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.


This was from early last year so I thought I would post it again, slightly revised:

Desiring Dragons “I desired dragons with a profound desire."
--J.R.R.Tolkien Be careful.

Wishing can be getting.
Desire at the same time an open heart,
an inquisitive mind, a books of stories,
a notebook full of riddles,
good pair of walking shoes,
aloe for burns, roasting spit,
a change of underwear.
Do not bring armor.
Leave the sword behind.

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

In the last picture, it looks to me as if Tilly could have been a (very gentle) dragon, but evolution intervened and her wings evolved into floppy black ears.

These animal posts are striking chords in my heart of hearts. My newest painting series touches on all this and the synchronicity of it all has me walking on clouds. Must pick up "Zoologies" asap.

I agree. I can't stop smiling at Tilly the Gentle Dragon.

I remember this one, Jane, and I still adore it!

The quote makes me think of CS Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet - as if there is a great song going on all around us that most of us can't hear.

The poets, the shamans, the mystics are listening, and sometimes we catch a faint melody on the wind.

All this has brought me to wonder where to start my curious 3 year old granddaughter. Would love to see a post on introducing wee ones to the fairie world.

Hi Terri

Loved today's illustrations and perspective on "dragons". They have always fascinated me and for some reason, the species of palm growing in my backyard, reminds me of one, especially the way the wide leaves are flared and bent, like a serpent's wings almost. Anyway, we finally received a good soaking rain here in the desert, The blessing came and the promise of the prognosticators was fulfilled. But it also made me think of the beautiful palm in my garden guarding the place with the natural sacredness one finds in the lore of eastern dragons. So here's my contribution to the topic.

The Palm

Like the Asian dragon
she has no lair
but is defined
by place. Here she guards
our desert garden. Her green wings
widespread and summoning
the best or worst of wind
depending on how
it may be needed.

Today, it's a storm gust
the sea exhaled
coming with ample force
to clean the roof tiles
and fill a shallow stream.

A wren lands
on a scale of bark
that has been peeling
off her spine. Not bothered
by the unstable air,
the bird stays mounted,

a finial
to emblemize song, a note
of thanks for this thorough sweep,
this swash of rain --
Loved this post and all the comments as well!

Hi Jane

"Desire at the same time an open heart,
an inquisitive mind, a books of stories,
a notebook full of riddles, ...."

Yes, exactly. I can really identify with "desire" in that context. So well put; and the entire poem is a gem with that ending that warns, that leaves its unique impact.

Thanks so much for posting this!

Hi Virginia

"as if there is a great song going on all around us that most of us can't hear.

The poets, the shamans, the mystics are listening, and sometimes we catch a faint melody on the wind."

What a wonderful perspective. I love the idea this expresses! And I also love CS Lewis!

Thank you for sharing,

*friendly wave*

Hi, Terri!
I'm enchanted with Myth & Moor! I love the wonderful faery world and the fantastic beings that live in us. Too grateful by these beautiful images and texts that lead me to other texts and authors and feed me with dreams and magic!
Waiting anxious for the next post!
From Brasil, I wish you a Merry Christmas great times on the next year!

Every month we read a book onto video for our grandkids, who live in different cities. One month we made a video book instead, using images we'd made. It's about looking for dragons, of course (best viewed in HD).



Just had to comment on Mike's Dragon book video. Mike that book video is awesome! Your grandchildren are very lucky to have you.
Being a schoolteacher and parent myself I would certainly share this wonderful story about dragons with zest!
Terri, thanks for introducing one of my favorite fairytale beasts again!

That's serendipitous, I just posted some music from Brazil. Merry Christmas to you and your family too!

Such a sweet video, Mike; thank you for sharing. Your grandchildren are lucky indeed.

Here's a lovely dragon video which your grandchildren might also like, in which my friend Austin Hackney (a puppeteer and writer who used to live here in Chagford) presents his poem "Gift for a Dragon":


It's lovely to revisit this poem. It seems just perfect to me.

Hmmm. I don't have much experience of that (my own daughter came to me much older)...but perhaps someone here can recommend a book or a post on this subject?

Good gracious, I have never thought of dragons in the desert before, so this beautiful poem came as a revelation!

I had entirely forgotten that we had a whole "Moveable Feast" of posts related to dragons back in February, 2013. (Which is where Jane's poem, above, was first posted.) The original post is here, with further links in the comments:


(If you're new to this blog, and don't know what a "Moveable Feast" is, there's an explanation here: http://windling.typepad.com/blog/2011/02/on-blogging-post-script.html )


She seems to have been determined to be extra cute for these Zoologies pictures. Here's another one I took, which would have been thoroughly rude were it not for her judicious placement of her tail:


Silly girl.

My book: CHILD OF FAERIE, CHILD OF EARTH might do, Sara.


I just read this, and the words on the contemplative spirit of animals strikes me as perfect as we begin this week of Halcyon Days.

A gentle dragon at rest having partaken of a feast...vegetarian of course.

Oh yes, indeed!

And I'm reminded of Lauren Mills' lovely fairy books:
The one she did with you, Jane, "Elfabet, An ABC of Elves," as well as "Fairy Wings" (with Dennis Nolan) and "The Book of Little Folk: Fairy Stories and Poems From Around the World."

For older children, there's "How to See Faeries" by Brian Froud and John Matthews, but I think 3 is a bit young for this one, as Brian's faery work always has a darker edge.

Hi Terri

In reality, the closest I have seen to a desert dragon is the bearded dragon lizard from Austrailia (viewed only on a program, The Discovery Channel) and the Sierra alligator lizard native to California. However, I think as Alison Hawthorne Deming states --

dragons are a manifestation of Earth's imagining that takes place in the human mind. And when we experience certain emotions, difficulties, worries or needs, plants or species in our immediate environment can provoke
a reaction, an imagined resemblance to those mythical characters/creatures we feel most connected to or fascinated with. So for me personally, the dragon becomes
part of the landscape with a powerful influence that both eases and comforts. Thank you so much for reading my poem and commenting. I am delighted you liked it!

Take care,

Thanks much. I'll see if my fiery little one flies with this.


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