Hardcore Game of Thrones fans love to tell us how much better those books are than the Lord of the Rings. They think that George R.R. Martin presents a realistic view of war, whereas Tolkien presents a fairy tale. Here’s the problem: only one of those men actually saw war, and it wasn’t Martin.
Tolkien volunteered to fight in the First World War, in which he lost most of his friends. Martin, on the other hand, avoided the Vietnam draft by filing as a conscientious objector.
In Tolkien’s universe, evil is real, but there are genuinely good and noble characters fighting against it. In Martin’s universe, soldiers are almost invariably cruel and sadistic. Tolkien’s view of war, focused on heroism and self-sacrifice, came from manly personal experience. The man who fought found hope. The man who didn’t fight preaches hopelessness.