J.R.R. Tolkien and G.R.R. Martin have more than one thing in common other than double initials. They are literary masters in the fantasy genre and have written two of the most epic and impressive book volumes to date. Not only that, they’ve inspired and amassed a ridiculous horde of nerds who geek out over every detail, every canon fodder, and every fleshed-out character. Yep, I’m talking about the ridiculously talented and patient guys who’ve built the entire city of Kings Landing out of Minecraft blocks. #NotKidding
A showdown between these two masterpieces is definitely inevitable. Let’s have a head-to-head battle of their literary elements and see who comes out the victor. You know, for fun. 😀
Note: I’ve read all 5 published books of A Song of Ice and Fire and seen all aired seasons of the tv show Game of Thrones. I’ve also read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Silmarillion. I’ve yet to finish The Hobbit, though. I’ve seen all LOTR films and The Hobbit movies too. Why am I saying this? To show that I actually know what I’m talking about and not ripping off from the Internet. 😀
Warning: Spoilers everywhere! Also, if you can’t swallow reading someone else’s opinions about the books and shows/films, go graze other pastures! 😀
And drumroll please…
Smaug vs Targaryen Dragons
There’s no denying that Smaug is one of the most formidable creatures to ever walk Middle Earth. Cunning, arrogant, and keenly intelligent, he too was incredibly strong, very powerful, almost invincible, and deadly.
“My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” – The Hobbit, Chapter 12
But Targaryen dragons are formidable monsters as well. Balerion the Black Dread had a wingspan that covered an entire city, had breath that could melt the strongest castles (yep, I’m looking at you, Harrenhal 😀 ) and lay waste to a thousand armies. There were also Vhagar and Meraxes, enormous dragons controlled by Aegon’s sister/wives Rhaenys and Visenya. Presently, Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion are already laying waste to slavers, major cities, and simply being badasses. So who’s the winner?
Targaryen Dragons 😀 I’d take Balerion against Smaug any day. And if Drogon really is Balerion reborn, all of Westeros should dig the deepest dungeons and cower from Khaleesi’s babies. #GoDragonBabies
Boromir vs Ned Stark
Yeah yeah, they’re only here because they were both portrayed by Sean Bean onscreen. But heck, if the Internet is playing the joke, “How soon will it take any Sean Bean character to get killed off?”, why can’t we? 😀 Anyhoo, Boromir was one of the more conflicted characters on Fellowship. His struggle with the power of the One Ring and his duty towards his people was an internal tug-of-war that a lot of readers enjoyed. His death was a major catalyst for the trilogy too.
On the other hand, Ned Stark was an honorable man like Boromir. He was a great warrior and a revered ruler of Winterfell. Plus, he sired Robb Stark and Jon Snow (or did he? 😀 ) so his genes are definitely worth vouching for. Most importantly, his death became a catalyst for almost everything that happened onward with the books. So who wins?
I have to give this one to Boromir because in the end, he redeemed himself by saving the hobbits (his friends 😦 ). Ned, on the other hand, was too honorable he give Cersei and her incest-born children a chance to leave Kings Landing. Look where it got him.
Disney and Fairy Tales vs Masters and Johnson
Let’s face it, the closest thing to sex in LOTR is when Faramir kisses Eowyn’s brow or when Aragorn holds Arwen’s hands and speaks sexy Elvish. Tolkien even gave Aragorn and Arwen the longest engagement in literature ( he met Arwen when he was twenty but marries her sixty seven years later 😀 ). ASoIaF on the other hand, never shies away from a chance to expose and feature different aspects of sexuality: uninhibited lust, incest, prostitution, rape, homosexuality, group orgys, eunuchs, etc. LOTR is something you can read to your kids (but don’t, the detail and complexity is too much for a 5-year old 😀 ) while ASoIaF is something you flip through when it’s hot and…
So who wins? The lowbrow purity of Lord of the Rings or the unbridled carnality of A Song of Ice and Fire?
