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Aldarion

ASoIaF and LotR commentary, comparison and parallels

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As you can figure out from my nick and avatar, I am kinda a fan of both. Anyways...

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There are obvious broad similarities between the both of them, since they are both based on a mix of Ango-Saxon, Celtic, English and Germanic legends. However, there are quite some more parallels.

Martin himself has stated that he is aiming for LotR-esque "bittersweet ending":
https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2015/08/14/george-r-r-martin-aiming-for-a-lord-of-the-rings-ending-to-game-of-thrones/

In fact, there are some obvious parallels from the very beginning. Both A Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire begin with rumors of a dark power rising: Sauron has not yet obviously returned to power at the time when LotR books start, and it is even more obvious with the Hobbit and Necromancer of Dol Guldur, who is relegated to a side-"story never shown", yet turns out to be the primary antagonist all along. Similarly, in ASoIaF, very few characters believe that the Others are returning to power, and focus is initially on inner conflicts.

As this article points out, Daenerys is Gollum. Now, this more obviously applies to the show. However, the Iron Throne is the Westerosi equivalent of the One Ring in Lord of the Rings: they are both artefacts which represent power, and human obsession with it. Daenerys is fixated on the Iron Throne much like Smeagol is on the Ring. Smeagol is initially a not-that-bad of a person, but Ring turns him despicable; likewise, Daenerys tries to be a decent person, but gives in to obsession with power (this is true in the books as well; it is not a show-only development). Frodo and Jon are both unwitting heroes, people who become heroes by chance rather than by desire.

Martin outright states that he drew lessons from Tolkien on handling of magic: it is there, but it is extremely subtle, so subtle that oftentimes you cannot even notice it unless it is explicitly pointed out. Valyrian Steel weapons are obviously magical, but up until the clash with the Others / White Walkers, nobody would ever take them for anything other than just high-quality steel. This parallels Lord of the Rings, where the Daggers of Westernesse have no magical characteristics except for their ability to kill Ringwraiths. Other usages are also quite similar and similarly low-key: Melisandre can see future events in fire, much like Galadriel can in her mirror; but neither are reliable, and both are dangerous as a guide for future events. Had Sam returned to Shire after seeing a vision in Galadriel's mirror, Middle Earth would have been doomed; likewise, Melisandre misinterpreted her visions gained from the fire, but unlike Sam she acted on them.

Even narrative structure is similar (from the link):

The structure was very influential on Game of Thrones. If you look at the structure of Lord of the Rings, it all begins in the Shire and it’s very small. And then it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. The Fellowship starts together with the four Hobbits and then they pick up Strider — Aragorn — and then they get to Rivendell where they pick up more people. And for awhile they’re together, but then later in the books they split apart, they separate from the two groups. Now if you look at Game of Thrones, everybody except Dany starts out in Winterfell, then certain things drive them apart, and then they’re scattered all over the world.

Main difference is that Tolkien's narrative is outward-focused, while Martin's is inward-focused. What do I mean by that? Tolkien always has an outside threat, a Big Bad: Morgoth, then Sauron, then Saruman and Sauron. Primary threat, and thus primary focus of the narrative, is externalized to protagonists' political landscape, even though it is internalized when it comes to protagonists themselves. Sauron is an outside invader; if Gondor is to be compared to Byzantine Empire, Mordor would be Seljuk or Ottoman Empire. From the First age to the Third, the focus is always on defending against the attack from without. Martin's world is is inward-focused: it is a story of politics, treachery and so on; the Others are essentially a sideshow, like Sauron was back when he was still lazing around in Dol Guldur. However, closer reading reveals a picture much more complex than that; fact that things are out of focus does not mean they are not there. In Tolkien, you also have conflicts between good guys: inner Elven politics in the First Age - the conflict between different groups of Elves, the conflict between Sons of Feanor. It is rashness, jealousy and greed of a resident that brings about the fall of Gondolin, not a spy from outside; likewise in the Second Age, it is the pride that causes Fall of Numenor, Sauron merely helped things along.

