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Mwm

Martins history or Tolkiens?

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Which do you prefer or think is better and why?

Edited by Mwm

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Tolkiens 100 %. It's so good. And I love the histories of the world. Rather than the history of the known world in A Song Of Ice In Fire. 

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Tolkien for me. While GRRM is smart and all and speaks well to the human mind, I find that Tolkien is a poet who speaks to the human soul. Even if using a by this day outdated language.

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I am, of course, a bit biased here.

Tolkien has a mythic sweep that GRRM doesn't really even attempt. There's a great thematic weight to all of Tolkien's history which makes it very appealing, and certainly very memorable. 

That said, mythic also means unreal, and there are aspects of the World of Ice and Fire that at least on the surface feel more lived-in and "real". But GRRM has less concern with a specific vision of right and wrong, of how humanity is or ought to be, and for the most part is moved more by novelty (something he's inherited from Jack Vance, I think) and by a mish-mash of historical references that provide color and complexity without overly taxing his worldbuilding.

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Martin is much better with the small-scale history. Specific chains of events, the chronologies of certain dynasties, the backgrounds of certain groups,... the recent story is much better defined and fleshed out, full of interesting tidbits.

But when the scope gets greater, Martin is much weaker. His myths are not very interesting: the children of the Forest, the Pact, or the Last Hero are rather dull and generic stories. There are no real cultural variations in Westeros (no linguistic diversity, no distinct naming patterns between kingdoms,...). The characters from centuries ago think and act indistinguishably from the current ones...

And in this last part is when Tolkien excels. The backstories and founding myths, even in the rough unfinished versions that we have been able to read them, are great stories. Each group of people has his particular traits (that evolve across time), and their own language (that also evolves depending on their interactions). But when you go to the "micro-story", Tolkien does not deliver much. There's little point in having the list of 25 the kings of Númenor if you can't say a line about 20 of them.

 

 

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I prefer GRRM's, because what I've read of Tolkien's seems to present what really/actually happened, while GRRM's presents myths, accounts, and interpretations without always telling us what really/truly happened, and that is what history in our world is.

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Tolkien's history of Arnor and Gondor is, at times, pretty good and deals with more mundane things as well - the Kin-strife is basically JRRT's version of the Dance (or the Anarchy) and there are plot germs (the story of Aldarion and Erendis, the plot for the history of Queen Berúthiel - which George rehashed, in a way, with Tyanna) which also have interesting potential.

If one thinks of the fact that Tolkien basically wrote out much of that material simply for the appendices of the LotR things are put into perspective here. The Silmarillion complex aren't histories as such, they are stories in their own right and actually the stories Tolkien always wanted to tell. George did not start with a Targaryen history.

And the history of the Seven Kingdoms could have been much more complex - there could have been a Thirty Years' Wars equivalent engulfing most/all Seven Kingdoms some centuries before the Conquest, there could have been interesting succession wars and the like (say, the two rival branches of House Stark ripping the North in two for a century). There could have been eras when the Gardeners or the Lannisters were on the verge of conquering the entire south north of Dorne, and there could have been times when royal dynasties were uniting, for a time, to create larger empires, etc.

It didn't have to be as static as it seems to be.

33 minutes ago, The hairy bear said:

But when the scope gets greater, Martin is much weaker. His myths are not very interesting: the children of the Forest, the Pact, or the Last Hero are rather dull and generic stories. There are no real cultural variations in Westeros (no linguistic diversity, no distinct naming patterns between kingdoms,...). The characters from centuries ago think and act indistinguishably from the current ones...

I agree on the latter part, but I think the former is actually intentional and a sign that the long time that passed since the earliest days simplified and idealized a lot of stuff. Chances are pretty good that the Pact is going to be revealed to have been largely fiction, at least in the sense that it really ended the conflicts between the Children and the First Men.

And what we know about savage customs of the First Men also implies things were much different not that long ago.

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3 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Tolkien's history of Arnor and Gondor is, at times, pretty good and deals with more mundane things as well - the Kin-strife is basically JRRT's version of the Dance (or the Anarchy) and there are plot germs (the story of Aldarion and Erendis, the plot for the history of Queen Berúthiel - which George rehashed, in a way, with Tyanna) which also have interesting potential.

If one thinks of the fact that Tolkien basically wrote out much of that material simply for the appendices of the LotR things are put into perspective here. The Silmarillion complex aren't histories as such, they are stories in their own right and actually the stories Tolkien always wanted to tell. George did not start with a Targaryen history.

And the history of the Seven Kingdoms could have been much more complex - there could have been a Thirty Years' Wars equivalent engulfing most/all Seven Kingdoms some centuries before the Conquest, there could have been interesting succession wars and the like (say, the two rival branches of House Stark ripping the North in two for a century). There could have been eras when the Gardeners or the Lannisters were on the verge of conquering the entire south north of Dorne, and there could have been times when royal dynasties were uniting, for a time, to create larger empires, etc.

It didn't have to be as static as it seems to be.

