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Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Game of Thrones vs Lord of the Rings

These two blessed series are often compared to one another. I've heard arguments claiming that GOT would not exist without LOTR. However, I actually find them to be very different.

Fantasy Elements

GOT is what you would call 'low fantasy' whereas LOTR is 'high fantasy.' GOT operates in a medieval setting in which lots of drama takes place, and has a few fantastical elements such as magic, dragons and prophecies. Westeros, Essos and Sothayos are not dissimilar to our regular world. Middle Earth, by contrast, is rife with fantastical elements and fictional creatures: wizards, hobbits, dwarves, elves, fairies, dragons, orcs, and other fantastical creatures. Magic is a large part of the story, with the magic of the rings, whereas in GOT the story is driven more by drama and political differences.


GOT is a story about moral complexity, whereas LOTR is more traditional 'Good vs Evil.' We know who the good guys are; Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, Samwise, and we know Sauron is the bad guy. One of the most morally complex characters can be said to be Gollum, but overall its clear cut who is good and bad. In GOT, with the exceptions of characters like Joffrey and Ramsay who are clearly evil and Samwell and Gilly who are clearly good, most of the characters have good and bad in them. I think Cersei and Tywin are very complex because they aren't entirely evil, and don't commit bad for the sake of bad, however their actions are often in their own vested self-interest. Lots of the characters cross over between 'good' and 'bad', including Jaime, The Hound, Arya and Daenerys.


And of course, GOT is aimed at adults whereas LOTR is aimed at children. Those of any age can enjoy LOTR, however those roughly under the age of 14-16 (depending on how mature you are) wouldn't be able to comprehend the complexity of GOT. There are lots of unsuitable scenes for young children such as the sex and heavy violence - yes there is fighting in LOTR but the violence in GOT can at times be unspeakably distressing. But because GOT requires you to think more and messes with cliches, it's not something children are 'used' to. Children's stories tend to be more straightforward, whereas adult stories are more ambiguous such as some of my favourite films; Gone Girl, American Beauty, Whiplash. 


The plot in LOTR is very straightforward; here's the ring, take it to the Dark Tower in Mordor and throw it into the lava to have it destroyed. GOT contains lots of sub-plots and storylines. Its main story is of people struggling for power in a corrupt world, whilst the threat of vicious humanoid creatures looms closer. Right from the beginning we are introduced to the white walkers, and although they don't physically appear much, they are a constant wider threat to all those in Westeros. The irony of the tale is that whilst this larger threat grows and strengthens, most of the characters are more consumed with sitting on an iron chair.

Generally, I don't think GOT and LOTR really have that much in common. A more accurate comparison I would say is Harry Potter and LOTR, of which it is fair to say Harry Potter would not be what it was without the other. JK Rowling was very influenced by Tolkien, and HP has so many similarities; even Gandalf and Dumbledore look alike. The main reason GOT is so different is that it doesn't follow the conventional 'Hero's Journey' plot that many of these loved franchises do. For more info on that check out my post on the 'Hero's Journey' plot device:


  1. Nice one! This is a great comparison! When people say GOT would exist without LOTR, I think people are referring to the fact that many of these mystical creatures were sort of invented by Tolkien. He appears to be the first to cook up a fantasy of this nature. Many videogames are also given the same stamp of it being born as a result of LOTR - eg: Elder Scrolls, Warcraft, etc. And, hey, there is no harm in following through in a path someone started ages ago. I'm sure there was that first Sci Fi novel ever, somehow the world doesn't tend to give today's Sci Fi films the same treatment :)

    1. Thank you so much and yeah, Tolkien was the one who popularised mythical creatures and high fantasy. All art to a degree is inspired by past art.

      With Sci-Fi, books like Brave New World, 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 all have clear influences and similarities within each other. What do you mean by the world not giving Sci-Fi the same treatment? Do you mean that we accept all Sci-Fi works in their own right and don't compare them in the same way we do with the Fantasy genre?


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