Tales from The Perilous Realm – and Perilous and Not-So-Perilous Dragons

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I love getting side-tracked. I’ve been keeping up with my Tolkien reading this month, but after discovering my friend Travis hadn’t read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman after he asked me if I had seen the Golden Compass movie, I’ve re-read the whole trilogy again. He’s finished book two but I cheated (couldn’t help myself) and finished book three a couple of days ago. I’ve got the short stories Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North to read, which I haven’t read before. But is there anything better than seeing someone else discover books that you love for the first time? It’s only the third time I have read them, and each time I read them they amaze me.

At the moment I’m still reading Tolkien mythology, but I am meandering a little with The Children of Hurin. Not because I don’t enjoy the story, but because I am dreading the ending. It was previously told in Unfinished Tales and published in its entirety in 2007, and this is the first time I am reading the full publication. Hurin’s tale is introduced in The Silmarillion, and The Battle of Unnumbered Tears always guts me

Last of all Hurin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and seized the axe of an orc-captain and wielded it two-handed; and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered, and each time he slew Hurin cried aloud: “Aure entuluva! Day shall come again!”

So I’ve been re-reading Tales of the Perilous Realm, which I just finished. The paperback pictured above actually doesn’t contain Roverandom (it’s from 2002 and I had a hard time finding it too) like the current paperback printing (which I will now have to order) so I’ll have to dig out my old first edition.

Of his children’s stories though, I still love Farmer Giles of Ham. Chrysophylax is a real comical villain, not the sort of dragon I was used to at all when I read it for the first time. Where Smaug is of course arrogant, and of course arrogance always leads to a villain’s downfall, he is certainly vicious. Chrysophylax’s ego never got him killed. How many dragons would patiently wait out imprisonment so they could return to a decent hoard of gold and a comfortable life again? A cowardly dragon, but capable of bargaining.

There is nothing comical, of course, about Glaurung. Glaurung is one the most vile and chilling dragons created in literature. He is introduced in The Silmarillion, bred by Morgoth, and is the main villain in The Children of Hurin. He is not dragonish, as far as your usual treasure-hoarding greedy dragons go. While he has some of the usual traits, such as the ability to hypnotise and cast spells on humans, Glaurung is pure evil, bred to corrupt and destroy, capable of anything from leading Orc armies in battle to hunting down a single human and destroying them mentally.

The three dragons, Smaug, Chrysophylax and Glaurung  could not be less alike. Interestingly Glaurung would have been created first.

Next up is The Book of Lost Tales Part One and Two. Tolkien started on these as early as 1917, and the short stories would later make up most of the history presented in The Silmarillion.

And yes I am definitely working on my Tolkien collection this year. I have a couple more to get to finish my deluxe editions, my latest treasure is Tales from the Perilous Realm, signed by Alan Lee. With a spectacular fold out of Farmer Giles and Gorm meeting Chrysophylax.

 

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