Game of Thrones vs. Lord of the Rings


I know. Somewhere on the internet a troll just got its wings.

Winter is Coming vs. One Ring to Rule them All

This week we are pitting the two franchises in PERHAPS OUR MOST EPIC DEATHMATCH EVAH! (although, let’s be serious, the Herring vs a Shubbery was pretty epic with a twist ending)

Yeah. I’m stalling. Sorry. When this deathmatch came to mind I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. I’ve been reading Lord of the Rings since the fourth grade. Game of Thrones I came to late in the game and am now reading the books and finding it utterly compelling. In terms of match ups I think this is a solid one. I’m still not sure how I’m going to vote. Here are some ground rules:

  1. Lord of the Rings includes the Hobbit for this discussion (deal with it nerds, this will avoid confusion)
  2. Game of Thrones = The entirety of the narrative, not just the first book
  3. For those who have read the entire series of Game of Thrones…NO SPOILERS BEYOND WHAT THE SHOW HAS GIVEN US. Seriously. Don’t be a dick. Will this lead to awkwardness? Maybe. No more than discussing the show with a co-worker who hasn’t read the whole thing.
  4. Leave emotional arguments at the door. Feel free to get emotional, but don’t fall into the trap where your defence is, “Just because!”
  5. This isn’t a character v. character debate, it is franchise v. franchise. What are the strengths of each? What are their deficiencies? Which will stand the test of time?
  6. No hiding in the dark, the poll will be public. Don’t let that dissuade you, let that be a challenge to not vote blindly. Think.

That’s it. Game on.

Some stats for you to consider:
Lord of the Rings, Four books about 1,300 pages, Four movies with 14 hours
Game of Thrones (currently), 5 books, 4,480 pages, 30 episodes with 22 hours

[li]Both are epic in scope with well articulated multiple narratives spanning a very well planned out geography[/li][li]Both have developed specific languages for their narratives[/li][li]Both combine medieval, magical and fantasy elements[/li][/ol]Game of Thrones
First published in 1996, first planned as a trilogy author George RR Martin has extended the series to a planned seven novels. As of May 2013 five are published.


Plot synopsis (no spoilers beyond HBO, I checked. You’re welcome)

Lord of the Rings
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein was first published in 1937, subsequent Lord of the Rings was published in three installments from 1954 to 1955. It is estimated that Lord of the Rings if treated as a single book is the second highest sold book at 150 million coppies following Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. As reference, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is estimated to have sold 44 million.

Plot summary:



I’m going to be honest with you, it is really hard for me to provide and breakdowns or summaries without editorializing. If you are reading this you are familiar with both franchises and may have never considered this question before. You may cry foul and say there is no value in saying which is better. That’s nice hippie, go take your flowers and get out of here. This is a thought experiment, enjoy it for the joy of challenging yourself to take a position and discuss it like an adult.

Let the games begin. Enjoy.


Man, it’s hard to say without knowing how Game ends. Both have their doldrums, and while GOT has more, it is longer. LOTR is the gold standard for fantasy. I gotta think on this one before I vote.


If not for J.R.R.Tolkien and his Middle-Earth books (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), The Fire and Ice Series of books/TV show would not exist with the same appealing style. Tolkien’s works were a major influence on George R.R. Martin’s writing/world building style. Same can be said about just about every fantasy author published after The Lord of the Rings.


Although completely true I think that is a slippery slope and possibly a logical fallacy. To say that LOTR is superior to GoT because it is the originator doesn’t necessarily make sense. Plenty of terrible pieces of literature have been put out there inspired by LOTR, that doesn’t make LOTR bad. LOTR will always be the granddaddy of them all, but I don’t think you can make the argument that will always make it superior.


Which is the one where Sean Bean’s character meets an unfortunate end?

Please,there’s no comparison. I love the Game of Thrones TV show, but Lord of the Rings is the best piece of literature I’ve ever read. The movies take that and elevate it to a new level, resulting in the best movie trilogy of all time.

I suspect even GoT author George R. R. Martin would agree that Lord of the Rings is superior. And to be be fair, the tone and intent of the two are apples and oranges ultimately.

EDIT: I realize my post is kinda a “Just Because” response, so I apologize.
I will try to add more as I think of it, but my man think is that Lord of the Rings has 1000x more depth of history and background and world-building …and if you don’t like that, you won’t like Lord of the Rings.


Although I don’t necessarily believe it, I am going to argue for GoT.

If you normalize the playing field you have to compare GoT as it will stand 76 years from now, as that is the head start LOTR has. In that time we will have the full seven volumes, supplemental volumes, movies and reimaginings.

I have one main argument about why GoT is superior and will ultimately survive as franchise: accessibility. Every word on the page is important and meaningful. Tolkien loved his world, but almost to a fault. There are descriptions that go on a bit too long and when people start singing watch out, pages will be skipped.

Then there are characters. Who would you want to have a beer with, Gimli or Tyrion? Who do you to help carry your things, Hodor or Sam? LOTR has a dragon. GoT has three.

