Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien is to blame for your favourite Game of Thrones character dying. Author George R.R. Martin spoke to PBS recently about how Tolkien’s fantasy series impacted him–and he reveals that Tolkien’s willingness to kill off Gandalf inspired the many instances of unexpected bloodshed in the Game of Thrones series.

“Tolkien’s greatest invention was the characters who struggle with the temptation of the Ring and what to do with it,” Tolkien said (via LA Times). “They’re all fighting these battles inside their hearts. That can take place anywhere, at any time, in any space in all of human history.”

“…and then Gandalf dies. I can’t explain the impact that had on me at 13. You can’t kill Gandalf! Conan didn’t die in the Conan books. Tolkien just broke that rule.”

He added: “And I 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. It’s had a profound effect on my own willingness to kill characters at the drop of a hat.”

Gandalf dies on the Bridge of Moria in a battle with the Balrog. He returns stronger and wiser as Gandalf the White. You can read more about the life and death of Gandalf here.

There have been more than 1,200 on-screen deaths in the Game of Thrones show over the years, according to a Washington Post investigation.

The upcoming eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones is expected to bring even more bloodshed; science has determined the most likely characters to die. There are also at least two more books coming, including The Winds of Winter.

The final season of Game of Thrones is expected to premiere in the first half of 2019. There are only six episodes, but each one could be as long as a movie.

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