As we rocket towards the end of Game of Thrones, fans and experts alike are speculating about how this grand narrative might end. Carolyne Larrington, a medieval scholar who teaches at Oxford University and the author of Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones, chimed in with her predictions in an interview with Stuff.co. She has two ideas for how this all might wrap up:
One will be kind of like the end of Lord of the Rings. The right person ascends the throne – probably Jon marrying Daenerys – and that is going to usher in a period of happily ever after. We’ll have a new dynasty and everything will be fine.
That sounds a little too clean and tidy for Game of Thrones, does it not? Remember: at minimum, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin has said to expect a “bittersweet ending” to his story. Larrington agrees that, even if that came to pass, it likely wouldn’t be all sunshine and roses. “But that’s not going to make much difference to the slaves in Essos, or the ordinary people in King’s Landing,” she says.
Her second prediction is far more pessimistic:
More excitingly, there could just be a massive apocalypse, and the White Walkers march over everything. That might depend on HBO’s budget for really big battles. It might also depend on [author George RR] Martin having the courage of his convictions.
Oh yeah, those pesky White Walkers. Their power has been slowly teased throughout the course of the show, but has only started to leave an impact in the past two seasons. The Battle of Hardhome in particular gave us glimpse of how dangerous the Night King and his minions can be.
Larrington also put the ending of A Song of Ice in Fire in context by comparing it to the other big fantasy story of our time: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Martin has acknowledged that Tolkien has been a great influence on him. However, some things about The Lord of the Rings always left him wanting.
Martin could have something up his sleeve, because he’s been a bit sniffy about Tolkien’s ending. It’s all very well to say Aragorn is king and he’s wise and just and he ruled for 100 years – but what was his tax policy, did he have a standing army, how did he rule? Tolkien doesn’t tell us any of that.
Tolkien does indeed wrap up his tale with a neat little bow. But based on Martin’s writing style, we’re likely to get something far more detailed from him. And that could matter going forward, since according to Larrington Game of Thrones has supplanted The Lord of the Rings as the fantasy fiction touchstone de jour.
Many of my younger colleagues particularly watch the show with great enthusiasm, most of the students have seen it, we often use it as a point of reference. It’s replaced Tolkien in that respect.
So will we get the “bittersweet ending” Martin has always alluded to? Something more in line with Tolkien? A horrible apocalypse? (“I don’t think it’s going to go for the apocalyptic ending,” Larrington admits when pressed.) Most likely, it will be a little bit of everything. Larrington sums up the hopes and fears of many:
I’m really interested to see what Martin is going to make by way of an ending, if indeed he lives that long.