors, etc., and I never lost my cool with any of them that I can remember, I then retired/disabled and talked or interacted with an RN/pharmacist/ medical doctors, etc. The only time I lost my cool with any of them was when I was speaking with a CSR, and I feel so bad about that now, as though it was somehow their fault that I was so sick or whatever. Talk about an epiphany! I’m really trying hard to not blame whoever is on the other end of the phone that none of what happened to me is their fault! Thanks, jhNY for helping me sort this out

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        • Had I been able to reach a libris by phone, I probably had a good chance of making the transaction– but I am under the impression that transactions must go through the website, and was unsuccessful when I attempted to make changes to the information already stored under my name..
          A person shepherding me through my purchase would have been a big help– the phone fun came later, between me and my credit card company, alarmed that I wasn’t the cardholder, but a fraudster attempting to put through several transactions in very short order.

          I had hoped to buy all those Ross Macdonalds to take with me to Nashville, but it was not to be. Instead I went to a real bookstore, which had a book about Ross MacDonald, but no Archer novels. Ended up buying a couple of Jo Nesbos, which may be a bit gruesome for your taste, but I was happy to do it: after all,, eveything else I’ve read of his I’ve bought off card tables on Broadway, at street prices, which made the author not one cent.

          As to customer service, unfortunately for ourselves, we can’t speak to the executives who preside over the companies that frustrate us. From time to time, it’s necessary to get a bit short with the help– it’s the only way the bosses might hear of our unhappiness: through the frustrations and venting of their underlings.

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          • I really love Jo Nesbo, at least the Harry Hole series, of which I’ve read them all. Yes, they can be quite gruesome, but I seem to have become inured to book violence after having read so many mysteries/thrillers/detective novels. I’m not sure that’s a good thing or not, but I used to read a lot of cozy mysteries and they (not all) seem to be a bit dull in comparison.

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  4. I read every Song of Ice and Fire novel before I tried reading any of Tolkien’s work. About 3 months ago I tried reading the hobbit but it just felt predictable. It lacked something for me…not to sure what it is, but I’ll definitely pick it up in a few months time and give it another shot.

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    • Thank you for the comment, thequeniverse! I know what you mean. From reading “A Game of Thrones” at least, I think George R.R. Martin’s series is more exciting than Tolkien’s work in several ways. “AGOT” certainly has a more modern sensibility when it comes to the treatment of things like violence and sex.

      “The Hobbit” was originally meant as a story for J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, I think, so it was somewhat simple and predictable (though I also found it extremely entertaining). “The Lord of the Rings” is definitely a more substantial work, and I think a great one.

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  5. Hi Dave,

    I’m so glad to hear that you’ve finally read, and (mostly?) enjoyed “A Game of Thrones”. I know I’m in the minority, but I’m not really a fan of Tolkein. I enjoyed “The Hobbit”, but I got nothing out of “Lord of the Rings” except for my own personal description of a 2-star book – I didn’t like it, but I absolutely understand why other people do.

    I think of “A Song of Ice and Fire” as the junk food of literature. I know reading Dickens is good for me. And Austen will make me think about the history of feminism and women’s liberation. Dostoyevsky will make me re-evaluate the world, and my place in it, but goshdarnit, Martin’s world is just so much fun that my will power can’t say no!

    I think for me, the most important part of any story is the characters, and as you said, Martin gets a lot right here. I almost NEVER say this, but I think the spot on casting, and the insanely talented actors make the TV adaptation even better than the books. Peter Dinklage is an outstanding Tyrion (probably my favourite character at the moment). Lena Heady as Cersei, and Jack Gleeson as Joffrey are also stand outs. Jack Gleeson has made me absolutely adore the character of Joffrey Baratheon which may mean I need some kind of professional help!

    What other fantasy works have I enjoyed? There have been a few. As a child, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was one of the first books that transported me to a different place, and I was hooked. Through my teens I devoured the “Dragonlance” series. All about wizards and dragons, good will always triumph because they’re just those kinds of books, but again, the characters just spoke to me. Years later, when someone was trying to explain “Star Trek” to me, it was these books that I thought of. A group of very different individuals coming together to defeat evil as they find it, and maybe change the world. Of course, I’m also a big fan of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower”, and who could forget the fantastical world of “Harry Potter”. Most recently I’ve fallen in love with Neil Gaiman who I discovered in an anthology of sci-fi / fantasy short stories. The collection included Tad William’s “The Happiest Dead Boy in the World” which was a lot of fun. I didn’t love the full length novel that I subsequently read, but I do highly recommend the novella.

