Something Like a Dragon

By grace, 2,015 words written on the new book today! Whenever I throw word counts around, it’s not my intention to boast. And sheer numbers of words, of course, mean nothing: enough monkeys with enough typewriters could bang out an enormous number of words. I mean only 1.) to demonstrate that there is forward progress, and 2.) to establish credentials. What gives me the right to hold up my head and talk about writing as if I know something is not the things I’ve published: it’s the fact that, today, I’ve been walking the walk, with my fingers on the keys, choosing certain phrases over certain other phrases, figuring out how to get a little more of the story out of the excavation site without damaging it too severely. So the book is on track and moving ahead nicely. (Or, as Spock says in the recent excellent film: “Thrusters on full.”) Soli Deo gloria! [The story is told that J.S. Bach wrote that phrase on every manuscript when he composed music: Soli Deo gloria — Glory to God alone.]

That “excavation” theory of writing is set forth clearly by Stephen King in his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I think he’s exactly right. How about this [my own variation]? — “Writing is bagging the smoke.” It’s attempting to throw a curtain around the misty shape that coalesces — just for a moment — within your reach. If you can get the curtain around it, you can preserve it (or at least its shadow) in a fixed form for yourself and others to enjoy. If you can’t, it’s gone again, because it’s always drifting, always changing, like the clouds in a summer sky. Ooo, I like that! (This cloud motion theory explains why, if you would tackle the same idea at different times of your life, you’d get significantly different stories.) Though you may not believe it, I am still on topic here. . . .

So it’s high time we talked about that dragon! To refresh your memory, and so that you don’t have to go back to a previous post to see the poem in question, here again is “Glory Day.” (The term “Glory Day” refers to the Fourth of July, which for me has always been a symbol of the height of summer . . . the time of freedom and imagination, the season “better-than-which-it-does-not-get.” I wrote this poem at some point during my college years. Specifically, I remember that I wrote it on a 5th of July, the day after Glory Day, sitting on a folding chair facing north across the field between my house and Chris’s house, in the shade of the maple trees at the northeast corner of our yard, with the barn directly behind me. The barn is gone now, but most of those trees are still there.)

“Glory Day”

We found the old cat one hot Glory Day

In the steamy weeds, swelled to twice his size;

Green glory thunder echoed in his eyes

As we laid him out where the smell of hay

And green maple shadows would make the flies

Forget him; and watching the heat waves rise

From the wind-mirroring beans we covered him with clay.

There was lightning low in the sky away

Off, and a distant rumbling down the road;

The Virginia creeper whispered to the wagon

It covered like time-snails’ tracks, the old load

Of bricks for building; something like a dragon

Crawled south in the blur of wheat’s golden sway

When we buried a tomcat on Glory Day.

 

That’s sort of a sonnet: it has 14 lines. But look at the strange rhyme scheme: ABBABBA ACDCDAA. In a departure from normal sonneting (sonneteering?), I compressed the part before the break and expanded the part after the break. See the overlapping effect in what’s normally the first eight lines (now seven)? — ABBAABBA has become ABBABBA. With that overlap, and by carrying that A-rhyme through as I did, I was trying to emphasize unity, that all these elements of the poem are inextricably woven together (“seamless throughout,” like that garment the soldiers didn’t want to tear but cast lots for instead).

In other words, the dead cat is the dragon. The beans, the heat waves, the maple shadows, the creeper, the tracks of time-snails: all these are the dragon, and they are the thunder, and the thunder is the cat, and the dragon is the image of the invisible wind mirrored in the beans that sway. All these things are part of growing up on a farm, where death and life are bound up together; where life bursts from the soil every spring . . . where fragile green things grow from the cracks of old dead fence-posts . . . where everything goes to sleep in the winter, blanketed with snow . . . and where there’s always the smell of something dead wafting from behind some hedgerow (“In ahind yon oul fail dyke / I wot there lies a new slain knight. . . .”) Moreover, it’s all bound up in “Glory Day,” the A-rhyme, the phrase found in the title and in the first and final lines of the poem. “Glory” is freedom and celebration and fireworks in the sky; it’s wonder and youth and being alive, learning and growing; but it’s also a word lodged in the Beyond, isn’t it? Believers in Christ live in “the hope of glory.” We speak of “the glory to be revealed in us.” . . . “We have beheld His glory.” . . . “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” . . . We often set “glory” as the condition opposed to the here and now: there are those of us alive now, and there are “the saints in glory.” So it’s a loaded word — and, I hope, a loaded poem.

