28 February 2012

Smaug and The Hobbit movie

Here is Tolkien's illustration of the dragon, Smaug, on his hoard. A small thief can be seen on the right side. Like the dragon in Beowulf that clearly inspired his creator, Smaug is enraged by a theft from his hoard and flies off to punish the nearby settlement with flame.

Smaug appears in Tolkien's book The Hobbit. He describes it like this (pp. 205-6):

There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; a
thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps
of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath
him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and
about him on all sides stretching away across the
unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things,
gold wrought and un-wrought, gems and jewels, and
silver red-stained in the ruddy light.

Smaug lay, with wings folded like an immeasurable bat,
turned partly on one side, so that the hobbit could see
his underparts and his long pale belly crusted with
gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his
costly bed. Behind him where the walls were nearest
could dimly be seen coats of mail, helms and axes,
swords and spears hanging; and there in rows stood
great jars and vessels filled with a wealth that could
not be guessed.
 Another of Tolkien's own drawings appears on the cover of the book. (The same edition I owned, by the way).

This is Smaug dying from an arrow that hit a small patch of his breast that was not encrusted with the treasure he had lain on. Beneath him, a village burns.

Thanks to the site smaugthemagnicent for putting up some of these scans.

By the way, The Hobbit is being made into a pair of films and the trailer is available. Unfortunately, Smaug does not appear in the trailer.

Here's another video from the movie's set.

Second Chunk of Fitt XXXV

Beowulf continues speaking to his men before fighting the dragon.

He backs up his claim that, past and present, he never shirks a fight by mentioning how he had killed Daeghrefn (Day-raven), whom I assume had killed Haethcyn. Although he could accomplish that without a sword, both "hand and weapon" would be needed now. Presumably, Beowulf is hinting not only that the dragon is a stronger opponent but that Beowulf himself is older than he was, and past his physical prime. He never says this directly.

The "breast adornment" that Daeghrefn fails to carry to the Frisian king may be the one that went from Wealhtheow to Hygd.

He instructs his men to stay close, but out of the fight, as he is the only one strong enough to face the dragon. He hints that he is not strong enough to survive the dragon, however: his men "can better/survive their wounds in the violent clash/than I am able."

This is still a bit rough. A couple of lines aren't properly formed, and others could be  improved, but I didn't want to make you wait too long.


"I was always out in the front
"of the battle line, and always must
"be so in battle, while my blade endures,
"which, past and present, proved itself often
"since I, in the front lines felled Daeghrefn,
"killed by my hand, the Hugas' champion.
"He fetched no riches for the Frisian king
"could bring back no breast adornment,
"but that flag bearer fell with his band.
"the noble in courage. No blade killed him
"but my hard grip halted his heart's beating,
"and his bone-house broke. The blade's edge must now
"fight for the hoard, hand and weapon."

Beowulf said a solemn vow,
the last he would make. "Many trials
"I risked in my youth, and yet I wish,
"old folk defender, to find redress,
"to earn honour, if the evil one
"climbs from his cave to confront me."

He paid honour to each person,
fearless fighters, one final time,
his brothers in arms. "I would bear no sword
"no worm-killer weapon, if a way were found
"to let me go against the beast,
"grapple for glory, as with Grendel before,
"but I expect that flame will pour out in fury
"poisonous, choking, so I chose to bring
"byrnie and board. From the barrow-guard
"I will not flee a foot, but we face whatever
"befalls at the the wall, as fate determines,
"the Maker of men. My mind is bold
"so I will not boast against the war-flyer."

"Stay by the barrow, byrnie wearers,
"harnessed heroes, who can better
"survive their wounds in the violent clash
"than I am able. It is not your fight.
"No other is able. I only have the power"

14 February 2012

Miniskirts poem

It's Valentine's Day, so this bit of fluff I wrote is vaguely relevant. :-)

Miniskirts must madden the eye,
haul round the head, hammer the reason.
The pupil dilates to let in the light,
giving a golden glow to the girl.

No crumb of comfort comes to the boy
Till age gives him ease, if it ever does.

09 February 2012

The First Chunk of Fitt XXXV.

This Fitt is a long one, so I will put it up in parts.

The first 2.5 lines finish the Father's Lament,  describing the grief of a father whose son has died and who has no recourse to justice (wergild--payment in return for a death) or revenge. That feeling is then ascribed to King Hrethel of the Geats when one of his sons (Haethcyn) accidentally kills another (Herebeald). Then Hrethel dies.

Once Hrethel was gone, King Ongentheow of Sweden and his sons begin to harry the Geats. Hygelac, now the Geats' king, gave battle at Hreosnabeorh (Hreosna Hill). Haethcyn died, then a warrior named Eofor killed Ongentheow.

The family tree below, from this page, may make things clearer.

             |              |             |              |
          Herebeald       Hæþcyn       Hygelac        daughter       Ecgþeow
                                          |              |              | 
                                          |              ----------------
                          Hygd            |                       |
                            |             |                    Beowulf 
                            |             |
                         Heardred      daughter       Eofor
                                          |            |

He goes to his chambers and chants laments,        2460
a man for a man. The manse and fields
feel all too large. So the refuge of Weders—
his heart's sorrow for Herebeald's sake
ever deeper—endured without hope
of having amends made for the killing
nor showing the hate he held for the killer
through angry acts, though all love was gone.
Then, with the sorrow he suffered under,
he left human joys for the light of God.
He willed to his heirs, as a wealthy man,        2470
land and defences when life departed.

Then crime and conflict crossed the waters
as Geat and Swede began to battle
in heartfelt hatred, when Hrethel died
and Ongentheow's offspring grew
willful and warlike, wanting no friendship
to hold over ocean. Near Hreosnabeorh
vicious and vile invasions were common.
My close kindred claimed their revenge,
murder and mayhem, as many know,        2480
though one of the pair paid with his life,
a hard bargain. Haethcyn would bear—
the Geats' own prince—the price of battle.
I heard, in the morning, his murderer fell;
a kinsman was slain by a kinsman's sword.
Eofor attacked Ongentheow there.
The war-helm split. The white-crowned Scylfing
was pale as he perished. The practiced hand,
remembering feuds, refused to spare him.

The precious gifts he placed in my hand        2490
were paid back in war, as well as I could,
with gleaming sword. He gave me land,
a portion for my home. He had no need
to look to Sweden or Spear-Danes either
or even the Gifths to gain the support
of worse warriors, won over with gold.