Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Here there be Dragons

Apologies again for the late posting, the Holidays for Viking Gamer are busy times and Skal! is shouted more then a few times. This also means that sometimes it takes me a while to recover in the post-holiday period. Now with things settled for another Midwinter I can get back to regular posts.

One thing I did manage to do during the Holiday period was see a screening of The Hobbit at the BFI IMAX in London. In a word, Mindblowing. Loved it, didn't feel it dragged on (though my wife, less enamoured of Mr. Tolkien tells me it did.) and thought the changes to the book were (mostly) improvements rather then errors.

For me the best parts were the opening 15 minutes where we not only get to see a fully-realised Dwarf city for the first time in film/television/gaming but the attack of Smaug is handled with pulse-pounding brilliance while keeping views of the beast to a minimum.

Smaug is a bashful DefilerSource
This is a great scene that highlights the destructive power of the great dragon and showing the devastation he brings. When Thorinns father says the word 'Dragon' it crackles with all the fear and mysterious power it deserves.

Dragons hold a special place in our shared Mythology, conjuring images of gold jealously guarded, fair maidens captured and razor-lined mouths gauting flame. The Dragon is a symbol of power and wealth, but there is more then that. At the heart of the dragon is the problem of evil.

I'm watching you, WalesSource

Of course the Biblical link between Dragons and evil is well established. The serpent tempts Eve in the garden of evil (the word Dragon in latin 'Draconem' means huge serpent) and a multi-headed Dragon takes a central role in the Book of Revelation.

Yet the link between Dragons and evil goes further then this, with most nations holding stories of monsters that project terror and flame. The best illustration of this I can offer comes from the early Germanic tale of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer, found within the Volsunga Saga.

In the tale, Fafnir (one of three brothers) , jealously kills his brother to steal a ransom of gold. Overtime, his greed and evil transforms him into a monstrous Dragon. When he is slain by the great hero Sigurd, drinking his blood 'reveals' a plot to Sigurd so he cuts off the head of his father-in-law. The Dragon striking even after death.

So it has always been, the Dragon is a mirror for the worst of humanity. For the destruction we can cause eachother, for lives sacrificed to greed and lust. To me this was beautifully illustrated in The Hobbit as a book, and now I'm happy to say as a film as well.

Until next time, Let us say Skål! and drink together.

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