Thank you to everyone who put forth a theory as to what the “something like a dragon” is! I appreciated them all, and every one of them was a good answer. A couple of you “went public” and gave us your ideas in official comments; a couple more slipped them to me by e-mail. Your theories about the dragon included:

a rumbling train, the sounds of its progress echoing the thunder;

a row of hills undulating in the distance;

a river, stream, or the Flatbranch Creek;

and even the “raccoon lugging a knapsack” from Maxine Kumin’s “The Presence”!

One might also say a tractor — a solitary tractor crawling across the distance in the vastness of a field can take on a mystical aspect. All these answers are good, and all can be right together.

As for me, I wasn’t thinking as literally as you all were. For me, the dragon isn’t necessarily anything physical or material. It’s more an abstract concept, suggested by those amazing and unsettling shadows the wind leaves in grain fields, which motif I’ve used again and again in my writing. [From my poem The Horror in the Wind: “The wind in shapes / and shadows masks / the dreadful footfalls of the gods.” And from “Seawall”: “Across the slopes, the wind stirs the green asili stems in vast wandering arcs, as if unseen creatures larger than dragons are playing there.”] Jesus mentions this phenomenon, too, doesn’t He, when He’s talking to Nicodemus?

The dragon-like thing crawls south. For me, south is the direction “toward warmth, toward imagination, toward enchantment.” South is the “good” direction. At that time in my life, “north” meant college and cold, hard work and the big city; “south” meant home and freedom.[Treebeard has the line in the LOTR movies about how he’s always enjoyed walking south, because it always feels like he’s walking downhill. I hear you, ‘Beard!]

My intention in this poem, then, is that on the day when all these elements are present: the green, the tree shadows, the dead cat needing to be buried, the heat waves, the passage of time, the thunder — on this day, the wonder and terror and joy and grandeur almost manifest themselves in a tangible shape. That thing crawling south is wonder itself. It’s the shape of something that has no shape; it’s the expression of something that cannot be expressed. (Heh, heh! Sounds like I’m talking about Arthur C. Clarke’s Monolith!) All you can do is get the general idea.

Whew! That’s more than anyone ever wanted to know about “Glory Day”!

I was thinking about this use of a dragon to represent something abstract and larger, and it occurred to me that animals — in particular, big animals — are sometimes used this way. It seems to be an ancient and fundamental device.

I need to quote again from my story “A Tale of Silences,” which appeared in Cicada, January/February 2006. This tale is set in a mountain village in Japan in 1970, about 25 years after the war. The main character is an old man named Jii who has lived all his life in the village, which is now slated for obliteration through the construction of a new dam which will flood the area. The story tells of Jii’s last year in the village.

One night, he is awakened in total darkness by strange sounds, and he realizes a bear has gotten into his house and into the very room where he’s been sleeping. For a long time he lies there, not daring to move, and eventually the bear (for reasons unknown) goes away. Jii ponders what this encounter has meant. Here’s the excerpt:

As Jii sawed, chopped, and bundled sticks, he watched the forest, wondering if his bear would return. At times he was sure he could feel eyes upon him, peering from the underbrush. Once he thought he heard husky breathing nearby, but it might have been a breeze in the pine branches. And once, just as a broken limb he’d sawed off dropped into the decomposing leaves, he saw a bear on the next ridge. It was black against the dull sky and huge, bigger than any he’d ever seen. Slowly its head turned in his direction. When the eyes found him, Jii was somehow sure this had been the bear in his house. It gazed at him for a long time, then ambled into the trees.

Later, at dusk, the bamboo swayed in the wind. Sipping hot tea, Jii watched from the window. He envisioned human figures coming and going among the grove’s shifting shadows: himself and Fusa, sometimes middle-aged, sometimes young, once hand-in-hand for the first time. . . .

Paler each day, the sun sought to warm the land by showering more and more thin light, the last of its summer store. It sparkled from the few sere leaves, blazed on the streams, and suffused morning mists like a golden forgetfulness. Jii felt an urgency in the clamoring light; soon all the bears would go into their dens. Before they began their long sleep, and all the land with them, something must be done. Some secret, Jii began to think, must lie hidden near at hand, some riddle of dying leaf or unturned stone that, if solved, would bring peace and clarity. He became convinced that the bear had come to call him out before the valley was lost, to awaken him from his den in the deep years, to lead him to an answer for which he did not quite grasp the question. All he knew, as surely as he knew the sun sank earlier each evening behind the purple height, was that time was running out.

Later, Jii again encounters the bear up close:

The great bear had come — the mountain’s nushi. As if sunlight were shining on his back, Jii felt a comfort, his fear melting away. The terror of the nushi’s first visit was gone, but still Jii could not turn around. A sense of his own insubstantiality kept him unmoving, as if to stir in the nushi’s presence might cause him to dissolve in light. He lowered his head, filled at once with weariness and a peace he had not known since childhood — the earliest days and nights of consciousness, the only time in mortal life that one rests completely. Sinking to the floor before the nushi’s gigantic paws, Jii slept.