For pure entertainment and titillation, Martin’s realistic portrayal of human sensualism wins this hands down. 😀
Middle Earth vs Westeros
The art of writing fantasy literature is all about the details, how carefully drawn the landscapes are, how detailed the family histories and epic tales, how organised and drawn the characters, origins, and cultures. Let’s start with Middle Earth, a world that’s so detailed down to the last tower brick that we can easily imagine it as an alternate universe. From the greenest meadows of The Shire, the highest towers of Minas Tirith, the darkest hallways of Moria, the deepest dungeons of Dol Guldur, to the fiery chasms of Mordor, it’s a world that we can fully immerse ourselves in. Tolkien was a master story teller, there’s no argument there. 😀
But Martin has created an obra maestra of his own. The rich landscape of Westeros, the extensive histories and detailed family legacies have made millions of nerds giddy. The strange cultures of Essos, the harsh terrains of Westeros, the unforgivable Lands of Always Winter, not to mention the rich historical backgrounds of great empires like the Valyrian Empire, the conquest of Aegon, the great battle of Dance with Dragons, and the Long Night. These details are the very reason ASoIF is great. There’s so much story and potential in every page. 😀
So who wins? Tolkien’s masterful prose of Middle Earth or Martin’s impeccably detailed world?
I’d love to say it’s a tie, but I have to give this one to Tolkien. He IS the master of fantasy literature. 😀 After having read The Silmarillion and being immersed in the rich history and landscape of Middle Earth and Valinor, I will literally bow down to Tolkien’s grave if I see it. But to George (yep, we’re on a first name basis), I LOOOOOOVE your work.
Brilliant Prose vs Entertainment
Admittedly, reading LOTR is a struggle. If you can honestly tell me that you’ve read The Silmarillion or Return of the King without retracing some of the pages just to be sure you got your facts straight, I will breed a kraken and condition it to hate you. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy LOTR, you will. But brace yourself for what-was-that-again moments when reading The Silmarillion.
But A Song of Ice and Fire is a relatively easier read. Sure, there are more pages and you can barely keep up with the number of characters, but the stories are easier to handle because the chapters are divided into POV sections. Who wins?
Martin wins this one, purely for entertainment and readability reasons. 😀
Happy Endings vs Nihilism
It all boils down to your preferences. Do you want to be wrapped up in a story that gives hope and new beginnings or be immersed in a realistic world where good people fail and bad people thrive?
Tolkien’s LOTR is an epic journey of good characters fighting the bad guys. Aragorn, Frodo, Gandalf, Legolas – they’re all good for the sake of being good. Sauron? He’s evil because he simply is. LOTR is pretty much a black and white portrayal of characters, a somewhat Disneyesque feel. Of course, if it’s designed to be a fairy tale, there’s always a happy ending. Frodo destroyed the ring, Aragorn became King, Gandalf the Grey became the White, and so on.
Martin, unlike Tolkien, likes to be cruel to his characters. A lot of people say that he’s the cruelest writer to date; never has there been so many beloved literary characters subjected to brutal agony, emotional torture, and death. In fact, if you try to highlight every death in the books, you’ll have very colorful pages in your bookstand. Pretty soon, even us readers start rooting for the “bad guys” because there are so few “good guys” left. But that’s the thing about ASoIaF, there are no good or bad characters. They’re all conflicted, motivated, and morally ambiguous. In short, NO ONE is safe.
So who wins? Tolkien’s tragic heroes who go through turmoil and struggle but end up happy and redeemed? Or Martin’s heavily tortured characters who are neither hero nor villain?
I give this one to Martin 😀 It’s much more interesting reading a book when you really can’t predict who stays alive in the end. Who’ll live, who’ll die, who’ll win the Iron Throne, will there be an Iron Throne left… No one can predict because Martin is too unpredictable. *SPOILER ALERT! YOU WERE WARNED* Like when I was reading Tyrion’s chapter when he first meets Oberyn Martell. That Eastern hunk of a warrior was so intimidating I almost switched sides from Team Targaryen. For him to be offed so quickly by Gregor Clegane was a very frustrating 3-hour moment for me (it took me 3 hrs to get over his death 😀 ).
So I guess George R. R. Martin wins? Huh? What?
I know I know, Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece. There’s no denying that. But in terms of readability, realism, and contemporary merit, I think Martin deserves recognition. 😀
Let me know what you think! Feel free to agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Just no bad words, okay? 😀