George R.R. Martin is all over the media these days, because of the success of A Song of Ice and Fire, and the TV-show the books spawned: Game of Thrones. I know he is sometimes viewed as the “anti-Tolkien”, but I believe that is a misunderstanding. Tolkien and Martin set out to write totally different kinds of fantasy tales, and both succeeded in achieving their goals. This particular quote by Martin shows his understanding of, and respect for, Tolkien. Both as a reader and as a writer, I absolutely agree with what he’s saying here: a happy ending is not always the best kind of ending. And anyone who thinks Tolkien wrote simple, straightforward happy endings has not read his books!
There are some people who read and want to believe in a world where the good guys win and the bad guys lose, and at the end they live happily ever after. That’s not the kind of fiction that I write. Tolkien was not that. The scouring of the Shire proved that. Frodo’s sadness – that was a bittersweet ending, which to my mind was far more powerful than the ending of Star Wars, where all the happy Ewoks are jumping around, and the ghosts of all the dead people appear, waving happily [laughs]. But I understand where the other people are coming from. There are a lot of books out there. Let everyone find the kind of book that speaks to them, and speaks to what they need emotionally.
The quote is taken from an excellent interview with Martin from the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.Photo from Wikimedia Commons: George R.R. Martin at Clarion West 1998.