    Thanks, Dave, for having such a fun topic this week. I’m not sure why fantasy gets such a bad wrap, there’s certainly a lot of fun to be had!

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    • Thank you for the great/wide-ranging comment, Sue, and for being one of the people recommending “A Game of Thrones”! I did mostly enjoy it!

      I see what you’re saying about Martin’s series being “junk food,” but I feel it also has great writing, complex characters, social commentary, etc., to go along with its entertainment value.

      I haven’t seen the “Game of Thrones” TV series (other than a few YouTube clips), but I’m glad to hear the casting is so excellent! The show certainly did VERY well during this week’s Emmy awards ceremony.

      As for Tolkien, “The Hobbit” is definitely a more enjoyable read than “The Lord of the Rings,” but I think the latter is also a page-turner while having a lot more literary heft than the prequel.

      Thanks for naming all those fantasy works! I’ve read a bit of Neil Gaiman (“American Gods” and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”) and do like him. While fantasy is not a genre I’m well read in, I do usually like it when I sample it once in a while!

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  6. Another popular fantasy series is “The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan. I just googled it and it’s up to #11 of the series. I was spending a weekend with friends in 2009, and their 16 yo son was re-reading the entire series, or was it GoT? Knowing him, nothing would surprise me, and he ended up getting accepted to Cornell, so there’s that. And yet his mother was freaking out over him getting a copy of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” for his birthday and not letting him accept this from his aunt. I guess she hadn’t read either of the fantasy series! 🙂 The rest of us were saying that he was going off to college in a year or so and could read whatever he wanted to.

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    • I’ve heard about that Robert Jordan series, Kat Lib, but never read it. Eleven books is impressive!

      I agree that when someone is that close to college age, they should be able to read whatever they want! “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is an intense novel, but a fantastic novel — certainly appropriate for any mature 16-year-old.

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      • Because I just got a gift card from B&N, I ordered the 1st volume of both of “A Game of Thrones,” and “The Wheel of Time.” So I’ll see which one captures my attention the most, before committing myself to either for the long haul. Or I might go back to “The Mists of Avalon.” I’ve also decided I need to set up a schedule for reading and piano playing, which I’ve been lax about ever since the move, and I don’t like that’s happened. Today is the one I’ve set aside to do so. It’s like my organizational skills went out the window after all my medical problems, so I hope to get that back soon!

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        • Great, Kat Lib! Hope you like what you ordered. 🙂 As I mentioned in my post, “A Game of Thrones” can take a while to get into, but I was really drawn in by page 75 or so.

          Good luck with your reading and piano-playing schedule!

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  7. I have to admit I haven’t read Game of Thrones yet. Like you, I’m not as much into the fantasy genre. Maybe I will try to give it a whirl one of these days, but I don’t see it happening in the near future with my ever-growing HF list! However, I have read the Hobbit and all three Lord of the Rings books. The dark style of the LOTR trilogy really clicked in my brain when I learned that Tolkein was a WWI veteran. The struggle to destroy the ring, something that could sink all of Middle Earth into turmoil, echoed a little of what happened in WWI and the years leading up to it that dissolved our real world into utter chaos. I also really enjoyed the Hobbit, I remember having a hard time getting into it, but chapter five really got the ball rolling and I was hooked to every page after that!

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    • Thank you, M.B.! WWI definitely had a huge impact on Tolkien. He lost many friends in that war.

      I found “The Hobbit” very entertaining and a mostly easy read. It’s almost like a YA book. Then “The Lord of the Rings” got VERY serious — along with being excellent.

      Focusing a lot on your historical-fiction list makes sense! As has been mentioned in this comments area, “A Game of Thrones” has historical-fiction elements, but it’s certainly not historical fiction per se.

