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Good Dragons are Rare

An Inquiry into Literary Dragons East and West

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Edited By Fanfan Chen and Thomas Honegger

Dragons are a universal phenomenon and have fascinated humans since the dawn of time. Yet whereas we have numerous studies into the origins of these fantastic creatures, there have been very few attempts at discussing their appearance, function and development within literary texts. The eighteen essays collected in this volume (8 in French, 6 in German and 4 in English) – written by an international cast of scholars – try to fill this gap by looking at dragons in literature East and West, contemporary and past.

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Der Dichter hält es seltsamerweise für lohnend, Drachen zum Thema zu machen…: Der Drache als poetologisches Konzept von Realität bei J.R.R. Tolkien 215

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Der Dichter hält es seltsamerweise für lohnend, Drachen zum Thema zu machen … Der Drache als poetologisches Konzept von Realität bei J.R.R. Tolkien Patrick A. Brückner Summary In his famous essay on Beowulf, Tolkien defends the dragon against a horde of critics who dispute this creature’s existence, calling it unhistorical and phantastic and negating its significance beyond the realm of the untrue. Tolkien, however, thinks of the dragon as a “fascinating product of imagination” (Letters 134); ‘imagination’ in Tolkien’s universe – obviously – must never be understood as in- dicating something unbelievable or untrue. Taking Tolkien’s academic defence of the dragon as a starting point, this essay focuses on the poetic significance of the dragon in his literary texts, i.e. The Hobbit, The Hoard, The Dragon’s Visit, Farmer Giles of Ham and Roverandom. Tolkien constructs the dragon as the exact opposite of whatever we encounter in the manifestly untrue fairy tales or fantasy stories. It is a rather poetic creature that interferes with “the machinery and the ideas of a poem or tale” (BMC 154) and changes the order of the world to such an extent that imagination and reality are no longer opposites, in defiance of what post-Enlightenment thinking has taught us. In Tolkien’s literary texts the dragon inhabits and defines the threshold, a space that allows entry to an other-world: the “deep significance” (BMC 27) of which describes a trajectory beyond the fairy tale. The dragon by definition belongs to this other-world, which bases its claim to...

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