May NewsMay News:
May 7th – May 21st = Digital, DVD and Blu-ray release of a film loosely based on the HTTYD books
May 10th = film about the life of J R R Tolkien released in the USA, Christopher Paolini book tour, visiting New MexicoJune News:
June 9th = Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle author) book tour, visiting Minnesota
June 14th = Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle author) book tour, visiting Colorado
The Poison Jungle (Wings of Fire series) by Tui T Sutherland comes out on the 25th of June!
In June and July Alison Goodman will go on a book tour for the release of the third book in the Lady Helen trilogy: Dark Days Deceit. She will visit France and the UK, so if you have some Eon/Eona books to get signed, check when she’ll be near you!
The rules of the group (which… now I come to think about it are just scattered in journal posts so I may need to write them down somewhere easy to find) are that if a book has 20 works of fanart, it gets its own folder.
For a long time it was difficult to find fanart based on the Dragonology books by Dugald Steer and the Dracopedia books by William O’Connor – this was because the old rules of the group said that art had to be original and not copied from official illustrations. A lot of fanart of these books involves copying the illustrations because these are art-heavy books and fans wish to pay homage to Douglas Carrel, Helen Ward, Wayne Anderson and William O’Connor’s artwork. So, with very few fans drawing their own poses and characters based on the books, Dracopedia and Dragonology had less than 20 artworks each and were lumped into one folder named Dragonology/Dracopedia.
HOWEVER, a recent survey found that group members like observational art of official illustrations; the ban on such fanart was lifted and the Dragonology/Dracopedia folder SWELLED with the new illustrations in it, to the point each book series had more than 20 artworks, so the folder has now split into two new ones.
Dragonology is a field guide to dragons written in the 19th century by Dr Ernest Drake. The manuscript of this field guide was found by Templar Publishing, who hired the artists Douglas Carrel, Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson, along with the editor Dugald Steer, to recreate the old text and bring it into the modern world.
Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons was published in 2003, and was a facsimile of the original field guide, with envelopes to open and fake samples of dragon scales, wing membranes and dragon dust so that readers could get a feel for the science. It included dragon species such as the European Dragon, Frost Dragon, Knucker, Lindorm, Chinese Lung, Tibetan Lung, Mexican Amphithere, Marsupial dragon and Wyvern.
The publishing company found that Dr Ernest Drake wrote more than one book; he even created a work book for people to learn how to become Dragonologists! This book is published as ‘Working with Dragons’ in the UK and ‘Dragonologist’s Handbook’ in the US, and is more text-based than the Complete Book of Dragons, and adds Texan Amphitheres, Gargouilles, and the mysterious Draco incognito
Another method of training Dragonologists involves simulations of real dangers they may face. There is therefore a series of ‘choose your own adventure’ books called Pocket Adventures, and these are: The Icelandic Wyrm, The Dragon’s Star, The Dragon’s Dance and the Winged Serpent (about Frost dragons, European dragons, Marsupial dragons and Mexican Amphitheres respectively).
In 2007, more of Dr Drake’s work came to light, and The Field Guide to Dragonology was published. This book came with models one could construct out of card of each of the dragon species, new species including the Korean Yong, the Dwarf Dragon, the Tasmanian Dragon, Basilisk, Hydra, along with many dragon relatives and extinct dragons. The Field Guide also contained details on the evolution of dragons.
In 2009, the publishers were finally given permission from the SASD (Secret and Ancient Society of Dragonologists) to release the ultimate guide to dragons; Drake’s Comprehensive Compendium of Dragonology! While the first book in the Dragonology series was called the ‘complete book’, it only detailed the life and habits of a handful of dragons. The Comprehensive Compendium has 19 dragons (introducing the Japanese Ryu and the Indonesian Dragon), 4 psuedo dragons (introducing the sea serpent) and contains all the knowledge of the Field Guide and Working with Dragons; from raising baby dragons, healing sick dragons, talking to dragons… There has never been a book this detailed on the world of Dragonology!
However, some people might not enjoy field guides and scientific literature, in which case the novel series based on the 19th century world of Dragonology might be more interesting for you; The Dragonology Chronicles. These four books detail the apprentice 12 year olds Beatrice and Daniel Cook who worked directly with Dr Ernest Drake in helping with dragon conservation. The books are The Dragon’s Eye, The Dragon Diary, The Dragon’s Apprentice and the Dragon Prophecy.
William O’Connor wrote Dracopedia as a way to teach people more about dragons, as well as an artist’s toolkit for painting them in the wild. The step-by-step painting and drawing techniques covered species from the Amphithere, the Arctic Dragon, the Asian Dragon, Basilisk, Coatyl, ‘Dragon’ dragon, Dragonette, Drake, Feydragon, Hydra, Sea Orc, Wyrm and Wyvern. Some of these, such as the dragonette, have been domesticated by people and ridden, so the reader will probably be familiar with them, while others are rare and wild and so the book offers a useful insight to their biology, habits, habitat and history.
While Dracopedia was a good at covering the most common species of dragons, there are a few rare, gigantic species of dragons to be studied, which he talked about in more detail in the sequel, Dracopedia: The Great Dragons, which showed us the Acadian Dragon, Icelandic Dragon, Scandinavian Dragon, Welsh Dragon, Ligurian Dragon, Crimean Dragon, Chinese Dragon and Elwah Dragon.