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  8. ‘Game of Thrones’, on the other hand is a much more diffuse work. It is essentially George R.R. Martin’s fantasy alternate world to the Middle Ages. There are numerous real-life parallels. It’s his version of the War of the Roses, which is kind of the medieval equivalent of World War I. In addition to several characters being similar to real world people, there are other parallels with history in the series. Tyrion is similar to Claudius and Joffrey is very much like Caligula. This can be seen more clearly in the second and third books of the series and makes sense if you’ve read Robert Graves’ novels ‘I, Claudius’ and ‘Claudius the God’ or seen the BBC miniseries of ‘I, Claudius’. Another character that pops up in Book 2 is Melisandre, a beautiful religious fanatic. She is a priestess of the Lord of Light, which demands fiery sacrifices and becomes the chief adviser to Stannis Baratheon, one of the contenders for the Iron Throne after the murder of Robert Baratheon in the first book. She is the Rasputin of the series.

    Then there are the characters of Jon Snow and Daenarys Targaryeon. They are embodiment of the ‘Ice and Fire’ in the title and it doesn’t take much prognostication to state that they are the two pivotal characters of the series.

    The shifting of points of view does not disturb me particularly because I viewed it as akin to Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’ and is why I titled my review of the first book ‘The William Faulkner of Fantasy?’. There are genealogical lists as appendices in each of the volumes that help dispel some of the confusion and as I read along I started to absorb who most of the characters were. The TV series has also helped.

    I think the peak of the series is actually the third (and longest) book, ‘A Storm of Swords’. It’s over 1,000 pages but it was originally expected to be two books. There is so much that happens in that novel, in fact most of the most crucial events. It took me a year, in between reading other books, including some tomes such as ‘Middlemarch’, ‘Daniel Deronda’, and ‘East of Eden’, between beginning the first book and finishing the fifith and last book so far, ‘A Dance with Dragons’. I’ll always have a sentimental affection for ‘Lord of the Rings’, although I don’t think I’ll ever read that trilogy again. I own the movies so I’ll probably watch them again. In fact, the movies have more dramatic impact for me now than the novels.

    ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is something I do hope to re-read at least once in my lifetime, just as I hope to re-read Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ (even MORE of a challenge!). I also own the TV series so I’m sure I’ll re-watch the show more times than I re-read the books. ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ has more depth and at this point has more dense world-building even than ‘LOTR’. It is actually closer to me to mainstream fiction than ‘LOTR’, partly because most of the characters are human and act human and have all the virtues and defects of humans. it just rings truer to the real world to me at this point in my life. I still prioritize literary heavyweights such as Dostoevsky, George Eliot, Balzac, and many others. I too am not, in general, a fantasy reader. Even when ‘Lord of the Rings’ was first absorbed into popular culture in the 60’s and 70’s I didn’t go out and buy and read every other fantasy series. ‘Lord of the Rings’ was kind of the exception rather than the rule when I was younger, for similar reasons why ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is the exception as I get older.

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    • bobess – being a fan of “A Song of Ice and Fire” I felt compelled to add my own comment this week, but I could almost have just copied and pasted this! I’m glad there are other fans here who can describe the novels more intelligently and eloquently than I can. Thanks 🙂

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  9. I’m glad you finally read ‘A Game of Thrones’! I admit that any of those books is a heavy investment of time if your priority is reading several smaller ones. I started ‘GoT’ on Thanksgiving weekend about five years ago and finished it on Christmas Day so two weeks sounds like you’re a much faster reader than I am or you just devoted more time each day to it.

    ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is largely a great relic from my childhood. I read ‘The Hobbit’ when I was 13 and re-read it a couple of times but I had a lot more to sink my teeth into with the trilogy, which I read the following summer (1969–I believe I was reading it when the first moon landing occurred). I’ve re-read the trilogy altogether about five times, including the last couple of those in between a couple of the movies. It is a powerful series and not quite as optimistic as you stated. Sure, the Dark Lord is defeated but Frodo is permanently damaged and can’t return to the life he once knew in the Shire so he leaves with Gandalf to go to the Grey Havens, which is very vaguely explained. Is it the Middle-Earth version of Heaven or Valhalla? Either way, it extends beyond the realms of men, hobbits, dwarves, elves, and orcs (if there are any left). So Frodo has sacrificed a lot for a vital mission that he never asked for. Sam, on the other hand, is able to return, older and wiser, and have a family. So there’s the happy ending.

