George R. R. Martin, the unfortunately snail-paced author behind the Song of Ice And Fire saga, has revealed that the story will have a “bittersweet” ending in the same vein as The Lord of The Rings. Martin said:
I mean, it’s no secret that Tolkien has been a huge influence on me, and I love the way he ended Lord of the Rings. It ends with victory, but it’s a bittersweet victory. Frodo is never whole again, and he goes away to the Undying Lands, and the other people live their lives. And the scouring of the Shire — brilliant piece of work, which I didn’t understand when I was 13 years old: “Why is this here? The story’s over?” But every time I read it I understand the brilliance of that segment more and more. All I can say is that’s the kind of tone I will be aiming for.
Lord of the Rings indeed shines brightly in the Game of Thrones universe, through character names like Samwell Tarly (not at all suspiciously similar to Samwise Gamgee), or in clashing human clans. Most character counterparts aren’t as obvious as two portly sidekicks named Sam, but digging deeper, we can uncover the likely outcomes for some key figures.
Pushing aside The Stabbening of 2015 (Stabgate?), let’s assume Jon still has a role to play in the story — which is looking promising. Jon is wide-eyed and noble-hearted with an infrequent smile and a mop of dark curls, and we follow him on a perilous journey from the peaceful countryside into strange lands with stranger creatures — often accompanied by his Sam.
Sound like anyone else you know?
Jon is Martin’s Frodo. There was even once a “Frodo Lives!” slogan, much like the “Jon Snow lives!” currently floating around. Assuming the Red Lady does something right for once and gets her act together to reverse the death that launched a thousand conspiracy theories, it won’t be smooth sailing for Jon. If he follows Frodo’s path, it will be dark and full of terrors, and he’s in for the “bitter” part of the “bittersweet” finale. We can expect him to play a large role in the endgame, but emerge from it a damaged man, no longer able to connect with others or live a normal life.
It’s tempting to match Daenerys with her radioactive-blonde, fabulously-silky-haired twin with inexplicably dark eyebrows.
But as a long-lost leader who comes from a noble family yet lives estranged from the throne, Daenerys shares far more similarities with Aragorn. Like Aragorn, Daenerys has a lot to prove, particularly because both are descended from corrupt, unjust rulers — Daenery’s father was known as the “Mad King,” and Aragorn’s ancestors were equally unsavory. Daenery’s endgame, then, will culminate in her ascending to the throne. Depending on how you feel about Daenerys, this could either be the “bitter” or the “sweet” part of Martin’s vision. Now if only Khal Drogo would return to be her Arwen.
Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger
The ever-scheming Littlefinger may keep his cards closer to his chest and his hair less silky than this guy, but with his mercenary spirit, his constant betrayal of both sides, and his hoarse whisper-yelling …
He has only one spiritual twin:
Saruman, the manipulative wizard who begins as a supposed ally to the good side, holds his self-interest above all else and doesn’t care who he tramples in the process. He is ultimately defeated — either in battle if you only saw the films, or, if you read the books, once he has weaseled his way into the heroes’ homeland. The second option is more likely here, as Baelish clearly wants the North and the Northern girl who comes with it. This could also be an area in which the narratives deviate — Petyr Baelish is a cockroach who may outlast even the White Walkers. But he’s quite an entertaining wildcard, so how bad would that really be?
Jaime Fookin’ Lannister
This one might be mildly confusing, because Jamie’s crossover character is played by an actor who was also on Game of Thrones. But as a morally ambiguous warrior who has done serious misdeeds, he is captivated by something he shouldn’t be (Cersei and the Ring, respectively), gets dark when he lets that captivation master him, is noble when you least expect it, and ultimately has a death that is a mixture of tragic and heroic, Jaime is Boromir’s counterpart. I love Jaime more than is probably reasonable and don’t want him to go. But let’s face it, there’s no way he’s making it to the end. His death will sting yet hopefully feel fitting, like this.
The remaining Starks
The whole story began with the Starks in their idyllic countryside home, back when they were young and short and naive to the ways of the world.
Now, maybe they didn’t have hairy feet, but the parallels are still there.
The Scouring of the Shire that Martin highlights can be interpreted as The Red Wedding and Theon’s ill-fated takeover (I don’t care how much the writers are trying to redeem you Theon, you’re the worst and you’re not forgiven). Like the hobbits, the Starks will unite and return home once more — sadder, world-weary, having suffered losses along the way, but as whole as they can be at the end of the road. Lest you think this is too optimistic a prediction for the Starks, the original title of the final book supports it.
This breakdown isn’t perfect — Jon also shares some qualities with Aragorn, and Tyrion could be a Frodo stand-in too, only raunchier and sans a Sam. And there are so few women in Middle Earth that predicting the fate of Martin’s women requires gender-bending like Daenerys or forging into the unknown — Cersei has no parallel, and Arya could be a younger, more hardcore Eowyn, but there’s no way her story is ending with her in married domesticity — although in Martin’s original draft, she was supposed to end up with Jon.
But according to Martin’s words that ominously highlight The Scouring of the Shire — which the Lord of the Rings movies shirked in favor of a more uplifting ending — we’re in for a rough but ultimately satisfying ride. A ride that isn’t a middle finger to its own fans, like some GoT viewers fear. And in this narrative, 11 endings might actually be appropriate.