Books Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin Interview

Medieval scholar Carolyne Larrington predicts how Game of Thrones will end

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 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.


    • If he said you wont live to respond ti me saying that im your father. Wouldnt you be mad.. We will read all the books.

  • I could come up with either of those scenarios, but I would prefer a medieval historian to propose an ending that is rooted in actual history. Show us how ASOIAF is similar to events in world history (characters, places, rises and falls) and use that information to plot a possible ending.

    • Stannis

      Think War of the Roses which George knows a lot about. It was bittersweet ending with many noble families wiped out, bloody battles, marriage alliances and the country as a whole paid a price – the poorest in particular.

      The White Walkers maybe wiped out but at what damage to Westrose or will the walkers and humans reach a truce and who would sort that out? A new wall built with a reformed Night Watch and a new leader. So many questions to be answered and to my mind not many espiodes left to tell us.

    • Yeah that’s what I was expecting, not these two “predictions” anyone could make (which don’t seem very likely anyway). Seems like another case of someone who doesn’t actually understand GoT trying to get their name out there and acting like they know what they are talking about.

    • Well, as an another medieval historian I can draw a parallel to the War of Roses: to put it otherwise, Dany is a pretty obvious female version of Henry VII with dragons, which implies that she will marry Jon (a male version of Elisabeth of York). However, Jon as a character has another clear parallel in real history: it’s John I of Portugal also known as the Bastard and/or The Great, which promises him a long reign after he wins the ultimate victory as well as a happy marriage and a bunch of gifted children who will lead the realm into the new era.

      • Contrary to ‘historical romance novelists’, the York/Lancaster marriage was not a romantic one. Henry delayed marrying the York girl on purpose as he wanted to ensure people knew he took the throne by right of conquest and not because he married a York. he also wanted to ensure that she and everyone else knew who was in charge. His ‘mummy’ also dominated his marriage and in fact his mother acted like ‘Queen’ (which was much commented on back then). Elizabeth didn’t have a happy marriage, Henry was a miserly bastard and she died in child birth. I suppose you can consider it a ‘success’ because Henry didn’t kill her but that’s the most you can say about it.

    • Yep. Disappointing that a historian wouldn’t have something to say about the real sources for this story and how things might play out based on those.

    • That’s what I thought we were in store for, not endings we’ve all thought of before while having no medieval historical experience. Thanks for nothing lady.

  • A lot of words that really said nothing. I was looking for a fresh perspective from a historian. This article told us nothing. Did Jon Snow write it?

  • GRRM himself clarified, that the “bittersweet ending” he is aiming for is something akin to the ending of the Lord of the Rings – where Frodo saves the Middle-Earth, but there’s no “living happily ever after” for him and many of his fellows. “Bittersweet ending” is NOT in opposition to Tolkien.

  • “Bittersweet” is not going to be…The White Walkers (aka) the evil threat to mankind get killed or vanquished by all of the prophecied good guys. There are subtle clues that lead me to believe in a theory,I and probably many others have pondered over and over.

    It’s Bran being The Night King.

    When Leaf was in the weirwood with Bran, he came out of his vision and told leaf it was YOU who created the White Walkers. Then Bran asked… “why”? Leaf’s response was this: Because of YOU…because of Men. Why wouldn’t she just say because of men? Why did she emphasize YOU first? Also.. Why did Bran say YOU created the White Walkers and not ” The Children” created them. Leaf and Bran both singled each other out.

    There are many other small hints made by other charachters that fit this theory. Leaf and Brans word exchange in this particular scene, stood out the most.

    So let’s picture this: If through Bran and his time traveling ways, caused all of the Chaos in Westeros. ( I am using this theory mainly from t.v. version perspective.) Meaning he repeatedly went back in time and quite possibly the future at some point to try undoing the mess he created. In his attempts he failed again and again. So now, Bran has finally found a ” loophole” in time if you will that could finally bring balance to all the chaos he created and by doing so allowing it to end.

    My point is this: It would be “Bittersweet”…. to find that Bran is infact The Night King and the creator of all the destruction of life in Westeros. Meaning, Jon would have to kill his own brother to end it all and bring the balance of life back to Westeros. ( doesn’t matter that Jon is Targaryen) He’s grown up with Bran as his brother his entire life. That’s his brother.

