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Tolkien vs. GRRM: A Battle of Complex Characters


Mithras

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I always found the ring to be a bit too gimmicky in LOTR. 

 

The ring is supposed to be power in condensed form, and its corrupting influence stems from that. People are drawn to the ring, but it will turn them evil. However, the attraction lacks any rational element. No, taking the ring won't make you extremely powerful*. It only makes Sauron powerful. It will turn you invisible and corrupt you and will turn the Nazgul upon you and you will die, painfully. Not letting anyone put the hobbits touch the ring is so obviously the right decision, it turns many of the struggles with the ring uninteresting. Without the rational part, the attraction of the ring isn't power, it's heroin. And Frodo just happens to be very addiction resilient.   

You can't just say, this is power, now see what it does, if it actually isn't power. Similarly, just being told it will corrupt you or turn you evil also doesn't hit upon what corruption and evil is. The decision that I make to take power, might be corrupt. The decisions I make to stay in power, might make me evil. A device you wear doesn't make you evil/corrupt, your actions do and how the ring makes you do those actions seems to be a form of mindcontrol, more than the actual effects of the power of the ring. 

 

Since quite a few of the more complex characters are struggling with the ring, I find that this subtracts from their complexity.

 

Disclaimer: haven't read the books in a loooooooooong time. 

 

*Not sure if this applies to everyone, maybe Gandalf and Galandriel actually can keep the ring away from Sauron and use it for themselves.   

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Tolkien represents the old school - in fact, he invented the fantasy epic. I think a lot of readers prefer GRRM because he is more modern. Realism, sex and violence are handled differently, if at all, by Tolkien,

 

One strength Tolkien has over George is a sense of restraint. He stuck to his story and put his additional world building in appendixes and the Silmarilion, and other tales as well. We all love George and his meal descriptions and clothing styles, etc , and I know why they are there, but still the story does drag.

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[email protected] Actually they, and not Sauron, become more powerful if they use the ring. In the case of most of the ringbearers however this power is not enough for them to actually beat their enemies. One of the points of the ring however is the dilemma between the hard road and the easy road. If one of the Wise would have used the ring for themselves this would have been a pretty garanteed victory for the side of good... exept that it would no longer be the side of "good" per se...

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[email protected] Actually they, and not Sauron, become more powerful if they use the ring. In the case of most of the ringbearers however this power is not enough for them to actually beat their enemies. One of the points of the ring however is the dilemma between the hard road and the easy road. If one of the Wise would have used the ring for themselves this would have been a pretty garanteed victory for the side of good... exept that it would no longer be the side of "good" per se...

 

Thanks a lot for the explanation: 

 

Still, why? What would they do with the ring? What action would they do if they had the ring that would not longer make them 'good'? Why does using the ring turn you evil? Is it's only functionality; sacrifice one innocent child -> destroy a thousand orcs? (turn invisible).

 

Similarly: why is so hard for Frodo to get rid of it? He didn't become very powerful, it didn't make him feel good, why? It was like a heroin addiction he couldn't kick, except there was never any high?  

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Still, why? What would they do with the ring? What action would they do if they had the ring that would not longer make them 'good'? Why does using the ring turn you evil? Is it's only functionality; sacrifice one innocent child -> destroy a thousand orcs? (turn invisible).

 

 

This is a bit like asking "why does the dark side of the force turn you evil?" The answer is because it just does. In Tolkien's view, power (or a certain kind of power) was inextricably bound to evil and the ring represents that. 

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This is a bit like asking "why does the dark side of the force turn you evil?" The answer is because it just does. In Tolkien's view, power (or a certain kind of power) was inextricably bound to evil and the ring represents that. 


I agree. It is the idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
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This is a bit like asking "why does the dark side of the force turn you evil?" The answer is because it just does. In Tolkien's view, power (or a certain kind of power) was inextricably bound to evil and the ring represents that. 

 

Well yes, as much as I loved SW, I also think that isn't a very strong point of the story. GRRM would also win a character complexity battle with George Lucas in my mind. 

 

Sure, you can say: the ring is power, evil and attraction because these are linked. However I find that a poor view on what those things are. Character interaction with the ring become less interesting because of that. 

 

Tolkien failed to show (in my mind) why or how power was inextricably bound to evil and why that is still attractive to otherwise good characters. 

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I think Tolkein all in all came up with the best character in Gollum, and Gandalf, Bilbo, Smaug, Boromir, and Sam are up there with just about any character Martin has written. But as far as consistency with complex characters and motives, then yes Martin beats Tolkein in that department.

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So yeah, I'd say Tyrion, Arya, Ned, Robert, and company, are just as complex, if not far far more, than Turin, Hurin, or Feanor.  Tolkien's most round characters are in LOTR anyway. 

