Strange as it may seem, it wasn't that long ago that studios treated epic fantasies like the plague. In all fairness, a great fantasy saga is hard to pull off. The sheer amount of necessary world-building involved is pretty mind blowing. There needs to be a detailed map, the rules involving magic, royalty, and so on must be consistent. Complex history is always rewarded by the fans, rather than avoided. But when Peter Jackson actually turned J.R.R. Tolkien's classic trilogy of novels into box office gold, not to mention scooping up some Academy Awards, the doors to epic fantasy adaptations were blown off the hinges. By 2011, George R.R. Martin's dark, adult Westeros world was adapted into the now hugely successful HBO series Game of Thrones.
Though both Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones belong to the same genre, the differences between both franchises are pretty major. But one thing that is similar between both worlds, however, is that they are filled with a wealth of beloved characters, many of whom possess seriously weird, wacky names.
Now, we pose a challenge to all you fantasy geeks out there: do you know the difference? Can you name whether these fantasy characters come from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings?
This likable, everyday young fellow from the Shire falls into a lot of situations that are above his head, and is often tempted by an unknown dark side within him. But still, he perseveres through the many struggles ahead of him, even as the weight of that darkness hangs heavier and heavier on a chain around his neck. If he survives to the end of his series, it will certainly take its toll upon him, since he'll never be able to go back to being the boy he was before.
Taken as a boy from the Summer Islands, the boy who would be renamed Grey Worm was brutalized, and forced to be one of the Unsullied, a force of warrior slaves for the Good Masters of Astapor. It was a harsh life, and he did not believe he would ever be free. But when the Unsullied are freed from their chains, they choose of their own free will to serve the queen who broke them out of slavery, and Grey Worm is selected to be their new leader. Ever since that day, he has always been loyal to her.
Famous for telling people how one "does not simply..." do a... well, a certain task, Boromir is played by Sean Bean. He is a brave warrior, skilled with a sword, who has fought successfully in many, many battles, but he is perhaps not fully prepared for the inner battle that we see him face on screen. He has a younger brother, Faramir, who appears later. Overall, Boromir is a brave, noble character who is unlucky enough to meet a tragic, brutal end far earlier than audiences expected.
The son of Arathorn II and his wife Gilraen, and the rightful king of his lands, this character -- also known as Strider, and later Elessar Telcontar -- is first introduced as a shadowy, rather mysterious figure. It turns out that his heritage was purposely kept a secret from him for most of his life. He is a natural leader, a fierce combatant, and a noble, classical hero. He is in love with Arwen, the daughter of Elrond. He is played by Viggo Mortenson.
Originally believed to be the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark, it is later revealed that Jon may have somewhat... different origins than what we originally believed. An outcast since he was young, Jon ends up "taking the black" and joining the Night's Watch, in order to defend the northern wall, alongside his trusty and loyal direwolf, Ghost. He is played by Kit Harington. His supposed "death" sequence was definitely one of the most talked about cliffhangers in fantasy history.
Hey, listen, dragons are characters too! Of the three dragons that are hatched from those ancient eggs in the flames, the one known as Drogon is the biggest and most animalistic of them, which is only fitting; after all, he is the one named after the late Khal Drogo. This dragon serves as the loyal mount to the dragon queen that hatched him. Though Drogon is first introduced as a tiny little dragon, throughout the story, he ages into being quite a massive, intimidating beast.
Arya was always a rebellious little girl, who eschewed the gender roles imposed upon her, and much preferred learning how to use a sword and go on adventures. But after the death of her father, and much of her family, Arya takes an increasingly dark and disturbed turn, between learning how to wear the faces of other people, and being responsible for some pretty gruesome murders. She also keeps a memorized list of everyone she wants to kill. Her famous sword is named Needle.
Though born to the most privileged family in the land, Tyrion's birth caused the death of his mother, and his father has never forgiven him for it... or for the fact that he is a dwarf, a fact which has led to the unfortunate nickname "the imp." However, Tyrion is one of the most clever, brilliant men in the kingdom, capable of outsmarting almost anyone he runs into. He's also proven to be surprisingly brave, loyal, and caring, though he does prefer to spend most of his time drinking wine and cracking sarcastic quips.
