The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode I

Few works of literature are as dear to my heart as J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, collectively forming ‘the Legendarium‘, and George R.R. Martin’s literary saga, A Song of Ice and Fire, and its companion books, such as The World of Ice and Fire and The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. My blog and this particular essay are dedicated to exploring those rich ‘secondary worlds’, and primarily their mythological, literary and historical inspirations. The text you are presently reading was created because of my deep admiration of both aforementioned authors, their literary mastery, brilliant storytelling and enthralling worldbuilding. As you read, some theses and conclusions I’m  going to present might seem incorrect or unfounded, but I hope to provide you with enough evidence of my arguments, so that you can understand my position, even if you disagree with it. After all, only GRRM himself knows which aspects of his own world were inspired by Tolkien.

With this essay, I simply mean to acquaint as many people as possible with the ideas and worlds of both Tolkien and Martin, showing their greatness and skill. Sadly, I have noticed that A Song of Ice and Fire became a polarising topic at many forums and sites dedicated to Tolkien, while – quite regrettably –  the same is true about the Legendarium among many Martin fans. With this essay, I intend to bridge the gap between those two fandoms. Most ASOIAF and LOTR fans appreciate the close relationship of the two fantasy novels, in particular the deep lore in both worlds. However, it is well-known that Martin has critiqued some aspects of LOTR (the oft-quoted mention of Aragorn’s tax policy, for example), which has led to an ongoing debate within the fandom about the extent of JRRT’s influence on GRRM and the particular ways in which Martin is responding to Tolkien. Unfortunately, some corners of the internet have taken this to the extremes, but I hope that this essay will bridge some of the gaps between the worlds of Tolkien and Martin, so that we can gauge their relationship in a constructive and positive light.

Before we continue, please allow me to give credit where it is due. Naturally, I must pay homage to those literary giants, J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, for giving us those works of great beauty and merit, which have charmed and doubtlessly will charm, countless readers all around the world. Secondly, I must express my undying gratitude towards LML, founder of the excellent The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire and many members of the wonderful group of people centered around it – Joe Magician, Crowfood’s Daughter, Darry Man, Ravenous Reader, Maester Merry, Rusted Revolver, Melanie, Isobel Harper, Archmaester Aemma, Pat, Sandra, Sweetsunray, Painkiller Jane (and so many others), without whose example, encouragement and guidance I could never hope to write this essay.

Well, I imagine that you would like to hear what this text will be about. The first part of this episode will focus on George R.R. Martin’s approach to Tolkien. I will show why, in my opinion, to say that GRRM is ‘anti-Tolkienic’ would be a gross overgeneralization of the fact that there are areas where those two authors disagree, that there are some specific elements of Tolkien’s Legendarium GRRM would prefer differently if he was its author.

From this section, discussing Tolkien and Martin in general, I’ll move to more specific examples of references to the Legendarium in GRRM’s works. Those homages are fairly obvious, so I’ll simply list several of them, leaving those which require some more explanation and evidence for later. What (I think) is really interesting, and what we shall discuss in part three of this essay, are parallels in themes and motifs, common influences, and all those deeper references to The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion in ASOIAF (more profound than simple namedrops or nods to Tolkienic characters and locations in heraldry, geography and names). I intend to show how Martin develops some Tolkienic ideas or ‘dialogues’ (in literary sense) with those themes, tropes and concepts from the Legendarium he disagrees with, or agrees only partially. Several quotes I will present shortly show that while there can be absolutely no doubt that George R.R. Martin greatly admires Tolkien, there are some aspects of Professor’s novels (especially those deep, often philosophical topics) he does not like or agree with. But, this – of course – does not mean that GRRM is anti-Tolkienic. The absurdity of such claims will hopefully become apparent.

In a coat of orange or a coat of blue…

But before we move on, I think that I should introduce myself. While many of you might know me, or at least have heard about me, for example in LML’s The Stark that Brings the Dawn episode, where my Númenor theory has been featured (huge thanks!), for many more this essay will be the first contact with ‘Bluetiger’.

Although this episode is supposed to be about J.R.R.T. and GRRM, I believe that it is always good to know at least some basic facts about the author of the text I’m reading. In this case this ‘author’ is me, so I will provide you with a short summary of my ‘literary’ life (books I adore, authors I admire and so on), so you understand why I approach literature and especially fantasy the way I do.

My real name is Mateusz, the Polish equivalent of ‘Matthew’.  I was born in Poland, where I have lived ever since. Honestly, I don’t remember a period in my life when I have not listened to books read by my parents or read them myself. But the first books that had some major impact on me were The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle were my favourites. Thanks to Lewis, I discovered the amazing world of Greek and Roman mythologies. I read the myths as retold by Polish classical antiquity scholar Jan Parandowski. During my primary school years, I even participated in several ‘knowledge mythology’ contests. But at that time, all mythologies I knew were the Classical ones. I was not aware of the timeless beauty of the Norse mythology, nor of Celtic tales. Concurrently, I became a fan of comic books, notably Calvin and Hobbes and Donald Duck (especially those by Carl Barks and Don Rosa). Strangely, it was a Scrooge McDuck comic borrowed from school library that first provided me with a glimpse of the northern tales (yes, Kalevala was written in the 19th century, but still, it is based on older legends from Finland). I enjoyed The Quest of Kalevala, but for some time, the references (often humorous) to the original Kalevala found in the comic were the full extent of my knowledge about any myths not Mediterranean.

Fortunately, that was about to change. The first Tolkien book I received was The Hobbit, but I simply put it inside my bookcase. For reasons that puzzle me to this day, I came to believe that the Middle-earth was supposed to lie under our own Earth’s crust, just like The Underland and Bism from The Silver Chair were under the continent upon which most of Narnia takes place. Well, when I was in kindergarten, I believed that Star Wars are about medieval-style kings who rule various Solar System planets and bombard one another other with cannons. I guess that the lesson to be remembered from this is ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Or rather, its description on the wrapper.

Honestly, I have no idea who writes those summaries for some books, but sometimes those ‘descriptions’ have little to do with the actual story the readers gets. For that matter, certain Polish edition of A Game of Thrones has a ‘summary’ on its back. According to that ‘brilliant’ advertisement, the evil tyrant king, Aerys, managed to escape from the rebels, but finally he was brought to justice by one of his guards. I’m glad GRRM’s story was so much better than the one on the wrapper.

Thankfully, in December 2010 my parents gave me another Tolkien book for Christmas. The Silmarillion. Many readers claim that this is not a book for children, that it’s dry, full of details impossible to remember… supposedly if you read it first, before The Hobbit and LOTR, you will surely lose your interest for Tolkien. Well… for me, it was quite the opposite. I absolutely loved the book. It was a mythology, just like the retellings of Greek myths I’d read… but it was better. It spoke to me, and for the first time, while reading, that fictional world seemed as real as my own. Sometimes even more real. In the following months and years, I’d go on to read all Tolkien texts I could get my hands on. I received my copy of LOTR (in Polish) for my birthday in 2012. On the 21st of December, where my peers were excited about ‘the end of the world’, supposedly foretold by the Maya Calendar, I was excited because I found out that my local library has bought The Children of Húrin. And after the ‘Class Christmas Eve Supper’ (it was the final day before holiday break from school), I went to borrow it. Oh, those sweet days…

After Tolkien’s novels, I eagerly sought out similar complexity, detail and worldbuilding but I struggled to find books that satisfied that appetite. After Tolkien’s novels, I eagerly sought out similar complexity, detail and worldbuilding but I struggled to find books that satisfied that appetite. For instance, when reading Harry Potter for another contest, I found some scenes or chapters interesting, but I struggled to immerse myself in that world; it just didn’t seem real to me. At the same time, I see why other readers would love it. Don’t misunderstand me, I have a deep respect for JK, although there are so many topics on which I disagree with her. As an aspiring author myself, I really admire all writers. Simply, I’m not a huge fan of those books.

So I searched for other authors, but apart from Sherlock Holmes stories, various Classical novels (by Mark Twain, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas) and some Star Wars Expanded Universebooks, I spent most of my reading time re-reading Tolkien. At the same time, I noticed the following pattern about myself: first I’m totally ignorant when it comes to some universe, but if I read about it, often accidentally, and it turns out to be gripping, I often become its devout fan and expert of all trivia.

Still, few of those books were as to me absorbing as Tolkien’s. Thus came summer 2014. By pure chance I came across some articles and YouTube clips about Game of Thrones, the TV show, and the books it was based on. Well, I heard about ASOIAF before. But it was advertised as ‘new Tolkien’. Few slogans would prevent me from checking some new nobel as much as this one. But initially, I thought that GRRM was just one of those ‘Tolkien imitators’. So until July 2014, I had only a vague idea who is George R.R. Martin.

But this time, I decided to give this ‘GOT’ a try. And how would I know if I would like it ? From its Wiki of course! Here I should explain that since Star Wars Expanded Universe was so massive, it was quite impossible to know all planets, locations, historical events, characters… So I became used to checking Polish Star Wars Wiki and English Wookieepedia. And thus I spent some time skimming A Wiki of Ice and Fire… and this time, I found that the fictional world I was reading about me was convincing. The heraldry, the maps, the Houses… Oh, and the names, while not sounding Tolkienic, sounded ‘cool’. They were not generic fantasy names that sounded like gibberish. Tywin Lannister. Stannis Baratheon. Ser Kevan Lannister. Lord Eddard Stark… I decided that I should read this ASOIAF, at least the first volume. And so I did. Well, ever since, ASOIAF is as dear as Tolkien’s Legendarium to me… I finished the first four books in about one month (fortunately I had holidays back then). A Dance with Dragons took one month, but mainly because school began in September. And then, mere weeks after I finished ASOIAF book 5, The World of Ice and Fire was published! With illustrations by Ted Nasmith, one of my favourite artists, whose artwork in The Silmarillion I adored! And thus was born my passion for ASOIAF, lasting to this day.

Then I joined Forum, and via this board, I became familiar with LML’s The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire series. I was amazed. Even before, ASOIAF seemed deep enough for me… but when I saw all those hidden symbolic meanings, complex metaphors, fractal patterns, the story within a story, the countless references to myths from all around the world! Finally, in June 2016, my friend convinced me to translate some essays by LML to Polish and publish them at Ogień i Lód (Polish ASOIAF forum). Later, as that project grew, I decided to set up this very blog, The Amber Compendium. And then I began noticing all those references to Tolkien in George R.R. Martin’s novels, and I felt even more sympathy towards him. So, inspired by LML’s project, I decided to write my own essay(s) about Tolkienic influences in ASOIAF. But at the same time, I noticed that some people in the Tolkien fandom did not value or appreciate the complexities of Martin’s work and vice versa; personally, I find it quite sad that, in some conversations about LOTR and ASOIAF, it becomes clear that certain bitterness has entered into the comparative analysis of these two works of fantasy and that people may then be missing out on some fantastic literature because they have been turned off it by that bitterness. And with this essay, I’ll try to show you GRRM’s true approach to Tolkien.

That’s (more or less) why and how I’m here today.


‘I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains!’ (photo taken by BT in the Beskid Mountains in Poland, with special effects added)

Part I: George R.R. Martin’s approach to Tolkien

Gil-galad was an Elven-king…

When The Fellowship of the Ring first came out, one of its reviewers, Edwin Muir, wrote the following words: ‘only a masterpiece could survive the bombardment of praise directed at it from the blurb’. This comment was, of course, ironic. Mr. Muir was referring specifically to advertisement of LOTR written by Tolkien’s friend C.S. Lewis, which the publisher put at that book’s back cover. But from my own experience with literature, I can say that it is quite often the case that ‘praise’ and ‘description’ of some novel does it more harm or good. Instances where it’s fairly obvious that the journalist or salesman has actually never read the book he’s ‘praising’ aside, even recommendations written with the best intentions can be harmful to both the author and his work. How many fans of Tolkien, Howard, Zelazny or Jordan put ASOIAF away when they saw a description where George R.R. Martin was called ‘the new Tolkien or Vance or [here you may insert any popular fantasy or sci-fi writer]… Most of them have previously seen a dozen poorly written books with the very same blurb.

Here are some ‘words of praise’ for GRRM and his saga:

Of those who work in the grand epic-fantasy tradition, Martin is by far the best. In fact… this is as good a time as any to proclaim him the American Tolkien. […] Tolkien’s work has enormous imaginative force, but you have to look elsewhere for moral complexity. A Feast for Crows isn’t pretty elves against gnarly orcs. – Time

It’s addictive reading and reflects our current world a lot better than The Lord of the Rings– Rolling Stone

Tolkien is dead. And long live George Martin. – The New York Times

While most of what those reviewers are saying is true, their words, nonetheless, might give a wrong impression – that George R.R Martin is anti-Tolkienic.  Needlessly, two camps came into existence. Those who fiercely defend Tolkien and slate GRRM, and those who act conversely. Sometimes it seems that it’s next to impossible to belong to both fandoms and love both fictional words; Arda and the Known World. As if we couldn’t simply accept that J.R.R.T. and G.R.R.M. are different people, with their own personal histories, preferences and different areas of interest. Isn’t seeing someone else’s perspective on life (and all its aspects) one of the main reasons why people read books at all? If all modern fantasy authors were exactly like Tolkien, the genre would be impossibly boring, don’t you think?

In this section I’d like to show you some quotes from George R.R. Martin, clearly showing his deep admiration and respect for Tolkien.

The first one comes from Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective (a collection of GRRM short stories from various stages of his literary career). In one of biographical sections of that book, Martin explains how he first came into contact with Tolkien’s books.

During his ‘senior year of high school’ George would read a magazine called Cortana (he even sent his own story to be published there. The moment he did so, the paper went out of print and never released another issue). It is via this paper – an article by Clint Bigglestone, to be more precise – that GRRM first heard about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. (By the way, it seems that now we know after whom House Bigglestone from the Riverlands was named). Few months later he noticed a paperback edition of The Fellowship at bookstall and ‘did not hesitate’.

Dipping into the fat red paperback during my bus ride home, I began to wonder if I had not made a mistake. Fellowship did not seem like proper fantasy.

Here GRRM remembers how puzzled he was when he’s read about ‘pipe-weed’ and noted how Robert E. Howard’s (famous for his Conan the Barbarian stories) tales would always begin with some giant serpent or ‘axe cleaving someone’s head in two’. George was stunned when he was that this author chose to open his epic with ‘a birthday party’.

And these hobbits with their hairy feet and love of ‘taters’ seemed to have escaped from a Peter Rabbit book. Conan would hack a bloody path right through Shire, end to end, I remembered thinking. Where are the gigantic melancholies and the gigantic mirths?

But GRRM kept reading. When Tom Bombadil appeared with his ‘Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!’, he almost gave up. Years later, when presenting his ten favourite fantasy movies, Martin would write that while he missed the Scouring of the Shire (cut from the Peter Jackson film), he did not particularly miss Tom Bombadil. (I have a theory about how the equally mysterious character from his own fantasy saga is his response to Tom, but more on this later).

Things got more interesting in the barrow downs, though, and even more so in Bree, where Strider strode onto the scene. By the time we got to Weathertop, Tolkien had me. ‘Gil-galad was an elven king’, Sam Gamgee recited, ‘of him the harpers sadly sing’. A chill went through me, such as Conan and Kull had never evoked.

I think that this ‘chill’ GRRM felt at that moment was similar to what young J.R.R. Tolkien felt when he first came across the word ‘éarendel’, while reading the Old English poem Christ I (The Advent Lyrics).

éala éarendel engla beorhtast/ ofer middangeard monnum sended

Hail Eärendel, brightest of angels / over middle-earth sent to men

In 1914 Tolkien went on to write a poem about the voyage of Eärendel the Wanderer, inspired by those verses. For many, that is the beginning of his Legendarium, his own mythology.

In a later section, when I’ll be discussing Elendil and all the events related to the Dúnedain, I’ll explain who king Gil-galad was, for those of you who have read LOTR long ago, or are not that well-versed in the history of the Middle-earth.

In an interview with Laura Miller, which you can easily find on the internet (George R.R. Martin on J.R.R. Tolkien, Birthing Dragons, The Grateful Dead, Hollywood and More), GRRM clearly admits that he realises that the influence Tolkien had on modern fantasy can not be overstated:

Laura Miller: So, let’s start talking about this new book, The World of Ice and Fire. I’ve been telling people who asked me about it that it’s sirt of The Silmarillion of your imaginary world. And you wrote it with a couple of co-authors. So I’d love to hear you talk about whether it is The Silmarillion of the Known World, and about what was it like to work with Elio and Linda.

GRRM: Oh, well, this is a book that really began with my readers and my fans. Of course, in any epic fantasy the world is a character. Setting is very important and that, I think, has certainly been true since J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.

Of course, fantasy goes back to ancient times, The IliadThe Odyssey, the ballad of Gilgamesh… but Tolkien really invented modern fantasy in its current forms, and one of the things he did that was extraordinary was create Middle-earth in such detail.