Do not fear, said a voice to him in his dreams.

This Japanese concept of a particular area’s nushi  or “lord” — the guardian and master of a certain mountain, forest, or river — has to some degree been introduced to western audiences through the film Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) by Hayao Miyazaki, in which the Shinto gods of the forested mountain take the forms of gigantic animals.

It’s interesting, this manifestation of things powerful and divine in the forms of animals. . . .

In Lord Dunsany’s The Book of Wonder, I recall that one of those haunting, enthralling black-and-white pictures shows a pathless forest, and the hind parts of some huge, bear-like animal just visible as the creature passes behind a tree. I don’t have access to my copy of the book right now — anyone out there with a copy, can you confirm this memory? I was intrigued by how the artist chose to depict only part of the animal — and not the head.

In my own first, unpublished novel The Threshold of Twilight, I included a great Well called Twilintarn, which was a point where worlds intersected. Some tremendous, powerful Presence moved over the water there — the Keeper of Twilintarn — so terrible that to see it directly was death, as some unfortunate villains found out. From the glimpses we get of the Keeper, it seems to be a four-footed animal, though of colossal proportions.

In that same book, there is a wild Stag running through the fantasy world: a noble animal which is the embodiment of our own world, this one in which we live. Yes: in that world, our world runs around as a wild Stag. If the Huntsman with his black arrows kills the Stag, our world will perish. And already as the story begins, the Stag is wounded, its steps faltering.

How about Melville’s Moby-Dick? Isn’t the white whale really more than a whale? Doesn’t it represent something bigger?

Lurking in the shadows behind the Old Testament are Leviathan and Behemoth. Both halves of the world have their dragons, some good, some bad. Looming large in my childhood was King Kong: an animal of gigantic size, ruling his lost island of wonder. It’s not a stretch to say that Kong is a symbol of what is wild, free, beautiful, and should not be touched by humankind.

And then there’s Aslan, a lion and the Lord. There are humans and humanoids in Narnia; C.S. Lewis might easily have given his Christ figure a human shape, but he did not.

Back to that picture from The Book of Wonder, of the great beast moving among the trees, and only its hindquarters visible. . . . Since childhood, I’ve been intrigued by the passage in Exodus 33, in which Moses has asked to see God’s glory. God reminds Moses that no one may see God’s face and live, but He offers this alternative:

Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

I quoted here from the New International Version. I checked four or five different translations of the passage. A couple say God’s “back”; one said “from behind”; and two used the phrase I remember hearing/reading as a child: God’s “back parts.” As a wide-eyed child thinking of this encounter, I always imagined that “back parts” sounded more like part of a quadruped than a human figure. (Yet God has a “hand,” too, that He puts over Moses’s eyes.) It’s pointless to read too much into “back parts,” which is only a translation. [Hey, you guys who have studied Hebrew — I know there are at least two of you! — This would be an excellent time to help us out!]

But what is clear is that Moses had a “Glory Day” experience here! We can’t see the face of God . . . or that of the Keeper of Twilintarn. Jii’s bear comes to him in the pitch blackness. We can’t see the wind, but we see its shadow in the grain, and we feel its power. We can’t clearly see what crawls south, but we know it’s something like a dragon, anyway! We behold God’s glory, and we press on toward glory. And we write, attempting to throw the sheet over the ghost.

Grrooinnkkk! Hey, it’s Midsummer’s Eve this week! There may be Good Folk dancing in your garden! When the Eve falls precisely is a matter of which you prefer and when the weather is best: I’d place it on Saturday night or Sunday night if you prefer the solstice, or Wednesday night if you want to go with the eve of the birth of St. John the Baptist.

Grrooiinnkk again: Are you ready for this? My agent has given me the green light to make this announcement. Through the outstanding work of my amazingly incredible agent, we have found a publisher for The Star Shard as a book! Though some details are still being worked out, and more revision is coming, Houghton Mifflin has graciously agreed to give the book a home.

So it’s truly a happy Midsummer’s Eve, and Soli Deo gloria!

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44 Responses to “Something Like a Dragon”

  1. Chris Says:

    South was where you guys were at relative to me and indeed I always enjoyed heading that way. North was back home (ugh). But FURTHER north is where I really want to be today. Not at “home” per se, but waaaay up north. I’m arctic at heart. (Hence the honeymoon in Iceland and Norway and my favorite road trip up to the Arctic Circle and Bodo in 1999.)