Every great story needs an equally great villain, and it is hard to get scarier than Sauron, an ancient force of nature that lords over Mount Doom. Sauron usually appears as a giant, flaming eye looking over the landscape, but he also has a "Mouth," as well. Everyone in the land trembles at the mere name of Sauron, and if he wins at the end, then it is some seriously bad news for the world and every person in it.
The first hero depicted in his respective series, Bilbo is a good natured, friendly, and warmhearted little guy who really, really just wants to stay at home, sit by a fireplace, and curl up with a good book. Seriously, there's probably nothing that this guy wants to do less than go out on crazy and dangerous adventures. However, fate calls upon him to perform a highly important task, and surprisingly enough, he actually does a rather good job at it, we think.
Hey, as we said before, dragons count as characters. This ancient beast is crafty, intelligent, and well spoken... but he's also paranoid, jealous, and in the end, far too overconfident. Smaug has a bit of a thing for gold, and has no problem invading and taking over an entire mountain so he can hoard the gold of others all to himself. When others come to take the mountain back from him, his vengeance causes devastating carnage upon the surrounding village. He has a weakness, though...
Let's face it, when we think of wizards, this is probably the face that jumps immediately to mind. Gandalf, played by Sir Ian McKellen, is pretty much the wizard of all wizards, whether he's Gandalf the Grey or Gandalf the White. Gandalf is the oldest and wisest of the main characters in his respective series, and he is the one who all of the others look to for guidance. He has one of the most epic death sequences in fantasy history.
Lord Eddard "Ned"
Played by Sean Bean, this character is a good, noble, righteous man who always tries to do the right thing, no matter what complicated situations are put before him. Unfortunately, the new role that is appointed to him by the king ends up putting him in over his head, as he drowns in a sea of political intrigue, lies, and deceptions. In the end, his efforts to be honest and good in a corrupt city leads to him dying a tragic death.
This royal elf, perhaps the most powerful elf remaining in her land, has also been called the Lady of Light, the Lady of Lórien, the Lady of the Galadhrim, and the Lady of the Golden Wood. She is the daughter of Eärwen and Prince Finarfin. Galadriel is not one of the main characters of her series, but she plays a role of great assistance to them, and is at one point tempted by the dark power that they carry -- though she turns it down, knowing it could corrupt her.
Arwen Undómiel, whose name means "noble maiden," is the youngest child of Elrond and Celebrían, which makes her also a direct descendant of the great House of Hador. She is the long lost love of Aragorn, the rightful king of his lands. Though she is not part of the main group, she assists them at times, at one point summoning a flood in order to save the protagonist from the Black Riders at Bruinen. In her fantasy series, she is played by Liv Tyler.
You would be hard pressed to find a character more loathed than Ramsay Bolton. A sick, sadistic, and jealous sociopath, Ramsay feels no empathy for anyone around him, and enjoys violently playing with people's minds, emotions, and bodies in his quest for power. Ramsay is so bloodthirsty that he earns the disgust of even his fellow villains. In the end, though, his gruesome ways catch up to him... but not before he's damaged a lot of innocent people in his path.
Few characters in fantasy have undergone such an epic transformation as this one, who goes from an abused and submissive slave girl into the most powerful, prominent, and respected leader in the world. Daenerys has broken the chains of slaves, awakened dragons, overthrown tyrannical dictatorships, and earned the loyalty and respect of men far and wide. Though she's made some missteps along the way, she's also shown a good ability to learn from her mistakes, and tries to surround herself with only the smartest and most trustworthy advisors.
It's hard to imagine a more unlikable, spoiled, rotten, and vindictive little kid than Joffrey Baratheon, who unfortunately ends up ascending to the throne and causing all kinds of death, wars, and many other events that really should have been avoided. He doesn't like it when people don't listen to him, and tends to whine that he's the king, and should always be listened to. Unfortunately for Joffrey, no one likes him except his mother, so his reign on the throne ends up being a lot shorter than he might have hoped it would be.
Oh Hodor, Hodor, Hodor. We still miss you. Though his name isn't actually Hodor; that's just the only word that he says, over and over, and when the reason that he says Hodor was finally revealed, it brought tears to the eyes of everyone in the audience. Hodor is a simple, loyal man who protects a little boy named Bran with everything he's got, for mysterious reasons that are deeper than we realize at first. Hodor is played by Kristian Nairn.
