George R. R. Martin Didn’t Like 1 Thing J. R. R. Tolkien Did With a Fan Favorite The Lord of the Rings Character

George R. R. Martin disliked J. R. R. Tolkien resurrecting Gandalf in The Lord of The Rings mythos.

George R. R. Martin, The Lord of the Rings
credit : wikimedia commons


  • George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings are among the most popular fantasy works of all time.
  • Despite sharing several similarities, Martin and Tolkien's approach to their respective fantasy world is incredibly different and unique.
  • While Tolkien treated death more respectfully, Martin disliked how Gandalf was resurrected in the mythos and believes he should have stayed dead.
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There exists in abundance, several pieces of fictional works set in fantasy lands and places, consisting of unrealistic characters with unimaginable powers and abilities. Of these, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings are considered among the best and have now become a staple part of popular culture.

Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow in Game of Thrones.
A still from Game of Thrones

Both set up in unbelievable fantasy worlds with some of the most extraordinary characters, and the two lores could not have been more different. While one can find certain similarities between the two, even the authors differ in their approach. And George R. R. Martin particularly has a problem with how J. R. R. Tolkien dealt with one fan-favorite The Lord of The Rings character.

George R. R. Martin Does Not Like How J. R. R. Tolkien Treated Gandalf

Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White in The Lord of the Rings franchise
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White in The Lord of the Rings franchise

The Lord of The Rings has several incredible and extraordinary characters, yet Gandalf is one of the most famous and fan-favorite characters of all time. Initially called Gandalf the Grey, the character’s real name is Olórin, and he is an angelic being known as Maia.


Famous for his boundless wisdom and unusual magical abilities, Gandalf was sent by the Vala Varda to go to the Middle-Earth and guide the people. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf falls to his death in the pits of Moria fighting the Balrog of Khazad-dûm while trying to save others.

However, in The Two Towers, Gandalf is resurrected and sent back by Eru Ilúvatar with even greater powers as Gandalf the White. This resurrection has led to many a debate among fans of J. R. R. Tolkien, and even George R. R. Martin states that the character should have stayed dead.

While on the Bullseye podcast, the author stated,


Much as I admire Tolkien, I once again always felt like Gandalf should have stayed dead… His last words are, ‘Fly, you fools!’ What power that had, how that grabbed me… Then, he comes back as Gandalf the White, and, if anything, he’s sort of improved… I think it would’ve been an even stronger story if Tolkien had left him dead.”

While he is not wrong, Gandalf’s sacrifice had a great impact, and his resurrection greatly diminished it. At the same time, it should be remembered that Gandalf is not human but a great entity with unimaginable powers and duty to guide the Middle-Earth.

George R. R. Martin and J. R. R. Tolkien Have a Different Approach to Death

A still from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
A still from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

George R. R. Martin’s fantasy world of Game of ThronesA Song of Ice and Fire is famed for killing off characters unexpectedly. Meanwhile, J. R. R. Tolkien, in his The Lord of the Rings mythos tends to treat death a bit more carefully and with respect.

Presenting death as abrupt, unpredictable, and often brutal, in Martin’s works, no character is safe and can meet their demise unexpectedly, without a warning. In a more traditional and realistic approach to the end, character deaths in The Game of Thrones mythos are sometimes followed by resurrection. Yet unlike Tolkien, who treats resurrection as a means to greater things, Martin’s resurrected characters often lose a part of themselves in the process, becoming very different from their past selves.


The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, portrays death as a natural part of the circle of life, often accompanied by noble and valor sacrifices. The characters’ death emphasizes themes like heroism, redemption, or the passing of age, thus treating death with some respect. Resurrection and Death are often treated as a transition to something bigger or another realm, thus creating a lore based on more fantastical themes.

While Tolkien emphasizes bravery and life through death, Martin tends to highlight the harsh and complex reality of the same. Yet, neither approach is greater or lesser, and the huge popularity of their respective books highlights that fans love it all, irrespective of their approach.

Game of Thrones and The Lord of The Rings franchise can be streamed on HBO Max.


Written by Maria Sultan

Articles Published: 1275

Maria Sultan is a News Content Writer at FandomWire. Having honed her skills are a Freelance and Professional content writer for more than 5 years (and counting), her expertise spans various genres and content type. A Political Science and History Graduate, her deep interest in the world around shapes her writing, blending her insights across diverse themes.

Outside the realm of writing, Maria can be often found buried in the world of books or pursuing art or engaged in fervent discussions about anything or everything, her passions balanced by binge watching Kdramas, Anime, Movies or Series during leisure hours.