Jane Yolen is my hero. Picking up her Heart’s Blood series changed my life in so many ways that there is no way to express them all. It was the first time I cried while reading a book. The first time I’d really connected with a protagonist. The first time I’d read a book where villains weren’t really villains, and science fiction was freaking awesome. She made me really want to be a writer, not just do something casually, but really devote myself to moving people like she moved me.
But also, dragons are just really cool.
Yes, you did just fall back into a Geocities website from the 90s.
Of course, Jane Yolen’s books were not my first exposure to dragons. I’d been drawing them for a great deal of my childhood. I think the first story that really affected me utterly, though, was Dragonheart. This is one of those movies that, honestly, still holds up. There’s something about all of the characters, and just the general, classic nature of the movie… not to mention the animators deciding (wisely) not to make Draco shiny. It keeps him from standing out too much.
Also, it was just one of the more elegant deaths of a character I’ve seen on screen: it left my heart wrenching and sad, but not without anything to console me. It was probably also the first movie where I genuinely feared the villain. Einon still gives me the creeps, which attests to the amazing acting of David Thewlis. In general, all of the characters created, I think, my first blueprints for what a cast should look like in order to support a story.
I was six years old when Dragonheart came out. It ushered me out of My Little Pony (I actually believed there was an episode wherein a bunch of black dragons burned down the nursery of the My Little Ponies until tonight, when I tried to find a record of it…. did I dream the whole thing?) and also encouraged me to read my first full-length novel a couple years later (my parents didn’t see any reason to screen my reading choices, haha…) You could say dragons are the reason I’m a bookworm, but it’s pretty obvious to see why.
Twenty some-odd years later, they’re still kicking butt.
As a creature that traveled the globe long before Erik the Red and his Viking cohorts, dragons can be found in the mythologies of all far corners of the world, ranging from the five-toed celestial dragon of China, to the Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs. They’ve been feathered, scaled, winged or terrestrial, four-legged and no-legged; been fire-breathers or masters of ice and water; they come in every color under the sun and even in glass (looking at you, Irene Radford <3) and also in every size (who could forget The Discovery of Dragons by Graeme Base?) The important thing to remember is that they have no better. They are king of all beasts, real or imagined.
For that very reason, I always had a hard time getting into books where the dragons were subservient to man. It just never made sense to me (see Sword & Chain). When I started writing fantasy, I went on a self-imposed strike of dragon books, because I didn’t want any authors to influence me. Really silly, in hindsight, and I missed out on a huge amount of really awesome books, but I felt like I would be a horrible little thief if I borrowed anything from authors that really amazed me. I think a lot of authors feel this way… that they shouldn’t read in their genre, or read books similar to their own. Mostly for the same reasons. You know what I say, now that I’m a little wiser? Don’t! Don’t cut yourself off from stories you would enjoy. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. And besides, once you realize all of your favorite authors have ripped off another author in some way (Doyle “ripped off” Poe, for example), you’ll come to realize it’s a common practice. Maybe not quite a “compliment”, as some will phrase it, but part of the game that is art.
What dragons books have you enjoyed, if any?