If you look at some pre-Tolkien fantasy, it’s written more in a story of fairy-tale. You know, ‘once upon a time there was a king, and the king had a beautiful daughter, and there was an evil Vizier’ – and they may have names, but you won’t know, like, who was he king’s father or grandfather, or how the dynasty came to power. Or how long it has ruled, or what the neighbouring countries are. It’s all told in this fairy tale thing.

Tolkien gave us all these histories, appendixes and genealogies, and everything was rooted, and it seemed as real as England or France or Germany, when you read these things.

And since then that’s become the style for epic fantasy, so your fantasy readers now expect a fully realised ‘secondary world’, as Tolkien called it. And so certainly, that’s what I set out to create in Westeros.

Now, some of this is a magician’s trick. It really wasn’t. With Tolkien, you have to consider that Tolkien was a very unusual writer. I mean, he was a linguist and a philosopher amd he spoke Old Norse and Old English, and he was fascinated by myth.

You know, the story was almost secondary to Tolkien. He spent years creating his Silmarillion and never published it in his lifetime. And The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were like stories set in the world he created, but for him the world creation and the creation of languages was almost primary. 

If you look at it like an iceberg – you know, they say 3/4 of iceberg is hidden below the surface – that was certainly true with Tolkien. With a lot of the fantasists who followed Tolkien, you know, it’s a magician’s trick. We have some ice on a raft, and we want you to think that there’s this huge edifice underneath, just like with Tolkien, but there really isn’t in some cases.

And that was probably true with me in the beginning, I mean, I’d begin with the story and the characters of the scene. And everything grew from that. But the world grew along with the story, and I rapidly discovered it as I got into writing – that the reader wanted to know more and more about this world.

Honestly, I don’t see how anyone who has read this interview can claim that GRRM isn’t a huge Tolkien fan… Yes, he disagrees with him on some things, but the truth, as it often turns out, is far more complex than what we initially think it was. Yes, Martin, as a writer, but also as a man, is quite different from Professor Tolkien. But this doesn’t mean that they’re adversaries. As I’ll later show, it seems that GRRM has a pattern of inserting concepts into his stories which are a kind of a ‘literary dialogue’ with his favourite authors, Tolkien amongst them. And by this I mean that GRRM purposely creates some scenes and inserts some themes into his work to show how he approaches the same problems and themes Tolkien once did.

For example, the problem of honor, loyalty and ‘doing what is really right’. Tolkien gives us Beregond, the guardsman from Minas Tirith, who decides that he has to break his orders and fight Denethor’s henchmen to save Faramir, whom the mad ruler is about to burn on a pyre. In ASOIAF, we have a very similar situation with Jaime Lannister, who slays the crazed king Aerys to save all people of King’s Landing. But while in Tolkien’s world, such good act is rewarded – later in the book Aragorn judges Beregond and decided that he shouldn’t be punished (by death) for abandoning his post, because he acted for the greater good. Beregond becomes the commander of Faramir’s personal guard. But in ASOIAF, good intentions are often overlooked, and Jaime is considered a traitor and oathbreaker.

Anyway, please note how GRRM uses very a specific Tolkienic term in that interview: secondary world. It was Tolkien who coined this phrase. Generally, it means: a fictional world which is internally consistent and has its own history, geography, cultures, where characters live and events take place. Secondary world is of course contrasted with ‘Reality’ or primary world. According to Tolkien, a devout Catholic, while the latter is created by some human author, by the means of subcreation, the former was created by God. Also, GRRM correctly points out that creation of languages was of crucial importance for Tolkien. Without his love for languages and language creation, there would be no Middle-earth. At the same time, his passion for myths and legend was an important factor as well (but when you think about it, the language and legends of any culture are largely inseparable, so it’s no wonder that Professor Tolkien became interested in both). In a letter to Milton Waldman, nowadays usually published at the beginning of The Silmarillion, after preface, Tolkien explains that his goal was to create a mythology for his country, for England. While there were so many myths available to Tolkien – Norse, Greek, Germanic, Finnish, Celtic, Arthurian tales – none were truly English.

So, if GRRM is clearly a huge Tolkien fan, why so many came to the conclusion that he’s his adversary?

I think that’s because for many people in the fandom if some writer likes Tolkien, he must be doing everything exactly the way Tolkien did it before. That’s why we have ‘Dark Lords rising’ beyond count, unnumbered ‘returning kings’ and so many ‘final battles’. But in my opinion a writer who has some creativity and imagination of his own, who actually gives Tolkien’s ideas a thought, who doesn’t simply copy them over and over and over again is much better than one who does so. GRRM tries to understand why Tolkien wrote the way he did

A quote from GRRM’s interview with TIME illustrates this:

When I read fantasy books by other writers, particularly Tolkien and some of the other people who followed Tolkien, there’s always this desire in the back of my head to reply to them: “That’s good, but I’d do this part differently,” or, “No, I think you got that wrong.”

I’m not specifically criticizing Tolkien here — I don’t want to be portrayed as blasting Tolkien. People are always trying to set up this me-vs.-Tolkien thing, which I find very frustrating because I worship Tolkien, he’s the father of all modern fantasy, and my world would never exist had he not come first! Nevertheless, I am not Tolkien, and I am doing things differently than he did, despite the fact that I think Lord of the Rings was one of the great books of the 20th century. But there is that dialogue that’s going on between me and Tolkien, and between me and some of the other people who follow Tolkien, and it’s a dialogue that’s continuing.

That’s the literary dialogue I was talking about. And I think that when it comes to GRRM and Tolkien, this ‘discussion’ between two authors is the most important part. Yes, references in names, geographical locations and even some metatextual jokes are great. But those deeper parallels and exchanges of ideas are what really matters.

Sadly, many people seem to have stopped at the undermentioned quote, often presented without its context. It became widely popular both in the ASOIAF fandom, where some people use it to criticise Tolkien… and on some Tolkien discussion boards, other fans show it to their peers in order to demonstrate how little GRRM knows and understands about the Legendarium.

Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

That’s a quote from an interview with GRRM published by The Rolling Stone… but somehow those who share it, so often fail to mention lines like these:

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. […]

 There are some people who read and want to believe in a world where the good guys win and the bad guys lose, and at the end they live happily ever after. That’s not the kind of fiction that I write. Tolkien was not that. The scouring of the Shire proved that. Frodo’s sadness – that was a bittersweet ending, which to my mind was far more powerful than the ending of Star Wars, where all the happy Ewoks are jumping around, and the ghosts of all the dead people appear, waving happily [laughs]. […]

From the 1970s, Tolkien imitators had retreaded what he’d done, with no originality and none of Tolkien’s deep abiding love of myth and history.

It’s worth to mention that at one point in time, Tolkien had plans for LOTR sequel, entitled The New Shadow, which would deal with several issues GRRM mentioned. That story would be set in the 220th year of the Fourth Age, some 100 years after Aragorn’s death, during the reign of his son Eldarion. After century of peace of prosperity, the people of Gondor would become decadent and indolent, suffering from ‘satiety with good’. Meanwhile, the descendants of King Aragorn Elessar would become similar to Denethor II, the Ruling Steward of Gondor during the War of the Ring – or worse. There would be a plot against the king, led by mysterious figure embracing occultic religion worshipping either Sauron or Morgoth (the original Dark Lord from the First Age). For the youth of Gondor, the events from LOTR and Aragorn’s reign would be but fanciful tales, and out of boredom and defiance, they’d play ‘orcs’, committing acts of vandalism in the city. Tolkien wrote several pages, but then saw that this book would be simply a thriller about how that sauronic revolution was stopped, and decided to abandon it. That extract can be found in The Peoples of Middle-earth.

As you see, Tolkien notes that in Middle-earth evil is like a ‘Dark Tree’ – it’s impossible to fully uproot it, because Morgoth corrupted the very fabric of Arda in its early days. For this reason evil always returns if humans don’t keep it in check. Morgoth fell, but Sauron rose. In turn, the second Dark Lord was followed by Saruman and lesser imitators. Tolkien wasn’t interested in writing The New Shadow, as it’d be simply another LOTR, but without Elves, Ents, Dwarves, just with humans and their nature.

Here we see one of the main difference between Tolkien and Martin: GRRM is hugely interested in politics and ‘logistics’ of power. Yes, J.R.R.T. explores some of those themes, but they’re not the main focus of his stories, their place is in the appendixes. Tolkien was interested in those metaphysical struggles between Good and Evil.

It’s worth to mention that GRRM understands that the ending of LOTR isn’t ‘happy’ but instead ‘bittersweet’, full of suffering and hope at the same time. In one interview, he noted that he’d like to evoke a similar feeling among his readers with ASOIAF’s ending.

Many readers came to conclude that Tolkien’s world is ‘black and white’, because all characters are either perfect and moral or evil. I would argue that many inhabitants of Arda are morally complex: Boromir, Denethor II, Fëanor, Túrin… but still, those are heroes or anti-heroes, not villains. Sauron and Morgoth seem purely evil, but this is because they are supposed to be demonic. Morgoth is Arda’s equivalent of the devil, and Sauron is his chief lieutenant who later tried to rule on his own. Tolkien’s works are mostly concerned with those ‘great battles’, where all have to choose between Good and the Iron Crown of Evil. Martin, meanwhile, focuses on those ‘small struggles’ – wars between nations and civil wars between rival claimants to the throne. In his world, there isn’t any character who personifies evil, people can’t unite under one banner and ride forth to defeat one Dark Lord who is clearly the bad guy (well, there are the Others, but who knows what they’re up to). GRRM is occupied with political intrigue and ‘hearts in conflict with themselves’. But while his characters are usually grey, we can judge their actions and deeds themselves can be good or evil – as LML shows in his essay (section The Morality of A Song of Ice and Fire).

Speaking of orcs, it’s important to keep in mind that many of them, called snagas by their Uruk-hai overseers, are basically slaves of Sauron, forced to serve him under the lash. The origins of orcs are unclear, but it seems that the original First Age orcs who served in Morgoth’s legions were descendants of Elves captured and corrupted by The Dark Lord. In Tolkien’s world, evil is unable to create life, it can only mock and corrupt. But it’s possible that there are many types of orcs: corrupted Elves, Men and bodies controlled by evil spirits, those of The Maiar who sided with Morgoth against The Valar. The answer to GRRM’s question about Aragorn’s treatment of ‘baby orcs’ depends on which account of their origins we accept… do ‘baby orcs’ even exists? Are all orcs evil and unable to repent? Tolkien spent much time thinking about those philosophical problems, but sadly, we don’t have any conclusive answer. GRRM’s villains are almost exclusively human. It’s worth to mention that Tolkienic human villains are also quite diverse and complex – for example, in The Silmarillion not all Easterlings are presented as evil, and in LOTR Aragorn pardons Sauron’s human allies as many were coerced into serving him with lies or threats. It is noted that they fought bravely and honourably, and when they saw that Sauron, whom they took for god, has fallen, lost hope and decided to give a last stand.

Well, those are issues we might discuss in future episodes of Tolkienic ASOIAF. Even decades after they were published, Tolkien’s books still spark new debates. I think that Martin’s works will be treated similarly in the future.

In yet another interview GRRM said that when he started his book series, he was ‘replying to Tolkien, but even more to his modern imitators‘. Indeed, when you gather all those quotations, a pattern emerges: George R.R. Martin greatly admires Tolkien, but there are some things about his works he’d do differently, so he engages in this ‘literary dialogue’ of sorts.

At the same time, he often critiques what many writers following Tolkien did, the way they thoughtlessly and uncreatively carbon copied Professor’s ideas and creations.

Therefore, we shouldn’t say that GRRM is anti-Tolkienic, but that he is critiquing those who imitate Tolkien without developing and rethinking Tolkien’s tropes and themes. The following words clearly demonstrate this approach:

I admire Tolkien greatly. His books had enormous influence on me. And the trope he established – the idea of the Dark Lord and his Evil Minions – in the hands of lesser writers over the years and decades has not served the genre well. It has been beaten to death.

The battle of good and evil is a great subject for any book, and certainly for a fantasy book, but I think ultimately the battle between good and evil is weighted within the individual human heart and not necessarily between an army of people dressed in white an an army of people dressed in black. When I look at the world I see that most real living breathing human beings are grey.

Here you see this difference in GRRM’s approach to the conflict between good and evil I mentioned a while ago. But also how he separates Tolkien, who presented this epic struggle masterfully from his imitators, who just insert Dark Lords without motivation to drive the plot forward. (In some later episode how Mairon became Sauron Gorthaur the Terrible because he believed in order and Morgoth’s supremacy over The Valar).

Another thing to consider is how author’s religious beliefs shape the world they create. For Tolkien Sauron and Morgoth have to be defeated because they pose a danger not only to the material world, but also to the spiritual. Their victory wouldn’t simply mean a military occupation of Gondor and Rohan and other lands, but also a victory of dark theocratic regime, where The Dark Lord is worshipped instead of Eru Ilúvatar, The God and Creator of Arda. This is a clear reflection of Tolkien’s Catholicism.

In Martin’s world, reflecting his atheist/agnostic worldview, it’s impossible to determine which religion is true: the Faith of the Seven? the Faith of R’hllor? The Old Gods? The Drowned God?

As horrible as Joffrey, Gregor Clegane, Ramsay Bolton and even the Others (at least as far as we know) might be, they lack the power to reshape the entire world and bend the wills of all living beings to their own dark plans. In Tolkien’s world, Iluvatar is the true god, and the Valar serve him. Those who claim to be gods, like Sauron or Morgoth, are evil. In Westeros and Essos, there are numerous religions and the reader can’t be sure which, if any, is the right one.

However, simply because there are areas where our two authors disagree, it’d be a fallacy to conclude that it’s impossible to be a fan of both and that George R.R. Martin himself is an admirer of the Legendarium. When someone tells you otherwise, show him those words (George R.R. Martin on J.R.R. Tolkien and Complex Fantasy)

I love Tolkien. I read him when I was in junior high school and he had a profound effect on me. He’s the father of all modern fantasy. We all are working in the shadow of the great mountain that is The Lord of the Rings. But that being said, Tolkien did certain things that are different than what I would do. And in the hands of some of the Tolkien imitators, those things have became clichés that I think have ultimately harmed the genre, and made people think that it’s – you know – entertainment for children or particularly slow adults.

Then Martin goes on to explain that in his opinion ‘the battle between good and evil’ is the universal theme of all literature, but it is fought in the individual human heart. GRRM notes that ‘all of us have the capacity for good, all of us have the capacity for evil’. Small wonder that his favourite LOTR character is Boromir, who – the very same day – wants to use The One Ring to defeat Sauron, says that ‘If any mortals have claim to the Ring, it is the men of Númenor, and not Halflings’, calls Frodo a traitor who will simply give the Ring to The Dark Lord and finally attacks him… and then repents and heroically dies defending Merry and Pippin… A heart in conflict indeed.

Once again, if anyone calls George R.R. Martin an ‘anti-Tolkienic writer’, remind him or her that we’re talking about the man who was deeply moved by The Fall of Gil-galad… and in his speech on fantasy, said the following words:

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.


A waterfall in the Karkonosze Mountains in Poland, photo by BT. “Then something Tookish woke up inside [Bilbo], and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” – from The Hobbit

Part II: References to LOTR, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion in ASOIAF

The World Was Young, the Mountains Green…

As I said, the main focus of this episode is my theory claiming that The Great Empire of the Dawn and House Dayne were at least partially inspired by Númenor and the Dúnedain. But before I present it, I’d like to show some more ‘obvious’ references to Tolkien’s mythology in George R.R. Martin’s works. I imagine that if I began with those deeper parallels between the two authors, some of you could – and you’d be fully justified – start to doubt if my thesis has any credibility. After all, if GRRM was trying to convey something deeper using those hidden Tolkien references, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect some clues easier to decipher, for example clear allusions to LOTR or The Hobbit in A Song of Ice and Fire. And indeed, there are such explicit references to be found.

While I go through some of them, please keep in mind that many of those topics deserve their own sections, and probably even their own episodes. I might explore them in the future. Right now I have some plans, albeit vague, for an episode about Turin and his black sword Gurthang. That story should be especially interesting for all Mythical Astronomy fans out there, as it features dragons, meteoric iron swords, kinslaying, tragic love and some really really grey characters. Certainly, all those parallels between Theon Greyjoy and Gollum, Jon Snow and Aragorn, Aerys, Tywin and Denethor, Jaime and Beregond (and the issue honor vs. conflicting loyalties), Beorn and Craster and so on deserve our consideration. Apart from those, we have dragons and how they work in both universes, ents vs. Children of the Forest turning trees to warriors, some similarities between Sansa Stark and Luthien, Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane and Huan, The Hound of the Valar, the mysterious black stones and ancient structures of both ‘secondary worlds’, the common theme of kinslaying, incidents where someone decided to burn an entire armada of ships, Martin’s Sacred Order of Green Men and Tolkien’s Drúedain – The Wild Men of the Woods, Oathbreakers and ‘horns that wake the sleepers’, Barrow-downs and Barrowlands, The Long Night (in both universes), ravens, Hidden Cities of Braavos and Gondolin, the phrase Valar morghulis and The Valar, the Ringwraiths, broken oaths, the palantíri and the glass candles… and many many many more.