Dracopedia: The Bestiary mainly focusses on other magical creatures, not just dragons! It is an excellent and practical field guide for those who want to become magical animal illustrators.
Dracopedia: The Field Guide is a more detailed version of the original Dracopedia, which shows each individual species and subspecies of dragon so that one can tell the difference between a Vulcan Amphithere or a Starburst Amphithere if they so wished; the dragons are arranged by family, and are shown in similar poses to eachother so the colouration and proportion differences are more clearly highlighted.
Dracopedia Legends is the perfect combination between storybook and art book. William O’Connor recounts his experience of being trapped in an old castle in Wales during a storm and talking to a fellow dragon-fancier about the legendary dragons of old. Stories of Beowulf, Fafnir, Jormungandr, the Lambton Wyrm, Ladon, Mabinogion, Nidhogg, Python, The Four Dragon Kings, the Redcrosse Dragon, Ryujin, the Dragon of Silene and Zmey Gorynych.
William O’Connor died in 2018, but his art and dragons live on.
There is a film coming out about the life of J R R Tolkien, one of the most famous fantasy authors. His full name was John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (called Ronald by people who knew him) and he was born in South Africa, hid dad died, his family moved to England when he was three, he was taught at home by his mum (along with his younger brother Hilary), and he learned about plants and art. His mother died from diabetes, being too poor to afford insulin, and he was then looked after by Father Francis Xavier Morgan.
He attended a school in Birmingham, joined the cadets, and excelled at learning languages. When he was 16 he fell in love with a girl called Edith Mary Bratt, but did not propose to her until she was 21, when she had already accepted someone else’s proposal because she was tired of Tolkien taking so long to confess his feelings. However, the two of them met on a date, and she ditched her fiancé in favour of Tolkien.
Two years after they were married, World War 1 broke out. Tolkien did not immediately enlist, this gained a lot of hatred from people. He decided to finish his degree studying Classics at Exeter College at Oxford instead. He graduated in 1915 with first class honours, and then signed up to fight. He trained for 11 months before he was summoned to France in 1916. He joined the battle of the Somme, and therefore witnessed one of the bloodiest battles in human history; three million men thought in the battle, and one million of them were either killed or injured. It was grim trench warfare, and Tolkien was lucky to survive, many of his friends died.
In letters, he talked about the terrible lice situation, and was eventually discharged because he caught trench fever from all the louse bites he received. He would continue to suffer from this illness throughout 1917 and 1918, where he alternated between being hospitalised and working on the home front.
In later life, he joined a writing group called the Inklings (the author of Narnia, CS Lewis, was also a member of this group). Tolkein used to tell his kids stories, loosely based in the fantasy worlds he had in his head for the Silmarillion and the Book of Lost Tales. His son, Christopher Tolkien, would complain about inconsistencies in the story telling, leading to the Tolkien writing everything down to avoid the inconsistencies, until The Hobbit was a fully written book, which he then published.
Of all of Tolkien’s works, The Hobbit contains the most famous dragon; the arrogant Smaug (Smaug the Magnificent, Smaug the Golden, etc.) who was so fat and greedy that when he lay down upon his bed of treasure gems and coins would stick to his belly, giving him armour (that his ancient cousin Glaurung would have found useful…). The story is about a reluctant short elflike creature called a Hobbit, who was invited by a wizard called Gandalf to join a party of dwarf thieves in burgling the hoard of golden treasure back from Smaug, who had taken the treasure from the dwarves’ ancestors. The story was loosely based on Beowulf.
The Hobbit was published, the publishers wanted more. So Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings; a saga of three books (The Followship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King), which are possibly the most famous fantasy books ever, with both animated and live action films based on them; a story of epic scope loosely based on the Volsunga Saga (involving ring of great power of greed and corruption) but also about an epic journey, friendship and comradery. Sadly, no dragons in this trilogy as the last dragon, Smaug, died towards the end of The Hobbit.
After J R R Tolkien’s death, Christopher Tolkien found some of his dad’s unfinished work, organised it and edited slightly, and published it. The ones mentioning dragons are The Silmarillion, an ancient history of Middle Earth, which mentions the mountain-sized dragon Ancalagon, a few dragons in Morgoth’s army that contributed to the Fall of Gondolin, and the diabolical Glaurung.
Glaurung features more heavily in The Children of Hurin, a story based on the Volsunga Saga, where Glaurung, a creature bred by the evil lord Melkor to be the father of all dragons, hypnotises a lady called Nienor to forget who she was, so she accidentally marries and has a child with Turambar, who she doesn’t know is her brother. Glaurung continues to do evil stuff, so Turambar kills him with a stab to his belly, a weak spot for dragons. As Glaurung dies, he tells Turambar he married his sister, and, horrified, he commits suicide.
One stand-alone novel by Tolkien, Farmer Giles of Ham, is a medieval comedy about a farmer who kills a giant, becomes a folk hero and bullies the dragon Chrysophylax into giving up his hoard of treasure.
I will write a survey soon, expect it sometime later this month.