A debate has recently surfaced that George RR Martin against Tolkien, accused of writing plot holes. But it is distorted news for making big views.

The Italian world is not new to controversy over Tolkien. But in general, it seems that the world is always ready for new controversies about Tolkien.

This winter the war on the new translation de The Lord of the Rings by Ottavio Fatica, sued by the original translator of the work, Vittoria Alliata. We have also seen a debate on thehatred of Tolkien for the Nazis, which emerged from his letters to the German publishing house that had asked to be able to translate The Hobbit. It was not exempt from drama even the cartoon movie su The Lord of the Rings! We have even seen a fuss about the non-centrality of the Professor's Catholic faith in the biopic Tolkien , which we reviewed Thu.

No wonder, then, if a new controversy has emerged in recent days. Instead, we should be surprised that the aforementioned controversy was built almost at the table, to look for a pretext on which to build flame and big views.

What happened? Why doesn't it make sense to create a war with Martin against Tolkien in 2019? Why is "Martin versus Tolkien" an old and stale speech? And why should we go ahead and ignore the clickbait controversy built around the table?

For a "real" Martin vs Tolkien, watch this rap battle!
For a "real" Martin versus Tolkien, beware this rap battle!

George RR Martin against Tolkien: what do the media report?

In the past few days, George RR Martin has retired on Burke Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Discourse through the Arts at Trinity College Dublin. For the occasion, Martin was interviewed and asked some questions about the works they influenced Game of Thrones.

This, however, only after Martin spoke at length about Brexit, about the upcoming presidential elections in the USA, giving very interesting opinions. The whole discussion is about the policy and how Martin developed politics in his books based on history and how he perceives human nature. Martin talks about how science fiction can create new forms of government, experimenting freely in a way that our reality could never do.

Regarding instead his literary inspirations, Martin claims that there is a dialogue between authors that extends over the centuries, in which the new writers put themselves in dialogue with the previous ones. And this is where Martin talks about Tolkien.

Martin vs Tolkien? What the author of Game of Thrones

Martin reiterated how Tolkien was fundamental and re-reading for him The Lord of the Rings cyclically. However, Martin also claims that The Lord of the Rings:

It's one of the great books of the 20th century. But that doesn't mean that I think it's perfect

Indeed, Martin goes on to say that would like to discuss some matters with the Professor, like what happened during the reign of Aragorn. In fact, Tolkien does not delve into the events of Gondor after the War of the Ring, but merely states that Aragorn ruled well for a hundred years and a while.

But Martin would like to know more, because simply writing that Aragorn was a good ruler is too easy. And so Martin starts a series of questions:

But I want to know: what was his tax policy?

What did he do when famine struck the land? And what did he do when all those Orcs…? [There were] a lot of Orcs leftover. They weren't all killed, They ran away into the mountains.

Did Aragorn carry out a policy of systematic Orc genocide? Did he send his knights out into the hills to kill all the Orcs? Even the little baby Orcs? Or was there Orc rehabilitation going on?

Later, Martin wonders if Orcs and Elves, deriving the former from the latter, could mate and have offspring. However, the American writer acknowledges that Tolkien was more interested in mythological aspects of the matter and therefore jokes about:

And if the Orcs were the result of Elves ... could Orcs and Elves intermarry? They can in Dungeons and Dragons I guess.

The event was recorded and thefull audio It can be found Thu. The questions start at 42:08 and the talk about Tolkien starts at 1:02:09. The video was uploaded on 30 August 2019.

The circulation of the news in the English-speaking media

The news of this interview dates back to Friday September 6th, when Express published this article. After days of silence, the news was recovered e revived from the tabloid The Sun theSeptember 11th. This newspaper, faithful to its scandal and clickbait nature, has well thought of taking advantage of Martin's words to speak also of the Amazon TV series on The Lord of the Rings. A few hours later, too Independent published an article on the news.

In short, these three articles are all the anglophone media fury aroused by Martin's statement on the matter. In Italy, however, many nerdy news sites have resumed and re-proposed the news with great emphasis.

The circulation of the news in the Italian media

The first Italian site re-proposed the news on September 12th at 9 in the morning. The article reports, in translation, the words spoken by Martin at Trinity College, but without specifying that Martin was answering questions about his literary models of reference. Furthermore, the article states that "George RR Martin hopes the TV series will fill the plot holes". In the text of the article this supposed hope of Martin is reaffirmed, where Martin has never even mentioned the Amazon television series! Another columnist reports that, according to Martin, "JRR Tolkien left too many 'holes' in the plot of his work". This however is not true, given that Martin limits himself to discussing some minutiae.

The news continued to circulate on 13 September as well, with another wave of Italian articles. Some speak of weft holes that plague Tolkien and the fact that unanswered questions about the fate of the Orcs are, according to Martin, fundamental. Other sites still speak of one "Clash of the titans". In general, there is some willingness to present these comments as a "Martin versus Tolkien" confrontation.

