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Comments For Character of the Month Biographies
What a delightful and learned essay upon dragons--and many other things, from eucatastrophe to Tolkien's dismay over allegory as a mode to the insight that in the author's earliest recollection of story-making, a fascination with both dragons, and language, are present.
What a wonderful comment. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to let me know that you enjoyed it. I actually had a lot of fun writing this one. (Some of these are more entertaining for the writer than others.)
First off, please forgive me for taking so long to read this. I've been dying to do so since my birthday but haven't been able to be on my computer due to an injury. I'm also honored and humbled that you dedicated this to me. I really love dragons, maybe not quite as much as Tolkien but a lot, and this bio is the best information about Ancalagon I've seen yet.
The size question is particularly interesting as people seem fascinated with pinning down the details on these mythical creatures, which makes for a great thought experiment, but also diminishes the magic of the tales, at least in my mind. I can visualize the battle to a point but I can't wrap my head around how Earendil, even with a Silmaril and a host of great eagles, managed to bring down something that big.
I also liked how you compared and contrasted Ancalagon the Black with Tolkien's other dragons. I thought the flying dragons were the biggest threat, but Glaurung was the worst of all. Tolkien always manages to twist expectations.
I enjoyed this immensely and will be referencing it often so thanks for this one.
Awww! I was not trying to bully you into reading it! I know you have been injured and in pain! I was only teasing. It also looks a lot like that little baby black dragon you sent Alex! Thank you so much! It was a lot of fun writing it and I was thinking about you so much while I wrote it. I hope you are feeling better every day! I know how it feels, because I had that exact same shoulder injury! Nothing is worse. Everything one tries to do hurts!
I had wondered before reading how you would manage to get more than a few paragraphs for Ancalagon when he really only 'appears' twice, plus that passing mention by Gandalf in LotR. In fact, I wonder if his lack of characterization isn't more to do with that - he only gets a few sentences in canon, and no conversation. Smaug and Glaurung both had much more 'screen time' to develop personality, and both had actual conversation. Glaurung shows up twice in battle, and gets beaten both times. I find it interesting that he's ultimately brought down by a combination of ainur, elves, and men- the eagles led by Thorondor plus Eärendil with his Silmaril (the work of an elf). Oh, and the line about Ancalagon dropping onto Thangorodrim and exploding like a nuclear bomb is excellent. That's my mental picture now: Ancalagon going up in a mini-mushroom cloud. :)
I love the section on Tolkien and dragons. Such excellent background. And the section on the size of Ancalagon/end of the War of Wrath leads to me thinking about the destruction of Beleriand, which will probably lead in time to more fic...
Thanks for your excellent work here!
Aww! Thanks! What a wonderful comment!
I actually did a lot of preparatory research for this one, but I wrote it really fast. The more I work on these bios the more I see even rare characters repeated in the legendarium, the details from the Silmarillion and other earlier works running like veins of ore through a wall of rock that is The LotR, for example. He might have forgotten details at times or changed his mind back and forth, but whenever he was writing something new he was carrying that entire back-story along with him. So one, reading the stuff often, enough is going to find many references in LotR or The Hobbit that one did not notice for years.
I do think Tolkien wanted him to be very, very big! But readers and artists often take big too far--like those works of art with Fingolfin confronting a Morgoth who is 10-20 times his size. I figure the physical manifestation in that case would be maybe less than twice Fingolfin's height! That's just me--bigger than that and it is no fun anymore--I like the part that Fingolfin actually hurt him and there was a contest not just giant steps on an ant! Those dragons, on the other hand, could be pretty big--is Ancalagon the size of a large airplane? or the size of small planet? I can't be drawn into that discussion with the scanty amount of information that Tolkien gave us. You are so right that Ancalagon has no personality. Smaug and Glaurung both were able to use subtilty and psychological manipulation, but Ancalagon is more like a giant hammer. But they fought all night to take him out. Again there was a contest.