Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones tend to get compared on a regular basis, thanks to their rich fantasy elements. But did you know that the former impacted the latter? George R.R. Martin has revealed that reading J.R.R. Tolkien's epic tome impacted his willingness to forge Game of Thrones into the searing experience that it is. It was one visceral moment from Lord of the Rings that had the most impact, and allowed Martin to begin killing off his characters at alarming rates.

And then Gandalf dies! I can't explain the impact that had on me at 13. You can't kill Gandalf. I mean, Conan didn't die in the Conan books, you know? Tolkien just broke that rule, and I'll love him forever for it.The minute you kill Gandalf, the suspense of everything that follows is a thousand times greater, because now anybody could die. Of course, that's had a profound on my own willingness to kill characters off at the drop of a hat.

For many who have read George R.R. Martin's books or watched Game of Thrones, the death of Ned Stark is probably their Gandalf. It was a shocker that helped catapult the show into territory many shy away from. The hero died. It was a no-holds-bar moment that gave the series its everlasting touch of stirring emotional vigor. The sense that anything could happen has permeated every installment since. Martin shared the impact of his game-changing read as part of PBS' The Great American Read.

When it comes to Game of Thrones, there are many aspects that have helped make it stand out. And there are plenty of shocking deaths that rock the narrative of Westeros. While he ultimately spared him, George R.R. Martin gave the audience a hint immediately with Bran being pushed out of a window by Jaime Lannister. And he kept the momentum going for every novel since.

What George R.R. Martin did killing off Ned Stark (and the variety of other Stark since) has left a lasting impression that has made the show and novels nail-biting and utterly enthralling. Ned Stark and Gandalf's deaths shook fantasy audiences that assume the good guy would always survive, and rattled them to their core.

And when it came to Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin did not stop with Ned Stark as part of a one-time death shocker. In fact, Ned was just the beginning of more carnage to come. Two words: Red Wedding.

Navigating off-book since Season 6, Game of Thrones' penultimate season saw a noticeable drought in shocking deaths. While fans got an overall reprieve from the show's most killer characteristic in Season 7, Game of Thrones' final season is expected to change that. Who will die and when is the question that will have many watching through their fingers when the series finally returns.

Game of Thrones returns for its eighth and final season on HBO in the first half of 2019. Summer is not over yet. For new shows arriving before your fall favorites return, check out CinemaBlend's summer premiere guide. For new television content set to bow this autumn, check out CinemaBlend's guide to TV's fall premieres.

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