WHY SMAUG IS A BETTER DRAGON THAN GRENDEL.

WHY SMAUG IS A BETTER DRAGON THAN GRENDEL. Smaug is featured in the second of the Hobbit movies, which just opened. Annalisa called my attention to this article by Lauren Davis on the io9 site which discusses how Tolkien felt about dragons. Davis asks why Smaug is important even though our current media landscape is awash with dragons. She quotes lectures by Tolkien which tell how much he longed for dragons because they were otherworldly : “The dragon had the trade-mark Of Fairie written upon him. In whatever world he had his being it was an Other-world. Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was a profound desire. I desired dragons with a profound desire.”

Tolkien faults Grendel, the dragon from BEOWULF “for not being dragon enough, plain pure fairy-story dragon.” At another point, he says: “I don’t think the Beowulf one is frightfully good.” His objection is that Grendel is too much of an allegorical figure. What Tolkien wants in a dragon is bestiality and thought of its own. He speaks of dragons he approves of as “worms”. He loved language and the Anglo-Saxon word for dragon was “wyrm”. Tolkien praises a passage in BEOWULF where Grendel is “real worm”: “as tha se wyrm onwoc,” (“By then, also, the dragon had wakened”)

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One Response to WHY SMAUG IS A BETTER DRAGON THAN GRENDEL.

  1. Dick Weisfelder says:

    Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books have wonderful dragons that sometimes are described in wormlike terms. They are otherworldly in the sense of being part of an older era that is passing, much like the elves and wizards in Lord of the Rings.

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