Of course, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do some research on your own, and of course, to read or reread all those Tolkienic texts I’m referring to. While I’ll add short summaries of fragments or books relevant to the topic we’ll be discussing, please remember that nothing can replace a real J.R.R.T. book, with all its richness, linguistic beauty, vastness of lore and details et cetera…

Still, I realise that many of you have read LOTR or The Silmarillion long ago, or not at all, and such summaries and explanations are necessary if I want you to understand how those references Martin inserts work. In today’s essay  my ‘main’ theory or rather analysis concerns Númenor and the successor states, Gondor and Arnor, founded by those of the Dúnedain who escaped its Downfall. The historical events I’ll be talking about are ancient past even for those living in Middle-earth in the final years of the Third Age. But to understand Númenor, one has to understand the history of Arda and, especially, the Tale of the Silmarils. And thus we have to go back, to times millenia before Frodo and Aragorn, to the very beginning of  days.

As I quickly (let’s hope) recount those events, I’ll insert some commentary from time to time, when we come across some event or character George R.R. Martin references in his saga. I’m going omit some plotlines, such as the Quest of Beren and Luthien, the history of The Children of Hurin or the events surrounding the birth of Maeglin, the wandering to Tuor and The Fall of Gondolin, since these are the topics I intend to explore in detail in later essays. Similarly, some chapters might be shortened to the bare minimum, for example if they are of little relevance (at least at first glance), to the ‘main’ plot of The Silmarillion. Of course, in Tolkien’s books even the most tiny details are important. But if I were to follow every single thread left by the Professor, I’m afraid this essay would have to be impossibly long. Keep in mind that this text is but an introduction to a longer series I intend to write – and who knows, maybe in some less dense episodes, there’ll be the time to talk about not only GRRM’s Tolkienic inspirations, but also about Tolkien’s own, for example from the Norse mythology or real-world history… and since GRRM often draws from the very same sources, things get really complicated. But maybe, I should say ‘complex’. And very interesting. Oh yes, since I’m a writer, at least an aspiring one, myself, it’s fascinating what two different authors can do basing on the same influence… In other words, both the Legendarium and A Song of Ice and Fire are incredibly complex, they explore multiple themes and are surely worthy of our attention.

A side note: this multitude of inspirations shows that you can’t simply look at Tolkien through the prism of, let’s say, his Norse influences without at least acknowledging aspects of his writing based on his Catholic faith or English history… People who craft theories based only on one source of GRRM’s inspiration, in my opinion, make a similar mistake… I’d say that its impossible to simply gather some parallels with, let’s say, the Ragnarok story, and claim that ASOIAF will end exactly like Ragnarok, without looking at the ramifications of all those influences from Greek myths, Celtic myths, Arthurian legends, history, Frank Herbert’s Dune, history… and Tolkien.

When it comes to Tolkien, another thing to consider is that his mythology was decades in the making, and multiple versions of some tales exists. The changes J.R.R.T. made over time are yet another fascinating topic – but not for today. Here I’ll simply focus on the most widely known accounts of those events, found in the published Silmarillion.

With that said, we may go back to the times before first Men and Elves, before even The First Age began, before the Sun and the Moon first rose, before even the stars first shone…


Beskid Mountains in Poland, photo by BT with special effects added.

In the beginning…

… there was only Eru Iluvatar, The One, Father of All.

First, Eru created Ainur, The Holy Ones, who were angelic beings of great might and power. They were the offspring of His thought, but each one understood only but a fragment of Iluvatar’s mind. The mightiest of those spirits was Melkor and his brother was Manwe.

And then Illuvatar inspired them with his Flame Imperishable, and they gathered to sing a song, of great harmony and complexity, a song with the power to create. The voices of the Ainur united, and fashioned the theme initially given by Iluvatar into one melody. This was Ainulindalë, The Great Music. But Melkor searched for The Flame in the vastness of the primordial Void, and when he could not find it, his mind conceived some thoughts unlike those of his brothers and sisters. And he was overpowered by a desire to create beings in his own image, for it seemed to him that Eru had no plans for the Void.Thus Melkor introduced a discord into the Great Music, and there was a great war of sound. And it seemed that it was no longer one song, but two, sang before the throne of Illuvatar simultaneously. At that moment Eru rose and the choirs of the Ainur fell silent.

Then He showed them a vision, of what their song created, The Created World. And then the Ainur watched the entire history of that universe as it would progress, and were amazed, for without them noticing, Iluvatar inserted his unique theme into the Great Music, and none of them even dared to contribute to it, so unparalleled it was. And from that melody the Children of Illuvatar came into existence, and they those were: the Firstborn, the Elves, and the Secondborn, Men. And Iluvatar said: Eä! Let these thing Be!

And the Ainur saw that the vision they saw became a reality. Eru allowed those who wished to enter this World, but still, many remained with Eru in his Timeless Halls.

The mightiest of those who chose to enter were called the Valar, but Men often mistook them for gods. The lesser ones were known as the Maiar. Together they were to shape and adorn Arda, the realm within Eä where the Children of Illuvatar were to wake, and then guide and teach them. But even as the Valar were building, Melkor came to destroy. And he gathered many followers from among the Maiar; the mightiest of those were the spirits of shadow and flame, called Balrogs and Mairon, later known as Sauron Gorthaur.

After the First War between the Valar and Melkor ended and the Dark Lord fled, Arda enjoyed its spring. The Valar decided to bring light to their realm. Two great Lamps were constructed, Illuin and Ormal. In the middle of Arda, where their light mingled, the Valar settled upon the isle Almaren in midst of The Great Lake in the center of a vast continent called Middle-earth. But Melkor and his hosts came and destroyed the Lamps, and their fall shattered the lands, causing massive destruction and conflagration. Amaren was lost, and the seas rushed inlands. The entire layout of Arda was changed. But before the Valar could bring him to justice, the Dark Lord fled to his might stronghold called Utumno, in the far north. The Valar moved to a realm in the Uttermost West, henceforth called Valinor. There Yavanna, Giver of Fruit and Queen of Earth, planted two mighty trees, silver Telperion and golden Laurelin. Meanwhile, Varda, the wife of Manwe (called the Elder King, Eru’s Regent), created stars and placed them on on the vault of heaven. Afterwards, the Valar waited for the Firstborn Children of Illuvatar to appear.

Concurrently, Aulë, The Smith decided to create beings of his own, The Dwarves. He kept that a secret from the rest of the Valar, but he could not keep it a secret from Eru. Iluvatar pointed out that dwarves were only mindless puppets, with no free will or thoughts of their own. Then Aulë raised his great hammer to destroy his minions, but Iluvatar felt pity, and decided to grant them true life.

His wife Yavanna, who deeply cared for all plants and animals of Arda, feared that the dwarves would destroy all woods of the Middle-earth to fuel their furnaces, so she asked Iluvatar to give life to the Ents, who were to protect trees from other creatures. Manwë, the Elder King, summoned spirits from afar, and created the Great Eagles, who served as his messengers.

When the Elves awoke on the shores of Lake Cuiviénen in the eastern Middle-earth, it was Melkor who found out first. The most ancient elven legends tell of an evil creature called The Hunter, who would kidnap those who wandered away alone. Fortunately, one of the Valar, Oromë, enjoyed hunting in the vast woods of ancient Middle-earth. It was him who came across the Firstborn, and named them ‘Eldar’ (The People of Stars), for he saw that above all else, they loved gazing at the Stars of Varda. The Elves called themselves Quendi, which means ‘Those Who Speak with Voices’, for they met no other creatures who could talk.

The Valar concluded that Melkor must be stopped, and thus began the great War for the Sake of Elves. The Dark Lord was defeated, captured (Sauron, on the other hand, managed to escape), bound with the great chain Angainor, and taken to Valinor, where he would spend three ages. The Elves, meanwhile, were all invited to settle in the land of Valinor in the west, as the Valar considered Middle-earth to be too dangerous, now that it was infested with Melkor’s evil creatures.

Some Elves agreed to move to Valinor, and those who arrived there after a long and perilous journey, and saw the light of The Two Trees, were called The High Elves, or Calaquendi, The Elves of the Light. But others refused – those became known as the Avari, The Refusers.

Those who set off on The Great March were divided into three tribes: The Vanyar (Fair-elves) led by by King Ingwë. Their hair was gold, and when it came to battle, their warriors fought with spears. Then came the Noldor (Deep-elves), whose ruler was Finwë. Their eyes were grey and their hair usually dark. In war, their weapon of choice was sword. The Noldor were famous for their skill with metals, gems and alloys. The third tribe were the Teleri (The Last), who called themselves Lindar (The Singers). This group was by far the largest, so they had two lords: brothers Olwë and Elwë. They fought using bows.

Of the Vanyar and Noldor, all arrived in the land of Beleriand, in the western Middle-earth, and progressed until they reached the shores of Belegaer, The Great Sea. One of the Valar, Ulmo (The King of the Sea, Lord of Waters and Dweller in the Deep) ferried them across the vast ocean on the island Tol Eressëa, The Lonely Isle, which was later placed off the coast of Valinor.

But the third host progressed slowly, and upon crossing The Great River Anduin, some of its members grew fearful and reluctant when they saw Hithaeglir, The Towers of Mist (in later ages commonly known as the Misty Mountains) looming in the distance. Therefore, the Lindar tribe was further divided – some elves under Lenwë decided to stay in that region of the Middle-earth. They were called the Nandor (Those, Who Go Back). Their descendants were the Laiquendi, The Green Elves.

The rest of the Lindar finally entered Beleriand, but since Tol Eressëa has already ‘sailed’ (carrying the Vanyar and the Noldor), they had to set up camps and wait until Ulmo could bring the island back. Meanwhile, king Elwë would wander alone in the woods. During one of those trips, he came across Melian, one of the Maiar (lesser Ainur who entered Arda, like Olórin-Gandalf and Curumo-Saruman). The king was spellbound by her beauty and great wisdom, and thus it came to be that he forgot about his people, and thus Elwë and Melian stood as if they were enchanted, even as the trees of Nan Elmoth grew higher and higher around them. Meanwhile, the time for the Teleri to set off for Valinor finally came, and his brother Olwë refused to wait. But some of Elwë’s followers decided to stay, and many years later, when the king awoke and returned to them, founded the Kingdom of Doriath. Elwë became known as King Elu Thingol (The Greycloak), and Melian became his Queen. Their daughter was Luthien, considered to be the most beautiful of all Children of Illuvatar. The elves who stayed in Beleriand and paid homage to King Thingol were called the Sindar, the Grey Elves. A group of them, called the Falathrim, lived in havens at the coast of Belegear. Their lord was Nowë, more widely known as Círdan the Shipwright. The remaining Teleri – the Falmari (The Wave-folk) finally arrived in Valinor and built the port city Alqualondë (Swanhaven).

Arda finally enjoyed peace, and the Elves prospered. But when three ages passed, Melkor was released, and deceived the Valar with words of remorse and false promises, so they let him live freely in the realm of Valinor. And thus Melkor saw that the world has changed, and hated the Elves even more than before. The Noldor interested him the most, as their skill in metallurgy and all crafts was unmatched. And among them, none was more gifted than King Finwë’s eldest son, Fëanor, The Spirit of Fire. Fëanor had two brothers, Fingolfin and Finarfin, but there was little love between them, as his mother was Finwë’s first wife, Míriel (who was so consumed by giving birth to the Spirit of Fire that her soul left the body and remained in the Halls of Mandos, the Doomsman of the Valar, where all Elves who die stay for some time, before returning to the world of the living). Finwë’s second wife was Indis of the Vanyar.

It was Fëanor who created the Silmarils, three mighty jewels of great beauty, in which the light of The Two Trees of Valinor was locked. Varda, the Queen of Stars, came and blessed them, and ever since, evil hands which dared to touch them were scorched. In order to gain those gems Melkor began his dark intrigue. Firstly, he started spreading lies and rumours among the Noldor. And Fëanor came to believe that his younger brother Fingolfin conspired to usurp his position as heir of the king, and even worse, that he planned to take the Silmarils by force. But when Fëanor, in full battle armour, entered his brother’s hall, threatening him with a sword, the Valar intervened and investigated the matter. Melkor’s treachery was revealed, but before he could be arrested, the Dark Lord left Valinor. For his attack, Fëanor was exiled to the stronghold Formenos, in the northern part of Valinor and king Finwë moved there as well.

Fëanor married Nerdanel the Wise, daughter of the famous smith Mahtan. She had auburn hair, elsewhere described as brown mixed with copper, and unusual trait among the Noldor. This feature was passed onto their seven sons, of whom Maedhros was the eldest.

Melkor, meanwhile, searched for Ungoliant, an evil spirit who assumed the shape of a monstrously large spider. Together they sneaked into Valinor, hidden under a veil of Unlight, and without being noticed, arrived at the Green Mound Ezellohar, where the Two Trees grew. And Melkor raised his dark spear, and pierced the trees, and Ungoliant came and drank their sap, and at the same time poisoning them with her venom. And as the Trees died, a great darkness fell upon the Blessed Realm of Valinor. But the Valar hoped that the Trees can still be saved, if only the part of their light encapsulated within the Silmarils is released. But only Fëanor himself knew how to break the shells made from silima, a substance he devised. But the great smith refused to annihilate his greatest creations. In the confusion of that terrible night, known afterwards as the Long Night, Melkor sacked Formenos, and all its defenders fled. Only king Finwë tried to stop him the Dark Lord from reaching the vault where the Silmarils and other treasures were stored, and he was slain. When the news reached Fëanor, he cursed Melkor, naming him Morgoth, the Dark Tyrant.

Then Fëanor and his sevens sons swore a terrible oath, that they shall pursue Morgoth and retrieve the jewels, and that no demon, Valar, Maiar, Elf, Man or creature will be allowed to stand between them and the Silmarils, that were by rights the heirloom of the House of Finwë. But as they prepared their host for the journey to follow Morgoth, who fled to his fortress of Angband in Beleriand, a messenger arrived from the Valar, and forbade them to leave Valinor.

Regardless, the Noldor set off and arrived at Alqualondë, The Swanhavens of the Teleri. There Fëanor demanded that they ferry his followers across the Great Sea to Middle-earth. But king Olwë refused. And in that dread hour, as darkness shrouded Valinor, The Spirit of Fire ordered his soldiers to sack the havens, slaughter the Teleri and steal their famed white swan-ships. And thus, for the first time, Elves fought Elves in a great Kinslaying. For that deed the Valar cursed the Noldor, and they were forbidden from ever returning to Valinor. Then Fëanor youngest brother Finarfin and his followers left the Noldor host and returned to plead for forgiveness, which they were granted. It should be noted that Finarfin’s wife was Eärwen, daughter of king Olwë himself. Their children, Finrod, Angrod, Aegnor and Galadriel did not turn back.

Then Fëanor decided that his brother Fingolfin’s Noldor are not trustworthy, so in secret, he had his own followers board on all stolen swan-ships, and they sailed for Middle-earth. Upon their landing in the Firth of Drengist, at a place called Losgar, Fëanor’s son Maedhros, who was a close friend of Fingon, asked if he should send the ships back, to ferry Fingolfin’s followers. But the Spirit of Fire laughed, as if he was mad, and gave orders to have the ships burned. It was a great fire, and the red glow was seen even by Fingolfin across the sea. Then he realised that Fëanor left them. But he was too proud to return and beg the Valar for mercy, so instead, his host set off on a long and perilous march through the frozen waste of Helcaraxë in the far north,m a voyage many did not survive.

Meanwhile, Fëanor’s army battled Morgoth’s forces (assembled for many years in secret by his chief lieutenants Sauron and Gothmog) in Beleriand. There the Spirit of Fire was killed, when his vanguard was surrounded by Balrogs. And upon his death, his fiery soul burned the body, and only ashes remained. His eldest son Maedhros assumed supreme command over Noldorin forces, but he was captured and taken to Angband, where Morgoth had him hung from a mountain cliff, by the wrist of his right hand. But then, light returned to Arda, as the Valar created the Sun and the Moon. The very moment the Moon first appeared, Fingolfin’s host, larger than Fëanor, even after so many were lost to icy waters and cold. Morgoth’s legions were decimated. Fingolfin’s eldest son Fingon ventured alone to Angband, and with the help of Thorondor, the King of Eagles, rescued Maedhros, whose right hand he was forced to cut off.

