So you thought George R.R. Martin kills off some of Game of Thrones‘ most favorite characters just to toy with emotions of his readers, did you? Well, that’s not exactly true, even though it feels like it at times. There’s a reason why he embraces shocking twists and sending favorite characters like Ned Stark to an early grave, and it’s pretty simple: because J.R.R. Tolkein did it to a young and impressionable Martin.
Gizmodo posted about a recent interview with Martin about the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series being added to PBS’ “The Great American Read” collection, in which Martin revealed that when reading Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings for the first time as a teenager, the stunning blow of Gandalf’s death in the Mines of Moria left a deep and lasting impression on him and his future writings.
“And then Gandalf dies! I can’t explain the impact that had on me at 13,” Martin told PBS. “You can’t kill Gandalf. I mean, Conan didn’t die in the Conan books, you know? 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,” Martin continued. “Of course, that’s had a profound impact on my own willingness to kill characters off at the drop of a hat.”
Interestingly — although perhaps not surprisingly — Martin is a much bigger fan of leaving a dead character, well, dead than he is finding a reason to bring them back (obvious exceptions like Lady Stoneheart and Beric Dondarrion aside). In a 2011 interview, Martin said that while he loved Tolkein’s choice to kill off Gandalf, he was less enthused that he returned as Gandalf the White later in the novel.
“What power that had, how that grabbed me. And then he comes back as Gandalf the White, and if anything he’s sort of improved,” Martin said. “I never liked Gandalf the White as much as Gandalf the Grey, and I never liked him coming back. I think it would have been an even stronger story if Tolkien had left him dead.”
Speaking of killing, Insider recently posted that Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) spoke with BBC Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw on Grimshaw’s Breakfast Show about Thrones coming to an end and what she’ll have to remember her time in Westeros: the brown leather jacket Arya wore in Season 7 (and will presumably wear in Season 8) that, in its remarkable similarity to something her father Ned would have worn, signified her return to her rightful home and the culmination of her long, hard journey back to Winterfell.
“I can imagine it being something that I’m like, ‘Oh, I was on this show once upon a time and this was the jacket I wore,’ ” Williams told Grimshaw. “And my grandkids being like, ‘Please stop.’ ”
But what of Needle, the sword Arya so cherished and never stopped trying to recover after it was taken from her by Lannister soldiers early in the series? Williams didn’t mention taking home the prop sword in the Grimshaw interview, but we can imagine it was discussed with the props department — especially if previous comments made by Kit Harington (Jon Snow) about how badly he wants to take home Longclaw are any indication. Harington told Entertainment Tonight in 2017, ahead of the Season 7 premiere, that the “only [prop]” he ever wanted was his sword.
“The first season they were like, ‘Yeah yeah yeah of course,’ and as the seasons went on and the show became more and more popular and that sword’s value went up, they became slowly quieter about it,” he said. “And that’s why I’m hinting more and more. I’m like ‘No seriously I want that sword.’ I’m just gonna steal it.”
It wouldn’t be the first thing Harington stole from the Thrones set — the first being the heart of his co-star, Rose Leslie (haha see what I did there?), whom he married earlier this year — but will he actually be able to spirit away his beloved Longclaw? We’ll have to wait and see, but now that Season 8 filming is finished for good and all, maybe we’ll know sooner rather than later.