Other articles are even sharper and talk about a Martin trolling (instead of writing!) And "bullshit". According to these articles, Martin allegedly said that the ending de The Lord of the Rings does not work properly and that the story would be picked up by all the thematic sites in the world. And although the aforementioned article admits, at least, that Martin never used the word "plot-holes", he nonetheless takes advantage of the story to growl at the American author, labeling his questions as "shit" that reveal a very poor understanding of Tolkien's work. Then quoting a 'another interview in which Martin stated that Tolkien was more interested in myth, who wrote the article states that therefore Martin says bestiality even though he knows Tolkien very well, just to make people talk about himself.

Inaccuracies, falsehoods and general misunderstanding of Martin's opinion of Tolkien

In short, most of the Italian newspapers that talked about the affair immediately took the initiative to propose "plot holes". But Martin never has, then there talked about plot holes there The Lord of the Rings. Martin, within a speech all about politics and how he represents politics in his works, specified which political aspects of The Lord of the Rings would have liked to see developed. However, this is a speech that doesn't even come close to being a real criticism of Tolkien.

Also, one thing that all, all of these articles don't mention is the tone with whom Martin talked about Tolkien's "plot holes". Martin was laughing as he talked about it (that's why you have to listen to the audio!). Martin was making these "criticisms" evidently ironic. Because it's not about real criticism.

Also going to see, as we will do in the next paragraphs, the relationship that Martin has with Tolkien, these statements should not be read as criticisms. On the contrary, they should be read in the following way: “I like to write stories in a certain way and I would have liked to see the human, material and dirty side of Aragorn's rule. I know Tolkien was not interested in these aspects, but I am ”. It is not a criticism, but the admission that he and Tolkien are different people and they focus on different narrative aspects. And, in dialogue with Tolkien, Martin develops in his works what he did not find in the master's work. This is why we don't have a "Martin vs Tolkien" fight, but a Martin's dialogue with Tolkien .

And anyway Martin has the right to say what he wants about Tolkien
And anyway Martin has the right to say what he wants about Tolkien

George RR Martin vs Tolkien: the origin of Martin's statement

Martin's opinion on the reign of Aragorn is actually very much antecedent and it has nothing to do with the release of the Amazon television series.

It all started at evening dedicated to Game of Thrones at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island, in 2015. In fact, two teams would face off at the stadium that night: the Staten Island Yankees and the Hudson Valley Renegades. But to be on the subject, the former had nicknamed each other Staten Island Direwolves, while the latter have defined i Lannister Lions, thus proposing again the war between Stark and Lannister on the field.

The evening had George RR Martin as the guest of honor and in general the game was very much on the subject Game of Thrones. We even saw a game of thrones made of baseball bats!

The article of Vulture linked above does not mention it, but it seems that Martin was also interviewed by the organizers of the event. In fact, the day before Vulture's article (11 August 2015) was published by Staten island advance un video with George RR Martin. In this video, online since August 10, 2015, Martin talks about how Tolkien did not elaborate on how Aragorn reigned.

If you listen to Martin's words, you will find yourself in them the same statements repeated at Trinity College.

The difficulty of describing the politics of a kingdom

Here, too, you will not find a "Martin vs Tolkien" confrontation, but a George RR Martin talking about how he tried to show, in his works, the difficulty of governing. He says, Martin, that this difficulty is not often mentioned in fantasy books, and at this point he takes the example of Tolkien. Thus, confronting Tolkien, Martin talks about his own effort in trying to delineate different kingdoms and reigns, each of which has to deal with the challenges of reigning.

However, if Martin points out the differences between his approach to describing a government and Tolkien's, we don't have a "Martin versus Tolkien" confrontation. Nor should Martin's words be interpreted in a polemical or negative sense towards the Professor's work. Let's see now why.

And anyway, Tolkien is too good to be hated, and Martin knows it
And anyway, Tolkien is too good to be hated, and Martin knows it

George RR Martin vs. Tolkien: What does Martin really think of Tolkien?

Currently, it should be common knowledge that Martin loves Tolkien.

George RR Martin candidly admits that he is a huge fan of the Professor's works. It is very clear in saying that Tolkien had a huge influence on him.

The interview with The Guardian: Tolkien influenced Martin, but Martin knows he can't be Tolkien

In this interview a The Guardian, Martin talks about his discovery of Tolkien. The American author is very explicit about the impact the Professor has had on him: "He blew my mind", He says. However, Martin says that after Tolkien the fantasy lived a dark period, made of pale imitators of the Professor. Because he didn't want to be associated with these people, Martin at the time preferred to avoid epic fantasy, focusing instead on science fiction. According to Martin, these second-rate writers had taken from Tolkien only the worst features of his work, while ignoring its greatness.

"Tolkien had an enormous influence on me, but after Tolkien there was a dark period in the history of epic fantasy where there were a lot of Tolkien imitations coming out that were terrible, "he says.

"I didn't necessarily want to be associated with those books, which just seemed to me to be imitating the worst things of Tolkien and not capturing any of the great things. "

And, I want to specify it, to say that Tolkien's works have flaws does not in any way mean rejecting his greatness as a writer.