Grateful, Maedhros gave up his claim to the High Kingship of the Noldor, which was granted to Fingolfin. After the Third Battle of Beleriand, called the Glorious, Morgoth’s strength was broken, and he was confined to Angband, which remained besieged for over 400 years. In those centuries, the Noldor prospered, founding numerous strongholds, cities and kingdoms. The chief of those were:

  • Nargothrond, the subterranean city hewn in rock, the royal seat of Finrod, called Felagund, the Hewer of Caves,
  • Gondolin, the Hidden City, founded by king Turgon in a valley in the Encircling Mountains,
  • Himring, the principal stronghold in the March of Maedhros

Doriath, the realm of the Grey Elves (Sindar) was still ruled by King Thingol, but he felt little sympathy for the Noldor after he found out about the Kinslaying, where his kinsmen were slain. His city was Menegroth, Thousand Caves, a massive city and fortress hewn in rock.

During those years, called the Long Peace, Men first entered into Beleriand from the east. Those who allied with the Elves and fought against Morgoth were known as the Edain. Their principal houses were: The House of Bëor, from which descended the famous warrior Beren, The House of Haleth, who were named after Haleth, who became their Chieftain after her father and brother fell in battle with orcs, and managed to withstand a week long siege, until Noldor soldiers could arrive to relieve it. The third house was The House of Hador of whom Húrin and his son Túrin were the most renowned.

Other tribes soon followed, and those were known as the Easterling. But many of them betrayed the Elves in battle, and sided with Morgoth.

The centuries of peace and prosperity came to an end in the year 455, First Age, when Morgoth’s armies managed to break the siege. A great battle of Dagor Bragollach, The Sudden Flame, ensued. The Elven and Edain forces were burned with rivers of flame, or even worse, dragonfire, for Morgoth’s newest beasts were released. Of those the most fearsome was Glaurung, the Father of Dragons, known also as the Great Worm, the Golden and the Deceiver.

When it became apparent the battle is lost, Fingolfin, the High King of the Noldor, rode alone to the gates of Angband, and challenged Morgoth to a duel. The Dark Lord was founded with his sword, Ringil, which glittered like ice, but ultimately, the High King was slain.

Here follows the tale of Beren and Luthien, but since I have plans to explore it in detail in another episode, I’ll say only that thanks to this pair of lovers, one of the Silmarils was recovered from Morgoth’s Iron Crown, and their deeds gave the Elves and Men new hope.

Thus, in the year 472, Maedhros gathered a grand host of Men and Elves, to defeat Morgoth once and for all. Even king Turgon left his Hidden City of Gondolin, and arrived with 10 000 spearmen. But because of Easterling treachery, the power of dragonfire and might of the Balrogs, the battle ended in bloodshed. The Noldor were scattered, and the Edain armies were wiped out. During this Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Nirnaeth Arnoediad, fell Fingon, the High King of the Noldor, slain by Gothmog, Lord of the Balrog.

Now begins there tragic story of Túrin and his sister, but just like with Beren and Luthien, those events will get their own essay in the future. Suffice to say that nearly all Elven and Edain cities and realms were lost, including Nargothrond.

In Doriath, king Thingol was killed by dwarven jewel-smiths, whom he hired to embed the Silmaril Beren and Luthien brought from Angband in Nauglamir, the famed Necklace of the Dwarves. The dwarves, desiring both treasures, demanded them as their payment, and when King Greycloak refused, he was slain in his own vault in Menegroth. Then the city was sacked by plundering dwarven host. Thus began the long feud between Elves and Dwarves. But king Thingol’s grandson, Dior, the son of Beren and Luthien, returned to Doriath and restored order as its second king. But when the surviving sons of Fëanor heard that their father’s precious jewel was held by the Grey Elves, they attacked Menegroth. King Dior was slain in this Second Kinslaying and his sons were left in the wilderness to die. But his daughter, Elwing, took the Necklace with the Silmaril and fled to the coastal region near the Mouths of River Sirion. There settled many survivors from Doriath.

Four years later the last remaining Elven kingdom in Beleriand fell, when – because of kinsman’s treachery – king Turgon’s Hidden City of Gondolin was destroyed. The refugees from that realm joined Elwing’s folk. Their leader was Eärendil, the son of king Turgon’s daughter Idril and Tuor, Túrin’s kinsman. Eärendil and Elwing married, and their sons were Elrond, later known as Master of Rivendell and Elros, the future King of Númenor. But apart from their Havens and Círdan the Shipwright’s seat at the Isle of Balar, where the new High King of the Noldor, Ereinion Gil-galad fled, all of Beleriand was overrun my Morgoth’s countless legions. It seemed that for the Middle-earth all hope was already lost.

Since the events concerning Eärendil are closely related to the founding of Númenor, which, along with its successor states, Gondor and Arnor, is our main topic today, I think that the best option is to stop this summary of The Silmarillion at this point, present several references to that J.R.R. Tolkien novel found in ASOIAF and The World of Ice and Fire, and then share several homages to Tolkien’s other major books, LOTR and The Hobbit in GRRM’s writing. Then, without further interruptions, we’ll see how, at least according to my theory, GRRM used The Dúnedain and their history as source of inspiration.


Baltic Sea coastline, photo by BT

It’s all in the appendixes!

One of the most striking references to J.R.R. Tolkien’s works in ASOIAF are the words Valar morghulis, the motto of the Faceless Men of Braavos (another Hidden City! Gondolin, this is Braavos, Braavos, this is Gondolin…). The Valar are of course the angelic beings whom Eru entrusted with protecting and ruling over Arda.  Men often mistook them for gods. The second part, morghulis, is a reference to Minas Morgul, the Tower of Dark Sorcery, the seat of the Ringwraiths. I’ll have more to say about this place later on. By the way, the dragon of princess Jaehaera Targaryen was named Morghul.

In A Storm of Swords, when refugees from the Mole’s Town (sacked by the Thenns) arrive at Castle Black, Jon Snow is introduced to ‘Lady Meliana (who was no lady, all her friends agreed)’. It seems that GRRM has borrowed this name from The Silmarillion, where Melian, as I have mentioned, was one of the Maiar, who fell in love with Elven king Thingol and bore him a daughter, Luthien. In Sindarin, the tongue of the Grey Elves, Melian means ‘dear gift’ (from mel, love, and anna, gift). This name is related to mellon, which means ‘friend’, and is now famous for being the answer to the riddle written on the Door of Durin. On archivolt the following words were written: ‘Speak, friend, and enter’. Gandalf realised that the password is supposed to be a wordplay, and simply spoke the Sindarin word for ‘friend’ in front of the gate. Possibly, this was GRRM’s inspiration when he came up with ‘Melony’, which seems to be Lady Melisandre’s original name. Or it’s just a form of Melanie. Since I’m an author myself, names always fascinated me, so please forgive me for going on all those tangents if you don’t find etymology that interesting.

Another Tolkienic name that found its way into ASOIAF is Daeron, the name of two Targaryen kings, four princes, one member of House Velaryon and Dornish Lord Vaith of the Red Dunes. But the Westerosi ‘Daeron’ who is the most similar to his Middle-earth counterpart doesn’t bear the name ‘Daeron’, but its (as it seems) variant, Dareon. Dareon was a singer forced to join the Night’s Watch, who later accompanied Samwell Tarly and maester Aemon on their voyage to Braavos. Properly, the ‘original’ Daeron was a minstrel who lived at the royal court in Doriath. He fell in love with king Thingol’s daughter Luthien, but she chose a mortal man, Beren, instead. Furious, Daeron told Thingol about their affair and ultimately unintentionally caused the great Quest for the Silmaril (which the king demanded in exchange for his daughter’s hand, in hopes that Beren will not survive).

Speaking of Beren and Luthien, it seems that GRRM in inserted some references to their story into Sansa Stark’s plotline. Firstly, there is this line from A Storm of Swords, where Gregor Clegane’s men share rumours about the Purple Wedding, Joffrey’s death and Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing with Sandor the Hound: ‘The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window.’ In The Silmarillion, as Luthien and Beren are preparing to infiltrate Morgoth’s fortress of Angband, the elves princess skinchanges into a bat, while Beren assumes the shape of a monstrous wolf.

Beren became in all things like a werewolf to look upon, save that in his eyes there shone a spirit grim indeed but clean; and horror was in his glance as he saw upon his flank a bat-like creature clinging with creased wings. Then howling under the moon he leaped down the hill, and the bat wheeled and flittered above him.

I admit it might be a mere coincidence, but still, I decided to include this theory here as well, so you can judge for yourselves.

It’s possible, although unlikely, that the Hound himself was influenced by the tale of Beren and Luthien, and to be more precise: Huan, the Hound of the Valinor. This large wolfhound was given by one of the Valar, Oromë the Hunter, to Fëanor’s son Celegorm. Huan accompanied his master when the Noldor came to Beleriand, but seeing his cruelty and evil intentions towards Luthien, the Hound left Celegorm and helped her. Similarly, Sandor served Joffrey, but later deserted from his service. It’s interesting that the Hound of the Valar could speak, but only thrice in his lifetime… well, think what you will, but for me, a certain – supposedly – mute Gravedigger comes to mind.

Another ASOIAF bard, Marillion, is most likely named after The Silmarillion – or the band Marillion which was named after Tolkien’s book.

Now, if we page through the ASOIAF appendixes, we will find a cast of characters who seem to have moved to Westeros from Middle-earth.

In A Clash of Kings, when maester Luwin, Bran Stark and Ser Rodrik discuss the Hornwood succession crisis, certain Beren is mentioned as possible heir. His mother was Lady Berena of House Hornwood, wife of Leobald Tallhart. In The World of Ice and Fire, Berena Stark is present in the House Stark genealogical tree as daughter of Lord Beron Stark and Lady Lorra Royce. It is quite likely that those names refer to Beren, the famous Edain hero from the First Age, most notable for taking part in the Quest for the Silmaril with Luthien. Similarly to House Stark, Beren has a connection with wolves and skinchanging, since during his infiltration of Angband, he wore a skin of one of Sauron’s werewolves. Later, he was mortally wounded by Morgoth’s own wolf, Carcharoth.

Interestingly, just like the Last Hero from Westerosi legends, Beren is associated with leading a group of 12 companions on some venture of great importance. Firstly, in his youth, after the Battle of the Sudden Flame ended the siege of Morgoth’s fortress, Beren was a member of his father Barahir’s group of warriors. In total, there were 13 men, just like in the Last Hero tale. For some time, they managed to survive in the highlands of their fallen country, unwilling to desert it, but finally, when Morgoth sent his chief lieutenant Sauron against them, one of Barahir’s companions was Gorlim, afterwards remembered as the Unhappy. Sauron, a master of shapeshifting and illusion, tricked him into believing that he held his wife captive. In order to save her, Gorlim revealed the location of Barahir’s hideout. All his men were slaughtered, save for Beren who happened to be away at the time. But when it came to rewarding the traitor, Sauron revealed that his wife was in fact long dead. Just as he had promised, the future Dark Lord reunited Gorlim with his wife, in death.

Later, during his famed Quest for Silmaril, Beren was joined by Finrod Felagund, the Noldor King of Nargothrond and his ten loyal men (the treacherous sons of Feanor, Celegorm and Curufin, persuaded the rest of his subjects to abandon their king, in hopes that he will die and they will be able to take the crown of Nargothrond for themselves). While this time Beren had only 11 companions, not 12 like the Last Hero, this part of the tale is nonetheless very similar to the Westerosi legend, since all but Beren died in Sauron’s dungeons at Tol-in-Gaurhoth. Luthien and the hound Huan managed to rescue Beren and defeat Sauron, so maybe the help the Last Hero received from the Children of the Forest (since Luthien was one of the Grey Elves, and very skilled in the art of enchantment) and his faithful dog (think of Huan, the Hound of Valinor) were inspired by this part of the story. If it turns out that the Last Hero’s ‘wolf’ was in fact a direwolf, the parallel is even more apparent, since it was said that Huan was as large as a horse.

The Children of the Forest are known as ‘those who sing the song of earth’, while the Elves of Arda are Quendi, Those Who Speak with Voices. If we tried to be more specific, the Elven tribe most similar to the Children are probably the Teleri, since the Green Elves and Silvan Elves were their descendants, just like the Grey Elves who lived in Menegroth, The Thousands Caves, just like the Children often live in caves or other subterranean places. The other name of the Teleri is ‘the Lindar’, which means Singers.

Beren and Daeron are not the only Tolkienic names we find in Westeros. In the Iron Islands chapter in The World of Ice and Fire certain priest of the Drowned God named Sauron Salt-Tongue appears. Another priest and prophet, Galon Whitestaff, might be a nod to Gandalf, whose name means ‘the elf of the wand’, and who bore the epithet ‘the White’ following his return after his duel with a Balrog, who somehow managed to survive Morgoth’s fall in the First Age.

The pious knight Ser Theodan Wells who serves as Commander of the Warrior’s Sons, re-created by the High Sparrow, is probably named after King Théoden of Rohan. The Rohirrim, known as the horselords, might have their Essosi counterpart in the Dothraki. The last place where we could possibly accept someone as violent as Khal Drogo is probably the peaceful land of the Shire. Still, Frodo’s father, Drogo Baggins, lived at that very place. It is worth to mention that ‘Drogo’ is a real-world name as well (its variants are Drogon and Drogone). Rohanne Webber, Rohanne Tarbeck and Rohanne of Tyrosh might be named after Rohan, the realm of Rohirrim (from Sindarin ‘roch’, horse).

In The Sword Sword, when Ser Eustace Osgrey reminisces how powerful his House once was, he mention several places that sound as if they were taken from the Shire: Brandybottom (Brandy Hall and the river Brandywine, by the way, Honeywine which flows through Oldtown might be a play on this Tolkienic river) and Derring Downs (the Far Downs and the White Downs in Shire).

The surname of Ser Jacelyn Bywater, whom Tyrion named the Commander of the City Watch of King’s Landing might be a reference to Bywater in Shire, where the final skirmish of the War of the Ring took place. After all GRRM said that he liked the Scouring of the Shire.

House Lightfoot of the North might be a nod to those short fellows with hairy feet as well, since among hobbit families mentioned in LOTR’s Appendix C (hobbit family trees) we find The Lightfoots (Lightfeet!).

The title of Lord Selwyn Tarth, the Evenstar, might have been given in honour of Arwen who was known as The Evenstar. To support this theory, I’ll mention that while Tarth was known as the Sapphire Isle, Arwen’s father Elrond wore the one of the Three Elven Rings of Power, Vilya… also known as the Blue Ring, or the Ring of Sapphire…

Lady Arwyn Oakheart, Ser Arys Oakheart’s mother, is most likely named after Arwen as well, just like Arwyn Frey and Arwen Upcliff, while Elron of the Night’s Watch is probably a reference to her father.

When we hear about the ‘Scouring of Lorath’ we should probably hearken back to the Scouring of the Shire (which GRRM liked in the books, and missed in the movies). And if you remember that when he was first reading LOTR, ‘By the time we got to Weathertop, Tolkien had’ him, we shouldn’t be surprised when Melisandre warns Jon against ‘the knives in the dark’. A Knife in the Dark is the title of the chapter where Aragorn and the hobbits defend Amon Sûl against the Ring-wraiths.

The Battle of Three Armies, fought between the combined forces of House Lannister and House Durrandon against the Gardener kings, might be a play on the Battle of Five Armies from The Hobbit, just like the Battle of Six Kings mentioned in The World of Ice and Fire.

King Urras Ironfoot of the Iron Islands is probably named after Dain II Ironfoot, also from The Hobbit. Thoren Smallwood of the Night’s Watch might be a reference to Thorin II Oakenshield (after all, the seat of House Smallwood is Acorn Hall). I imagine that both Westerosi Oakenshields – the abandoned castle by the Wall and one of the Shield Islands – are nods to the famous dwarven king as well. When we read those lines in A Clash of Kings:

Jon heard a rustling from the red leaves above.  Two branches parted, and he glimpsed a little man moving from limb to limb as easily as a squirrel.  Bedwyck stood no more than five feet tall, but the grey streak in his hair showed his age. The other rangers called him giant.

we probably should think about this scene from The Hobbit which takes place during the Company’s voyage through seemingly endless Mirkwood:

‘Is there no end to this accursed forest?’ said Thorin. ‘Somebody must climb a tree and see if he can get his head above the roof and have a look around. The only way is to choose the tallest tree that overhangs the path.

Of course ‘somebody’ meant Bilbo.

Just like Bilbo, Bedwyck is very short. And in that ACoK fragment, it is actually Thoren Smallwood who stands under that weirwood with Jon and listens to Bedwyck’s report.

Durran, the mythical founder of House Durrandon might be another nod towards Tolkien’s dwarves, and to be more precise: to Durin, called the Deathless, the very first Dwarf. According to legends, king Durran reigned for a millenium. When we read in The World of Ice and Fire that maesters question this story:

Such a life span seems most unlikely, even for a hero married to the daughter of two gods. Archmaester Glaive, himself a stormlander by birth, once suggested that this King of a Thousand Years was in truth a succession of monarchs all bearing the same name, which seems plausible but must forever remain unproved.