Here is the deathstroke: How much intimacy is in LOTR? Somebody might kiss someone at some point, but there isn’t much. GoT makes up for this, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy a good romp narrative?

To be fair to LOTR GoT benefits from many advancements of the artform. Richer more complex characters, immediate access to the world’s information to supply incredible detail, feedback on an unprecedented scale that allows the author to amend and adjust to the readership.

In 76 years people will still be chewing on GoT for its richness. LOTR will be remembered, but the language itself was increasingly become more and more foreign. It will always be held up as a classic and used as a tool to educate but it will slip from the literature column into the history column.


I disagree that Martin is a more efficient writer. His books have plenty of filler. Hobbits love their food, but not nearly as much as Martin loves describing what his characters are eatings. GOT IV should be subtitled “Must Needs/Break Their Fast.” Both have skim/skippable passages, but with Martin, I think, “Damn, this guy could use an active editor” foar more than I ever did with Tolkein.

Not that the LOTR movies didn’t admirably bring Tolkein’s characters to life, but the GOT show has had to embellish and add dimensions that just aren’t on the page.

Tolkein’s characters are more reserved, but to paraphrase Pulp Fiction’s Jules Pitt, “What’s [dude] gonna do? He’s British.”

I’ve been accused of being a formalist, and it’s hard to tell because ASOFAI isn’t done yet, but LOTR has a more innate structure. Now, I’m not trying to say, for a second, that Martin’s world and plot aren’t intricate and more elaborate than Tolkein’s. And, true, the exact point of Martin’s world is that is more closely resembles real life. So Tolkein’s work is a more conventional drama — does that make it better art or worse? I don’t know.


Well, it looks like I’m the only vote for GoT at the moment. While I have immense respect for J.R.R.'s massive, never-to-be-paralleled contribution to the genre through to my childhood playing D&D (Pink Box, Blue Box through to my first player’s handbook)… the books never really did it for me. Gave up on them multiple times, and couldn’t even get up a head of steam in the Silmarillion. The early rotoscope movie was actually more interesting than the book (but as a kid I remember thinking I would have appreciated more colour).

Yup, blasphemy. Even after I got into the books following the movies, I found myself getting bored of all the Frodo and Sam bits and skipping ahead. And the songs… don’t even get me started. I respect the colour, flavour, depth and nuance not only added to the characters but to middle earth, but most of the time I frackin’ didn’t care. As a youth I didn’t have the patience, and I’m not sure I do now either. GoT, while longer, keeps moving at an interesting pace, and switches up the perspectives more frequently to keep the reader involved through all the woven plot lines.

Solai nailed it: I have one main argument about why GoT is superior and will ultimately survive as franchise: accessibility. Every word on the page is important and meaningful. Tolkien loved his world, but almost to a fault. There are descriptions that go on a bit too long and when people start singing watch out, pages will be skipped.

As literary contributions that created a genre, defined orcs as the universal fantasy baddie, and inspired millions, you can’t beat middle earth. All praise the prophet J.R.R.

However, for the purposes of the deathmatch, for me it came down to which would I recommend to someone looking to read an epic fantasy tale based on how much I enjoyed the books. GoT - hence my vote.


Ring by a shire mile.

GoT, while interesting seems a little too “soap opera” like in it’s format. All’s it need is a villain with an eye patch and possibly a dream sequence that spans an entire season and it would officially be in the “camp” side of the ledger for me.

GoT is still great stuff, but I highly doubt I’ll be re-watching the Blu ray disks in years to come, soft-core porn aspect not included ( I said it, I meant it, I’m here to represent it).

Your mileage may vary.



Solai, you make some valid points. The one I must agree with is the intimacy and you probably would imply realism aspect. Yes, Game of Thrones characters are intentionally written as realistic characters. I certainly enjoy Game of Thrones on that level.
But that’s apples and oranges to me---- Stories can be “heightened” reality and still be great stories. It’s just a different style. Like a Star Trek vs. a Firefly. I love both. And I love coffee and beer—don’t make me choose.

Some of your other points — accessibility and the language of LotR become more foreign. …that view of the future you pose really scares me. If the…I don’t know …facebooking (?) of our culture (a weak analogy perhaps) means that we can’t appreciate the beauty of created fictional language…I really fear for the future.

Now, you did not include the wonderful book “The Silmarillion” in your scope of the Tolkien verse. And I don’t care if Tolkein’s son released it after J.R.R.s death----it’s the beautiful rich story of the prior ages of Middle Earth and of all creation in fact.

I personally can not seperate Silmarillion from the Tolkien-verse. (That would be like asking to evaluate Star Trek without including TOS…especially when I was hard core Trekkie more than a decade before Picard was on TV.)

So if your asking which more easy and accessible to masses, I suppose Game of Thrones has an edge. But thin stuff like that is not what I personally can find enough meat to geek out about.