I'd say you're selling Gollum short. I really think he may be one of the most complex characters ever in literature and film. Seriously, use the Plinkett test: Describe the character without saying what they look like, what costume they wore, or what their role in the story was. Despite having one of the most iconic appearances of any fictional character, I think it would take most people a few minutes of talking about the character himself until they got to talking about his appearance or role in the film.

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I'd say you're selling Gollum short. I really think he may be one of the most complex characters ever in literature and film. Seriously, use the Plinkett test: Describe the character without saying what they look like, what costume they wore, or what their role in the story was. Despite having one of the most iconic appearances of any fictional character, I think it would take most people a few minutes of talking about the character himself until they got to talking about his appearance or role in the film.


I think you have misunderstood me. I said that Tolkien's most rounded characters are in LOTR. Gollum is in LOTR. I was comparing the song charchters to characters in The Sillmarillion that another poster mentioned.
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I think you have misunderstood me. I said that Tolkien's most rounded characters are in LOTR. Gollum is in LOTR. I was comparing the song charchters to characters in The Sillmarillion that another poster mentioned.

Gotcha. Sorry about that.

 

But as a side note, who do you think would be the POV characters in Lord of the Rings if Martin were writing it? Here would be my pick:

 

1) Frodo- Stops being a POV character in the Two Towers

2) Gandalf- Also stops being a POV character in the Two Towers

3) Faramir- Starts in Fellowship as a POV character, and continues throughout the series

4) Arwen- Starts in Fellowship and is throughout the series.

5) Aragorn- Starts about halfway into Fellowship and is throughout the series

6) Saruman- Starts about halfway into Fellowship, and continues until the end of the Two Towers

7) Sam- Starts in the Two Towers, and really takes over as the POV character for Frodo, who is now being corrupted by the Ring.

8) Pippin- Starts in the Two Towers and continues for the rest of the series

9) Eowyn- Two Towers only and throughout

10) Merry- Return of the King only and mostly takes over for Eowyn

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Tolkien represents the old school - in fact, he invented the fantasy epic. I think a lot of readers prefer GRRM because he is more modern. Realism, sex and violence are handled differently, if at all, by Tolkien,

 

One strength Tolkien has over George is a sense of restraint. He stuck to his story and put his additional world building in appendixes and the Silmarilion, and other tales as well. We all love George and his meal descriptions and clothing styles, etc , and I know why they are there, but still the story does drag.

 

I wouldn't say that. Tolkien also has a lot of padding in his works. LOTR alone has Tom Bombadil, the Wild Men, and the infamous return journey after the Ring is destroyed (if you think it was long in the movie, you ain't seen nothing yet). In fact I believe Book 1 of LOTR (first half of Fellowship) in its entirety is way too long.

 

As for grey characters, Tokien has some, let's not pretend otherwise. Gollum is of course a standout, as are Beromir, Denethor and Eowyn.

 

What sets Martin above, IMO, is that his grey and interesting characters are highly varied in motives and problems. Tolkien's almost universally have the same problem; attraction to the Ring. I understand that it's a metaphor for power and that it corrupts and all, but it's still a bit of an overused trick on Tolkien's part. The problem also becomes a bit diluted, IMO, over the course of the story when we see several characters (Sam, Galadriel, Bombadil, Frodo, Faramir) resist the Ring's influence quite well. So it kinda feels like the people who let the Ring's influence take over were weak-willed, to me at least. Whereas one would be hard pressed to say that people like Sandor Clegane or Catelyn Stark (for instance) are.

 

That being said, I still really like the concept that, in the end, Frodo failed his quest in LOTR and ended up being taken over by the Ring, needing Gollum to end it once and for all even if unintentionally. It added a lot of flavor to the end of the Ring.

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I think George's no king POV's rule would apply to no demigods in this case, so no Gandalf, Saruman or Aragorn (Elrond, Galadriel, Sauron etc.)

 

Instead I'd imagine Gollum and Boromir, all Hobbits, Faramir, Theoden, Gimli, Legolas would definitely be among them. 

 

Bonus points for a Nazgul epilogue or prologue.  :cool4:

I can say for certainty that Legolas would not be a POV character. He is the only member of the Fellowship that has little personality and Tolkien admitted himself that Legolas was an afterthought compared to the other 8 members of the Fellowship. He just put Legolas in there because he wanted all the races to be represented.

 

Gimli, maybe, but no, I feel sure that Aragorn would be a POV character. That would be dumb to not make him a POV character.

 

Gollum has too erratic of a mind to be a POV in my mind and it spoils some of the mystery of him. Sam's POV of Gollum is the most interesting and how he sees that Frodo is falling for him. 

 

And there'd certainly be a POV in Isengard. GRRM wouldn't just have Gandalf disappear for half the book without notifying the reader what's going on.

 

Boromir and Theoden are a possibility, but with Theoden, I think it's better to get Eowyn's POV and Aragorn's for the battle.

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