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Dragons

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J.R.R. Tolkien - Dragon.jpg
Dragons, Drakes, Worms
Race
LanguagesVarious Mannish and Elvish tongues[1]
Lifespan"Long and slow"[2]
MembersGlaurung, Ancalagon, Scatha, Smaug
"Never laugh at live dragons."
Bilbo Baggins[3]

Dragons were created by Morgoth out of fire and sorcery sometime before the First Age of the Sun, when Glaurung first appeared.

Contents

History

Scouring the Mountain by Ted Nasmith

The origin and early history of dragons

Seeing the strength of the Noldor in battle, Melkor realized that orcs alone were not sufficient to defeat his enemies. He therefore began to breed a new race of monsters: the dragons.[4]

[...]

At the Fall of Gondolin, Morgoth's foul host included dragons, "many and terrible".[5]

The re-emergence of dragons

[...]

In the late Third Age the dragons bred in the Northern Waste and Withered Heath north of the Ered Mithrin, stirred by the return of Evil, and began to make war with the Dwarves around year 2570 (Dáin I and Frór of Durin's folk were killed by a great cold-drake in 2589).[6][7] It was perhaps in these wars that dragons swallowed four of the Seven Dwarf-rings.[8]

[...]

Although Smaug was the greatest of the dragons of his day,[7] he seems not to have been the last of his kind as Gandalf told Frodo that "there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough [to melt the Rings of Power]",[8] indicating the presence of other, lesser dragons.

Characteristics

Taxonomy

Tolkien designed his own taxonomic system for dragons, based on two factors:[source?]

Means of locomotion

  • Some dragons (Scatha) had no legs, or front legs alone, and crawled like snakes.
  • Others (Glaurung) walked on four legs, like a Komodo dragon or some other lizard.
  • A third type (Ancalagon, Smaug) could both walk on four legs and fly using wings. Winged-dragons only first appeared during the War of Wrath, the battle that ended the First Age, so all dragons introduced before the end of the First Age couldn't fly (such as Glaurung), although breeds of wingless dragons did survive into later ages.

Fire breathing

  • The Urulóki (singular Urulokë, Fire-drakes) could breathe fire. It is not entirely clear whether the term "Uruloki" referred only to the first dragons such as Glaurung that could breathe fire but were wingless, or to any dragon that could breathe fire, and thus include Smaug.
  • The Cold-drakes could not.

Other characteristics

The dragons also shared a love of treasure (especially gold), subtle intelligence, immense cunning, great physical strength, and a hypnotic power called "dragon-spell". The best way to talk to a dragon under the circumstances of this spell (when it was questioning you) was to not directly give it the information it wanted, as this would compromise you and your friends, but not to flat out deny it an answer, because this would anger it to violence. Therefore, the best way to talk to the dragon is to be vague and speak in riddles- apparently dragons find it hard to resist wasting time with riddles.

Dragon-fire (of the Urulóki) was hot enough to melt Rings of Power: four of the Seven Rings of the Dwarves were consumed by Dragon-fire, although it was not powerful enough to destroy the One Ring itself.[8]

Individual dragons

  • Glaurung — Father of Dragons, slain by Túrin Turambar. First of the Uruloki, the Fire-drakes of Angband. He had four legs and could breathe fire, but didn't have wings.
  • Ancalagon the Black — first and mightiest of the Winged-dragons, slain by Eärendil in the War of Wrath.
  • Scatha — Slain by Fram of the Éothéod. Apparently a cold-drake. Described as a "long-worm", although this imparticular term seems to be more of an expression rather than a separate taxonomic group.
  • Smaug — the last great dragon of Middle-earth, slain by Bard of Esgaroth. A winged Urulokë.
  • An unnamed dragon appears in Hobbit verse, said to have had red eyes, black wings and teeth like knives.[9]

Etymology

Dragon is derived from French; drake is an English word, from Old English draca (derived from Latin).[10]

Other fiction

A dragon named Chrysophylax appears in J.R.R. Tolkien's story Farmer Giles of Ham.

In the story Roverandom, white dragons are among the creatures living on the moon. A dragon, called the Great White Dragon, attacks Rover and the moon-dog, and is said to be the origin of all white dragons. In Merlin's time, this dragon had been to the earth, and fought with the Red Dragon in Caerdragon. The Great White Dragon has wings and can breath fire.[11]

Portrayal in adaptations

Portrayal in games

Middle-earth Role Playing

Apart from the type of dragons created by Tolkien, additional races include Rain-drakes, Light-drakes, Ash Drakes and several others.[12]

The Lord of the Rings Online

Dragon-kind include several type of drakes: Cold-, Fire- and Shadow-drakes, Fire-worms, Rock-worms, and many more. A related beast is the salamander or eft, a weaker and simpler breed of dragons.[13]

See also

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Leila Keene and Pat Kirke 3 August 1943" (letter); quoted in J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Appendix on Languages", "Note on an unpublished letter", pp. 72-73
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Return of the Noldor"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §115
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk"
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "The Hoard"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Short Glossary of Obsolete, Archaic, and Rare Words", p. 350
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien; Christina Scull, Wayne G. Hammond (eds.), Roverandom, "[Chapter] 2"
  12. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
  13. "Dragon-kind" at Lord of the Rings Online: Lorebook (accessed 28 October 2010)