Sunday, September 15, 2013

Smaug and Hurricanes

A discussion of Smaug at Thorinoakenshieldblog.

One point caught my eye: Why did Tolkien use the word "hurricane" to describe the wind accompanying the dragon attack?

The first dragon sounds described in the book are the first things Thorin heard when Smaug sacked Erebor: “A noise like a hurricane”. It is actually surprising an Englishman would use this comparison as there are practically none of those in Europe.

Hurricanes are used for a specific type of North Atlantic storm. True, gales with high winds are not unknown in England, but I suspect Tolkien was thinking of the Storm of 1703.

The word comes from Spanish, from the Arawak of the west Indies, but as this BBC article shows, nowadays "Hurricane winds" are used to describe gales with severe winds. This BBC article on the storm of 1703 points out that storms with high winds are often referred (incorrectly) as hurricanes, and Gordon Lightfoot fans know that the Edmund Fitzgerald was hit by " the face of a hurricane west wind." VideoHERE

It also adds this factoid:
 The United Kingdom is actually the World’s most tornado-prone nation.
Heh. Tornado alley in Suffolk.
But the UK tornadoes, like those we have here in the Philippines, tend to be weak ones, not the F5 types we got in Oklahoma.


unrelated item:
Professor Podles reviews a book about growing up as an Anglo kid on the Navajo reservation.

My take here. It is a world wide and ancient problem of what happens when cultures collide.

nothing to do with Smaug, except, of course, that one of the themes of LOTR/the Hobbit is the clash of cultures, using the metaphor of different humanoid races instead of tribes for contrast.

What westerners forget is that folks in different cultures actually think differently than they do, because they base their logic on different assumptions. One of these days I'll bore the ten readers of this blog with an essay on that problem. But it explains why Texans in the military understand Afghans better than a lot of those writing in the MSM...

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