I agree on the latter part, but I think the former is actually intentional and a sign that the long time that passed since the earliest days simplified and idealized a lot of stuff. Chances are pretty good that the Pact is going to be revealed to have been largely fiction, at least in the sense that it really ended the conflicts between the Children and the First Men.

And what we know about savage customs of the First Men also implies things were much different not that long ago.

Plus, there are sections of the Targaryen family tree we know nothing about, such as Maester Aemon's sisters.

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As others have said, Tolkein is much more of a myth-maker, his "history" is songs and stories and legends handed down.  He was a linguist, and it's clear that his story is informed by expression and language more than Martin's.  Also, it's tough to have an immortal race of beings who live in the world, and then have the sort of historical misinformation and gaps of knowledge that speckle Westeros.  Elvish cultural memory stretches millenia, and many elves have been alive for that entire time.  Moreover, the end of the Third Age is considered a turning point for Middle-Earth, when the dominion of the Elves passes and that of Men begins.  It's a liminal moment, so the focus on the history is much broader and more of a "fallen civilization" narrative then one of development and growth.  Middle Earth, as an entity, has been in stasis for a long time.

Westeros... well, Martin does a great job with everything he sets his mind to.  I think he executes well on the entire concept.  That being said, it's also important to keep in mind that Tolkien was, essentially, the first.  The entire concept of that sort of self-contained fictional history, on that scale, was new.  Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings over a 12 year period or so, and what he fleshed out after was very different from Martin; detailed accounts of the lives of individuals or events.  We know a lot about Turin Turambar and not a lot about the War of the Last Alliance.  For Martin, we know a lot about the War of Conquest but not a lot about Aegon I Targaryen.  By contrast, GRRM began writing A Song of Ice and Fire in 1991 and isn't even close to done; it's not out of the question he spends 35 years on this.  That's a lot of additional time to create the backstory.  He also has a rich tradition of epic fantasy to draw on in helping outline his ideas.

Also worth point out - it is a LOT faster to type on the computer than a typewriter.  Editing, both internal and external, is much easier.  I am sure GRRM has the liberty and the opportunity to dive deeper into his fictional history because everything he's writing is stored on a database somewhere, and he doesn't have to reread chapters or manuscripts in order to remember just what date Elrond founded Rivendell.  GRRM just has to hit CTRL + F

 

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Posted (edited)

I prefer GRRM's world to Tolkien's. For the reason that Martin's focuses more on the dynasties and family houses of the recent centuries, and treats older events like mythology that may or may not have happened. And THAT premise appeals to me in terms of storytelling. 

 

With Tolkien, as much as I love his work, a lot of characters in the recent history aren't well developed and many details not explored like Martin would have done. And I find the events of the distant past are far too reliable for my tastes. I don't like that I am supposed to trust that all these events thousands of years ago all happened as we are told they were, or that the characters think they happened. At least with Martin's world, there is a good suspicion going on that what the characters are told is their history stretching back 8,000 years or more may only be hundreds of years. And not reliable because there was no written record until a few centuries prior. Their own mythology if you will. Tolkien spends more time nailing down all that stuff thousands of years ago and I find it far less interesting.

Edited by Big Daddy

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From the shores of Aman to the shores of Slaver's Bay,

Climbing the Meneltarma and praying to the Seven,

Fighting for Gondolin and defending the Wall,

Oposing Morgoth Bauglir and the Others,

With Angrist in my right hand and Needle in the left,

Following Finrod Felagund and Eddard Stark,,

Kneeling to Elros Tar-Minyatur and bowing to Jaehaerys I,

Hopelessy in love for Lúthien and with a love without hope for Nymeria of the Rhoyne,

Driking miruvor while eating lemoncakes,

Im a noldo and a dothraki,

That likes Martin, similar to a maia,  but loves Tolkien, pair of the Valar.

 

 

 

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On 8/19/2018 at 8:34 PM, Big Daddy said:

I prefer GRRM's world to Tolkien's. For the reason that Martin's focuses more on the dynasties and family houses of the recent centuries, and treats older events like mythology that may or may not have happened. And THAT premise appeals to me in terms of storytelling. 

 

With Tolkien, as much as I love his work, a lot of characters in the recent history aren't well developed and many details not explored like Martin would have done. And I find the events of the distant past are far too reliable for my tastes. I don't like that I am supposed to trust that all these events thousands of years ago all happened as we are told they were, or that the characters think they happened. At least with Martin's world, there is a good suspicion going on that what the characters are told is their history stretching back 8,000 years or more may only be hundreds of years. And not reliable because there was no written record until a few centuries prior. Their own mythology if you will. Tolkien spends more time nailing down all that stuff thousands of years ago and I find it far less interesting.

Except that there is a great Watsonian reason for this - Elves are immortal.  Why shouldn't they remember things from thousands of years ago, when they themselves lived through it?  The cultural and epochal memory of the Elves as a civilization SHOULD be excellent.  They do nothing but re-live it on a daily basis, anyhow, through song and poetry.

And again, compare the word and page count.  Martin vastly outstrips Tolkien.  As far as "ancient" in world history goes, I'd say Tolkien is the equal of Martin.

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