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Sneakily taking the hinges off the doors of perception

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Christine Kelley

Christine Kelley writes about speculative fiction and radical politics from a queer revolutionary perspective. Currently her main project is Nowhere and Back Again, a psychogeography of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Her first project was the now semi-retired blog Dreams of Orgonon, a song-by-song study of Kate Bush.Support Christine on Patreon.

1 Comment

  1. Doug M.
    January 29, 2022 @ 11:32 am

    Dragons are pack animals: that doesn’t seem right. There’s a mass of dragons in the War of Wrath, but Glaurung is very much a solo player, as is the worm Scatha who turns up in the Appendixes. And while the dwarves of the Grey Mountains are attacked and eventually driven out by “dragons”, there’s nothing that tells us whether this is a group of dragons working together or a series of uncoordinated attacks.

    Smaug as the last dragon: maybe? On the other hand, in FotR Gandalf says “It has been said that dragon-fire could melt and consume the rings of power but there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough, nor was there ever any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the One Ring…”

    Now, if Gandalf knew that dragons went extinct with Smaug, he’d have said something like “there are no dragons left, or so I believe”. Instead he says “there is not now any dragon left… /in which the old fire is hot enough/.” That pretty clearly suggests that there are dragons, or anyway that Gandalf believes there are, even if they’re relatively feeble things compared to the terrors of yore.

    And let’s note that an age of fewer and weaker dragons would be entirely consistent with Tolkein’s world. The Third Age is a time when wonders are declining, are greatly diminished in glory or number or both, but are not yet gone altogether.

    Finally, let’s note that killing a dragon is, in Tolkien’s world, an altogether positive and heroic act. There’s nothing good about dragons; they’re creatures of greed and cruelty and raw destruction, and they wreak nothing but harm. They’re Morgoth’s creations, through and through. So if Bard had killed the world’s last dragon, you’d expect people to take note of it, and make a bigger issue of it.

    TLDR, Smaug as the very last dragon is a heck of a leap, and I don’t think it’s well supported by the text.

    Doug M.

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