In the Third Age, there are obviously politics between various good powers, but also within them. Aragorn refuses to return to Minas Tirith as a king precisely because he fears a civil war; and Gondor itself had had its own "Game of Thrones" in Kin-strife, a civil war between Eldacar and Castamir. Much like War of the Kings in Westeros, Kin-strife meant that attention waned towards external threats just as the same were rising up again. Arnor had it even worse, splintering and destroying itself in a series of civil wars between first various claimants for the throne, and then successor kingdoms. But inner conflicts of the Third Age happen in the background; they are there, they are crucial for understanding how things became as they are, but are not the focus of any story. And because most people are only familiar with the primary Lord of the Rings story, and have never read even Appendices, let alone Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales etc., they are only familiar with primary conflict between people of the West and Sauron. Consequence of this is the (unfair) impression that Lord of the Rings is solely a tale of Good vs Evil told in a very white-and-black worldview. But taken as a whole, opus is much more complex: as Gandalf points out, nothing was evil in the beginning; and Silmarillion proves that not even Morgoth was evil. There are politics, backstabbings, betrayals, stuff that would make Martin proud. Meanwhile, Martin's world is inward-focused: one of the reasons for why the White Walker arc on the TV was so disappointing is the very nature of the story. It is a political drama, a story of plays for power. "Power resides where men believe it resides". The Iron Throne is the Ring of Power, but instead of seeking to destroy it, everybody is seeking to take it, bringing into focus internal political struggles that never were the focus of Tolkien's work. Even in the First Age, the focus was on taking Silmarils back from Morgoth, and any infighting and scheming was incidental, and a distraction from, rather than in service of, the primary goal. Overall, Martin's approach is historological, whereas Tolkien's is mythological. Martin details a lot of things in extreme detail, whereas Tolkien left many things unsaid, unclear or vague in order to create a sense of mystery.

Tolkien and Martin both warn of dangers of concentrated power. Tolkien himself has stated that:

The most improper job of any man... is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.

That is something we see in both Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. Aragorn and Stannis are actually quite similar in that both of them view the throne as their duty, not as privilege. Likewise, while Boromir seeks power (One Ring) and has "wanted to be a king", Faramir - consistently portrayed as wiser of the two - outright rejects both the Ring and the idea of him ever being a king, as rightful king is yet to return to the throne (and that is another Aragorn - Stannis parallel, though Aegon and Daenerys also see themselves as rightful rulers).

In both Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, victory is ultimately hollow. As Gandalf points out, evil has many faces and many natures, and whenever one is defeated, another takes its place. It is a never-ending struggle, a concept which ASoIaF embodies well. (It is not very well known that Tolkien had been planning to write a detective story set in cca 100 FA, concerning the Cult of Morgoth; I think the title is "the New Shadow"). Likewise in ASoIaF, victory seems to replace one tyrant with another. Morgoth was followed by Sauron and Ar-Pharazon, and Aerys was followed by Robert and Joffrey.

In another interview Martin has stated that Lord of the Rings involves a lot of "good versus evil" imaginery that had not fared well in hands of less talented authors, and that is definitely true.

Main problem I can see with A Song of Ice and Fire is that it has already set up a Lord of the Rings-style confrontation despite trying to avoid LotR tropes. Of course, I am talking here about the Others. Much like Sauron and his orcs from Lord of the Rings, the Others are bound to push all internal politicking and power games into background. And for a series that has so far relied on those power plays to provide plot, that may not be a good thing at all. It will be interesting to see how Martin solves that particular problem, seeing how it already screwed over TV series.

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One particular point, which inspired me to write this to begin with, are parallels between Aegon VI / Aegon Blackfyre(?) and Aragorn. Discussed more here, but both of them had been raised and given education necessary to be ideal kings. What Illyrio says of Aegon - "shaped for rule", "knows that kingship is his duty", and has been living as a commoner for long stretches of time - all apply to Aragorn as well. Aragorn had been educated in Rivendell, but also spent a long time as a "mere" Ranger; Aegon was likewise educated for a ruler, but spent a long time as a commoner. But unlike Aragorn, in all likelihood Aegon is not the rightful king of Westeros; rather he is "stealing the thunder" from Jon and Daenerys. Even so, much like Aragorn has Narsil, so does Aegon have Blackfyre, ancestral sword of Targaryen royal house. Meanwhile, Euron Greyjoy is a Sauron or maybe Saruman parallel: he dabbles in sorcery, leads people who are apart from common run of mankind (Dunlendings / Ironborn) which live segregated from their cousins (Rohirrim / Westerosi), and even has a "dark and a terrible eye". All four characters come into story from essentially nowhere (except no, not really). Both Aragorn and Aegon had been raised as deus ex machinae, set to take the throne when required for salvation of the Middle Earth / Westeros. Meanwhile, Aegon and Euron both invade Westeros when it is ripe for conquest, both plan to marry Daenerys, and are invading the same places. Essentially, it is a mummer's show.

...

