Interviews

George R.R. Martin on Why Gandalf Should Have Stayed Dead

 

Mental Floss magazine has unearthed a 2011 interview of A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin, conducted by none other than comedian and author John Hodgman. There’s a lot of good stuff that they’ve highlighted from the piece, such as George’s fondness for Marvel Comics and his thoughts on killing off characters in fiction. The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien decision to resurrect his wizard character Gandalf seems to have particularly irked George:

John Hodgman: Without giving much away, I can say that there are characters in the book who you do not expect to die, and who do. Your characters are extremely fragile. It is one of the things that was most exciting to me as a reader, to realize that these characters who you’re following very closely could be maimed, and that those scars would stay. They could be psychologically maimed and transformed by those scars, and that would stick to the book. And they could die. However, as magic seeps into this world, which is of course part of this unfolding story, not even death is really permanent anymore. What do you think about that?

George R. R. Martin: I do think that if you’re bringing a character back, that a character has gone through death, that’s a transformative experience. Even back in those days of Wonder Man and all that, I loved the fact that he died, and although I liked the character in later years, I wasn’t so thrilled when he came back because that sort of undid the power of it. Much as I admire Tolkien, I once again always felt like Gandalf should have stayed dead. That was such an incredible sequence in Fellowship of the Ring when he faces the Balrog on the Khazad-dûm and he falls into the gulf, and his last words are, “Fly, you fools.”

What power that had, how that grabbed me. And then he comes back as Gandalf the White, and if anything he’s sort of improved. I never liked Gandalf the White as much as Gandalf the Grey, and I never liked him coming back. I think it would have been an even stronger story if Tolkien had left him dead.

Listen to the rest of the interview here!

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