Wednesday, May 30, 2018

There be dragons

There is a new facsimile of the first edition of The Hobbit. It appears to be boxed and comes with "an exclusive CD of archive recordings that capture Tolkien reading from The Hobbit, a special copy of Thror's map which reveals the secret moon-runes when held to the light, and an accompanying booklet that relates the history of The Hobbit, and includes connected writings by JRR Tolkien." One of the "connected writings" is a previously unpublished lecture about "Dragons" that Tolkien delivered to a group of children in 1938. The essay has been excerpted at a couple of Tolkien related sites:
But though the dragon might be of a primordial and immeasurable size beyond the power of hero, his real dread did not lie in his armour, or his teeth, or in his size. The dragon may have been ‘founded on worm’ but he was more terrible than any dinosaur. Because he was filled with a terrible spirit. The legend-makers put it in him. He was filled with malice. Not only the mere animal fierceness that fights for food and mate, or to defend a coveted hole, but with hatred of other living things as such. A dragon made a desert. He rejoiced in destruction and his wicked heart was fired by a smouldering and envious guess at the work of the things destroyed. Legend had filled him with evil, and he grew strong on that terrible gift: he was cunning, deadly, bitter and piercingly keen …. His glance has a terrible effect if it holds yours. He may seek to bind your will. At least that was the way of old dragons, who had lived long in wickedness. Also he will probably try to find out your name. For dragons also deal in evil magic, and even when defeated may (if they have your name) curse you as they die.