… we should probably be reminded that Dwarves believed that King Durin will reincarnate and return to lead his people seven times. And indeed, in the Fourth Age, a king named Durin (the Seventh of His Name) led Durin’s folk back to their ancient kingdom, Khazad-dûm, more commonly known as Moria.

Durran VII ‘the Ravenfriend’ is interesting as well, since the Dwarves of Erebor (the kingdom under the Lonely Mountain from The Hobbit) were famous for their friendship with intelligent Ravens of Ravenhill, who could talk and brought them news. It was one of them, named Roäc, who served as Thorin’s messenger to his cousin Dain during the Siege of Erebor.

If we look at the map of the North from ASOIAF, we can see ‘the Long Like’. I admit it might be mere coincidence, but a lake of the same name exists in Middle-earth. Esgaroth, the Lake-town, was built upon it.

Of all Westerosi towns, the Planky Town is Dorne is perhaps the most similar to Esgaroth. From The World of Ice and Fire:

The Planky Town at the mouth of the river Greenblood is mayhaps the nearest thing the Dornish have to a true city, though a city with planks instead of streets, where the houses and halls and shops are made from poleboats, barges, and merchant ships, lashed together with hempen rope and floating on the tide.

Therefore, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that it was burned when we hear that:

Queen Rhaenys led the first assault on Dorne, moving swiftly to seize Dornish seats as she approached Sunspear and burning the Planky Town on Meraxes.

After all, the Lake-town was reduced to ashes by Smaug…

When I mentioned ‘metatextual jokes’, I was thinking about things like this scene where Tyrion remembers that:

The eyes were where a dragon was most vulnerable. The eyes, and the brain behind them. Not the underbelly, as certain old tales would have it. The scales there were just as tough as those along a dragon’s back and flanks. And not down the gullet either. That was madness. These would-be dragonslayers might as well try to quench a fire with a spear thrust. “Death comes out of the dragon’s mouth,” Septon Barth had written in his Unnatural History, “but death does not go in that way.” [A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion XI]

It seems that GRRM references The Hobbit here, where Bard the Bowman managed to kill Smaug by shooting an arrow into hole in his ‘scale armour’ located on his underbelly.

The Mountains of the Moon might have been influenced by The Grateful Dead song… or the legendary mountain range where – according to ancient Greek cartographers – the River Nile had its springs… but it is also possible that they were inspired by The Mountains of the Moon from… surprise, surprise, Tolkien…

The Road Goes Ever On, also known as ‘the walking song’ from The Hobbit contains the following stanza:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

By the way, I really recommend a beautiful rendition of this amazing Tolkienic poem by Clamavi de Profundis (their versions of other J.R.R.T. songs are also great, especially of The Song of Durin, The Lament for Boromir and The Ents’ Marching Song). WE COME, WE COME, WITH HORN AND DRUM! TO ISENGARD, TO ISENGAAARD!

Hearken back, if you will, to the section where I discussed GRRM’s approach to Tolkien. It seems that Boromir is one of his favourite characters. Therefore, it’s a small wonder that he simply couldn’t miss any opportunity to pay some homage to the Son of Denethor.

Lord Hoster Tully’s funeral shares many similarities with Boromir’s. (I’ll use burnt orange to highlight ASOS fragments and blue for LOTR). Both scenes begin with similar sentences: They laid Lord Hoster in a slender wooden boat’ and Now they laid Boromir in the middle of the boat’. Then, in both cases, follows a description of the late man’s armament and clothing: His cloak was spread beneath him, rippling blue and red’  versus The grey hood and elven-cloak they folded and placed beneath his head’. Lord Hoster’s helmet, sword and horn are placed in his funeral boat: A trout, scaled in silver and bronze, crowned the crest of the greathelm they placed beside his head. On his chest they placed a painted wooden sword, his fingers curled about its hilt’, and later: His massive oak-and-iron shield was set by his left side, his hunting horn to his right.’, in LOTR, Boromir is equipped with the same objects: ‘His helm they set beside him, and across his lap they laid the cloven horn and the hilts and shards of his sword; beneath his feet they put the swords of his enemies’. Then the boats are set loose: The seven launched Lord Hoster from the water stair, wading down the steps as the portcullis was winched upward’ andSorrowfully they cast loose the funeral boat: there Boromir lay, restful, peaceful, gliding upon the bosom of the flowing water’. But while Hoster’s boat sails ‘into the rising sun’, for Boromir awaits only ‘the Great Sea at night under the stars’.

Well, another difference is that Boromir’s boat managed to survive the Rauros Falls and sailed upon the Great River Anduin past Osgiliath, and was spotted by his brother Faramir… but Hoster’s ‘last ship’ was set aflame.  And since we’re on topic of burning ships and boats…

In ASOIAF, we are told about two incidents of massive fleets set afire – Brandon, appropriately named ‘the Burner’, burned his all northern ships in grief after his father Brandon the Shipwright was lost at sea. Queen Nymeria set the famed ‘Ten Thousand Ships’ ablaze upon arriving in Dorne, claiming that ‘Our wanderings are at an end,” she declared. “We have found a new home, and here we shall live and die’. The act is most likely a reference to Fëanor who burned the stolen Teleri swan-ships – by the way, in ASOIAF similar vessels exist, and I’m of course talking about the swan ships of the Summer Isles. But the words, it seems, are based on the speech of Elendil, given upon his landing in Middle-earth after fleeing from lost Númenor: “Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn’ Ambar-metta” – Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth (Endor is Quenya for ME) I am come. In this place will I abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world. I should probably mention that Tolkien’s ship-burning was probably inspired by the Tuatha Dé Danann, The Folk of the Goddess Danu, burnt their fleet upon arriving in Ireland, as a sign that they had no intention of retreating. With all those common influences, it’s really hard to tell who was inspired by whom.

Ah, that Fëanor, a Spirit of Fire indeed. In fact, his soul was so fiery, that upon his death, his material body was consumed by it. For me, it is impossible not to think about all those Targaryens shouting ‘I am the blood of the dragon, I am the fire made flesh’… Well, we lack any examples of self-combustion from them, but we are told that it was a custom among The Blood of the Dragon to cremate their dead… Aerys II, the Mad King, intended to turn the entire city of King’s Landing into his funeral pyre (hmm, crazed ruled who wants to burn when all hope is lost… say hello to Denethor II, the last Ruling Steward of Gondor). I should probably mention that Denethor has some similarities with Tywin – both lost their beloved wives – Joanna and Finduilas – and became bitter and cruel, especially towards their children. But I think that with Denethor, the Aerys parallels are more apparent than some vague similarity to Tywin. When Jaime kills Aerys, I think that we’re actually seeing GRRM’s opinion on the problem of honor, loyalty and ‘doing what is right’, his answer to Beregond fighting Denethor’s henchmen to save Faramir. While Jaime was one of the Kingsguard, the white knights, Beregond became a member of Faramir’s ‘White Guard’.

Well, that’s a topic for another day. Right now I’ll just mention that for me, the ASOIAF counterpart of Fëanor’s fiery death is Aerion’s drinking of wildfire, with grievous results.

But above all else, The Spirit of Fire is famous for being the greatest artisan and smith of Arda. The Mythical Astronomy fan inside me can’t help but notice some similarities to Azor Ahai, another famous smith. Or at least the Azor Ahai as he was according to LML’s grand theory. I think that most of you are familiar with his claim, supported by loads of evidence, that Azor Ahai and the Bloodstone Emperor were in fact the same person, and that Azor Ahai was in fact the villain of the Long Night story, the one to cause it by killing Nissa Nissa. The astronomical interpretation of this myth is as follows: Azor Ahai is the sun, the comet his sword Lightbringer and Nissa Nissa is the second moon mentioned in the Qartheen legend. Azor Ahai ‘broke’ the moon, and a rain of lunar ‘dragon’ meteors followed, striking ‘Planetos’ and causing the Long Night… in another essay LML explains why Nissa Nissa symbolises a weirwood tree evil Azor Ahai’s consciousness enters as well…

Think about how well this fits with this theory about The Silmarillion influences… the great darkness that fell upon the world was caused by Morgoth, the Dark Lord, who pierced the Two Trees of Valinor (from Mythical Astronomy perspective they can substitute for the Sun and the Moon, since those celestial bodies were created from their fruit and flower) with his black spear. The spear would be the comet. In fact, when GRRM writes about ‘The Long Night’ he’s using the same term Tolkien used:

When the darkness over Valinor ends with the creation of the Sun and the Moon, it is written that:

Still therefore, after the Long Night, the light of Valinor was greater and fairer than upon Middle-earth; for the Sun rested there, and the lights of heaven drew nearer to Earth in that region. But neither the Sun nor the Moon can recall the light that was of old, that came from the Trees before they were touched by the poison of Ungoliant That light lives now in the Silmarils alone.

The Qartheen legend Daenerys heard has its equivalent in The Silmarillion as well. Dany is told by her handmaiden Doreah that  “Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat.  A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame.  One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return.”

When the Valar saw that the Two Trees can’t be saved, they took the last flower of Telperion, the Silver Tree and the final fruit of Laurelin, the Golden Tree. The flower became Isil, the Moon, while the fruit was turned into Anar, the Sun. Then they were placed in the sky. But the Valar feared that Morgoth will assault them, so they chose two of the Maiar to guide and protect the Sun and the Moon. Tilion became the steersman of Isil, while Arien (a fire spirit, akin to the Balrogs but not corrupted by Morgoth) was to defend the Sun.

But Tilion was wayward and uncertain in speed, and held not to his appointed path; and he sought to come near to Arien, being drawn by her splendour, though the flame of Anar scorched him, and the island of the Moon was darkened.

Hmm, the Moon wanders too close to the Sun and is scorched… I heard that tale before…

Anyway, it seems that when we look at Azor Ahai, we’re supposed to see not only Morgoth, but also Fëanor. After all they’re quite similar: Melkor was the greatest of the Ainur but fell because he desired power to create the world and beings he wanted, while Fëanor became obsessed with his own creations. That’s a theme of sub-creators trying to become gods in their own right and usurp the Creator, Eru, common in Tolkien’s writings. From Mythical Astronomy perspective (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably should check out LML’s great essays), Azor Ahai plays the Fëanorian role of power obsessed individual willing to do anything to achieve his goals (the Oath and Kinslaying). His wife Nerdanel would be Nissa Nissa (while Fëanor doesn’t kill her, he takes all her sons from her and causes their deaths with his Oath, breaking her heart). Interestingly, just like LML’s ‘Nissa Nissa as weirwood goddess’, Nerdanel had red hair. Her father Mahtan was a great smith, and it was thanks to the knowledge he obtained from him that Fëanor was able to craft the weapons for the Noldor. It is said that after he had heard about the Kinslaying at Swanhaven, Mahtan regretted teaching Fëanor.

If Nissa Nissa was one of the Children of the Forest, or simply came from different tribe than Azor Ahai, and thanks to his marriage with her he was able to gain some knowledge he used to bring the Long Night, or commit some other foul deed, we might have another parallel. Since the seven knights of the Kingsguard serve to symbolise the Others in multiple scenes, and LML suggests that the first others were created by the Night’s King and his Queen (possibly the same people as Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa), it’s possible that the Seven Sons of Fëanor bound by the terrible Oath were GRRM’s inspiration. After all, the eldest of this group, Maedhros, is quite similar to Jaime Lannister, who also lost his swordhand. But unlike Jaime, Maedhros learned how to fight with his left hand.

Well, let’s leave this topic open for some other episode.

By the way, the Noldor city in Valinor was named ‘Tirion’. I think that GRRM’s Tyrion comes from Welsh word for ‘happy’, but still, it’s a cool connection.

It seems that GRRM inserts Tolkien references even into his ‘historical’ novellas, such as The Sons of the Dragon. When we read that people of King’s Landing suspected that King Maegor Targaryen’s wife, the mistress of whisperers Tyanna of the Tower, used rats and ‘other vermin’ as her spies, we should probably think about Queen Berúthiel who owned 10 cats. Nine of them were black and spied on the people of Gondor. The tenth cat was white, and she would send him to spy on the others.

I mentioned that GRRM named one of his dragons ‘Morghul’, in reference to Minas Morgul, but it seems that he’s not the only one inspired by Tolkien’s dragons. Balerion the Black Dread, the greatest of all Targaryen dragons, whose rider was Aegon the Conqueror himself, has its Middle-earth counterpart in Ancalagon the Black, the largest of all winged dragons. He was slain by Eärendil himself, and upon his fall the three volcanic peaks of Thangorodrim, under which Morgoth’s fortress Angband was located, were shattered.

I said that ASOIAF references to Gondor will be explored in that huge section about  Númenor and its successor states, but there is this certain (possible) reference that doesn’t really fit there, since I’ll be talking about Gondor’s early history – Isildur, Anarion, Elendil and so on.

Eldacar was the 21st king of Gondor. His father was Valacar, the previous king of the blood of Númenor. But his mother was Vidumavi, daughter of the King of Rhovanion (a realm of the Northmen). There were some nobles in Gondor who viewed this marriage as unacceptable, and refused to serve a king who was not of a ‘pure blood’ Númenorean. Their leader, Castamir, who was late king Valacar’s distant relative, usurped the throne and Eldacar was forced to flee. But later, he gathered an army of loyalists and men of Rhovanion. Castamir was killed in battle, but his sons managed to flee to the port city of Umbar. Thus began the threat of the Corsair of Umbar Gondor had to endure for centuries. For my ears ‘Castamir’ sounds quite similar to ‘Castamere’, which was the seat of House Reyne, which tried to usurp the rule over the Westerland from House Lannister, just like Castamir usurped the throne of Gondor.

The Black Gate of the Nightfort has its Middle-earth counterpart in Morannon, the Black Gate of Mordor. The creepy weirwood mouth, meanwhile, reminds me of Sauron’s messenger who ‘negotiated’ with Aragorn and Gandalf, who introduced himself only as ‘The Mouth of Sauron the Great’. The part where Sam has to recite the Night’s Watch oath in order to pass might be based on Gandalf’s attempt to answer the riddle written on the Doors of Durin and enter into Moria… After all, the Black Gate is a passage through the Wall, while the Doors of Durin were built into the rocky western cliffs of the Misty Mountains, known as the Walls of Moria.

Euron Greyjoy’s personal sigil – a red eye with a black pupil, beneath a black iron crown supported by two crows – is quote easy to decode as ‘the Eye of Sauron, shining with malice’, while in Tolkien’s writings, The Iron Crown is often used as metaphor to refer to Dark Lords and their servants, and in general, to the concept of Evil.

GRRM said that he almost gave up reading The Fellowship of the Ring where he reached the part with Tom Bombadil, and that he did not miss that character absent from the Peter Jackson movie, so you might be a bit surprised when I tell you that I believe that certain ASOIAF character is ‘inspired’ by Bombadillo. According to my theory, Coldhands, the mysterious Night’s Watch ranger who saves Sam Tarly and Gilly from wights and later serves as Bran Stark’s guide in the Haunted Forest, is in fact GRRM’s ‘answer’ to Tom Bombadil, the jolly fellow from LOTR. Just like Tom, who rescues Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin from the nefarious Barrow-wight, Coldhands saves another Sam, who already has much in common with Gamgee. Both play the archetypal ‘guardian of the woods’ role, but while Tom protect the beautiful forest of spring and summer (his song omits winter: ‘O spring-time and summer-time, and spring again after!’), Coldhands, just like Herne the Hunter, wanders alone in the forest of winter and night. Garth the Green is GRRM’s merry (although sometimes dark) fertility god or spirit. But in the cold dead wastes Beyond the Wall, there is no place for Tom Bombadil – but there is for Coldhands. It seems that he, just like Tom, is ancient beyond measure and human memory, both know rhymes and chants in tongues unknown to their companions.

Tom lives in the Old Forest, among ‘malicious trees’, like Old Man Willow who attempts to crush Merry and Pippin. Coldhands lives in the Haunted Forest, and in first scene appears next to a weirwood at Whitetree (while Tom first appears in the Old Man Willow scene). When the hobbits arrive at the borders of the Bree-land and ask Tom to accompany them to The Prancing Pony inn, he’s unwilling to leave his little realm: ‘Tom’s country ends here: he will not pass the borders‘. In ASOIAF, it appears that Coldhands is unable to pass to the southern side of the Wall. Coldhands lives ‘Beyond the Wall’, while Tom’s homestead is located in the Old Forest, ‘Beyond the Hedge’. The Hedge also known as the High Hay, was planted by the Hobbits of Buckland, who lived close to the Forest, in order to protect them from the malicious trees. The following passage:

In fact long ago they attacked the Hedge: they came and planted themselves right by it, and leaned over it. But the hobbits came and cut down hundreds of trees, and made a great bonfire in the Forest, and burned all the ground in a long strip east of the Hedge. After that the trees gave up the attack, but they became very unfriendly. There is still a wide bare space not far inside where the bonfire was made.

reminds me of how the men of the Night’s Watch ‘permitted the forest to come no closer than half a mile of the north face of the Wall. The thickets of ironwood and sentinel and oak that had once grown there had been harvested centuries ago, to create a broad swath of open ground through which no enemy could hope to pass unseen’ (AGoT, Tyrion III).

