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Sam Tarly Could Finish ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ Before George R.R. Martin Does

A scene from “Stormborn” hints at a poetic ending for Sam the Slayer

(Getty Images/HBO/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/HBO/Ringer illustration)

Three years ago at San Diego Comic-Con, George R.R. Martin was asked which Song of Ice and Fire character he identifies with.

"I would probably be Samwell Tarly," Martin said. "Tyrion might be who I want to be, but Sam is probably closer to who I actually am. The fat kid who likes to read books and doesn’t like to go up a lot of stairs."

Some two years later, in an interview with The Telegraph, John Bradley, who plays Sam, was asked if Martin was the inspiration for his character. "That’s what I’ve been told," Bradley said. "If you look at it, there are a lot of similarities."

The analogy makes sense, and there are a number of fan theories that posit that Sam is the true narrator of ASOIAF, or that he will author a series of books detailing the events of the series after the saga is over. Since Sam has spent the most time with Jon Snow and seen White Walkers firsthand, he’s well-positioned to provide that perspective. There’s even a precedent for it in fantasy literature. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, it’s revealed that Bilbo Baggins authored There and Back Again, his memoir that is supposed to mirror The Hobbit, after his journey was complete.

That brings us to a scene between Archmaester Ebrose and Sam in the Citadel library from this week’s episode, "Stormborn." The two are gathering books for research on the tome Archmaester Ebrose is writing. Sam begins the scene holding five books (the same number George R.R. Martin has completed).

(HBO)
(HBO)

Archmaester Ebrose then throws a sixth book on top as he begins lecturing Sam.

"If you’re going to write histories, Tarly, you have to do the research," Archmaester Ebrose says. "If you want people to read your histories, you need a bit of style. I’m not writing The Chronicles of the Wars Following the Death of King Robert I so it can sit on a shelf unread."

Sam doesn’t respond. "What?" Archmaester Ebrose asks. "You don’t like the title? What would you call it then?"

"Possibly something a bit more … poetic," Sam replies. He then changes the topic to address an experimental treatment for Jorah’s greyscale and is quickly denied. By the time the scene ends, Sam has eight books in his hands (the number many fans expect A Song of Ice and Fire to be if it’s ever completed).

(HBO)
(HBO)

In a season sliced to seven episodes, every second of screen time matters. At the pinnacle of Sam’s quest, he gets nearly a minute’s worth of advice on how to write a series of books. This cannot be a coincidence this late in the game of a story that is religiously detail-oriented and regularly plants seeds for seemingly every significant plot development. Sam, not Archmaester Ebrose, is going to write The Chronicles of the Wars Following the Death of King Robert I. And that "poetic" title is going to be A Song of Ice and Fire.

(HBO/Getty Images)
(HBO/Getty Images)

Looking at them side by side, Martin could easily play an elderly Sam writing the show’s history in an epilogue after the final episode. That would bring us an unlikely conclusion: Game of Thrones ending with George R.R. Martin finishing the books.

For the first few seasons, Martin was on good terms with showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. He served as a consultant for the show, offered his thoughts on casting, and wrote a few key episodes. But as the series surpassed the books and Benioff and Weiss were forced to condense or skip some of Martin’s story lines, a clear rift between the author and the show’s producers emerged. A Song of Ice and Fire has become more popular than Martin could possibly have imagined when he started writing it in 1991, but in a heartbreaking twist worthy of his own books, he won’t be the one to finish his story. "Television moves very fast," Martin told Time on July 13. "And unfortunately I don’t write as fast as that in terms of the books. So even as late as that meeting [with Benioff and Weiss in 2007], I never dreamed that the show would catch up to the books, but it has, so we are where we are now. And hopefully we’re taking two roads to the same destination."

Sam becoming a hero in the Wars to Come and then authoring the historical narrative would be the show’s grand acknowledgment of the man whose imagination enraptured a generation and would serve as the most meaningful olive branch possible from the showrunners. Like Jon Snow, Game of Thrones is a legitimized bastard of the ASOIAF books. By giving Sam the responsibility of chronicling the show’s in-world narrative, Game of Thrones could honor its creator with an homage to the man who started it all.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.