Everyone remembers where they were and who they were with the first time they witnessed the Red Wedding. “The Rains of Castamere,” recently rated by The Ringer as the third best episode in TV in the 21st century, marked a turning point for anyone watching “Game of Thrones.” If Ned Stark’s execution was a warning shot, the Red Wedding represented how real the stakes were in this show, regardless if you were a book reader or show watcher.
Give credit — or perhaps, blame — to the story’s author, George R.R. Martin. The writer has almost become a meme for his willingness to kill characters and inability to “finish the books, but he assigns inspiration to another highly-praised fantasy storyteller, J.R.R. Tolkien. As Martin revealed during The Great American Read, an eight-part PBS series around America’s 100 favorite novels, Tolkien was a huge influence on the type of bold storytelling choices found in A Song of Ice and Fire.
Martin encountered Lord of the Rings for the first time in junior high school, and “by the time I got to the Mines of Moria,” Martin said. “I had decided this was the greatest book that I had ever read.”
…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.
You can watch the full interview below and check out the full PBS list of America’s 100 favorite novels here.