The Barrowlands of the North almost certainly were heavily influenced by Tolkien’s Barrow-downs, located to the east of the Shire and the Old Forest. This ancient necropolis was first used by the ancestors of the Edain in the First Age, who buried their dead in megalithic mounds and barrows. Much later, when the Dúnedain returned from Númenor, they recognized those barrows as the hallowed tombs of their ancestors, and began to bury their own notable warriors and royalty there. When Arnor, the northern Dúnedain kingdom (with Gondor being the southern realm) was divided into three kingdoms, the Barrow-downs served as capital of Cardolan. This was the location of their final stand against the Witch-king, Lord of Angmar and one of the Ring-wraiths. The Lord of the Nazgûl sent the barrow-wights to haunt this region, and it was one of those evil spirits who captured Frodo and his companions in the Third Age, and held them in his barrow until Tom Bombadil arrived to free them. It’s possible that those Tolkienic wights were GRRM’s inspiration while creating his own wights.

The chant of the Barrow-wight is interesting, since it might have been the basis for Coldhands’ name:

Cold be hand and heart and bone, and cold be sleep under stone:
never more to wake on stony bed, never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead.
In the black wind the stars shall die, and still on gold here let them lie,
till the dark lord lifts his hand, over dead sea and withered land.

GRRM’s Patchface shares some similarities with Tom Bombadil as well, since both sing rhymes that seem to be nonsense, but might have some hidden deeper meaning. Will Coldhands’ origins remain forever a mystery, just like Tom’s?

Many fans compare the valyrian steel to Tolkien’s mithril, known as ‘true-silver, a metal rare and precious, found only in Khazad-dûm (Moria) and on the isle of Númenor. It is said to be stronger than steel, yet lighter. But as far as I know, there were no mithril swords. The swords and daggers ‘of Westernesse’ (Númenor) Frodo and his friends find in the the barrow have similar properties, though, just like the Elven swords, such as Glamdring (Gandalf’s blade) and Orcrist (belonging to Thorin). But of all Middle-earth weapons, the two swords which remind me of ASOIAF the most are Anguirel and Anglachel, forged by the Eöl, called the Dark Elf, from ‘iron that fell from heaven as a blazing star’. LML proposes that Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer, and possibly the sword of the Daynes, Dawn, are meteoric in origin.

Anglachel, The Flaming Iron, was stolen from Eöl by his son Maeglin (that’s something all fans of the ‘Gerold the Darkstar will steal Dawn from Starfall’ should ponder about), but Anguirel (The Iron of the Eternal Star) was given to king Thingol of Doriath. Later, it was given to Beleg, Thingol’s captain, as he was sent on a mission to find the king’s lost ward, Túrin. The sword came into Túrin’s possession when he accidentally killed his friend Beleg, taking him for one of the orcs who held him captive, when the elven warrior sneaked into their camp to free Túrin. Upon his arrival in Nargothrond, he had the blade reforged, and renamed it Gurthang, the Iron of Death. And ‘though ever black its edges shone with pale fire’. Wielding this sword, Túrin, now called Mormegil (which means Blacksword), committed many heroic deeds, but also many evil, since the terrible fate and Morgoth’s curse on the House of Húrin (which reminds be of ‘Qhorin’, by the way) were ever present in his life. (In ASOIAF, ‘Blacksword’ was the epithet of Lord Barthogan ‘Barth’ Stark). Mormegil used Gurthang to slay Glaurung, the father of dragons, but not before the evil spirit inhabiting the beast could reveal that Túrin’s beloved wife, Níniel, was in fact his lost sister Nienor. Then he used the black blade to end his life. When his friends came to burn him on a pyre, they saw that the sword was broken.

Two swords forged from the same black metal might remind us of Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, the two blades created from Ned Stark’s destroyed blade, Ice (which LML likes to call ‘Black Ice’). If you’re familiar with The Mythical Astronomy ideas about Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer was black meteoric sword, some similarities to Gurthand become apparent. Lightbringer supposedly drank the blood and soul of Nissa Nissa (think of Nienor Níniel), while Gurthang appeared to be sentient, at least from Túrin’s point of view. Keep in mind that Túrin was overtaken by grief at that moment, and maybe even mad.  Also, The Silmarillion, just like LOTR exist ‘in universe’ as fragments of The Red Book of Westmarch, containing Bilbo’s and Frodo’s texts and translations of older manuscripts. Since no one was present when Túrin died, it’s likely that his dialogue with Gurthang was added by some minstrel.

‘Hail Gurthang! No lord or loyalty dost thou know, save the hand that wieldeth thee. From no blood wuk thou shrink. Wilt thou therefore take Túrin Turambar, wilt thou slay me swiftly’ says Mormegil, and the blade answers: ‘Yea, I will drink thy blood gladly, that so I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly’.

But as I said, we will return to the tragic story of the Children of Húrin in another episode.

In his essay The Stark That Brings the Dawn , which contains section based on my Tolkienic research and theories I fully present here for the first time, LML notes that Gurthang and its twin are similar to the swords Tywin has forged from Ned’s Ice, but also to Blackfyre and Dark Sister, and most importantly, to Lightbringer itself.

Maeglin,  who was later remembered as the traitor who revealed the location of king Turgon’s Hidden City of Gondolin to Morgoth, fled from his father with his mother Aredhel. Once, while traveling to visit her kinsmen, the Sons of Fëanor, Aredhel was lost in the woods of Nan Elmoth, where Eöl lived. He took her for wife, and they had a son, Maeglin. Eöl, who hated the Noldor and blamed them for Morgoth’s return to the Middle-earth from Valinor, forbade her to visit her Noldor family. But when Maeglin was old enough, Ardhel took him and fled. Eöl chased them, and thus found out where Gondolin was located. King Turgon had him brought before his throne, where he demanded that at least his son returns with him to Nan Elmoth. When Maeglin refused, the Dark Elf tried to hit him with a dart, but Aredhel moved to cover her son and was wounded instead. It turned out that the javelin was poisoned, and the princess could not be saved. King Turgon, her brother, was furious, and hed Eöl cast down from the walls of Gondolin, into the precipice of Caragdûr below. Before his death, the Dark Elf cursed his son, and prophesied that he will meet the same fate.

I missed this, but LML noted that this is quite similar to the story of King Maegor the Cruel and Queen Rhaena, who was forced to marry him, but later fled and stole the royal sword Blackfyre for her sons Jaehaerys (later remembered as Jaehaerys the Conciliator). Once again, thanks to LML for including that Tolkienic material in his essay.

Since we’re discussing swords, I’ll point out that another Tolkienic blade shares some similarities with Ringil, the blade of Fingolfin, the High King of the Noldor.

Hearken back to the summary of The Silmarillion I provided, where the great battle of Bragollach, the Sudden Flame, was mentioned. At the very beginning of that chapter Fingolfin is called ‘The King of the North’ (The King in the North! The King in thaa Nordd!). Anyway, when the king sees that the battle is lost, grief overtakes him, and mounting his great warhorse Rochallor, he rides to the gates of Angband and challenges Morgoth to a duel. The Dark Lord doesn’t want to be viewed as coward by his captains and lieutenants (Fingolfin calls him ‘craven and lord of slaves’), so he agrees.

Morgoth comes, and the rumour of his feet is ‘like thunder’. He wears a black armour and when he stands next to the king, he looks like some iron-crowned tower. His great shield blazoned only with sable, casts a shadow like a stormcloud.

I don’t know about you, but for me this sounds like the description of Gregor Clegane before his duel with Oberyn, the Red Viper of Dorne.

The Elven King is short by comparison, but:

”Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice.”

Morgoth fights with Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld (thousands of years later, Sauron named the great battering ram that was to smash the Great Gate of Minas Tirith in its honour). It swings down like ‘a bolt of thunder’ and rents ‘mighty pits in the earth, whence smoke and fire darted’. But Fingolfin is fast and leaps away, just like ‘lightning shoots from under a dark cloud; and he wounded Morgoth with seven wounds, and seven times Morgoth gave a cry of anguish, whereat the hosts of Angband fell upon their faces in dismay, and the cries echoed in the Northlands’. Oh, the Hammer of Waters, and cry of anguish! Oh, the banners darling Sansa, the banners! What a day to be a Mythical Astronomy fan!

But at last, Fingolfin is too tired to recoil, and Morgoth crushed him with his shield. But thrice, the High King rises and fights on. His shield is broken, and his helmet stricken, but that’s not enough to stop the powerful Noldor. But then Fingolfin stumbles (the battlefield is now full of pits and holes) on the ground and Morgoth places his foot upon his neck. In his final desperate act, the High King cuts the foot with Ringil, but smoking black blood rushes forward and fills the pit. ‘Thus died Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor, the most valiant of the Elven-kings of old‘. But when Morgoth is about to throw his body to wolves, Thorondor, the King of Eagles, arrives, and mars the Dark Lord’s face with his mighty talons. Then he takes Fingolfin’s body and carries it away to Gondolin. There king Turgon buries his father. Interestingly, in ASOIAF, Jon Snow is wounded in his face by Orell’s eagle… but I don’t see why GRRM would create a parallel between his hero and Tolkien’s Dark Lord… unless it’s because Jon plays the archetypal role of Azor Ahai, and Azor Ahai was a ‘Dark Lord’, as LML suggests.

Now, the time has come for the last of those ‘minor’ references to Tolkien in ASOIAF. Of course, many more remain. But listing all of them isn’t our goal today. With all those parallels, I’m trying to make you confident that GRRM inserts many nods to Tolkien into his works. Some are quite easy to decode, while others harder. In the final section I’ll explore what I consider to be one of the most complex parallels between the Legendarium and A Song of Ice and Fire

Turns out that Westeros isn’t the only land plagued by long harsh winters.

During the Fell Winter of 2911/2912, Third Age, the river Brandywine froze, and White Wolves were able to enter Shire.  The Horn-call of Buckland was used to warn against their attack. After that, it was not heard for over a century – until the Ring-wraiths invaded Buckland in the year 3018. Fell winter, Winter fell… It’s interesting that Winterfylleth was the Old English name of October. Saint Bede (the Venerable) wrote that the word Wintirfylliþ came from ‘winter’ and ‘full moon’, as winter began on that month’s first full moon.

Another notable winter was the Long Winter of 2758/2759, Third Age. At that time, King Helm Hammerhand of Rohan was besieged by the Dunlendings in Hornburg (Helm’s Deep). Legends claim that Helm, clad in white, would leave the fortress alone and slay enemies with bare hands. Then he would blow his great horn, and his foes would tremble. But one day, his horn was heard, but no one returned to the fortress. When his men led a sortie, they found his body in the snow, still standing as if he was ready to fight. Men of Rohan say that Helm’s wraith still wanders in the land, blowing his horn. (This reminds me of the 79 sentinels of the Night’s Watch, and Mors Umber, who besieges Winterfell in A Dance of Dragons. Just like Helm, Mors wears white and blows a loud horn).

It was during that great winter that Gandalf first became fond of the hobbits, seeing their courage, endurance and willingness to help others in the hard famine times that followed.

And now… let’s return to the First Age Beleriand, where the situation seems hopeless. Gondolin, Doriath and Nargothrond have fallen, and Morgoth’s armies roam freely across the land. But the new High King of the Noldor, Ereinion Gil-galad managed to flee to the Isle of Balar with Círdan the Shipwright, and the survivors from the fallen kingdoms gathered in the Havens of Sirion, led by Elwing and Eärendil…


The Baltic Sea, by BT

Part III: Oh, that land which the Eldar name Númenórë, lost for us for evermore


Eärendil saw that for the Elves and the Edain of Beleriand, there is no hope left. With some help from Círdan, he built the famous ship Vingilótë, the Flower of Foam. On this ship he sailed the Great Sea, in hopes of reaching Valinor, but his efforts were in vain. Elwing, meanwhile, remained at the Havens of Sirion with their twin sons, Elrond and Elros. When the surviving Sons of Fëanor found out that she held the Silmaril Beren and Luthien recovered from Angband years ago, they remembered their terrible Oath and attacked the Havens. Eärendil’s people were slaughtered, but when soldiers tried to capture Elwing, she cast herself into the sea. But one of the Valar, Ulmo (Lord of Waters), took pity on her, and changed her into a giant white bird. In this form, she flew over the waves and found her husband’s ship.

Four sons of Fëanor participated in this Third Kinslaying, but only two survived, Maedhros and Maglor. Elrond and Elros were captured, but Maglor decided to spare them and raised them himself.

When Eärendil  heard that his Havens were sacked and his sons were likely put to sword, he decided that he has nothing to lose. Although since the First Kinslaying the Noldor were banned from returning to Valinor, Eärendil and Elwing would sail there, and try to plead with the Valar to save Middle-earth. Thanks to the power of the Silmaril, they navigated the Great Sea safely, and landed on the shores of Valinor. Thus Eärendil stood before Manwë, the Elder King. Moved Eärendil and Elwing’s willingness to sacrifice their own lives for the good of all Elves of Beleriand and the Edain, the Valar decided not to punish them by death (and that was the punishment for breaking the Ban of the Valar). Their plea was heard, and it was decided that the Valar will deal with Morgoth once and for all. Since Eärendil had both Elves and Men among his ancestors (as he was the son of mortal man, Tuor, and princess Idril of Gondolin) and the same was true for Elwing (whose father was Dior, the son of Beren and Luthien), the Valar decided that they and children will be allowed to choose whether they want to be counted among the Elves, or if they prefer to be considered human. It is said that Eärendil was about to choose his father’s race, but for Elwing’s sake, he decided to accept the fate of the Elves. Much later, Elrond followed his parents’ choice, but his brother Elros chose the Edain.

Then the Valar dispatched a great host to Beleriand. The command of that army was given to Manwë’s herald and banner-bearer, Eönwë of the Maiar. It consisted of the Vanyar and those of the Noldor who never left Valinor. The War of Wrath began. In this fight the Edain fought as well, while other tribes allied with the Dark Lord. Ultimately, Morgoth’s armies were annihilated, his Balrogs destroyed (though at least one survived). Sauron fled with hew survivors. The dragonkind was decimated. Ancalagon, the greatest of all winged dragons, was killed by Eärendil himself, and his falling corpse shattered the peaks of Thangorodrim. Then Morgoth was captured and thrown through the Door of Night, into the Timeless Void, where he will remain until Dagor Dagorath, the Last Battle.

But so great was the fury of the warriors and Morgoth’s beasts that the land of Beleriand was shattered, and it sank, with the sea rushing insland.

The Valar took Eärendil’s ship Vingilótë and placed it among the stars. The Mariner became its steersman, with the Silmaril burning bright on his brow. The Star of Eärendil, as it was called, or Gil-estel, the Star of Hope, became Arda’s Evenstar and Morningstar, which Men know as Venus.

To finish up the story of the Silmarils, I will recount what happened to the two remaining jewels. When Morgoth was overthrown, the gems were recovered by the Army of the Valar, and placed under guard. But Maedhros and Maglor, though reluctantly, tried to fulfill their cursed Oath. They slew the guards and stole the Silmarils, but the hallowed jewels burned their hands. Then they realised that after all they had done, the gems rejected them as unworthy. Unable to bear the pain, Maedhros took the Silmaril and cast himself into a deep chasm. Maglor threw his gem into the sea and then – at least according to legend – wandered alone on the shores of Middle-earth for eons. This is the fate of the Silmarils: one ended up in the sky, one in the depths of the earth, and one in the sea.  There they will remain, at least until the end of Arda, when, as the Mandos foretold, Fëanor will return.

This is the origin of Arda’s ‘Venus’, for just like in our world, Morningstar and Evenstar are simply aspects of the same celestial body. While creating this story, Tolkien was inspired by the Anglo-Saxon Earendel, or Aurvandil, the luminous wanderer, identified as Venus. In LOTR, Bilbo sings a song about Eärendil, which ends with the line ‘Flammifer of Westernesse’… but what is that Westernesse?

Well, we finally arrived at our main topic today… Westernesse, Elenna… Númenor.

The Valar decided that the Edain, the Men who allied with Elvest against Morgoth during the Wars of Beleriand, should be rewarded. An island was brought from the depths of the sea, between Valinor and Middle-earth and given to the them. The Edain, led by Elros, built ships and sailed the Great Sea. The Star of Eärendil guided them. At that time, it was so bright that ‘no other star could stand beside it’, and was visible even at Morning. Thus the Edain arrived at Andor (The Land of the Gift), which they called Elenna (Starwards), and Anadûnê (Westernesse), which is Númenórë in Quenya, the High Elven tongue. There they founded a realm, and prospered, for the isle was fertile, fruitful and rich in gems and metals. Elros became the first king of the Númenoreans, also known as the Dúnedain, the Men of the West.