    This creates a much deeper connection within the story and gut wrenching as well, to the good vs bad scenario. What is more “Bittersweet” than brother against brother to the death to save an entire world.

    It’s just my theory but it makes sense. 7 HELLS! I’M STICKING TO IT! 😉

    • I think you’re reading way too much into Bran and Leaf’s use of the word ‘You.’ I think that they’re just ‘othering’ each other there: using one another as ‘tokens’ to generalize about the other’s race. Thoughtless people in real life do stuff like that all the time about people of different ethnicities or religions, sadly: ‘You people/those people always do that…’

      • Firranion,

        I think you’re not reading enough into it.

        One could read too much into any story arc on Thrones. I’m sticking with my theory. It’s completely plausible. There are other subtle hints as well.

        It has to be a deeper connection for the “Bittersweet” to work. If it’s only about the Night King wants everyone dead and the good guys of Westeros are going to stop him. That has been done to death and would be “eh” big deal WW bad people of Westeros good, kill the WW we don’t care.

        I think I’m right on the money with this theory but we shall see.

        Peace ✌ N Love ❤

  • “I’m really interested to see what Martin is going to make by way of an ending, if indeed he lives that long.”

    Oh, that’s cute. I will quote grrm himself, regarding people being offensive (to him) by speculating on his health. “Fuck You, to those people.”

    • Agreed. Who’s being ‘sniffy’ here?

      I for one wish the author robust good health and a long life filled with fun and travel and downtime and whatever else the heck he sees fit to do with his days, in addition to writing.

  • Dont’ forget that the TV show may have a completely different ending then Mr. Martin’s books. Perhaps we’ll get double dose of surprizes that way!

  • If humans vanquish the White Walkers, what will happen to Winter? Will that season ever come again? I think it will mean the end of the Stark line…and the end of the season itself. That is the bittersweet I wonder about. Eternal Summer. But no more Winter. Very similar in some ways, to what we face now with global warming. It sounds great in theory…warm weather. Easy living. But we lose so much.

  • I think there must be something more to the Bran story. Leaf was the COF who stabbed and created the original night king, so it makes sense that Bran said: It was you! But I have a hard time seeing how Bran, born of Cat and Ned, could also have been the night king centuries ago and through to “now”. How could “now”‘s night king also be Bran? I like the idea that Bran will somehow un-make the white walkers. He was shown how they were made for a reason; maybe that reason is so he can un-make them. What else could his role in “now” be?

    • There are dragons,direwolves, magic, and non humanoid beings, the undead ,oh and let’s not forget Jon being resurrected from death.



      • I do not think Bran is time travelling, surely it is just his consciousness whilst attached to the Weirwood tree, therefore Bran never physically leaves the present so couldn’t be the Night King?

        I was surprised when the Night King touched him whilst he was plugged in and in the show that may be a way of going down that road but with 13 Episodes left they have a lot of explaining to do to make it plausible.

        • I do agree with, the show still has a lot of explaining to do. Season 7 needs to be where they tie it all together and we get the answers.

          There aren’t many episodes left. I feel they can still explain a lot. Infact, they have to at this point or the story will not make sense

      • I really think you have a valid point I ❤️LemonCakes. From the very beginning of the story Old Nan’s story’s have been true. (Per the books) She once said that the Night’s King was a Stark, I believe this will be the bittersweet ending that will bring the peace between the living and the dead.

  • Bittersweet is obvious. The white walkers will be defeated in battle. But either Dany or Jon will bite it. The 7 Kingdom’s will split up. And Tyrion will marry a big breasted wench and take over Casterly Rock. He’ll have 10 kids. Arya will marry some northern family and be lady/queen of Winterfell. Aegon will be shown to be a fake and be beheaded. The Golden company will be run out of the country once again. Little Finger and/or Varys will survive and get rich.

  • I still think Winterfell is an ancient prison with one long forgotten prisoner trapped underneath. This prisoner is much like the Three Eyed Raven and is sustaining herself by being bonded with the roots of the Winterfell Weirwood tree. As long as a Stark is there, her powers do not work. The Night King is on a rescue mission.
    I also think Dawn is Lightbringer.
    And, since GRRM wants to do a WestWorld crossover, the original volunteers for making the robots more human were accidentally murdered when doing so, and they are trying to become their original human selves again.
    Sorry for the tangent..