One could say that Martin had attempted to deconstruct Lord of the Rings, but even if that is true, he clearly did not know of or understand its larger themes and universe it is set in. For example, some have stated that Targaryen incest bringing madness is a commentary on Lord of the Rings and importance of bloodlines in there (e.g. Numenorean kings living 400 years compared to 200 for rest of the populace); but closer reading reveals that is not the case. In fact, LotR itself discourages incest - it is pointed out that later Numenorean kings marrying within their own family is a very bad thing - and an argument could be made that Gondor fared better than Arnor because they were more ready to accept local population into fold, even if Numenoreans remained nobles among them.

...

Also, Sean Bean dies in the first act of ecranizations of both stories. Plus, Tolkien never finished his work (he did finish Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but those present a minor part of Tolkien's opus); I only hope Martin will finish his own.

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Thoughts?

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Posted (edited)

Dany as Gollum is a good comparison, but Galadriel with the one ring is a better one, and with a little bit of Denethor. 

Edited by The Snow Queen

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I dont see this lot of similarities between Lotr and Asoiaf. Man are swinging swords in a quasi medievial setting and there is a some magic.

But Lotr was good vs. evil. In Asoiaf good and evil exists only as a perspective of the particular society or standpoint. Even it is not clear if the others are really bad. Mayby they are good, if you see mankind as as a pest. Which it probably is. 

If you take the perspective of a commoner. It would have been the best, if Tywin Lannister had won the war and continued as Hand. Even if he was responsible for the red wedding and the terrible raids of Ser Gregor and his men in the Riverlands. 

From this perspective, Tywin Lannister is good, uprising against him is bad. And if you take different perspectives, you will see "good" and "bad" flowing. Its like in the real world. 

George Martin fools us by letting us see through the eyes of some of the protagonists. So we got used to their specific perspective. Their good becomes our good. But it is not good at all. 

To think of Cercei as Gollum is ridiculous. Cerceis main drive is to protect her children. It is not her fault, that they are part of the game. She can´t take them from the playing board - no middleground for them. She made faults yeah. But is it really evil to cheat your husband? Aks a frenchwoman. That she did it with her twin brother doesnt make it worse, just a little bit strange.

And I could endlessly continue with that.

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4 hours ago, Wolfbynature said:

I dont see this lot of similarities between Lotr and Asoiaf. Man are swinging swords in a quasi medievial setting and there is a some magic.

But Lotr was good vs. evil. In Asoiaf good and evil exists only as a perspective of the particular society or standpoint. Even it is not clear if the others are really bad. Mayby they are good, if you see mankind as as a pest. Which it probably is. 

If you take the perspective of a commoner. It would have been the best, if Tywin Lannister had won the war and continued as Hand. Even if he was responsible for the red wedding and the terrible raids of Ser Gregor and his men in the Riverlands. 

From this perspective, Tywin Lannister is good, uprising against him is bad. And if you take different perspectives, you will see "good" and "bad" flowing. Its like in the real world. 

George Martin fools us by letting us see through the eyes of some of the protagonists. So we got used to their specific perspective. Their good becomes our good. But it is not good at all. 

To think of Cercei as Gollum is ridiculous. Cerceis main drive is to protect her children. It is not her fault, that they are part of the game. She can´t take them from the playing board - no middleground for them. She made faults yeah. But is it really evil to cheat your husband? Aks a frenchwoman. That she did it with her twin brother doesnt make it worse, just a little bit strange.

And I could endlessly continue with that.

What you wrote is kinda the point behind ASoIaF: it is a deconstruction of Lord of the Rings. Problem is, LotR itself - especially if you take things outside Lord of the Rings as such - is much less of a "white and black" work than Martin assumed. It is more "gray and black" than anything. So Martin was deconstructing less LotR itself than he was deconstructing the entire fantasy genre LotR spawned.

To just take what you wrote about LotR being "good vs evil". On the surface, that is so. But when you take a look in depth, especially the rest of Tolkien mythos outside LotR itself, you will see that:

  • good people do not necessarily stay good
  • bad people are not irredeemably bad
  • good intent can lead to bad outcome
  • selfish and evil act may unintentionally lead to good outcome
  • being good is good, but being so good that you cannot understand evil is stupid (and leads to evil spreading)
  • power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

And so on. In fact, most of these things are lessons you can also draw from A Song of Ice and Fire.

