My latest article for the Guardian:
As well as its familiar roots in Icelandic mythology, this Middle-earth story also has some surprising transatlantic sources
The dragon soars overhead, its underside armoured with gems from its hoard. The bowman has one arrow left. Then a bird flutters to his ear and whispers the monster’s sole vulnerability – a bare patch at its breast. The last arrow strikes home. Exit Smaug the Magnificent.
It’s a marvellous moment, thrillingly told in The Hobbit (though mashed out of recognition in the last of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films, released this week). But Tolkien did not conjure the scene from thin air. The peculiar manner of Smaug’s death comes via a surprising source…