    South (your house being an exception) is usually where I find myself “ending up” rather unhappily. Be it New Orleans for a postdoc or Atlanta or now SoCal for work. Ugh. I dislike the heat of the south.

    I like the spare cold desolation of the extreme north. (Surprise!)

    Summer and bright sunny days have no meaning to me unless contrasted with dark stormy cold days.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I’ll never forget the photo you sent me of your wife standing in front of the road sign — was it in Norway? — that said “Bimbo,” with an arrow pointing straight ahead. (“Bimbo” is apparently a town up there. . . .)

      • Chris Says:

        Speaking of doorways. Sometimes the “name” of a place
        is sufficient to make it interesting. Sometimes the
        name of a character makes a great “doorway”.

        Not unlike Gehennabel.

        In the case of the photo you are referring to, yes, on our
        drive up to the Arctic Circle from Trondheim we saw the
        turn off for Bimbo Norway. We swerved across lanes of
        traffic in order to get a photo of this.

        It joins our various other “Christmas Card Photos”
        that we have taken on our travels including the
        grafitto in Kentucky that read “Catholic School Girls
        Rule” (again a picture with Rita beside it) and the
        town name from Newfoundland we could never
        quite bring ourselves to use in a card or pose next
        to for the photo (but we did get a photo of it):
        Dildo Newfoundland.

  2. Gabe Dybing Says:

    FRED!!! CONGRATULATIONS ON LANDING “THE STAR SHARD!!!” HOORAY!

    Thanks for reminding me about midsummer eve. It’s SWELTERING here in Minnesota (and today we have tornado watches). I’ll be watching for the elves this Sunday at the Winona Steamboat Days fireworks display. Be careful. With so many open Doors these days… 🙂

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Gabe!
      Wow! If a tornado really would strike there on Midsummer’s Eve during the Winona Steamboat Days, we could end up with you, a bunch of elves and Minnesotans, and a steamboat all getting carried away to the land of Oz! (Wasn’t that the plot of a book by Philip Jose Farmer?)

  3. mileposter Says:

    Congratulations on The Star Shard! I know how long and hard you’ve worked on this one!

    It’s so true that thoughts are hard to capture in writing, whether you speak of smoke or excavation. I’ve found that out in all the instances where the computer, locally or remotely, trashed what I had written–and it seems to happen more often if I’ve been very inspired in what I’ve just set down!

    As for the monkeys banging on typewriters, wouldn’t they just come up with letters, not words? 🙂

    • Chris Says:

      FIrstly: MY congrats also to Fred! I completely blanked on adding that in.

      But also as to the million monkeys on typewriters, I think there’s probably a strong statistical likelihood that a large number of monkeys typing randomly on keyboards would produce some number of words.

      The probability falls off rapidly when one asks for several words in a row separated by spaces. Unless, of course, one is talking about a William Burroughs book like Naked Lunch, or perhaps a Robert Burns poem.

      Apparently in statistics this is called the “Infinite Monkey Theorem” (no joke). Please forgive if I have completely bollixed the following (I’m currently spending time working with statistics and this is part of my therapy):

      The computer I’m typing on has 100 keys (it has a numeric pad along with all the function keys). That means that I have a 1% chance of hitting any specific key when I randomly hit the keyboard. If I want to type a word like “Cymbril” each letter is an “independent test” with a 1/100 chance. So the probability is multiplicative. P = (1/100)^7 or 1/100,000,000,000,000. Which is pretty small but not zero.

      As I understand it, the chance of NOT typing “Cymbril” is 1-P, interestingly if you were to type random blocks of 7 letters a LOT the math works out such that:

      Probability of Not Typing Cymbril = (1-(1/10^14))^n (where n is the number of 7 letter blocks or, alternately, the number of monkeys typing.

      Now the real problem for Fred is that he will have to use an enormously large number of monkeys to bring the probability down to a reasonable level of just getting “Cymbril”, let alone a full novel. Unless, as stated earlier, his goal is write a William Burroughs novel.

      (Again, my apologies if I’ve completely screwed up the math here…I am not inherently mathematical.)

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Mileposter and Chris! I was going to say what Chris said about the monkeys and probability, but I would have said it without the numbers — your way, Chris, was a lot more effective!

  4. Lizzie Borden Says:

    Holy Cow- Congratulations, Fred!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Daylily Says:

    Congratulations to _The Star Shard_ and to you! Huzzah, huzzah!!! I’m so glad that you didn’t have to suffer through 29 rejections, as with Madeline L’Engle’s _A Wrinkle in Time_.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Daylily! Well, it wasn’t 29 rejections for me, but it wasn’t an easy path, either. The story version was written for Cricket and sold to them right away, so that part went smoothly. The expanded book version, though, had probably around 10 or 12 rejections, depending on what you count.