Point by point:

  • good people do not necessarily stay good
    • Martin: Aerys "The Mad King" was actually good ruler until he went mad; 
    • Tolkien: Melkor / Morgoth was a powerful Maia, and was originally a good person who wanted to use his abilities to help create the world; but he believed his abilities to be underutilized and underappreciated by Eru, and that led to jelaousy, resentment and evil; Boromir wanted to help his kingdom, but nearly got corrupted by The Ring; Saruman was originally dead-set in opposing Sauron, but got corrupted through usage of Palantir and his own thirst for forbidden knowledge; Feanor was a good person, but his pride in his work led to him committing some quite evil acts
  • bad people are not irredeemably bad
    • Martin: Jamie Lannister was originally shit of a person, but eventually redeemed himself and became quite a decent guy
    • Tolkien: Gollum, nacht; Boromir got corrupted by the Ring, but eventually gave his life defending the hobbits from the orcs
  • good intent can lead to bad outcome
    • Martin: where to begin? "A Song of Ice and Fire" could be called "Good Intent Causes Bad Outcome: The Series"
    • Tolkien: again, Feanor - he created the Silmarills, to preserve the Light of the Trees, but these gemstones later caused war with Morgoth as well as Kinslaying at Harbours; also everything Saruman did in leadup to Lord of the Rings story proper
  • selfish and evil act may unintentionally lead to good outcome
    • Martin: can't remember one right now
    • Tolkien: Gollum, again, when he tried to take Ring from Frodo and ended up destroying both Ring and himself
  • being good is good, but being so good that you cannot understand evil is stupid (and leads to evil spreading)
    • Martin: Eddard Stark got himself killed because he was f***ing honourable
    • Tolkien: Manwe believed Melkor / Morgoth when latter claimed he had repented for his sins and let him go, with result of thousands of years of Melkor's terror over Middle Earth; his herald (Eonwe?) believed Sauron when he claimed the same, with the result of again thousands of years of terror, sinking of Numenor, and War of the Ring
  • power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely
    • Martin: quite a few characters
    • Tolkien: One Ring is the embodiement of this effect, but Morgoth and Sauron both became evil because they had power, and believed their role was not appropriate to their power

Also, much damage to the "good guys" was caused not by the Mr. Satan and his Legions of Hell, but rather due to their own inflighting. There is an example of Silmarillion and Sons of Feanor fighting all other elves for possession of Silmarills (particularly their attacks on Teleri and later on the Harbours). Numenoreans went bad not because Sauron corrupted them, but because they "tasted power in Middle Earth"; and this later caused infighting between King's Men and the Faithful.

As for perspective, that is true to an extent. But even there you have - not in Lord of the Rings, but again in Silmarillion - times when good guys clash among themselves, times when (former) good guys act as evilly as designated villians, and sometimes it is not clear who you are supposed to be cheering for. Even within LotR timeframe, Dunlendings only joined Saruman because Rohirrim were persecuting them. So were Rohirrim good or evil? Or Dunlendings good or evil? It is kinda how some countries joined the Axis because they saw Germany as best chance of fixing various injustices (Finland to liberate territory taken by USSR, Croatia due to whole treatment it received in Kingdom of Yugoslavia etc.). So did Dunlendings choose evil side? Definitely. Does that mean they were inherently evil? Not at all. And before that (back to Silmarillion), Numenor clashed with Sauron in Middle Earth. At first it was a classical "good vs evil", but Numenoreans themselves got corrupted by their own imperialism and eventually the conflict was between evil and evil, to the point that many native groups joined Sauron to protect them from Numenoreans.

I compared Daenerys to Gollum, not Cersei.

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22 hours ago, Aldarion said:

It is more "gray and black" than anything.

I again have to disagree. In LOTR it´s not grey against black. It is wite against black or light against darkness. That the actual fighting on the wite side is carried out by not so wite, more or less grey protagonists, is not so important. But light and darkness exists. They have substance, at least magical substance and are not depending on the perspective of someone.

In ASOIAF there ist nothing like that. As I mentioned, even The Others could be considered good, depending on the perspective.

And please, stay with LOTR. Otherwise, the thread grows uncontrollable.

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42 minutes ago, Wolfbynature said:

I again have to disagree. In LOTR it´s not grey against black. It is wite against black or light against darkness. That the actual fighting on the wite side is carried out by not so wite, more or less grey protagonists, is not so important. But light and darkness exists. They have substance, at least magical substance and are not depending on the perspective of someone.

In ASOIAF there ist nothing like that. As I mentioned, even The Others could be considered good, depending on the perspective.

And please, stay with LOTR. Otherwise, the thread grows uncontrollable.

I was talking about people actually carrying out the fighting. It is true that there is an overrarching metaphysical conflict of good and evil - Illuvatar vs Melkior - but "on the ground", things are not so simple. Many of "good guys" are not so good, and many of those who serve Evil are not evil themselves, but simply do not know any better.

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There are hiden Princes in both series - Jon and Aragorn.

Jon is the Prince that was Promised, so his actual name is, most likely, Aegon VII Targaryen (because fAegon is going to be Aegon VI).

Both Aegon and Aragorn are names made from word dragon - drAegon, drAragorn.

