'Game of Thrones' creator George RR Martin on how a 'Lord of the Rings' death inspired him

Fantasy author George R.R. Martin credits the death of Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” with how he handles his own book characters.

The “Game of Thrones” author, 69, spoke about the J.R.R. Tolkien character dying in a “Great American Read” clip for PBS.

“And then Gandalf dies!” he said. “I can’t explain the impact that had on me at 13. You can’t kill Gandalf. I mean, Conan didn’t die in the ‘Conan’ books, you know? Tolkien just broke that rule, and I’ll love him forever for it.”

Martin also offered his thoughts on how the shocking move raised the stakes.


“The minute you kill Gandalf, the suspense of everything that follows is a thousand times greater, because now anybody could die,” he said. “Of course, that’s had a profound effect on my own willingness to kill characters off at the drop of a hat.”

Martin's "Game of Thrones" series is part of the PBS' Great American Read list, where book lovers can vote for the one they like best.

The author said he was "thrilled" his work was included.

"What I wanted to do was take certain of the traditions of fantasy but meld to it a level of grittiness and realism," he shared. "Your books, your stories should reflect what you see in the real world around you. Even a fantasy that has dragons should reflect the truth."

Martin added it was "very exciting" to be on the list alongside Tolkien's work.

“If you are one of the six people in the world who has not yet read J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings,’ what are you waiting for?” he asked. “Read ‘Lord of the Rings’ and if you like it as much as I do, vote for it."