Martin knows he is very different from Tolkien, to have a different background and to belong to another era. He knows that every contemporary fantasy writer writes under the shadow of the Professor. However, precisely because it is impossible to reproduce the greatness of Tolkien's voice, Martin prefers to simply tell his story with his own voice.

"I think every contemporary fantasy writer writes under the shadow of Tolkien, but there was no way I could capture his voice, which is singular and unique.

He was a very different man than me, a man from a different time with very different attitudes, and even though we were both writing about a medieval-type society I had a very different take on it, on basic attitudes about the war and sexuality, so I was just telling my story ".

The interview with Observer: similarities between Martin and Tolkien

In this interview of 8 November 2015 ad Observer, Martin talks about the final who thought for Game of Thrones. And here too Tolkien's influence is felt, as Martin claims that it was the bittersweet ending of The Lord of the Rings to have inspired him. Literally, in this sense Martin has only fine words for Tolkien.

I mean, it's no secret that Tolkien has been a huge influence on me, and I love the way it 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.

But also from a point of view of world building and plot structure Tolkien influenced Martin. The American author admits candidly to have tried to learn from the Professor everything possible.

When I started writing Game of Thrones, one of the things I did was to look at Lord of the Rings and see what Tolkien did and tried to take some lessons from it.

In this sense, Martin was inspired by the way Tolkien treats the magic to outline your supernatural.

A big lesson was his handling of magic. You know, I think a lot of epic fantasy has too much magic. But Middle-earth is suffused with a sense of magic, it's always on the peripheral and it's used to set the stage.

In addition, Martin also reflects on how much he based himself on Tolkien in the way he expanded the focus of their books.

The structure was very influential on Game of Thrones. If you look at the structure of Lord of the Rings, it all begins in the Shire and it's very small. And then it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. […] Now if you look at Game of Thrones, everybody except Dany starts out in Winterfell, then certain things drive them apart, and then they're scattered all over the world.

But Martin can't invent languages ​​like Tolkien, and he knows it well!

However, in the same way, Martin equally candidly admits that he did not create languages complete and complex like those of the Professor. In fact, the Dothraki and Valyrian we see in the series were created by conlang (artificial language) specialists specially called by HBO. We talked about conlangs and their study at university Thu! But Martin, for his part, never claimed to have done even a tenth of the work done by Tolkien, whose greatness he recognizes.

He invented entire languages, I just fake it. When I sell Game of Thrones to HBO, they said, 'There are entire scenes here in Dothraki. Can you send us your Dothraki book and syntax and rules? ' Tolkien would have responded promptly with a gigantic thing… whereas I had to say, 'I invented like eight words.'

Martin with the biopic actors on Tolkien. Photo by Amanda Edwards
Martin with the biopic actors on Tolkien. Photo by Amanda Edwards

Conclusions: be careful of the clickbait given by the flame!

At the moment, thewave of indignation for the final of Game of Thrones and expectations about the Amazon series on The Lord of the Rings do the big views. So, certainly any newspaper will try to talk about these two issues. Imagine what big views you can do when talking about it at the same time!

However, such articles are simplistic and reductive. They ride the wave of dislike for Martin e the love all nerds have for Tolkien. But in reality they do not do the Professor a favor, nor do they do justice to a cultured and thoughtful author like Martin.

On the contrary, these articles are served only to throwing fuel on the easy indignation of the web. The angry comments of those who tell Martin to shut up because he sold his work to HBO are wasted. Nor are we talking about those who ironically that Tolkien, at least, completed his trilogy (but conveniently forgetting that the The Silmarillion is still in draft status).

On the contrary, it's funny to see how the news sites took Martin's words, extrapolating them from their context, to throw them like a bone to web critics. Above all, it is interesting to compare their behavior with what Martin thinks of today's journalism via the internet:

Yeah, I do have to parse my words. Some of it, frankly, is - and I don't necessarily mean this as criticism of you [the journalist], but maybe some of your colleagues - that this age of internet journalism is crazy.

These clickbait sites take things that I say, and I read headlines that seem to bear no relation to what I actually say.

In short, you may not like Martin, but don't be fooled by flattering titles

And that's basically what happened with Martin these days. Moving on from saying inaccuracies (the weft holes) to affirm the false (Martin hopes the Amazon series does what ?!), many news sites have reworked Martin's words to make big views with as little effort as possible.

And they even succeeded! Because what attracts readers more than being able to put on the most controversial writer of the moment, even having the opportunity to prove that he understood Tolkien better than Martin? Few can resist such a tickle of the ego.

However, it is essential to approach any article of this kind, with headlines of indignation, with due caution. Is Martin really stupid enough to criticize Tolkien for plot holes? Really really Would Tolkien criticize Aragorn's economic policy? Or is he just pointing out the difference in approach between him and the Professor?

Then, don't be jokers. Don't let your dislike of Martin make fun of you. Don't let clickbait headlines fool you. Look for sources, deepen the topic. Be Seekers, not prey.