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Rings vs. Dragons: Comparing Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings    

  By: Dr. Duke Pesta
   Published : August 3, 2017

The fictional, fantasy worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien and G.R.R. Martin share many common themes, including a quasi-medieval setting, an emphasis on clashing civilizations, and an impressive commitment to the creation of highly imaginative and believable worlds, complete with vivid cultures, languages, personalities. But it’s the ethical and moral differences between Middle Earth and the realm of thrones that thoroughly distinguishes the two works. In the LOTR, Tolkien began with a divine mythology of gods and meaning that circumscribe, and in many ways direct, all that happens in the human realms. Thus, his characters must consciously choose between paths that lead back to the higher powers, or paths that pull them toward darkness. To be human is to choose between the angelic and the animal parts of our natures. For Martin’s GOT, on the other hand, the gods, religion, and even spirituality are constructs, almost always politicized in base or abusive ways. There is no higher moral or spiritual order, and those who believe in such things are either naïve victims or destructive manipulators. For Martin, there are only animals and the world merely a jungle. Power is the defining ethos, not love or sacrifice or virtue. And it makes all the difference.

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