Game of Thrones, as well as it’s source material A Song of Ice and Fire, is known for being merciless when it comes to killing of characters big and small.
Even though it depicts a fantasy world with dragons, magic and ice zombies, it is a more realistic portrayal in terms of “what would happen if you put a naive princess character into this world?”.
In many fantasy novels, the main characters have “plot armour” and manage to survive long and perilous journeys, with the deaths being restricted to the supporting cast. In that sense, the world of Westeros is a breath of fresh air.
George has discussed this recently, saying how only extras die in traditional fantasy novels is “such a cheat”.
The author spoke in an interview with Galaxy’s Edge, saying “a writer, even a fantasy writer, has an obligation to tell the truth and the truth is, as we say in Game of Thrones, all men must die.”
“We’ve all read this story a million times when a bunch of heroes set out on adventure and it’s the hero and his best friend and his girlfriend and they go through amazing hair-raising adventures and none of them die. The only ones who die are extras. That’s such a cheat. It doesn’t happen that way. They go into battle and their best friend dies or they get horribly wounded. They lose their leg or death comes at them unexpectedly.”
“Once you’ve accepted that you have to include death, then you should be honest … and indicate it can strike down anybody at any time. You don’t get to live forever just because you are a cute kid or the hero’s best friend or the hero. Sometimes the hero dies, at least in my books. I love all my characters so it’s always hard to kill them but I know it has to be done. I tend to think I don’t kill them. The other characters kill ’em. I shift off all blame from myself.”
I still remember my absolute shock when reading the first ASoIF book, Game of Thrones, when it came to a certain scene. If you have seen season one/read the first book, click away now!
I remember being glued to the pages as Ned Stark was led up to the execution block in King’s Landing. I was reading things thinking, “Someone has to come and save him! Someone has to, he’s a main character!” But of course, no one did and he was executed. I still remember my shock as a POV character was killed, just like that. That is one of the things that makes George’s world so great, in that in this cruel world, even heroes die.
As they say: Valar morghulis.