Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Colbert on Tolkien (Iandumoema smeagol)

So, Steven Colbert has done it again, proudly identifying himself in public as a Tolkien geek. The context this time does not involve Balrogs but spiders -- specifically the report that a newly discovered Brazilian spider is being named after Smeagol. This Iandumoema smeagol is, according to an online article, a "troglobitic harvestman" -- from which I take it it lives in caves (troglodyte) and isn't really a spider at all but a Daddy Longlegs ('harvestman'; closely related to spiders but distinct from them). Here's a picture:


Unfortunately, this little arachnid has gone from being unknown to being extremely endangered; according to the article its habitat comprises as area of "only a mere 4.6 square km".

Colbert seems to have approved of the tribute to Professsor Tolkien but took exception that they named it after Smeagol (Gollum's original name, used when he still lived on the river-bank with his grandmother) rather than Gollum (the name Bilbo gives him after several hundred years of lurking in the dark has transformed him) or, better yet, Shelob (who is of course a spider).  I wd have held out for Ungoliant myself.

Here's the Colbert clip; thanks to Janice for the link:


For two more brief glimpses of Colbert at his best, here are two brief segments in which he defends his Tolkien fan credentials against a rival (thanks to Wendell for posting these on the MythSoc list):



Finally, as a Tolkien scholar myself, I'd just point out that this isn't the first time a spider has been named after something in Tolkien's books: witness the fossil proto-spider Attercopus fimbriungis, extinct since the Devonian (H.o.H. 321).

--John R.

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