Misc.

Here Be Dragons!

St. George
Image source

In honour of St. George’s Day today – the national day of England – I wanted to talk about dragons! Why dragons, you ask? If you don’t know the story of St. George, in its most condensed form it is the traditional tale of a brave knight rescuing a princess from a dragon. Of course that’s not the whole story, and if you want to read it in more detail, you can do so here, but I won’t go into it on the blog. So, to celebrate this day I wanted to talk about dragons in fiction. I’ve marked spoilers, so please only click ‘view spoiler’ if you’ve read the book (or in the case of A Song of Ice and Fire, watched past series one of Game of Thrones).

Smaug

Smaug, from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Smaug is the main villain of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, a huge red dragon who captured the dwarf kingdom of Erebor, along with all of its treasure, one hundred and fifty years before the main events of the book. It is not until the latter half of the book that the reader meets Smaug – and realises just how clever he is. He toys with Bilbo Baggins, rather than killing him outright (it is for this reason that I’ve given him four for ferocity – he doesn’t just kill on sight). Like traditional dragons of lore, he loves gold and sits atop his treasures in the halls of Erebor. He is also known as Smaug the Magnificent or Smaug the Golden. [spoiler]Despite his terrifying appearance and cunning, Bilbo notices a weak spot, a bare patch on his chest, that Bard the Bowman later uses to bring the dragon down.[/spoiler]

Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion

Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion, from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – the ‘children’ of the Mother of Dragons, aka Daenerys Targaryen, these three are the first known dragons for at least one hundred and fifty years. Three hundred years earlier, dragons were used by House Targaryen to conquer the world, but were believed extinct by the time of the War of the Three Kings. [spoiler]Daenerys Targaryen, in a state of grief and after dreaming of their birth, walks into the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo with petrified dragon’s eggs and causes them to hatch.[/spoiler] They grow throughout the series but as of book five (A Dance with Dragons) are still not fully grown. They can be commanded by Daenerys, but are still wild beasts at heart.

Hungarian Horntail

Hungarian Horntail from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – this is the dragon that Harry Potter has to evade during the first round of the Triwizard Tournament. Harry really drew the short straw here – Hungarian Horntails are notorious for their ferocity and are considered to be the most dangerous breed of dragon. It has both a spiked head and tail, able to use the latter like a club. Not only is it huge and deadly, but also very fast – proved by how easily it was able to keep up with Harry on his Firebolt.

Saphira

Saphira from Eragon by Christopher Paolini – at last, a slightly friendlier dragon. Saphira may have a human companion, and she may not attack people on sight, but in the heat of battle she is vicious and strong. Bonded to Eragon Shadeslayer, she was one of the only known female dragons of her time. Her name comes from the blue colour of her egg, and her surname (Bjartskular) means ‘bright scales’.

There are so many more dragons I could discuss – books like Seraphina, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Dragon Age and Drakan come to mind – and so many more.

Which are your favourite dragons from fiction, video games, TV or film? How do they compare to these four?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #5: The Hobbit Movies

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: Peter Jackson’s film versions of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I am of the opinion that Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s well-loved classic, The Hobbit, is a wonderful thing. As with his version of The Lord of the Rings, it is a work of love, Jackson’s own spin on Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece. It is Jackson’s film version of The Hobbit, not a film of Tolkien’s version. When you adapt something with such a passionate and devoted fanbase, you’re never going to please everyone. You will most definitely piss people off in some way – their favourite character doesn’t look anything like that! What on earth possessed you to film that scene that way? When does Thranduil ever make a Mean Girls reference? And why on earth is that character in this scene?? – but that’s just how it is. On the other hand, you’ll also have a fanbase devoted to you, or in this particular case, Mr. Peter Jackson, and the way he has filmed Tolkien’s work.

Wait, what? I don’t remember this in the book! (image source)

The Hobbit has been a favourite book of mine for a long, long time. I remember when I was seven or eight, my mum bought me the graphic novel version, and then at the age of eight or nine I progressed onto the book proper. I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was ten, and have re-read it almost every year since, so I would say I’m a pretty big fan! So you can imagine that I was incredibly excited when the films were announced.

I want to talk mostly about one particular film today: The Desolation of Smaug. I watched it the day of release, and although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as An Unexpected Journey, I still loved it. Maybe I’m one of those types who loves it just because it’s Tolkien and Peter Jackson, I don’t know. But I just want to talk about the things that were completely new additions to the plot:

  • The character of Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lily, and therefore any dwarf-elf flirtations
  • The presence of Legolas
  • Certain events that happen in Laketown [spoiler]Kili, Fili and Bifur staying behind, orcs attacking Laketown[/spoiler]
  • Pretty much anything involving Azog – he is mentioned in the book once.
But you know what?
  • Tauriel is one of the few female characters in the story, AND she was an addition. She’s also a bit of a badass. So kudos to Peter Jackson for choosing to add some more women to a male-dominated story, and extra kudos for making her pretty awesome.
  • Legolas is used to tie together The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a familiar face, and also clearly shows how elves do not age. He looks exactly the same in both films (okay, apart from his eyes in The Hobbit which are super creepy.)
  • Events like the extra ones in Laketown are used to demonstrate the skills of certain characters. However (book spoiler ahead): [spoiler]I’m not sure why Kili was injured and then healed. This makes me think they won’t kill him off in the Battle of Five Armies at the end? He has proven to be a fan favourite after all.[/spoiler]
  • Azog gave Thorin a bit more of his own story, and also allowed Jackson to showcase the history of the character. He is also a constant threat, when Smaug is nowhere near, making the viewer expect an attack at any time.

And you can’t forget that absolutely brilliant take on the barrel scene…

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Despite the fact that Peter Jackson made a lot of changes to characters and events in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I still love those films because they are products of Peter Jackson’s imagination, inspired by that of Tolkien. If you’re watching them for a totally faithful representation of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, you will most likely be disappointed. But if you go in with an open mind, you’ll end up watching some truly fantastic films by a genius director, inspired by a genius author. Personally, for me, the additions only demonstrated the skill of everyone involved in making the films.

In conclusion: I see Peter Jackson’s films as a wonderful homage to the works of Tolkien, as well as Jackson’s own home country of New Zealand.

What do you think of Jackson’s films of The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings? Were you happy with his use of creative license?

Oh, and as for waiting another bloody age for the final part of The Hobbit

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