A sick, slithering, crafty little man, Grima uses his role as an advisor to the king as a way of manipulating events to go in the way that his true master, a dark lord, wants them to go. To do this, he uses false flattery, lies, sycophancy, manipulations, and whatever it takes. He is more commonly known not by his regular name of Grima, but instead by the less than flattering label of "Wormtongue," which definitely isn't a name that most people would be happy with.
Just like her siblings, Sansa has been through a lot of hard, painful events since she was first introduced to audiences... including the death of her parents, and multiple arranged marriages, both of which led to her association with two violent sociopaths that no one should have to share a room with. These horrible circumstances mean that Sansa is forced into adulthood fast, and she ends up being a brilliant manipulator in her own right. She also grows a bit of a ruthless side herself.
After a childhood prophecy that didn't bode well for her, Queen Cersei has grown into a vindictive, selfish woman willing to kill, maim, and torture any person who ever gets in her way -- with her one sensitive spot being her undying loyalty to her children, who she is willing to protect with everything inside her. Other than that, Cersei engages in a lot of disturbing, immoral habits that make everyone around her pretty uncomfortable, including having sex with her brother.
The archer is here! Legolas is a Sindarin elf, a prince of the Woodland Realm, and the son of Thranduil of Mirkwood. Legolas is one of the most important and valuable heroes in his respective fantasy saga, saving the day on multiple occasions with his many fine tuned skills. He is also known for becoming close friends with a certain dwarf on this list, a rare companionship that lasts throughout both of their lives. He is played by Orlando Bloom.
Watch out. Seriously. Don't confuse this wizard for a good old, good natured, smiling figure like Gandalf. Saruman, played by the great and remembered Christopher Lee, was once the chief of the wizards, and a member of the White Council. But after years of delving deeper and deeper into the practice of black magic, his personality and interests begin to shift, until he joins forces with the dark powers that are seeking to overtake the land, and betrays his former friends.
Khal Drogo is a powerful, mighty, manly leader within the ranks of the Dothraki, a horse riding nation of warriors who abide by old codes, old ways, and old rituals, many of which involve horses. Drogo is one of the most powerful and respected of all of the Khals, and when he takes a certain wife, he never suspects that she will someday grow even more powerful than him... or that she'll name a certain mythological beast after him. Khal Drogo is played by Jason Momoa.
Though he was once a regular little guy named Smeagol, years of isolation, obsession, greediness, and loneliness have turned Smeagol into the slimy and disturbed creature known as Gollum, who spent countless decades living alone in a cave. Years ago, Gollum was robbed of a powerful item he calls "his precious," the same item that destroyed him. Ever since then, he has been desperate to get it back. There's good within Gollum, still, but the battle between the two personalities within him is always tense and changing.
Smart, crafty, duplicitous -- but with a good heart, and a seemingly genuine desire to help the less fortunate -- Margaery is willing to do whatever it takes to ascend to the throne, and help fix the problems within the kingdom, even if it means marrying a rather unpleasant king. However, Margaery runs into problems with the King's mother, and the involvement of a strict and insane holy man makes things go from bad to worse rather quickly. She is played by Natalia Dormer.
Sandor Clegane, better known as "The Hound," is a brutal and murderous man, but his brother Gregor Clegane is even worse. In fact, those rather unsightly scars on his face are the result of a childhood incident with his brother, who goes by the nickname "the Mountain." This has left him with a distaste for fire, and an absolute hatred for his brother, whom he'd be very happy to kill one day in the future. Sandor Clegane is played by Rory McCann.
Tyrion Lannister isn't the only dwarf on this quiz. Gimli is a member of Durin's Folk, and is a highly honorable soldier, who can break his way in and out of battle with the best of them. Gimli begins not having particularly fond feelings for the elves, like many dwarves, but later develops a friendship with one particular elf who serves as an ally alongside him. If you ever want a dwarf to swing a heavy ax for you, this is the guy to call.
