George R.R. Martin on ‘The Lord of the Rings’, Whether Tolkien Would Have Liked His Work, and One Big Regret [Interview]

/Film | 5/9/2019 | Ben Pearson
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Last night in Los Angeles, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin moderated a Q&A after a special screening of Tolkien, the biopic about the author behind The Lord of the Rings. You can watch that entire Q&A here if you’re interested, but before the film began, I had the opportunity to speak with Martin about reading Tolkien’s work, how Tolkien impacted his own writing, and one of Martin’s big regrets.

/Film doesn’t typically participate in red carpet interviews, but we gladly made an exception for the chance to speak with one of the most successful fantasists of all time. Here’s the transcription of our brief conversation:

Gandalf - Surprise - Death - Lord - Rings

I know that Gandalf’s surprise death in The Lord of the Rings had a really big impact on you as a storyteller.

It did.

Bit - Things - Tolkien - Body - Work

Can you talk a little bit about that, and if there are any other specific things from Tolkien’s body of work that influenced you?

Yeah, a number of things. First of all, he really created the genre that we call fantasy today. Of course, fantasy goes back hundreds of years. You can go back to Greek myths and things like that, and certainly Spenser and The Faerie Queen, the work of William Morris, The Well at World’s End, E.R. Eddison, Lord Dunsany – all great writers in their own way. But Tolkien created a whole new template that not only me, but every modern fantasist is following.

Fellowship - Ring - Age - Twelve - Thirteen

But yeah, specifically, I was reading The Fellowship of the Ring at the age of twelve or thirteen, and when you get to the scene where Gandalf and the Balrog go plunging into the pit, it was shocking. It was a punch in the gut, you know? Gandalf was the guy who had all the answers. He was the most powerful. It was a template,...
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