Dragons and Dragon-Slayers
Dragons, although only occasionally encountered in East Texas (alligators don’t count), are reasonably common in fantasy fiction. Now, in Texas, you might run into one dancing around your neighborhood, especially around the lunar New Year. And in October and May you may find several paddling furiously neck and neck down the bayou (May 1, 2010 is predicted to be an excellent day for dragon spotting around Allen’s Landing in downtown Houston).
However, these sporadic encounters pale in comparison to the thousand or so that comprise the scaly swarm of mighty worms slithering in serpentine fashion along the shelves your local public library. It’s a one-stop dragon shop. This horde of reptilian monsters proliferate in such abundance that they can hardly be accurately enumerated. For example there are:
Of course, there are fantastic dragons.
For true dragon-lovers, there are also works about dragons as potential boyfriends
or just as powerful friends;
there are even friendly and protective dragons
and even real dragons.
But two of my favorite dragons, and there are of grotesquely scary variety—nothing friendly or reluctant about these two— are the ones in The Beginning Place and The Hero and the Crown. And also therein, are two of my favorite dragon-slayers, brave enough to confront these hideous fears, they are the heirs of Beowulf and George.
In The Beginning Place Hugh Rogers has a boring job at Sam’s Thrift-E-Mart and an overbearing hyper-control-freak mother. One day he has a panic attack and bolts his apartment. He starts to run. When he finally stops he’s way out in the country, miles from home. It’s very calm. He thinks the exercise is good for him. He thinks the creek out in the county is a very serene place, a place where he feels free. So he starts to come there more and more often. But Hugh is not the only one who comes here. Irena comes here. She’s been coming here for years, but she knows something that Hugh does not yet realize. The place is not just out in the country. It is in another world, a world that is now threatened.
In The Hero and the Crown Aerin, “the only daughter of the witchwoman who enspelled the king into marrying her,” is a pale red-haired young woman without a gift of magic. She inherited none from her father and none from her mother, who died at her birth. Tall and gangly, not a favorite at court and not in line to succeed to the throne, Aerin makes herself useful by killing dragons. Not large dragons, like the Great Ones of old but the small stubby legged broad bodied beasts of the present day that were such a nuisance. Of course, they can still spit fire and you have to be careful of the barbed tail, so you have to be careful. Also, they often come in pairs. But Aerin preservers, and gains a reputation. And then, Maur, the black dragon appears. Supposedly dead for many years, Maur is one of the Great Ones.