Samwise Gamgee, more commonly just referred to as Sam, is the best friend a person could ever have: loyal, stubborn, willing to trudge against any difficult landscape if necessary, or even carry you to the rest of the way. Sam begins the story as a simple gardener, but ends up getting involved in the dark adventures ahead after eavesdropping on some important conversations. Later on, he ends up becoming elected mayor for seven terms, which he probably was very good at. He is played by Sean Astin.
Éowyn is the daughter of Théodwyn and Éomund, but due to her parents dying when she was young, she was raised by her uncle. From childhood on, she longs for the glory of battle, but due to being a woman, is not allowed. However, her most important scene comes when she disguises herself, and comes face to face with the Witch-King, who according to a prophecy could never be stopped by a man... at which point Éowyn reveals herself as a woman, and slays him. Éowyn is played by actress Miranda Otto.
Melisandre of Asshai, sometimes called the Red Woman, is a powerful, ancient sorceress; a "shadowbinder" of unknown and unimaginable abilities, who serves a figure she calls the Lord of Light. She is seemingly capable of seeing prophetic visions in the fire, and has been responsible for some pretty horrible atrocities, as well as acts like resurrection. Melisandre's motivations are still somewhat mysterious, but she is loyal to her faith, viewing the other religions of the land as being blasphemous against her Lord.
The Ents are an ancient, tree-like race of sentient creatures in the forest of Fangorn, and Treebeard is the eldest of them all. He is a massive creature, a spirit inhabiting a tree, with characteristics that are both humanoid and plantlike. He can say more than just "I am Groot," though, so that's something. Treebeard and the other Ents have a strong hatred of orcs. Treebeard is obviously a CGI creation, but his voice is performed by actor John Rhys-Davies.
Brienne of Tarth
Brienne of House Tarth is the only daughter of Lord Selwyn, is tall, muscular, and one of the most skilled knights in all of the land; she believes strongly in the ideals of knighthood, chivalry, and nobility. Often mocked or derided for her masculine appearance, Brienne has proven herself valiant, strong, and capable of defeating any man in battle. When she dedicates herself to a mission, there is nothing that will stop her. Brienne is played by actress Gwendoline Christie.
Though his actual name is Peregrin Took, he is far more commonly known as Pippin. Together with his best friend and cousin, Meriadoc Brandybuck -- who, like Pippin, is better known by the nickname "Merry" -- the two make a fun, gleeful, likable pair. Pippin is the son of Paladin Took II. His real name means "traveler in strange countries," which he certainly does over the course of the series, and at one point even joins the Army of the West.
Dragons are characters, and so are giant, man-eating spiders, as much as some of the more arachnophobic among us may not like to think about them. Shelob the spider, sometimes referred to as Shelob the Great or "Her Sneak," is a deadly monster, who almost succeeds in killing (and eating) one of the protagonists, until his best friends saves him. She usually paralyzes her victims before webbing them up, as spiders are prone to do, and has a fearsome set of fangs.
If you're going to trust anyone, in any fantasy mythology, make sure that it is not this guy. Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, played by Aidan Gillen, is one of the sneakiest, most conniving, most deceptive individuals imaginable. He's only out for himself, but he's more than happy to make you think that he's on your side... up until he sinks a dagger in your back. Though very few people are naive enough to trust him, he's good enough at his job that he's risen to be one of the land's biggest power players.
Wizard, wizards, everywhere! Well, not that many, but still. Played by Sylvester McCoy, Radagast is probably the most eccentric magic user we've seen yet, which is saying something considering how weird some of those people get. Unlike the more isolated wizards out there, Radagast is actually quite social... though the beings he prefers to socialize with are animals, rather than people. He travels the hillside on a sled pulled by rabbits, and birds nest in his hair. He is the one who discovers a necromancer in the old fortress.
Ygritte is a wildling, the people trapped above the Wall -- though the Wildlings prefer to call themselves the "Free Folk." She is known for her fierce demeanor and her red hair, which in the culture of the Free Folk is referred to as being "kissed by fire," and seen as a sign of good luck. She is a skilled archer. Her death comes after she is unable to kill the man she loves, a man whom she views as having betrayed her.
Lord Varys, also known as the Spider, might look like the happy, smiling Budai, but don't fall for it. Varys is a crafty and intelligent mastermind who can turn on a dime if the situation demands it. That said, his motives appear to be a bit more humanist than some of his selfish coworkers even if his methods are certainly hostile. He is known for being a eunuch, a fact that some have argued is the reason he's so powerful. Varys is played by actor Conleth Hill.