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    • Thank you, bobess48, for your two long comments — impressively detailed and analytical!

      I was able to finish “A Game of Thrones” in two weeks partly because I had two plane rides (to and from Florida to deal with my mother’s estate) of nothing to do but read that novel. And there was a long delay for the return flight.

      Excellent point about “The Lord of the Rings”: It’s more optimistic than “A Game of Thrones,” but not totally optimistic. Frodo, while heroically/stoically accomplishing his mission, is indeed damaged physically and, most of all, psychologically.

      Another excellent point about “A Game of Thrones” having an historical-fiction vibe. I’ve read “I, Claudius,” and I agree there are some parallels with Tyrion Lannister.

      And, even in the first George R.R. Martin book, I can see how pivotal Jon and Daenarys are. They also happen to be the two characters who change and grow the most in “A Game of Thrones.” Martin handled that masterfully.

      Once I got used to Martin’s approach and learned about the characters, the shifting point of view totally worked for me.

      Impressive that you’ve read all five of the published “Song of Ice and Fire” books, and interesting that the third might be the most important. I’m still undecided whether to continue with the series beyond the first novel.

      Martin’s series certainly does have a LOT of depth, and, along with “The Lord of the Rings,” richly deserves to be one of the few fantasy works read by people who usually don’t read fantasy.

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    • Thank you, Daisy! I haven’t watched the “Game of Thrones” TV series but did see the three “Lord of the Rings” films and thought they were excellent and mostly did justice to Tolkien’s trilogy.

      I know what you mean about consistent reading. If I’ve started a book and then try to find something else to do each day rather than read it, chances are I’ll give it up, too.

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  10. I am just not a fan of fantasy either. I did read The Hobbit when I was in college if I am remembering correctly. In any case, there was a play performed of The Hobbit when I was at Auburn University and I remember going.

    However, the one fantasy that totally mesmerized me was Tail Chasers Song by Ted Williams. I think I’ve recommended it before, Dave. It’s a story about a cat named Fritti Tailchaser. I think you would absolutely love it since you have such an affinity for cats.

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      • Thank you, lulabelle! I didn’t see “Tailchaser’s Song” on my to-read list, so I just put it there. Anything starring cats is appealing to me. 🙂

        I guess baseball great Ted Williams is more famous than author Tad Williams! But, from your description, Tad seems to have hit a home run with his fantasy book…

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  11. Dave, I don’t have much to add here. I’ve not read or watched “A Game of Thrones,” mostly because I don’t watch much TV these days at all, other than news — and that is scary enough as well as depressing. Back in the days when “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was so popular, I dutifully bought the entire 3 movies on DVD. In addition, because I was working and had more disposable income, I acquired a beautiful hardcover set of the trilogy. I made it through the first novel, but I then realized I’m not a fan of fantasy. The most fanciful books to me are movies and poems that had to do with Camelot, King Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table. That whole story is so fantastic, and is quite enough for me! 🙂

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    • Thank you, Kat Lib! I’m not a TV watcher, either. Before I got rid of cable many years ago, I was spending too much time with TV and not enough with books. 😦

      I haven’t read a lot in the Camelot realm — other than Mark Twain’s satirical “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and maybe one or two other things. And I did love “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

      Yes, the news is so depressing these days that it feels like piling on to also read depressing novels. But, as you know, if such novels are done well, they can be well worth the time. I put “A Game of Thrones” in that category.

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      • Well, I read “The Idylls of the Kings,” which I think is the book that got me into trouble with my English teacher after having read it in a former school. She was accusing me of plagiarism, though I’d read it a few years back and still had the notes for. I guess I was supposed to footnote everything, but didn’t. She was ready to give me an F, but I talked her out of it. I was already in an AP course, so I was only a year or two off of what I was supposed to have learned the following year. After that debacle, when I went to attend Drake University, and the first day of English, we were put into a large room and were supposed to write an essay on a topic that I can’t remember. However, I did well enough that I was one of the few who were told we could skip freshman English and go directly to sophomore level courses. This was one of my favorite accomplishments. Unfortunately, when I transferred to UT at Austin, they refused to accept those credits and in order to graduate I had to take all of the freshman English courses. This is what caused me to switch to History as my major instead of English because it was a lot fewer courses, and my lovely parents were paying for the whole thing.

