Fairy Tales, Then & Now
Tunes for a Monday Morning

On Dragons

Leviathan by Arthur Rackham

Dragon by Arthur Rackham

Here's one more exquisite passage from Alison Hawthorne Deming's Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit (discussed in Tuesday's post). It comes from her essay "Dragons," which I recommend reading in full:

Dragon by Arthur Rackham"Earth is teeming  with creatures great and small, tame and wild, endangered and endangering, hideous and gorgeous. Animals are a manifestation of the planet's imagining, and dragons are a manifestation of Earth's imagining that takes place in the human mind. We're not the only animals that can carry other animals in mind. Who hasn't seen a dog running in his sleep after inner prey? Is only his body imagining the rabbit he chases when his paws gallop through the snoring or is his mind too capable of conjuring the cottontail? It's impossible to know. But I'm convinced that all the animal sentience in the world makes for a massive contemplative practice that is humming along at any given moment -- the crow perched on a spruce surveying the meadows, the bobcat trotting down a woods lane in a moving meditation, the humpback whale going tailfins up on a deep and sonorous dive, the crickets percussing their endless hum, the squirrels dismantling pinecones like manic monks with their prayer beads, the Jersey cows chewing their cuds while they lie under maple trees and stare at the dandelions, the elephants rumbling out their hellos to each other across the savanna, the rabbits dancing for mystical joy in the rain as I have seen them do in the desert, the dragons lunging from storybook pages and TV screens and medieval engravings -- all of them an expression of Earth's spirituality, the something greater than rock and light and water, the something beyond matter that seeks to be. A creature of the senses that drinks in the world, a creature of an inwardness that seeks its own ends separate from external factors. Aren't we all, all of us, animals here together, double agents in our own bodies?"

Zoologies by Alison Hawthorne DemingWords: The passage by Alison Hawthorne Deming above is from Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit (Milkweed Editons, 2014), which I highly recommend. All rights reserved by the author. Pictures: The dragon illustrations above are by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939). The quotes in the picture captions are from "On Fairy-Stories" by J.R.R. Tolkien (1939), The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin (1972), Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2oo2), and Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1929). Run your cursor over the images to read them.