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Author Topic: What is dragon-sickness?
Roll of Honor Thorin
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What is ”dragon-sickness”?

quote:
The old Master had come to a bad end. Bard had given him much gold for the help of the Lake-people, but being of the kind that easily catches such disease he fell under the dragon-sickness, and took most of the gold and fled with it, and died of starvation in the Waste, deserted by his companions.

The Last Stage, The Hobbit

The Professor calls it a “disease.”
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Thingol of Doriath
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Huh... I always thought that it wasn't an actual "disease" but more a local slang for avarice. A dragon collects treasure to lay on, when a person is guilty of avarice it would be called "dragon-sickness"...

[ 07-20-2007, 07:22 AM: Message edited by: Thingol of Doriath ]

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Roll of Honor Varnafindë
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It seems related to what Thorin Oakenshield was contaminated with for a while, but which left him in the face of death, in time for him to make friends again with Bilbo before leaving him.
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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Previously I had always thought of it as simply greed. But now I wonder. Dragons were strange creatures. We know of the "dragon spell", such as Bilbo almost fell under and Turin did fall under. What about Glaurung's treasure in Nargothrond? There seemed some problems with that treasure as well.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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Yes, I've thought of it as simple greed as well. Having more money than one knows what to reasonably do with, yet still having the overwhelming desire to gather more. Now who does that remind me off? Wasn't there something called gold fever in the wild west I seem to remember from some old westerns?
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Roll of Honor Varnafindë
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Tolkien's friend C.S. Lewis takes this idea even further.

Eustace, one of the children in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, finds a dragon's treasure and considers how to keep it all for himself, not wanting to share anything with his friends. He spends the night in the dragon's cave, sleeping on the treasure - and wakes up the next morning to find that he has turned into a dragon.

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Eluchil
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Greed is also what I thought and think about []

quote:
What about Glaurung's treasure in Nargothrond? There seemed some problems with that treasure as well.
Mîm's curse ?
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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Yes, certainly Mim is involved. I was actually thinking of texts closer to the date of the composition of The Hobbit, such as in Book of Lost Tales II.113-14):

quote:
For has not Glorund lain long years upon [this gold], and the evil of the drakes of Melko is on it, and no good can it bring to Man or Elf…
And then we have this:

quote:
Now these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken; and Bilbo thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them. He did not, of course, expect that any one would remember that it was he who discovered all by himself the dragon's weak spot; and that was just as well, for no one ever did. But also he did not reckon with the power that gold has upon which a dragon has long brooded, nor with dwarvish hearts. Long hours in the past days Thorin had spent in the treasury, and the lust of it was heavy on him. Though he had hunted chiefly for the Arkenstone, yet he had an eye for many another wonderful thing that was lying there, about which were wound old memories of the labours and the sorrows of his race.

The Gathering of the Clouds, The Hobbit, emphasis mine

What does this passage mean? Dragon-sickness comes upon one who is in contact with dragon-gold. Here we have a text stating that gold that a dragon has long brooded upon has “power.” What power? Why the dragon reference? If it was simply greed, I think it would apply to all gold, not just dragon-gold.

What about the power of Morgoth in gold? Any relation to this?

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Thingol of Doriath
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The vice avarice/greed is one of Catholicism's Seven Deadly Sins.

Just saying... []

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Roll of Honor Celebrían
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What's the difference between gold and dragon-gold, please?
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The Witch-King of Angmar
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It sounds like this gold has the power to instill greed in its owner; when Smaug talks to Bilbo about his share of the treasure, for example, Bilbo begins to distrust the Dwarves, and suspects them of trying to cheat him.
Dragons are very greedy in this way, and so the gold must have "absorbed" some of their greed to instill a similar reaction in others.
In a Christian context, this would apply to "mammon," i.e. the desire to possess wealth rather than to simply exercise proper stewardship over it, wherein money becomes the root of evil.

[ 07-21-2007, 04:38 PM: Message edited by: The Witch-King of Angmar ]

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Celebrian, there may not be a difference. But I have the idea that there is one, subtle perhaps, but one none the less. If I'm right, then dragon-gold is simply gold that had been part of a dragon hord.

Like WiKi mentioned, I think that dragons laying upon treasure for years imparts some of their malice into the gold. Perhaps only the gold, because Morgoth's essence is more pronounced in gold than say, silver, as Morgoth's Ring points out.

I'm wondering if the effects of this is what is called "dragon-sickness."

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The Witch-King of Angmar
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I believe that gold traditionally symbolizes corruption and ruin, while silver represents truth; this might even have some economic symbolism concerning problems of overvalued standard, as noted by various 19th century economists such as W.J. Bryan and Thomas Moore, and even the story "The Wizard of Oz" (i.e. gold-bricks leading to "emerald" green paper money: in L. Frank Baum's original story, Dorothy's slippers are silver—not ruby).
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Roll of Honor Thorin
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If this phenomenom exists, it is not all-encompassing. Bilbo seems unaffected by his dragon gold (he even gives the last bit to Sam), and there are no hints that I am aware of that the Kingdom Under the Mountain was tainted by it. Perhaps like a "sickness" or "disease" it only contaiminated certain people. Seemingly those people with some sort of moral flaw like the old Master.
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Nieninquë
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I seem to remember how the smoke and odour coming from the front gates of the mountain had a sickening effect.Maybe in the long run it's poisonous... []
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Roll of Honor Athene
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I think dragon-sickness comes not from the gold, but from the dragon. After Smaug's death, the owners of his hoard don't seem to suffer from unusual avarice or waste away in contemplation of their riches. As someone pointed out, Bilbo was known to be generous.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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Then again I think Thorin went a bit wierd over it!
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Artaresto
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But weirder than the average dwarf over any gold?

[ 10-01-2007, 11:30 PM: Message edited by: Artaresto ]

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Actually, Athene, this phenomenom does happen after the dragon dies. Look at the very first quote in this thread. Smaug was dead, the Master got some dragon-gold after Smaug's death, and he still fell under the sickness. A similar example may be found in Nargothrond.

I think the dragon does something, probably unconsciously, to the gold, and the gold is tainted thereafter even if the dragon dies. Morgoth's element (however one might describe that!) seems to be very prelevant in gold, and I wonder if this "element" is easily transferred via the dragons.

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Captain of Gondor
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In my opinion, Morgoth would have made Dragon's gold almost a death trap, in order to keep people from taking it.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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Looking at that, is the Master of Lake-town and Thorin, and indeed many Dwarfs so different from each other? They both seemed roughly to be on the side of good, but both suffered from dragon-sickness due to the Gold. Was it just that the narrator of the Hobbit was more fond of Thorin than the Master of Lake-town?
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Roll of Honor Varnafindë
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Well, we know that Thorin repented in the end (to Bilbo, at least), whereas we have no such information about the Master of Lake-town.

So perhaps Thorin was not as severely affected by the dragon-sickness.

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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I think dragon-sickness affected different people in different ways. Bilbo seemed fine after contact with it; the Master went off the deep end.

A similar process happened with the Ring. Sam was able to resist its lure to a point; Boromir was not.

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