Glaurung: the first dragon of Middle-earth

I’ve been running games based on Tolkien’s Silmarillion for a few years, but have always had a dragon-sized gap in my collection. Glaurung – a malevolent, wingless wyrm – features heavily in the First Age of Middle-earth and there have been many great interpretations of him on the Wargaming In Middle Earth Facebook page (a fine source of inspiration.)

Glaurung battles Noldor horse archers. The background is a download from Jon Hodgson Maps patreon

I remembered that Schleich, the plastic toy company, had a wide range of dragons and dinosaurs and wondered if one of them might work. A quick Internet search was all I needed to find this rather fine lava dragon. He fitted the bill for me, having a rather arrogant look about him that suits Tolkien’s creation, and looking like he’d work without his wings.The bonus of having a pre-assembled model in plastic was not lost on me, remembering trying to assemble multi-part metal dragons in the 1980s! The price was good as well, setting me back £15 – a fraction of what it would cost in resin or metal.

Schleich Lava Dragon next to an Oathmark Goblin for scale
Look dad, no wings!

After arrival, his wings were even easier to remove than I had expected, being separate pieces attached with a ball and socket joint. All I had to do was pop the wings out, trim the edges of the socket and then fill in the holes with epoxy putty (Milliput in this case.) The surface of the putty was roughly sculpted to try to blend it in with the dragon’s scales. I can’t say that this was my best sculpting ever but it does the job of disguising the gaps.

Filling wing cavities with Milliput, badly

The Schleich model also had a moveable jaw with a gap underneath, so I used more Milliput to seal this open and fill the crack. I wasn’t quite sure about the tail at this stage – the lava dragon is modelled with a club-like tail reminiscent of an ankylosaur – but I left it as I couldn’t be bothered to change it at the time. I did, however, bend it downwards using a heat gun so that it would fit inside my usual big monster figure storage – a 9 litre Really Useful Box. After years of doing this stuff, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s best to plan how anything big is going to be stored before painting it!

Here you can see that I’ve bent the tail down using a heat gun. I really should have removed the dinosaur club at this point as well, but didn’t do that till later on
Tolkien’s illustration of Glaurung – essential reference material for colours

Consulting Tolkien’s only illustration of Glaurung, I couldn’t originally work out how I was going to incorporate a gold body with a green head. My friend Andy Hawes did an amazing job on his converted Mithril Miniatures Glaurung with a bold combo of yellows, greens and reds. I decided that I wanted to go with metallic gold blended into green, with a black underbelly. Exactly how I was going to achieve this I wasn’t quite sure.

Andy Hawes’s superb Glaurung model (using a converted Mithril Miniatures dragon) in combat with my Noldor a few years back

I kicked off with an undercoat of Halfords grey plastic primer (my go-to product for undercoating any flexible plastics) and then tried a base layer using a coat of GW Contrast Black Templar. When dry, I started experimenting with dry brushing Glaurung’s top scales with several light layers of Vallejo Brass. Glaurung’s head received some light layers of Army Painter Army Green. This was very much trial-and-error, with me adjusting and repainting sections as I went along.

Mid-painting. You can see the various dry brushed layers being built up although the gold lacks depth (a brown ink wash fixed this).

Glaurung then experienced a delay of a couple of months as I got distracted by preparing the El Cid Battle of Bairen game for the Partizan show. Upon returning him to the front of the painting table, I realised, finally, that the dino club tail had to go! He was rushed into surgery and quickly had it removed with a fresh craft knife blade, carving it to a point.

Tail surgery! Should have done this at the start

Next, I rolled up a piece of green stuff and rolled it into place around the tail. Following the advice of more skilled friends, I left it for 15 minutes until it was less sticky and then modelled some scales and texture to attempt to blend it in. I cut off the tips of the plastic spikes from the original tail (they are black in the pic below) and placed them in a line to continue the spines of the tail.

Tail surgery 2: replaced with a rough piece of green stuff

With this done, I undercoated the tail in black and set to finishing off the whole model. I continued adding dry brushed layers of Vallejo Brass, then gave the whole gold area a wash of Windsor and Newton Nut Brown ink. The scales were highlighted with Vallejo Gold and individual ones picked out. The eyes were worked up with a few layers of red, orange and yellow before adding a slitted pupil in black.

Nearing completion – Glaurung fits nicely onto the irregular pond base in the sabot

To finish off, Glaurung’s spines were repainted in black and dry-brushed with Foundry Charcoal Black to provide some definition from the rest of the body. Claws were painted with Miniature Paints MP84 Umber before highlighting up with Vallejo Iraqi Sand and Off-White.

The finished Glaurung takes on a brave, or foolhardy, denizen of Beleriand
The finished model!

While all this was going on, I was also working on getting the dragon’s base ready for gaming. I wanted him on an irregular base that fitted within a 120mm wide sabot base for my games of Midgard. Normally this might be a custom job, but Warbases had it covered already. In my last order, I had picked up a pack of Pond Bases. This excellent product is a variety of irregular bases, ideal for any kind of scatter terrain and vignettes. I found the right size base for Glaurung and then kept the surround as the frame for my sabot base.

Warbases Pond Bases
Preserving the cut-out of the pond base to create a large sabot

Having got the layers together, I then magnetised the components of the base before assembly. I used self-adhesive 0.5mm magnetic sheet and ferro steel supplied by Magnetic Displays to make sure that the smaller base would stay in position on the larger 120 x 160mm sabot.

All the layers: pond base backed with magnetic sheet, pond base sabot lined with steel paper, all fixed down on to a 120 x 160mm round-cornered base.

The base was glued together and some Milliput and pine bark texturing added, checking, of course, that the central base would still lift out!

Sabot base ready for painting with added pieces of pine bark and Milliput

Having sprayed the whole base with Halfords Khaki Camouflage, I then glued the finished Glaurung into position and added textured paste, dry brushed the whole thing and stuck on tufts and flock. Voila!

Within a few hours of the paint and glue drying, Glaurung was in action on the gaming table, leading my Orc host against Paul W’s Elves. As we all know, newly-painted models don’t last long, but the mighty wyrm survived until Turn 4 before being brought down by Elven archery! Ah well.

Glaurung stares down the Elf line

Glaurung looks rather cool towering about his Orc host. Makes him a good target though!

After Glaurung is felled by archery, the Orcs are left with a large hole in their rather piecemeal line.
Elf cavalry charge home on the flank
One of the Orc Captains issues a challenge to single combat! Game over.

13 thoughts on “Glaurung: the first dragon of Middle-earth

  1. What a brilliant idea to source plastic toys for Dragons etc.

    It looks the business now James and has all the ambience that one would expect from a Glaurung model


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