‘Medieval Monsters’ by Damien Kempf and Maria L. Gilbert {BookTalk}

BookTalk is a series of blog posts, where I discuss non-Tolkien books in concise and honest reviews. Read on dear reader …

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Medieval Monsters book cover

Many a time I find myself in awe at images and scans of beautifully-crafted manuscripts from the Middle Ages, often wondering what some of the strange, yet colourful creatures adorning the margins actually are or even symbolise. Continue reading

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Fun Post: Scatha the Worm (Smaug’s brother?)

Scatha.jpg

Image by Jeff Murray (JeffMurray.com)

Between Tolkien’s three major Middle-earth works, there is a small number of references to dragons, but even less so have been attributed with particular names or involved in specific events.

Scatha the Worm is one of those rare named dragons about whom we know almost nothing, but this presents an excellent opportunity to analyse and speculate briefly. Continue reading

Explained: Dragon-talk and Dragon-sickness

Smaug

I thought it would be a good idea to spend just a few minutes understanding the concept of “dragon-talk” and “dragon-sickness”. I have always found that many people confuse the two as being one and the same. Moreover, with the advent of the film trilogy, this distinction between them seems to have disappeared completely.

So, whilst I claim to be no Tolkien expert, here’s my take on the issue.

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Wind on the Withered Heath

withered heath (map)

Whence come the dragons …

Within Tolkien’s works there are only two instances in which the Withered Heath is mentioned, and both come from The Hobbit.

The first (and only) time we get to know about this place is from a comment made by Thorin during the ‘Unexpected Party’.

“And I know where Mirkwood is, and the Withered Heath where the great dragons bred.”

The Hobbit, ‘An Unexpected Party’

Whilst my curious reader-appetite has been satisfied, I’ve always wanted to know more about this particular location in Middle-earth. Continue reading

On Were-worms

Were-worm

Hunting the elusive creature

You pick up a copy of The Hobbit and start reading the first chapter.

Halfway through you encounter the following statement made by Bilbo Baggins:

“Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert.”

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TTRT: The Silmarillion – Chapter Twenty-One

Turin slays Beleg (header)

Tolkien as a “Dark Fantasy” Author

Way back in time, when this blog was but a few days old, I wrote a two-part post (Part I & Part II) on why I considered Tolkien might be categorised under the sub-literary branch of “dark fantasy”.

‘Of Túrin Turambar’ is the second of the Great Tales in The Silmarllion. Undoubtedly, it is also the greatest (both in terms of length and detailed narrative composition).

It’s a dark tale full of ups and downs (with certainly more downs than ups); where a glimmer of hope in the story turns out to be nothing more than an illusion.

It can also be a tough read at first. Thankfully, it’s a standalone story within The Silmarillion narrative and only a few past events and characters bear upon this chapter in any real way.

If you’ve read the previous chapter (‘Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad’) then you’re on the right track; the consequences of that battle are a direct influence on the successive events.

I’m sure you’re aware of the recent publication The Children of Húrin: a significantly expanded version of the chapter found in The Silmarillion. If you’re new to this story, I suggest you go through the chapter first and then proceed to reading the full tale once you’ve grasped the concept of the story.

In the meantime, here’s my own pitiful summary (spoilers ahead). Continue reading

Character Profile: Smaug

Smaug the Stupendous – One dragon to rule them all

I’ve already described a few times (for instance, here), the brilliant qualities of Tolkien’s most beloved (and feared) dragon. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Peter Jackson and his team spent a long time trying to get everything just right.

Tolkien presents us with Smaug as the greatest dragon of the Third Age, a fire-breathing, winged creature capable of inflicting damage and destruction both through sheer physical strength and hypnotic-like speech.
Continue reading