Their lifespans were, usually , three times longer than those of other men (but Elros’ descendants could live even longer, because of their Elven blood), but since the days of Elros, with each generation, the average lifespan grew shorter. The Elves bestowed many gifts upon them, for example a sapling of Celeborn, the tree of Tol Eressëa (which came from a seedling of Galathilion, the White Tree of Tirion, which in turn was made in the image of Telperion itself) which grew into Nimloth, the White Tree, from which the White Tree of Gondor descends.

Númenorean civilization became very advanced, especially in all fields related to seafaring and navigation, for example shipbuilding, map-drawing and astronomy. But at the same time, the Valar forbade them to sail to Valinor, for no mortals may set foot in the Undying Lands. So the Númenoreans turned to Middle-earth, and there they became known as The Sea-kings among the more primitive tribes. Some took them for gods. They brought knowledge of farming, sowing and grinding, and taught how to plant corn and wine, and how to shape stone and hew wood, and many other things that made their short lives easier.

But as the time passed, they began to desire Valinor, and eternal life, for they considered it unfair that the Valar and Elves live forever, while they must abandon all their works, and their marvellous isle, and venture into darkness and face the unknown. Before, they accepted death, understanding that in this way they will be reunited with Iluvatar. But now, they began searching for ways to prolong their lives. But the only thing they discovered was how to preserve bodies, so Númenor was filled with ‘great houses for the dead’. The living, meanwhile, turned to revelry and pleasures.

The sailors of Westernesse returned to the Middle-earth, but this time as conquerors, not teachers and healers. When Tar-Palantir, the 24th King of Númenor, died, his daughter Tar-Míriel was supposed to inherit the Sceptre. Female rulers were not unheard of in Númenor – Tar-Aldarion, the 6th king, decreed that absolute primogeniture was to be used to determine who should inherit the throne. Tar-Ancalimë was the first Ruling Queen, Tar-Telperiën the second and Tar-Vanimeldë the third.

But the late king’s nephew took her to wife, against the custom, and became Ar-Pharazôn (The Golden). In the beginning kings of Númenor used names in Quenya, but later began using only in the Adûnaic tongue, as they opposed the Valar and Elves were their allies. His name in Quenya would be Tar-Calion, The Son of Light.

When Ar-Pharazôn heard that Sauron arose in the Middle-earth, and claimed the title of ‘The King of Men’, the king was furious. The heir of Elros would not be thus insulted, so he assembled a great army and landed in Umbar. Then the royal host marched to Mordor. And Sauron came, alone, and humbled himself before the king. Ar-Pharazôn was flattered, and decided that the Dark Lord should be taken to Númenor as a hostage. Of course, this was exactly what Sauron desired.

Before three years passed, Sauron sat on the royal council and ruled the isle in all but name. The remaining Elf-friends were persecuted. Sauron began teaching about Melkor, The Giver of Freedom, and claimed that the Valar made up ‘Eru’ to justify their rule of the world. Ar-Pharazôn and his ‘king’s men’ began worshipping Morgoth. A great temple was built in Armenelos, the royal capital. There Sauron burned the White Tree and later made human sacrifices.

Then Sauron convinced the king to break the Ban of the Valar and invade Valinor. The greatest fleet Arda has ever seen was built, and weapons and armours were forged for nine years. When all was prepared, boarded his might flagship and sailed towards Valinor.

Upon landing in the Blessed Realm, Ar-Pharazôn led his troops to the Elven city of Tirion, and all its inhabitants fled. Then the Valar asked Eru himself to intervene. And their prayer was answered.

A chasm opened in the earth and the proud king and all his mortal warriors became trapped in a cave deep underground, where Ar-Pharazôn will remain until the end of Arda. Their fleet fell into abyss which opened below them. The entire world was changed, so no mortal sailor may ever arrive at the Undying Lands, which were removed from the mortal world. Númenor was destroyed – a great rift opened below it, and it fell into darkness. Waves covered the place where it once was. But some say that the peak of Meneltarma, The Pillar of Heavens, a great mountain in the centre of the isle, remains visible to this day as lonely island in the Great Sea.

Númenor was lost. And men speak of it no more, but of Akallabêth, The Downfallen, or Atalantë in Quenya.

The world of A Song of Ice and Fire has its own lost advanced civilization, The Great Empire of the Dawn. For me, its similarities with Númenor are striking.  From The World of Ice and Fire: [After the first God-Emperor’s ascension to heaven]:

Dominion over mankind then passed to his eldest son, who was known as the Pearl Emperor and ruled for a thousand years. The Jade Emperor, the Tourmaline Emperor, the Onyx Emperor, the Topaz Emperor, and the Opal Emperor followed in turn, each reigning for centuries…yet every reign was shorter and more troubled than the one preceding it, for wild men and baleful beasts pressed at the borders of the Great Empire, lesser kings grew prideful and rebellious, and the common people gave themselves over to avarice, envy, lust, murder, incest, gluttony, and sloth.

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor succeeded him as the Amethyst Empress, her envious younger brother cast her down and slew her, proclaiming himself the Bloodstone Emperor and beginning a reign of terror.  He practiced dark arts, torture, and necromancy, enslaved his people, took a tiger woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh, and cast down the true Gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky.  (Many scholars count the Bloodstone Emperor as the first High Priest of the sinister Church of Starry Wisdom, which persists to this day in many port cities throughout the known world).

In the annals of the further east, it was the Blood Betrayal, as his usurpation is named, that ushered in the age of darkness called the Long Night.  Despairing of the evil that had been unleashed on earth, the Maiden-Made-of-Light turned her back upon the world, and the Lion of Night came forth in all his wroth to punish the wickedness of men.  

The Bloodstone Emperor would be GRRM’s Ar-Pharazôn, while Amethyst Empress Tar-Míriel, the usurped Queen (Míriel means ‘Jewel Daughter’, and of course Opal and Amethyst are both precious gems). In both cases a woman is supposed to inherit the throne, but ambitious family member usurps the throne. If Amethyst Empress had silver hair, like Valyrians, we might have another parallel, since while Míriel’s hair colour is unknown, she was named after Míriel, Fëanor’s mother, who had silver hair.

First rulers of both realms live for centuries, but as time passes, the citizens have shorter lifespans. People of both kingdoms become wicked and reject the true gods (The Valar, but also Eru).  A necromancer ascends to the throne (well, it’s not an exact parallel, but nevertheless, in The Hobbit Sauron is called The Necromancer). I propose that GRRM merged Ar-Pharazôn with Sauron, to create the Bloodstone Emperor.

Both realms are connected with dawn and morning – Númenor was located on the Isle of Elenna, the Isle under the Star of Eärendil, which is both the Morningstar and the Evenstar. (If you want to lean more about Venus-related mythology, check out LML’s essay on this topic). In fact, Elenna was created in the shape of a five-pointed star, a common symbol for Venus in real-world mythology.

Unsurprisingly, both sons of Eärendil have Morningstar-related symbolism. It’s more apparent with Elros, who follows his father’s star and becomes the first king of Elenna, but Elrond has it as well. During the War of the Last Alliance, Elrond (whose name means ‘Dome of Stars’) served as banner-bearer and herald of Ereinion Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor… Gil-galad means ‘Star of Bright Light/Great Radiance’, so for our purpose here, we can view him as a solar character, symbolising the Sun. Elrond was his herald, just like rising Morningstar heralds the coming of the Sun, as it’s visible in the eastern sky shortly before sunrise. This phenomena inspired many myth-makers, and it seems J.R.R. Tolkien was among them. After all, in the Anglo-Saxon poem from which the name ‘Earendel’ comes, the Morningstar (which symbolises, at least in Tolkien’s interpretation, St. John the Baptist) heralds the coming of the Sun (Christ).

If we look at the names of Westernesse’s kings, this Morningstar connection becomes even more apparent:

Tar-Anárion – Son of the Sun – Morningstar
Tar-Ancalimë – Radiance, The Most Bright – Venus is the brightest ‘star’ visible in the sky
Tar-Anducal – Lord of Light – who usurped the throne, just like the Morningstar ‘usurps’ the Sun shortly before dawn
Tar-Calmacil – The Sword of Light (Lightbringer?)
Ar-Gimilzôr – The Starflame – GRRM uses this title for one of his Dayne kings
Ar-Pharazôn/Tar-Calion – The Golden/Son of Light – many characters who seem to echo the original Bloodstone Emperor with their deeds have names connected with gold (like Auron, the self-proclaimed Emperor of Valyria, Euron or Aurane Waters, who parallels Ar-Pharazon as leader of a great fleet. Aurum means gold in Latin)

I think that by looking at all those similarities, we can assume that GRRM intended to make his Great Empire of the Dawn, his own Atlantean lost civilization, similar to Tolkien’s.

Therefore, I propose that: just like not all of the Dúnedain perished in the Downfall, some people of the Great Empire managed to survive, and settled in Westeros, and that the most likely candidates for those ‘lost’ Geo-Dawnians are the Daynes and the Hightowers, and that this whole scenario was inspired by Tolkien.

Now, many fans speculated that those Houses have very ancient origins and are rooted in the Great Empire, but I’m not aware of any analysis where the author looks at this theory from the Tolkienic point of view… and those connections and parallels are striking…

You see, not all Numenoreans turned to evil like the so-called king’s men (by the way, that’s a term GRRM uses in ASOIAF as well). Some still remained faithful to the Valar and their friendship with the Eldar. The most notable of those were: Elendil (Devoted to the Stars), who was a descendant of Elros, but from the female line, and his sons Isildur (Devoted to the Moon) and Anarion (The Son of the Sun). They were warned before the Downfall came, and managed to flee on nine ships with their families and retainers. Upon arriving in Middle-earth, they founded the realms of Gondor in the south and Arnor in the North.

After LML mentioned in his essay that the surname ‘Dayne’ might come from ‘Edain’, several people pointed out in the comments section that Tolkienic ‘Edain’ is pronounced differently than ‘Dayne’. Well, GRRM isn’t as strict about pronunciation as J.R.R.T. – so it’s possible that for him, ‘Edain’ is pronounced like ‘Dain Ironfoot’, and thus might be the basis for ‘Dayne’. But this Dayne-Edain phonetic connection wasn’t a part of my original thesis. I believe it was JoeMagician who first proposed that GRRM’s ‘Dayne’ comes from ‘Edain’.  I arrived at the conclusion that we’re supposed to view the Daynes as GRRM’s own personal Dúnedain independently, without considering the phonetic similarities or lack thereof.

Whatever the case, even without this connection there are numerous similarities between the two:

The Edain followed the Star of Eärendil to reach their new homeland, the isle of Elenna or Westernesse, Starwards. The Daynes followed the trace of a falling star to reach the place where they built the castle of Starfall. in Westeros… On an isle in the mouth of the river Torrentine.

Just like the Dúnedain, House Dayne has some Morningstar symbolism – their ancestral sword is called Dawn, and notable knights of the house bear the title of the Sword of the Morning.

In Gondor, we find the city of Osgiliath, which of old served as its capital. Its name can be translated as the Citadel of Stars or ‘Starry Host’. In Oldtown, the seat of House Hightower, we find both the ‘Starry Sept’ and The Citadel. The Great Hall of Osgiliath was known as the Dome of Stars, and it was built on the bridge spanning across the Great River Anduin. The Citadel’s domes and buildings located on both sides of the river Honeywine are connected with bridges.

The Citadel houses several glass candles, which are almost certainly based on Tolkienic palantíri, The Seeing Stones, created by Fëanor himself, and then given to the Dúnedain as gifts. They resembled orbs or spheres in shape, and appeared to be mader from black glass or crystal.  Is it just a coincidence that Osgiliath’s Dome housed one of those artifacts?

The Hightower, with its mysterious black stone foundations, might have its Tolkienic counterpart in Orthanc, the Tower of Isengard. At the time of the War of the Ring it was inhabited by Saruman, but it was actually built by the Dúnedain. It is described as ‘a thing not made by the craft of Men, but riven from the bones of the earth in the ancient torment of the hills. A peak and isle of rock it was, black and gleaming hard: four mighty piers of many-sided stone were welded into one’. The highway leading to the Great Gate of the Ring of Isengard was ‘paved with great flat stones, squared and laid with skill; no blade of grass was seen in any joint’. Isengard was ancient: ‘partly it was shaped in the making of the mountains, but might works the Men of Westernesse had wrought here of old’. Atop Orthanc, Saruman, and before him, men sent from Gondor, would watch the stars and the lands alike (as it was placed on Gondor’s border). When Gandalf and Theoden reach the foot of this great tower, it is noted that ‘It was black, and the rock gleamed as if it were wet’. In other words, just like at the Battle Isle of Oldtown, we have an ancient megalithic structure that is made of gleaming black stone.  From atop the Hightower, Lord Leyton watches stars and, at least according to rumours, studies magic. And while the Hightower itself doesn’t house any glass candles, at least as far as we know, the nearby Citadel does.

Another of the palantíri was housed at Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Moon, in the land of Ithilien – a province of Gondor just to the west of Mordor. It was built by Isildur, while his brother Anarion built Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, in Anorien, on the opposite side of the Great River Anduin. But the beautiful city of the Moon was sacked by the Witch-king, and became the seat of the Ring-wraiths. It was corrupted, and became Minas Morgul, the Tower of Dark Sorcery. In The Two Towers the following description is given:

All was dark about it, earth and sky, but it was lit with light. Not the imprisoned moonlight welling through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, Tower of the Moon, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills. Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing. In the walls and towers windows showed, like countless black holes looking inward into emptiness, but the topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, first one way and then another, a huge ghostly head leering into the night.

In defiance, Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard.

Mythical Astronomy readers probably see why GRRM would name one of his dragons ‘Morghul’… because Minas Morgul is a prime corrupted moon symbol… and if LML is right, and I think he is, in ASOIAF ‘dragons’ symbolise the moon meteors, pieces of the second moon scorched and corrupted by the Lightbringer-comet impact.

Now, the Daynes are widely-known thanks to their ancestral sword, Dawn. If they are supposed to be ASOIAF-Dúnedain, then surely, the original Men of Westernesse should have some blade of similar properties… and indeed, they do. The following rhyme was written in Gondor about Elendil and his sons:

Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three,
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree.

When Elendil and his sons fled from Elenna, they took several artifacts with them: seven of the palantíri, a sapling of the White Tree (which came from a fruit of Isildur took from the Tree of Númenor, before Sauron had it felled and burned)… and Narsil.

Narsil was the sword of Elendil himself, forged in the First Age by dwarven smith Telchar. In Quenya, its name means ‘red and white flame’, and it is supposed to symbolise the Sun and the Moon united against darkness. In one of his letter, J.R.R. Tolkien described ‘Narsil’ as pointing out to Anar and Isil as the ‘chief heavenly lights, as enemies of darkness’. During the War of the Last Alliance, King Gil-galad and Elendil were both killed by Sauron. Narsil broke, but Isildur picked up its shards, and cut the One Ring of Sauron’s hand. (By the way Narsilion – The Song of the Sun and the Moon – is a ballad detailing the creation of Isil and Anar by thr Valar).

As LML notes in his essay (The Great Empire of the Dayne section), GRRM references those events with a story Ygritte tells Jon Snow:

“Gorne,” said Jon. “Gorne was King-beyond-the-Wall.”

“Aye,” said Ygritte. “Together with his brother Gendel, three thousand years ago. They led a host o’ free folk through the caves, and the Watch was none the wiser. But when they come out, the wolves o’ Winterfell fell upon them.”

“There was a battle,” Jon recalled. “Gorne slew the King in the North, but his son picked up his banner and took the crown from his head, and cut down Gorne in turn.”

Isildur refused to destroy the Ring, claiming it as ‘weregild’ for his father and Anarion, who was hit by a rock thrown from besieged Barad-dûr, Sauron’s Dark Tower. Then he returned to Gondor, but after one year, decided to return to Arnor and assume his rightful place as its King. At that time, it seemed that with Sauron’s defeated and disappearance, all evil was banished from Middle-earth. So Isildur took only two hundred knights and bowmen as his escort. But as they were passing through the Gladden Fields, they were ambushed by orcs, who were left behind when Sauron’s main host was withdrawn back to Mordor years later. They hid in the mountains, and as the Allied forces marched east, they were left unnoticed. Now, not knowing that the war was over and their master gone, they decided to act. Isildur’s retinue was ambushed, and during the battle that ensued, his three sons were killed. When the king tried to escape, the One Ring betrayed him, and slipped of his finger. He was seen by orcs and slain with arrows. Of Isildur’s men only three survived:

Estelmo, the squire of Isildur’s son and heir Elendur, who was stunned but not slain, and was later found alive. The only other survivors were Isildur’s own squire, Ohtar, and his companion, who were ordered to flee with the shards of Narsil. They brought it to Rivendell, where it remained until the War of the Ring thousands of years later.