Also, you say the Tolkien verse has only ONE Dragon?! Ouch. Middle Earth had many dragons that fought in the great battles led by Morgorth. Glaurung, Ancalagon, Scatha are the other named ones aside from The Hobbit’s Smaug the Magnificent

One of the best Dragon stories is the story Glaurung who “… led an Orc-host to victory in the Battle of Tumhalad against the Noldor of Nargothrond led by Túrin Turambar. He followed up his triumph by sacking Nargothrond”

So far the dragons in the Game of Thrones have been an interesting novelty. I hope eventually they match the drama and treacherousness of Tolkein dragons like Glarung and Smaug.

Turin flights the great Dragon Glauraug outside the halls of Nargothrond :

I love love also the sheer beauty of the names of places that Tolkein comes out with :
Arvernien, Doriath, East Beleriand, Hithlum, Nargothrond, Ossiriand, Dor Daedeloth

And when he comes up with any names like that they’re carefully thought out. The suffixes “Hith”…“Dor” they have consistent meanings. It’s like a real language (as opposed to coming up with Stark and Lannister cuz they sound vaguagely like York and Lancester from our world.)

I understand that in today’s busy paced world, no one has the patience to sit down a read a book like The Silmarillion. But I highly recommend it as Audiobook. That way you don’t have to worry about struggling through the pronunciation.

…Okay…I drifted off the main topic perhaps :o …

So, I love the background of Lord of the Rings. Every place, every name, every song, every object has a lineage and history with which goes a stories or stories.
To some that’s a negative, to me (perhaps a tad obsessive in my geekiness) that’s a plus.

Putting that aside, Just as a narrative, Lord of the Rings is just a great well structured tale. The way the characters are brought together and driven forward and separating into different threads all leading to final epic conclusion—with many different characters playing their key parts along the way.

I’ll confess, I have not read the Game of Thrones books. I don’t know if I will, because they seem a bit thin to me in terms of depth. But, again that’s just my taste. I like books, shows, movies that have a world behind them. I can’t stay interested in fluff.
With that in mind, I must question the premise of this match. LOTR vs. Dune, perhaps? Tolkein-verse vs. Star Wars verse perhaps? Those are fair fights …(In My Opinion …this is just my point of view here).

So, bottom line Lord of the Rings is light years superior to Game of Thrones…

…but THEY ARE BOTH FANTASTIC and WONDERFUL and I’m a fan of both.


GoT == Dante :: LotR == Jay and Silent Bob




Lord Of The Rings is more ‘Epic’ to me. The bad guys are more big E Evil. The battles are more supernatural and depicted on screen better. The love stories are more emotional. Froddo was a charcter you could truly root for. They is a more diverse variety of non-humans. Aragorn/Stryder was a leader you could trust. The music was phenominal. The books can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike.

Perhaps some of this is my fustration with this season of GoT. It’s losing it’s grip on me. It is like a soap opera in medevil times versus a fantastic adventure and epic journey.

But that’s just me.

~Shooter Out


Maybe a logical fallacy…but it is my opinion. Humans are not logical.

I doubt that GoT will still be popular in 76 years. I don’t see classes analyzing it at universities like Tolkien’s works. LOTR is classic fantasy on an epic scale, the books and the movies which I thot would never be able to be made and do it justice. GoT is just popular fantasy, books and the HBO show w/soft porn thrown in to boot. At least for me anyway and all the death-matches are is opinion.

I buy and replace the LOTR books in paperback to pass onto others. Hardback copies are on my shelves. Can’t say the same for the Fire and Ice series. I have the first 4 in paperback, and won’t read the rest until they too come out in trade paperback. Silmarillion, LOTR and The Hobbit are books that I re-read every other year, as are the Dune books (original series).

The HBO show wouldn’t be as popular without the porn aspect…which is getting worse each season as far as I’m concerned. It’s more of a fantasy soap opera to me and I’d rather stick to the books at this point…more character growth…well for the ones that live. For some of us there is such a thing as too much pork(ing).





GOT doesn’t have a wizard with wizarding skills comparable to Gandalf or Saruman. And while there’s probably a Sauron figure lurking somewhere in Westeros, we’ve yet to see it.

I believe Aragorn could take Jamie Lannister and probably Ned Stark in a sword fight. Jaime is great, but Aragorn has more experience.

The orc armies in LOTR (10-15,000 at Helm’s Deep, site of the Battle of Hornburg) are big, but a preliminary look says they tend to be smaller than the combined might of the sides in GOT (20,000+?).

GOT has three dragons, but they’re not full grown. LOTR has one that we know of. (Are there others in the indexes and such?)

Gollum would take Theon.

The Hound would take Gollum (if he could catch him).

Gollum would take Tyrion.

I think Arya could take Frodo.


Scroll up to my post. Tolkien-verse has ALL the dragons. …and they’re cooler.


Are those Hobbit/LOTR era, or in previous ages?


Smaug is the only Hobbi/ LotR era dragon. The rest are from the good, epic old days of Middle Earth.


That’s what I’m saying: GOT once had many dragons too, but now has three. Little ones.


Ah. Good point. I was kinda aware of that but forgot.

In Game of Thrones, are the dragons intelligent? Can they talk? Or are they sort of animal intelligence?