        In addition, I’ve seen “Excalibur,” “The Mists of Avalon,” “Merlin,” “Camelot,” “King Arthur,” “The Sword in the Stone,” and more than I can even remember now.

        It’s pouring rain here, I’m not sure if this is the remnants of Florence or just a new storm moving through.

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        • Also pouring here in northern New Jersey; I’ve heard the Northeast is now getting some Hurricane Florence remnants. Nothing even remotely as bad as what hit the Carolinas.

          You definitely have read or seen a good number of King Arthur-related works!

          College rules and bureaucracy, the inflexibility of some professors, etc., can certainly be annoying, and you unfortunately got more than your share of that. 😦 Under the circumstances, switching to a history major sounds like a wise move!

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  12. Though the central theme of both fantasies is the same: the unquenchable thirst for power, the two series are very different. Tolkien was a devout Catholic who experienced the horrors of WWI first hand. Those battles reverberate endlessly through his writing. The hobbits were the boys in uniform that he knew – and lost. Despite the horror, Tolkien’s books are about optimism, redemption and salvation.

    Martin was a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam. His worldview reflects the alienation of his generation – everyone dies. There is a deep pessimism to Martin’s writing that is not there in Tolkien’s. In The Lord of the Rings, when the battle is over, peace is won – but keep in mind that Tolkien wrote during WWII. The millions lost in WWI did not earn peace, but another war.

    Maybe that is ultimately what made Martin write what he did – everyone dies.

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    • An expert and eloquent analysis, Almost Iowa! Thank you!

      I agree that “The Lord of the Rings,” while having lots of harrowing content, is essentially an optimistic work. The first novel in George R.R. Martin’s series is indeed deeply pessimistic — a very honorable character dies, a number of evil people do quite well, etc. That makes Martin more realistic than Tolkien, unfortunately.

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      • Almost Iowa, it was fascinating to me that Martin was a CO during Vietnam, as was my brother.
        “Eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War, to which he objected, Martin applied for and obtained conscientious objector status; he instead did alternative service work for two years (1972–1974) as a VISTA volunteer, attached to the Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation.” My brother had to go to prison for 18 months; do you know why Martin was granted CO status, not that it matters, but I’m just curious how he got to do alternative status, which is what my brother wanted to do. I think it may have something to do with his being Catholic? Thank you!

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  13. It’s amazing to think that it’s what, over 20 years since GoT first came out? So I guess we can safely call it a classic now.

    An interesting question I’ve always had about the ASOIF series is how much it’s influenced by tabletop gaming. Somehow it has that feel, with its armies placed around the board. Martin has openly acknowledged the influence of Tolkien on his plotting and particularly his willingness to kill off main characters, although as you noted, Martin’s plotting is less linear. Still, he also borrowed the cliffhanger endings and simultaneous plots. Both are fascinating examples of daring use of plot structure, as well as the use of landscape to evoke a mood.

    Gosh, now I want to go reread them both—again :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Elena! It has indeed been 22 years since “A Game of Thrones” was published.

      Interesting — I hadn’t thought of the tabletop gaming aspect, but there is indeed something of a board (not bored!) feel to the plot machinations.

      And, yes, Tolkien is clearly one of George R.R. Martin’s (various) influences — even as I think Martin kills off more main characters than J.R.R. did.

      Cliffhangers aplenty! A riveting approach, but also a bit frustrating when several subsequent chapters appear before the cliffhanger is continued or resolved.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I tried to read The Hobbit years ago, and like you, I am not a fan of the fantasy genre. I just couldn’t get into it. I still feel like I should try it but I never seem to get around to it. I may be the only American who has not watched Game of Thrones. I have heard it is violent and that has held me back. I admire your perseverance to read this lengthy book even though fantasy is not your thing, Dave. It has certainly captured the attention of the masses!

    Liked by 1 person

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