Now, it seems that this Disaster of the Gladden Fields is referenced in ASOIAF as well, as early as A Game of Thrones, where Lord Beric Dondarrion is similarly ambushed by Gregor Clegane’s men at the Mummer’s Ford (keep in mind that Isildur’s final battle took place near Anduin, the Great River). Is it a coincidence that among Beric’s companions we find Ser Gladden Wylde? And Edric Dayne, who – it seems – plays the role of the ‘faithful squire’. Ohtar rescued Narsil, while Edric pulled Beric’s body from the river… and Isildur’s corpse ended up in a river (although in The Unfinished Tales it is implied that Saruman later found his body, and had it burned, to cover up the fact that he was searching for the One Ring on his own)…

The shards of Narsil were reforged when Isildur’s Heir, Aragorn, rode to war.

The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by the Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between a crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes; for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marches of Mordor. Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen. And Aragorn gave it a new name and called it Andúril, The Flame of the West.

A sword of ice and fire indeed… Is Dawn GRRM’s Narsil? Or Lightbringer?

It seems that in ASOIAF, the mysterious black stone structures are remnants of the Great Empire’s constructions. Interestingly, the Dúnedain have a connection with such stone as well.

On the Hill of Erech in Gondor, stood a smooth stone globe, the black stone six feet in diameter. Men whispered that it fell from heaven, but others said that Isildur himself brought it from the fallen Númenor. When Elendil’s son made a pact with the hill tribes of that region, they swore upon this black stone that they’ll come to his aid if it came to war with Sauron. But they proved treacherous, and Isildur cursed them – they became the Oathbreakers, and their wraiths lingered in Dunharrow, on the Paths of the Dead.

Long had the terror of the Dead lain upon that hill and upon the empty fields around it. For upon it stood a black stone, round as a great globe, the height of a man, though its half was buried in the ground. Unearthly it looked, as though it had fallen from the sky, as some believed, but those who remembered still the lore of Westernesse told that it had been brought out of the ruin of Númenor and there set by Isildur at his landing. None of the people of the valley dared to approach it, nor would they dwell near, for they said that it was a trysting-place for the Shadow-men, and there they would gather in times of fear, thronging round the Stone and whispering.

But Aragorn, the Heir of Isildur, finally arrived, and gave them a chance to fulfill their millenia-old oath, as Malbeth the Seer foretold long ago: ‘The Dead awaken; for the hour is come for the oathbreakers: at the Stone of Erech they shall stand again and hear there a horn in the hills ringing’.

Shadow-men and black unearthly stones… The Bloodstone Emperor’s black stone that fell from heaven and the black oily stone seems to be more of a Lovecraft influence, but who knows, maybe GRRM was inspired by the Stone of Erech as well.

To sum up, it appears quite likely that when creating House Dayne and House Hightower, George R.R. Martin used Tolkien’s Dúnedain as a source of inspiration. If you want to see the ramifications of this for the Mythical Astronomy, check out LML’s The Stark that Brings the Dawn.

That’s all for now, but don’t worry, this essay, although quite long, was but an introduction to Tolkienic ASOIAF. I’m not sure when the next episode will be released, but as you’ve seen, we have many things left to discuss. Thanks to all who supported me while creating this essay, especially LML, without whose encouragement, I’d probably never begin, and ArchmasterAemma of The Red Mice at Play blog, who read my draft and provided valuable comments and suggestions. You’re all amazing!

Thanks to You, for checking out this essay. If you enjoyed it, well, I guess I did a good job as well. If you have any questions or theories, please post them in the comments below. If you know anyone who would probably enjoy this GRRM-J.R.R.T. talk, please share this episode with him.

And above all else, thanks to George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien, for creating those amazing secondary world, which seem more real than real, and will surely be appreciated by many generations of readers.


Yours, Bluetiger.

Obviously, the copyrights to all excerpts from books, interviews and other publications I have quoted, belong to their rightful owners.


by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit or There and Back Again
The Lord of the Rings
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return of the King
– The Appendixes
The Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Unfinished Tales, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The History of Middle-earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien
– Volume XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter

by George R.R. Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire
– A Game of Thrones
– A Clash of Kings
– A Storm of Swords
– A Feast for Crows
– A Dance with Dragons

The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
– The Hedge Knight
– The Sworn Sword
– The Mystery Knight

The Princess and the Queen
The Rogue Prince
The Sons of the Dragon

The World of Ice and Fire, with Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson

GRRM: A RRetrospective (Dreamsongs)

Interviews and articles

George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview
George R.R. Martin on J.R.R. Tolkien, Birthing Dragons, The Grateful Dead, Hollywood and More
George R. R. Martin on the One Game of Thrones Change He ‘Argued Against’ (TIME interview)
George R.R. Martin asks: “What was Aragorn’s tax policy?” (The Tolkien Society)
George R.R. Martin: My ending will reflect The Lord of the Rings (The Tolkien Society)
George R.R. Martin: “I revere The Lord of the Rings” (The Tolkien Society)
George R.R. Martin explains where Tolkien got it wrong
George R.R. Martin on J.R.R. Tolkien and Complex Fantasy

Recommended reading

The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire by LML
The Clanking Dragon by Joe Magician

(for more see the ‘Blogs I Follow’ sidebar)

7 thoughts on “The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire

  1. Interesting, a lot of work was put into this, well done. The similarities and references (whether intentional or not) are indeed numerous. I would say that the entirety of War of the Five Kings in Westeros is like a one giant civil war in Gondor the Kin-strife :). In fact while it is the Castamir the Usurper to take the throne, there is reference that he was only one of many claimants to the crown (but he won having largest forces of followers) it is said there was a whole group of confederates led by many descendants of kings. We can say that this event in Gondor’s history is the most alike to the main political struggles of ASOIF. Castamir was not only of royal blood but also held high office Captain of Ships, and though he proved to be a cruel tyrant, harsh, haughty and ungenerous (not to mention the whole pure blood supremacy subtext), in some ways despite his flaws was a skilled ruler whose reign was beneficial to coastal regions and peoples of the kingdom but he neglected inland provinces and his last plans of moving capital from Osgiliath to Pelargir wasn’t very popular, not to mention that his decade long rule earned him many enemies, and which is curious not all those of his dissidents were necessarily followers of Eldacar, but allied with exiled king out of necessity (and naturally Eldacar had many faithful followers from the start).

    „This was Castamir, grandson of Calimehtar, younger brother of King Rómendacil II. He was not only one of those nearest by blood to the crown, but he had the greatest following of all the rebels; for he was the Captain of Ships, and was supported by the people of the coasts and of the great havens of Pelargir and Umbar.

    Castamir had not long sat upon the throne before he proved himself haughty and ungenerous. He was a cruel man, as he had first shown in the taking of Osgiliath. He caused Ornendil son of Eldacar, who was captured, to be put to death; and the slaughter and destruction done in the city at his bidding far exceeded the needs of war. This was remembered in Minas Anor and in Ithilien; and there love for Castamir was further lessened when it became seen that he cared little for the land, and thought only of the fleets, and purposed to remove the king’s seat to Pelargir.”

    Murdering a rival/enemy Ornendil, sacking the city, sounds like a lot of standard actions of political power struggles in Westeros hehe. Alright jokes aside, there’s certainly enough moral complexity in Tolkien world and there are references to politics but indeed they are not in the center of attention, and here it comes the matter of this ‚criticism’ of ‚Tolkien’s treatment of power’ that as Martin put it, medieval philosophy if a king is a good man the land prospers, thing is, it’s not that simple in Tolkien works, there are plenty of examples of generally speaking ‚bad people’ who were rather effective and skilled rulers (hell going by analysis of leadership skill then even Sauron himself is an efficient and skilled ruler, under his reign there is ‚order and prosperity’, mines and forges are productive, wealth flows freely in „waggon-train of goods”, Orcs are trained and well equipped with serial numbers, ranks and clear chain of command, far from chaotic evil :)). Also more importantly Martin saying that seemed to have missed the point, the story has different focus, as it basically ends when Aragorn ascends the throne, so his reign is an after thought but far from merely peaceful as appendices clearly say there were many more wars to wage with the remnants of Sauron’s empire and servants:

    „For though Sauron had passed, the hatreds and evils that he bred had not died, and the King of the West had many enemies to subdue before the White Tree could grow in peace. And wherever King Elessar went with war King Éomer went with him; and beyond the Sea of Rhûn and on the far fields of the South the thunder of the cavalry of the Mark was heard, and the White Horse upon Green flew in many winds until Éomer grew old.”

    Tolkien letters give additional details and what early reign details were given of Aragorn’s moves as king give us some insight:

    „never again (unless it be before the great End) will an evil daemon be incarnate as a physical enemy; he will direct Men and all the complications of half-evils, and defective goods, and the twilights of doubts as to sides, such situations as he most loves (you can see them already arising in the War of the Ring, which is by no means so clear cut an issue as some critics have averred): those will be and are our more difficult fate.”
    -Tolkien, Letter #156

    „A Númenórean King was monarch, with the power of unquestioned decision in debate; but he governed the realm with the frame of ancient law, of which he was administrator (and interpreter) but not the maker. In all debatable matters of importance domestic, or external, however, even Denethor had a Council, and at least listened to what the Lords of the Fiefs and the Captains of the Forces had to say. Aragorn re-established the Great Council of Gondor, and in that Faramir, who remained by inheritance the Steward (or representative of the King during his absence abroad, or sickness, or between his death and the accession of his heir) would [be] the chief counsellor.”

    „[To] be Prince of Ithilien, the greatest noble after Dol Amroth in the revived Númenórean state of Gondor, soon to be of imperial power and prestige, was not a ‚market-garden job’ as you term it. Until much had been done by the restored king, the P. of Ithilien would be the resident march-warden of Gondor, in its main eastward outpost — and also would have many duties in rehabilitating the lost territory, and clearing it of outlaws and orc-remnants, not to speak of the dreadful vale of Minas Ithil (Morgul). I did not, naturally, go into details about the way in which Aragorn, as King of Gondor, would govern the realm. But it was made clear that there was much fighting and in the earlier years of A.’s reign expeditions against enemies in the East. The chief commanders, under the King, would be Faramir and Imrahil; and one of these would normally remain a military commander at home in the King’s absence.”

    Such questions of Orcs and their ultimate fate, first of all there was not need to ‚pursue genocide’ against them as they were scattered and divided and posed much lesser danger (and still numerous hiding in all sorts of dark places and mountains safe in their underground cities and colonies) and only those raiding on the borders would be of any concern and second the mere fact that people of higher moral standard triumphed means they would not use such methods. Hell Faramir says: „I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood.”, and Eomer faces Ugluk in one-on-one duel, giving him a fair fighting chance: „So it was that they did not see the last stand, when Uglúk was overtaken and brought to bay at the very edge of Fangorn. There he was slain at last by Éomer, the Third Marshal of the Mark, who dismounted and fought him sword to sword.”

    Speaking of treatment of Orcs in war: „…they remained within the Law. That is, that though of necessity, being the fingers of the hand of Morgoth, they must be fought with the utmost severity, they must not be dealt with in their own terms of cruelty or treachery. Captives must not be tormented, not even to discover information for the defence of the homes of Elves and Men. If any Orcs surrendered and asked for mercy, they must be granted it, even at a cost.* This was the teaching of the Wise, though in the horror of the War it was not always heeded.”

    Tolkien writes about Orcs in a letter: „[…] fundamentally a race of ‚rational incarnate’ creatures, though horribly corrupted, if no more so than many Men to be met today.”

    As a funfact I can add that the only possible reference to an orc-child is…in The Hobbit: „Only a few hours ago he had worn it, and caught a small goblin-imp. How it squeaked! He still had a bone or two left to gnaw, but he wanted something softer.” …”Yes, that’s it. When we came this way last, when we twisted that nassty young squeaker.” 🙂 🙂 Alright but more seriously, returning to Aragorn, he is not a good king simply because he is a good man, he is a good ruler because he has enough qualities, skills and knowledge being long prepared for this task (besides there are examples of good people who were rather poor rulers, Tar-Palantir comes to mind, he was a good man but he ruled a troubled realm and was ineffective in his policies being opposed by his own brother, ‚bad people’ who were good rulers could also refer to sons of Feanor who are almost obliged to be jerks hehe, Caranthir was far from a nice guy and yet he ruled a prosperous realm and grew wealthy, Fengel Theoden’s grandpa wasn’t necessarily a bad man but he was greedy „of food and of gold” and always at strife with his marshals and his own children, Theoden himself was a good man but he fell into weakness and stopped being effective ruler, until Gandalf cured him, Atanatar II Alcarin was a king of Gondor at it’s mightiest and he was totally ineffective ruler lazy and loving ease and splendor, though we don’t know much about his character, he wasn’t particularly villainous either, and during his reign Gondor’s decline started and he did nothing to increase the wealth and power he inherited). Good old Elessar naturally received teaching from the wisest and their counsels and he got familiar with politics of Gondor decades before when he served Ecthelion under alias Thorongil. Aragorn is crafty, cunning and cautious, politically savvy enough to be able in „uncovering plots and devices of the servants of Sauron” while on his adventures. He led his men the Dunedain and Rangers of the North as Chieftain for many long decades. But he wasn’t merely a fighting man and warrior, he was educated and skilled in lore. All those details that were given at the end of Return of the King about his doings, show he had skills not only to lead armies but to deal with legal affairs (knowing law of the land), he had diplomatic skills. In some ways he resembles Varys’s Aegon or Young Griff (aside the question whether this is real Aegon saved from slaughter or not and whether this is all some great deception) who prepared him as his perfect king for Westeros.

    But to finish that, Tolkien didn’t write so much about specifics of wielding power (though he may have alluded to this here and there, especially in regards to how divine beings use their powers and authority over the world) as much as about danger power and desire for power poses in itself and how easily it may corrupt. As for ‚morality’ of his stories, even Tolkien was against the simplified stereotypical interpretation of his tale in terms of ‚black and white’ morality, he addressed the issue in letter:

    „‘Some reviewers have called the whole thing simple-minded, just a plain fight between Good and Evil, with all the good just good, and the bad just bad. Pardonable, perhaps (though at least Boromir has been overlooked) in people in a hurry and with only a fragment to read and of course without the earlier-written but unpublished Elvish histories [The Silmarillion]. The Elves are not wholly good or in the right. Not so much because they had flirted with Sauron, as because with or without his assistance they were ’embalmers’. In their way the Men of Gondor were similar: a withering people whose only ‚hallows’ were their tombs. But in any case this is a tale about a war, and if war is allowed (at least as a topic and a setting) it is not much good complaining that all the people on one side are against those on the other. Not that I have made even this issue quite so simple: there are Saruman, and Denethor, and Boromir; and there are treacheries and strife even among the Orcs. [Besides], in this ‚mythology’ all the ‚angelic’ powers concerned with this world were capable of many degrees of error and failing, between the absolute Satanic rebellion and evil of Morgoth and his satellite Sauron, and the fainéance of some of the other higher powers or ‚gods’. The ‚wizards’ were not exempt. Indeed, being incarnate, they were more likely to stray, or err. Gandalf alone fully passes the tests, on a moral plane anyway (he makes mistakes of judgement). Since in the view of this tale and mythology, Power, when it dominates or seeks to dominate other wills and minds (except by the assent of their reason) is evil, these ‚wizards’ were incarnated in the life-forms of Middle-earth, and so suffered the pains both of mind and body.’

    ‘So I feel that the fiddle-faddle in reviews, and correspondence about them, as to whether my ‚good people’ were kind and merciful and gave quarter (in fact they do), or not, is quite beside the point. Some critics seem determined to represent me as a simple-minded adolescent, inspired with, say, a ‘With-the-flag-to-Pretoria’ spirit, and wilfully distort what is said in my tale. I have not that spirit, and it does not appear in the story. The figure of Denethor alone is enough to show this; but I have not made any of the peoples on the ‚right’ side, Hobbits, Rohirrim, Men of Dale or of Gondor, any better than men have been or are, or can be. Mine is not an ‚imaginary’ world, but an imaginary historical moment on ‚Middle-earth’ – which is our habitation.’ „

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the first essay in my series… in fact, I’ve just released its sequel, The Wayward Moons of Planetos and Arda. I think the following essays will be shorter, and I’m considering writing some essays only about Tolkien. When I’m writing about parallels between Tolkien’s works and A Song of Ice and Fire, sometimes I have to avoid really interesting topics because they are irrelevant and would just bore people who are not that deep into Tolkien. And I’d rather make ASOIAF-only readers, the people who come only to read about references to LOTR in ASOIAF, to read Tolkien than bore them to death with things that might seem boring at first glance (But of course, they aren’t boring 😉 )

      Here’s Episode II:


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