He's not a nice guy. He's not a loyal guy. He's not even a good person, or anything close to it. But if you are in a fix, you need some protection, and if you have the money to cough up for it, Bronn is your man (but only if you've got the money). Bronn is extremely upfront about his motives, unlike many around him, and his morals are pretty much nonexistent, but he does enjoy sharing a drink with those he considers friends. Sort of. He is played by Jerome Flynn.
This dwarf wants nothing more than to go back home, with his friends and family, and take care of the little dragon problem that's ruined it for generations. However, Thorin isn't always the easiest guy to get along with. When he does reclaim his home and crown himself as king, unfortunately, he ends up being pretty resistant to the idea of sharing all of the wealth there, despite previous promises. This ends up erupting in a massive war between multiple armies, wherein Thorin perishes.
Ah, poor Oberyn, we barely knew ye. Amidst the grim and disturbed personalities around him, Oberyn Martell was a fanciful, sarcastic breath of fresh air, with a relatable quest to avenge the death of his sister. He is openly bisexual, and a brilliant fighter, nicknamed the "Red Viper." Played by Pedro Pascal, Oberyn is a fan favorite character, but unfortunately, when he goes to battle against a rather enormous opponent in defense of a wrongly accused man, things don't fare too well for him.
Good old Robb, the elder son, the one who is so much like his father. After his father dies tragically, Robb's boyhood comes to a crashing halt far quicker than he is ready for. Nonetheless, he overcomes all of the obstacles in his way and leads an entire army in a manner that his deceased father would have been proud of. Unfortunately, he underestimates the treachery of his enemies, leading to a horrific event that people usually refer to as "the Red Wedding."
The seventeenth king of Rohan is Théoden, who rules for 40 years and grows increasingly old, weary, and misled by his wormy chief advisor. This dark, terrible influence upon Théoden leads the kingdom astray for many years, falling deeper and deeper into the grasp of sinister forces. Finally, though, he is able to release himself from the hold of his advisor, and redeem what has happened in the past. Théoden is played by Bernard Hill.
Proud, strong, stern, stubborn, and loyal, Lady Catelyn is originally from House Tully in Riverrun, but she marries into a very different house in the wintery northern part of the continent. Catelyn is a brilliant, underrated tactician, as well as a beloved mother to a handful of children who, for the most part, retain the honest and brave qualities of both their parents. However, Catelyn resents her husband's bastard son, and her husband for incorporating that son into the family.
Jaime is a handsome, blonde, privileged knight that, within a few scenes of his first appearance, garners quite a bit of viewer dislike by pushing a young boy out of a window. However, Jaime is also widely derided around the land as well, known by many as "the Kingslayer" for having previously murdered the king he served, a notable breaking of his vows, even though the king had gone mad. As the story continues, Jaime proves to be a more complex character than originally suspected, with some surprisingly deep loyalties to his brother and sister.
Though a rather minor, almost nonexistent character in the books, Azog's role was expanded greatly upon when he was adapted to live action. In the media adaptation, Azog is a white-skinned orc played by Manu Bennett, and is a primary antagonist, shown to be incredibly cruel, vicious, and bloodthirsty. He speaks only in the Black Speech, not English, and is driven by a person vow to wipe out the entire line of Durin. He ends up perishing during a war between multiple forces.
The husband of a character that appeared much earlier on this list, Celeborn -- whose name means "silver tree" -- is, like his wife, an elf, and he is also the lord of Galadhrim. His wife refers to him as Celeborn the Wise. He is the son of Galadhon, and the grandson of Elmo. Eventually, he leaves for the Grey Havens and sails off to the Undying Lands. He appears only briefly in the films, where he is played by Marton Csokas.
The Night's Watch are afraid of this guy, the leader of the Free Folk, the one who those on the other side of the Wall call "The King Beyond the Wall." He was actually once part of the Night's Watch himself, but he fled to join the Free Folk in the cold, hard, wintery lands of the north, and has since then risen to the very top of their ranks -- not due to nobility or name, but simply because the Free Folk chose for him to be their leader. He is played by Ciarán Hinds.