  6. I think me dumb Says:

    Since I live in the cultural wasteland that is central Iowa I have had no recourse to Cricket or Cicada — even from libraries — so all I know of The Star Shard is what has appeared here in the best blog on the net. I am overjoyed it has been picked up!

    As for Chris: I am glad people who can think at his level exist, and I am happy to not be one of them, because if I was I think I would view the bulk of humanity as sops.

    My math skills died as soon as they added letters. My only ‘C’ in college was in college algebra, and I was in such a state of glee that Lyle Burchfield — a friend of mine in the same class, with the same view on the matter, and who had also received a ‘C’ — and I promptly went out and tied on a drunk so excellent we still discuss it many many years hence.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I didn’t even take algebra in college! Mr. Robinson’s junior-high version was quite enough for me, and I only survived that because he let us draw posters for extra credit (and I consistently drew posters that made merciless fun of algebra . . . but he was a good sport).

      You need to march into your local library and persuade the librarian that the whole problem with the community’s youth is that they don’t have access to Cricket and Cicada. “What this town needs are some children’s magazines, and I mean she needs ’em TODAY!”

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    Fred —

    That’s exactly what I was trying to give words to when I’ve talked about the agony of trying to write “Swan Lake.” It’s like a dragon that has been coiling around me, breathing in my face, and I have been trying to describe it, give it words and shape, so that others can see and feel a bit of the terror and ecstasy I have as glimpses of it roll through my mind.

    Congratulations on “The Star Shard.” That’s wonderful news! There’s a bit of the old magic still in Midsummer Night’s Eve. 🙂

    By the way — I don’t know if you or anyone else ever had this thought, but I always thought of dragons (which figure sometimes in British legends) as being the “nushi” of Britain and the Celts. More Celtic legends view them positively, while Saxon legends seem to view them negatively and the Saxon heroes are always killing them. I have a story brewing in relation to that. Something with Wales and the mountains and the winged, magical fire-breathing guardians.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Elizabeth!
      It’s great to see you here! (I think the e-Fates have given you the best icon of any of us!) (I got stuck with this green swastika.)
      Wow! “Swan Lake” sounds like it’s worth fighting for! Keep wrestling, and don’t let that dragon go until it blesses you!

      Thanks for the kind words on The Star Shard!

      That’s fascinating about dragons as the nushi of Britain and the Celts! No, I didn’t know that! I had thought that, in general, the lore of the western world treated dragons badly, associating them with the devil, whereas the eastern world treated them usually as good, wise, and bringing good luck. I see that such a dichotomy is too general! You should definitely pursue that story!

  8. Catherine Says:

    YAAAAAAAAAA-HOOOOOOOOO!!!! (she shrieks in a very undignified manner, startling the entire neighborhood, which is suddenly informed that a certain story is finally coming to fruition) (the neighborhood then calls a council meeting wishing to outlaw shrieking teenagers, especially those who have contact with authors, unless the said teenagers agree to be docile and quiet about it)

    I love what you said about catching a story, with the quote from Stephen King and all that. I am not much of a writer, but when I really get involved with a story the characters seem to be alive for me in some plane, which makes them seem to write themselves. (And get themselves in all sorts of trouble. I sat down to the computer one day to find one character wearing my sweater. She wouldn’t return it until I changed her hairstyle, age, and general circumstances.) I wonder what coalesces to make that happen? Vivid imagination? Half-buried life experience? Other people’s works? All three . . . ?

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Wow! Neighborhood, schmeighborhood — I heard that all the way over HERE! Thank you very much for your joy over The Star Shard! (And thanks again for finding me that copy of “Twa Corbies” — you can see that I’ve really been getting the mileage out of it!)

      I’ve had the experience you described! (Only my character wasn’t wearing your sweater!) I was writing along on The Fires of the Deep, and I had Loft, the main character, duck into a certain room to hide. When he got in there and closed the door, a certain other character stood up from where she had been hiding behind the desk. I was as surprised as Loft was! I’d had no idea that character was in that room until I got Loft in there. But once she stood up, I understood exactly what she was doing there and why she needed to be there for the plot. So, I don’t know where it comes from, either, but those characters do know what they’re supposed to do, if we just listen to them.

  9. SwordLily Says:

    CONGRATULATIONS, FRED! LONG LIVE THE STAR SHARD! *wants to shout like Catherine did but is too shy. But does get up and do a happy dance*

    And now on with my post-

    Midsummer Night:

    Under a silver moon
    Heat sings the ground alive
    Fey dance in rainbow shadows
    Winter is only a fond memory of gray

    –By me ^_^. When I was little I never associated the 21st of June with the word Midsummer. To me the word Midsummer always made me think of those long August days when the world is summering with exhaustion, and under the limp foliage more life hums then one could ever have imagined in the silence of winter. While around June 21st winter is just melting back into the ground. Jackets are off but the nights still hold a little winter chill. I dunno if in other places, like further south, it’s different but I usually have to stick to my imagination telling me what Midsummer should be like, and that poem shows what my imagine dictates.

