Sunday, 7 June 2015

Reimagined Dragons

I’ve been called a handful of less-than-flattering names in my time (with varying degrees of justice), but it occurred to me when I was casting round for ideas for this post that I’ve never, ever, not once been described to as a “dragon”. At first, that struck me as somewhat of an omission on the world’s part—after all, when I was a small child, television comedies and cartoon strips seemed replete with women who were described as “dragons” (for the most part, by hilarious coincidence, married to maddeningly ineffectual blokes called George). Was I not as fearsomely exacting, exhausting and exigent as those ladies?
 
OK, maybe my fire-breathing skills could use a little work, but perhaps a more persuasive reason is that the role of the dragon has always been trickier to pin down than the shifting shimmer of iridescent scales. Reimagined time and again as greedy guardians of coveted treasure, oppressors of princesses (and other edible maidens), adversaries of knights, emblems of wisdom, of benevolence of longevity—wait! What? Yup, let’s not forget the important role of dragons in Chinese mythology, where they are often the good guys. Today, in film and television, the adventures of Hiccup, the young Viking of How to Train Your Dragon and Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones’ very own Mother of Dragons, depict the dragon’s role as less that of adversary and more that of a powerful ally to understand and befriend.


 
Nor is this a case of a monster being stripped of its terrifying aspects to make it more palatable to modern audiences; while vampires may have undergone pop culture makeovers, transforming them from blood-bloated shambling corpses into sparkly studmuffins, dragons have been complex critters from the get-go, sometimes to be slain with a sword and sometime, as in the case of the Laidly Worm, to be rescued from enchantment with “kisses three”. In all cases, however, the dragon presents some kind of a challenge which cannot be ignored—and often one that must be tackled not only with physical strength and courage, but also with intelligence, insight and compassion.
 
Thank you for reading, Alison Raouf.
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