Both were raised by their relatives, not knowing that their real fathers were royalty (Crown Prince Rhaegar, King Arathorn II).

Jon was raised by his maternal uncle, Ned Stark. And Aragorn was raised by Elrond, who was twin-brother of Aragorn's 61-times-great grandfather, Elros Tar-Minyatur. So Aragorn also, same as Jon, was raised by his uncle, only many-times-great uncle.

Jon is Azor Ahai reborn, so he's going to become wielder of Lightbringer, which is a fire-sword. Aragorn's sword, Anduril (translates as Flame of the West), was reforged from sword Narsil (Red and white flame). Narsil was used by Isildur to cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. Lightbringer was used by the original Azor Ahai to fight against the Others during First Long Night. Names of both swords, Narsil and Lightbringer, were later changed to Anduril and Dawn (ancestral sword of House Dayne is Azor Ahai's Lightbringer. At least, that's what I think. Absolutely sure about it).

Shiera Seastar and Bloodraven (besides being GRRM's parallels to Morgana le Fay/Nimue/Morrigan and wizard Merlin) are parallels to Galadriel and Gandalf.

Same as Gandalf, Bloodraven had many names, and never went to the East (away from Westeros). One of Gandalf's nicknames was Stormcrow, and Bloodraven was a crow of Night's Watch. Gandalf's cloak was grey, Bloodraven's "His boots were black, his tunic scarlet. Over it he wore a cloak the color of smoke, fastened with a brooch in the shape of an iron hand." Gandalf's "friends" were Great Eagles, and Bloodraven has his ravens.

There's a very slight similarity between Galadriel's history, her participation in The Kinslayings, and Shiera's possible involvement in the Blackfyre Rebellions. For example, on the eve of the Second Rebellion, Shiera helped Bloodraven to infiltrate the camp of Blackfyres (tournament at Whitewalls), by providing him with a shadow-glamour, stored in a moonstone brooch, which made Bloodraven to look like Maynard Plumm. Galadriel was the most beautiful elven-woman in LOTR, and Shiera is the most beautiful woman in ASOIAF (that's what GRRM said in his interview). Galadried had silver-gold hair, same as Shiera. Galadriel was distantly bloodrelated to Aragorn, and was Arwen's grandmother; Shiera is also bloodrelated to both Jon and Dany.

Etc.

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On 5/24/2019 at 5:49 AM, Wolfbynature said:

 

If you take the perspective of a commoner. It would have been the best, if Tywin Lannister had won the war and continued as Hand. Even if he was responsible for the red wedding and the terrible raids of Ser Gregor and his men in the Riverlands. 

From this perspective, Tywin Lannister is good, uprising against him is bad. And if you take different perspectives, you will see "good" and "bad" flowing. Its like in the real world. 

George Martin fools us by letting us see through the eyes of some of the protagonists. So we got used to their specific perspective. Their good becomes our good. But it is not good at all. 

To think of Cercei as Gollum is ridiculous. Cerceis main drive is to protect her children. It is not her fault, that they are part of the game. She can´t take them from the playing board - no middleground for them. She made faults yeah. But is it really evil to cheat your husband? Aks a frenchwoman. That she did it with her twin brother doesnt make it worse, just a little bit strange.

And I could endlessly continue with that.

 

If you take the perspective of a commoner being brutalized by Ser Gregor in the Riverlands, or a commoner in King's Landing being brutalized by Tywin's troops during the sack of King's Landing, or a commoner who served the Reynes of Castamere, Tywin was not a "good" alternative.

I don't see Cersei as Gollum either.  But I don't agree that her main drive is to protect her children.  Cersei endangered her children by conceiving three out of four (on the show) of them by her brother.  The kids were in enough danger being the supposed heirs of Robert Baratheon; Cersei planted targets on their backs by choosing the wrong man to be their father.  She had to know how the children of incest were regarded (as abominations).  Also, Cersei's judgment in the raising of Joffrey was appalling.  She took no steps to discipline him, to surround him with other boys of his own age (which might have done him some good); instead, she validated and supported his cruelty and lies, bringing out the worst of him instead of trying to bring out the best.  

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On 5/24/2019 at 11:21 PM, Eddard Waters said:

Wouldn't Daenerys be more similar to Fëanor? With the Iron Throne standing in for the Silmarils?

Yeah, that would be right. And like Feanor, she comes from over the sea, and will likely die without ever sitting on the Iron Throne, just like Feanor died without ever seeing Silmarils again.

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On ‎5‎/‎23‎/‎2019 at 6:13 PM, The Snow Queen said:

little bit of Denethor. 

Nah, Denethor is a Tywin that has broken.

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