Remember watching Game of Thrones for the first time? You're sitting there at the end of Season 1, thinking, "No way in hell they can kill of Ned Stark, he's the main character!" And, then, with one fell swoop, you realize this show is different – this show doesn't give a damn about "main characters."
Well, after five books and seven seasons, we now know who to blame for all of those tragic demises: J.R.R. Tolkien.
In a new interview for the PBS series The Great American Read, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin revealed he was inspired by Tolkien, who briefly killed Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring before bringing him back.
"…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. Because 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 effect on my own willingness to kill characters at the drop of a hat."
For reference, Martin and his TV counterparts David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have killed off 1,243 characters. And we still have another whole season to go!