    Well Midsummer isn’t exactly the topic here so I’ll get back to that: those beings and feelings that are larger than life and have haunted our dreams and imaginations from the dawn of time. There are things in the world that are too large and powerful for our little human brains to comprehend, like the awe we feel at an ocean storm or the uncertainty at thunder in the mountains. The latter fear is what probably brought life to the Yettie (but for all I know there is a giant white man-creature lurking in wait for any unsuspecting climber in the Himalayas– eek >__<).

    The great power of nature and how people feel about it is perfectly illustrated in the movie Princess Mononoke (thanks for mentioning this film Fred, It's one of my favorites and I truly enjoy talking about it) [SPOILER WARNING START don't read this part if you haven't seen this wonderful movie or really don't care about knowing the ending]———-
    ———————————————————————————
    ——————————————————————————— In the ending of this movie the Spirit of the Forest is almost killed, and the mountain, the forest and all the people are dying with it. When the humans, well mainly the wise protagonist, try to appease the spirit he forgives them. Even though the Spirit doesn't have a physical form any more, he once again makes the flowers bloom. At this point the main character, a boy by the name of Ashitaka, tells the mourning princess of wolves, "The Great Forest Spirit is not dead, he's still living in all of us. And I think he's trying to tell us something: that this is our time to live." I love this part because shows that as long as we respect the great powers of the world they will always be alive and take care of what we destroy with our selfishness [SPOILER WARNING END]

    I don't really want to make this post any longer but I loved this entry so much, Fred, and want to thank you for making such an awesome blog. For a young and not very confident writer this blog has fed my imagination and let me know that I'm not alone. ^_^

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      THANK YOU, SWORDLILY! I love that poem! I REALLY love that poem! It includes heat singing the ground alive — and that IS one of the primary sensations of a Midsummer’s Night that I find most magical, too! I also like how the lines of the poem get longer and longer, so its shape on the page looks like a ray of moonlight spreading toward the ground.

      You know, Marquee Movies and I have talked about the timing of Midsummer’s Eve — every year when I remind him it’s here, he feels a pang of sorrow, because it sounds like we’re already in the middle of the summer, that it’s half over. But it isn’t, of course! My calendar says June 21st is the First Day of Summer. I always tell him to think of the name as meaning “an evening amidst the summer.” It is the longest day (the solstice), which is what makes it “a particularly favorable time for sighting the Fey Folk” — but for all our purposes, the summer is just beginning! The Great Months of reading and writing lie just ahead! Hallelujah, and Hallelujah!

      Thanks for the thoughts from Mononoke Hime! I’ve only seen the movie in Japanese, and it’s in old-style Japanese, so parts are really difficult for me to understand. I’d really like to see the English version! I especially like the little glowing blob-like sprites. In my posting, I almost talked about the Spirit of the Forest from this movie (the Shishigami in Japanese), but my “sermon” was already getting extremely long! So I’m glad you covered it!

      That’s also an excellent point about the yeti! Yes! Mankind’s yearning for such monsters (the yeti, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and many others) is very much related to this same phenomenon! (I was just noticing in my journal from ten years ago this month that, back then in June 1999, I made my very first purchase from Amazon.com. And what do you suppose it was? Of course: two books about Bigfoot and other monsters!)

