I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but if I play a rpg (either single player or MMO) I am always slightly disappointed if there are no dragons to slay. A previous post showed a massive lack of knowledge regarding Middle Earth’s dragons, I had heard of Glaurung but know little about him and of course I do remember Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit. So I thought I’d do a little investigating and perhaps, find out along the way the difference between drakes and dragons (I’ve always wondered but never bothered to find out :P)
As is usual when trying to find out anything concrete about Middle Earth, it is not as easy as it seems. Firstly, you have to separate out common fantasy beliefs as they do not always apply (and it is easy to get mixed up about imaginary things ;)), secondly although Tolkien’s work is vast, there are inconsistencies between his works set in Middle Earth and some details are just simply not there.
So I found a very nice thread on the Codemaster forums which discusses the difference between drakes and dragons (glad it was not just me :P). Basically Dragons, Drakes, Worms¹ and Wyrms are the same thing². I didn’t want to quote people from the thread directly (without permission), so it was off to the Encylopedia of Arda for definitions and information:
Dragons are mighty reptilian creatures who first appeared in the middle of the First Age. The exact origins of dragon-kind is unknown but they were servants of the Dark Lord. They appear to be split into fire-drakes (who could breathe fire) and cold-drakes (who couldn’t). Glaurung the Golden, Ancalagon the Black and Smaug the Golden were all fire-drakes, Scatha the Worm was a cold-drake. Tolkien only named 4 dragons, and each of these were slain before the events of Lord of the Rings. The dragons were not destroyed by the end of the Third Age and so potentially are still in existence, but none of the great worms or drakes from the Elder Days survive.
Going back to the forum thread, to find out what is present in the game, there are winged-fire-drakes and wingless-cold-drakes. There is Thorog in Helegrod categorised as a Dragon and the dead Dragon of Forochel, Bregmor.
Presumably to avoid inconsistencies with the book yet still provide the rpg dragon-slaying element, drakes are:
“… are mere shadows of the once-great majesty of their forebears. They hunt the landscape for aurochs, bears, and other large animals with which to feed their young – drakelings – though they will not hesitate to make a meal of stray Hillman or Earth-kin, if the opportunity arises.”
“Weaker still are the wingless worms who claw their way across the barren plains and hills”
Quotes from the lotro lore-book
So there you have it
¹ the capitalised W appears to be important I’m assuming that farmers in Middle Earth aren’t terrorised by fire-breathing worms in their compost heaps
² Wyverns (which look an awful lot like drakes), are 2 legged, winged, fire breathing creatures (with a dragon’s head and a lizard’s or snake’s body). They appear in legends and of course, fantasy settings. As far as I can tell there seems to be no direct reference to Wyverns in Tolkien’s work (happy to be corrected here) but the drakes in lotro appear to have a wyvern (2 legged) appearance rather than a dragon (4 legged). Can of Worms… pun intended