'Game of Thrones' Creator Reveals How 'Lord of the Rings' Inspired His Own Character Deaths

In a recent appearance on PBS' The Great American Read, George R.R. Martin explained how Lord of the Rings influence his Game of Thrones series.

Martin is the author behind A Song of Ice and Fire, the novels that HBO's Game of Thrones is based on. On Friday, PBS uploaded a clip featuring Martin on the special The Great American Read.

Hosted by Meredith Vieira, the show explores some of the greatest books in history, and asks viewers to vote for their favorite one.

The first part of the series premiered in May, and it will pick back up in September. In the two-hour special premiere, Martin made the case for Lord of the Rings as his all-time favorite, and encouraged viewers to do the same.

Martin recalls reading the iconic fantasy series in junior high school. As a poor child living in the projects in New Jersey, he said that books were his only escape from mundane life. As an already avid reader, he was surprised when he finally picked up Lord of the Rings to find how slow the pace moved.

However, as the action began to kick in, there was one unexpected event that he said will effect his work for the rest of his life.

"Gandalf dies!" Martin said. "I can't explain the impact that had on me at 13. 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. Because the minute that you kill Gandalf, the suspense of everything that follows is a thousand times greater. Because now, anybody could die!"

Martin did not shy away from the fact that he has employed this same plot device countless times to keep his readers on their toes.


"Of course, it's had a profound effect on my own willingness to kill characters at the drop of a hat... What I wanted to do was to take certain traditions of fantasy, but meld to it a level of grittiness and realism. Your books, your stories should reflect what you see in the real world around you. Even a fantasy that has dragons should reflect the truth."

While Martin's own novel, A Game of Thrones, is on the show's list of 100 books, he encouraged viewers to vote for Lord of the Rings instead. The second part of The Great American Read premieres on PBS on Tuesday, Sept. 11.