  10. Marquee Movies Says:

    First of all, Fred, I am thrilled that The Star Shard will be printed in book form! We should have a calling tree set up so when you do your tour for bookstore signings, your many fans will be able to show up all over the country! Secondly, I must apologize for cheating a bit here. I promised to write of a few doorway characters, and I KNOW this should be posted on the previous blog, but I’m going to put it here – I hope you’ll forgive me.
    Oh, and – I do want to say that because the title of Jane Eyre keeps coming up on this wonderful blog, and the descriptions of the story sound so interesting, I will try to read the book this summer.
    I will label the three characters as: Apology, Pen, and Gum Wrapper. I’ll split them up so there’s not one giant posting. This first one is long, so I’ll do the second and third tomorrow.
    There are many, many moments in Anne of Green Gables that makes me find this amazing young girl just a delight to follow around, but no moment opened the doorway for me like Anne’s apology to Miss Rachel Lynde. (By the way – I read the book only once years ago, but I watched the wonderful TV movie many times – while they are both very similar, this recollection is from the movie.) Anne has a great imagination, is a hard worker (when she keeps her mind on her work), and is very, very unhappy about her hair. Her red hair is a burden beyond burdens, and comments about its color will often cause her to fly into a rage. So on one of her first days with her potential new family, when Anne meets Miss Rachel Lynde, a woman who always speaks her mind, she is horrified when Miss Lynde says Anne is too thin, plain-looking, and – “Oh, and her hair is as red as carrots!” Anne, who SHOULD be silent before her elder, yells, “How would you like to have nasty things said about you? How would you like to hear that you’re fat, ugly, and a sour old gossip!” This causes an uproar, of course – Marilla, Anne’s stern elderly guardian, insists Anne apologizes, otherwise she will have to go back to the orphanage. Anne refuses, saying that if Miss Rachel won’t apologize to her for her mean words, Anne won’t apologize either. It isn’t until the next day, when Matthew, Marilla’s brother, kindly asks if Anne could apologize, and “only sort of mean it?” Anne hears the kindness in his voice, and says she will. The next day, one of the greatest apologies in storytelling history happens. (I know – but I believe in superlatives, like Anne!) Marilla and Anne arrive to find Miss Lynde on her front porch. Anne begins by – getting on her knees, bowing her head, and clasping her hands in front of her. (You can see Marilla thinking, Uh-oh.) Then Anne flings what Rachel said right back into her face in the apology. “Miss Lynde – I’m so sorry for raising my voice to you. You were absolutely right – I am SKINNY – and UGLY – ” At each of these words, Rachel seems to pull back, as if being struck in the face with her OWN CRUELTY! Anne continues, “And yes, my hair is as red as carrots.” Then Anne adds this, all in a rush – “What I said about you is true too, only I shouldn’t have said it!” Marilla, usually the picture of composure, even Marilla is startled and amazed to hear this little girl say – and get away with – such words. She opens her mouth in a gasp, but says nothing. Anne continues, “But I beg you to take mercy on me, please, a poor orphan girl – ” Here, her voice begins to tremble. Marilla is now fully aware that Anne is putting on an act. After more tearful warbling about not wanting to go back to the orphanage, Anne’s apology is done – the apology where she flung Rachel’s cruelty in her face, and insulted her again. (How often do we ever get to do any such thing to someone who has actually been mean?) Miss Rachel actually has been humbled a bit, and says perhaps she was a bit harsh in her words – the closest thing to an apology ever heard on Prince Edward Island from Rachel Lynde! She further eases Anne’s fears with a story of a girl who had hair “every bit as red as yours, but when she grew up, it had darkened into a handsome auburn!” Anne sighs theatrically, and giving Miss Lynde her doe eyes look, says, “Miss Lynde, you have given me hope for the future! You are truly a benefactress!” Marilla, a most formidable and straight-laced lady, can’t help but privately be amazed and amused at this most unusual performance – she begins to fall in love with this wonderful orphan girl. (This is also a great scene, because it allows the reader (or viewer) to see that Miss Rachel, while blunt and sometimes rude, is, at heart, a kind person. One remembers Atticus saying to Scout, “Most people are, Scout, once you really get to know them.)
    I hope readers unfamiliar with Anne don’t think, from this story, that she’s some manipulator. It’s just that she never stays quiet in the face of cruelty, particularly if the cruel remarks are about her. At a time when children were expected to know their place and keep silent until spoken to, this great character stands up for herself and her friends again and again. This scene still blows me away because every character got what they wanted, and we, the reader (or viewer) got to triumph in a girl who managed to teach someone a lesson on her own terms. On the walk home, Marilla says, “A civil tongue today is better than (cough) theatrical apologies tomorrow.” Anne blushes a bit, and drops her head as she says, “I figured since I HAD to do it, I’d do it right.” She had her cake, and ate it too. What a great character! Who wouldn’t want to follow her around for many, many chapters? Especially after, on that same walk home, Anne talks about how she imagines much of what she sees in the world. Marilla scoffs at such nonsense. Anne says, “Don’t you ever imagine things differently than what they are?” Marilla snaps, “No.” Anne replies, “Oh, Marilla, how much you miss!”

    • Elizabeth Says:

      Oh, Anne. How I loved Anne. How I still love Anne. I identified with her as a girl, and I still look at her fondly today. That is a wonderful scene.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Thank you, Marquee Movies and Elizabeth! Lots to respond to here: first, MM, you understand, right, that The Star Shard isn’t just going to be printed in book form? — It’s going to be greatly expanded from the version in Cricket — the Extended Edition, if you will! (I know you knew that — I just had to say it for the record, since this is essentially a panel discussion, with billions and billions of people listening — it’s just like a World Fantasy Convention! [“Delusion of Grandeur”–15 cents to the Pun Fund.])

        Second, you’re right to put your comment here, under this posting. Once a new post is up, I don’t think people look back much at the comments under previous posts, so Hey Everyone, take a lesson from MM here! It doesn’t really matter what material you’re commenting on: you’re better off doing it in the most recent place available.

        Here’s a true story: on my mom’s birth certificate, her name was written as “Mary Ann.” That’s what Grandma named her. At some point in her life, Mom switched to being “Mary Anne,” and that’s what she always used, officially and unofficially, during the whole time I knew her. Just a couple years ago I heard for the first time that she was “Mary Ann” at one time. When I asked Aunt Ruth why she changed her name, Aunt Ruth said, “Oh, I’m sure it was because of Anne of Green Gables.”

        Marquee, that apology scene is also one of my favorites from the book/movie. (Yes, that’s one book I HAVE read, and I saw the film in a theater here in Japan!) I might never have read the book, but when I began teaching in Japan, I had two private students on Friday nights — two ladies who were both ophthalmologists, who were reading their way through Anne of Green Gables, a little each week. They’d started it with my predecessor. I hurried up and read the book from the beginning, and I was very glad I did. It’s hugely popular in Japan — largely because of the excellence of the Japanese translation, which makes an enormous difference. Sadly, Tolkien’s LOTR has not gotten nearly as deep into the culture over here — mainly, I’ve heard, because the translations (two exist) are very difficult to read.

        And by the way, that was an absolutely brilliant recounting of the apology scene! I can’t wait for “Pen” and “Gum Wrapper”!

    • Elizabeth Says:

      Fred,

      I’m very sure your mother added the “e” because of Anne! There was something so wonderful about Anne with an “e” that I think we all get swept away by it.

      I heard that Anne was very popular in Japan (how sad that LOTR hasn’t taken root). I’ve been looking at going back up to PEI and I read how a number of Japanese couples were coming there to get married.

      Doorway characters are so important to walking into a story. With LOTR, it’s the hobbits, so close to us as ordinary humans, who see Middle Earth with fresh eyes. In some way, doorway characters also help us capture the dragon of our story. They become us (or we them), as we explore the narrative, as well as the eventual gateway for the reader. I’ve often felt that my stories lacked that character and needed it.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Excellent point about the hobbits and accessibility. Back in the old days of late-night comedy, there was a sketch about standup comics, whose humor of course depends upon tapping into universal experiences that the audience can relate to — the sketch was about comics who were from walks of life so specialized that no one could relate. One, a cat burglar, started off with, “Have you ever noticed when you’re breaking into a house. . . .?” Another, a nuclear scientist of some sort, began with, “Did you ever notice when you’re working with plutonium. . . .?” There’s certainly a lesson for us as writers there!
        Of course we can write about characters who are greatly different from the reader and from us, but we have to find and bring to the fore those commonalities of experience. Even a nuclear physicist can be irritated that he doesn’t have time for a cup of coffee before his morning meeting; even a cat burglar might stop and admire the moonlight. . . .

  11. Shieldmaiden Says:

    Dear Fred: CONGRATULATIONS on finding a home for the greatly expanded version of The Star Shard! I know a group of kids (myself included) who can’t wait to read the Extended Edition! Much celebrating has gone on over here since your announcement about Houghton Mifflin, but is probably nothing compared to what it will be when your book is released! I join with Catherine and SwordLily in loud shrieking hoorahs and happy dancing! If your bookstore signings tour comes anywhere near us you can be sure we’ll all show up! Some may even be in costume?

    I always loved Anne too! Thanks for that beautiful scene Marquee Movies. I just saw it performed by the children’s theatre group that my son has acted with; it was fantastic! And I can’t wait for “Pen” and “Gum Wrapper” either!

  12. SwordLily Says:

    Arigatou, Fred, for your compliment on my poem. I never really thought of it as a moon beam, but I’m glad you did ^_^.
    Marquee Movies: I read Anne of Green Gables once (never saw the film) and I remember that “apology” part as being one of my favorites. Anne was truly a “doorway character” for me, being a person who loves Anne for having such a unique view of the world. I wish for just a minute to see the world the way she does, that would be interesting.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Iie, iie, SwordLily–dou itashimashite!

      I had one more thought about that apology scene, and Marquee Movies’s thorough recounting of it: in the very same incident, isn’t Matthew Cuthbert also a wonderful doorway character? Who can fail to love a character who gently suggests, “Couldn’t you apologize and only sort of mean it?”

  13. Marquee Movies Says:

    Greetings and salutations – I apologize for the wait. Fred, thank you for your clarification. I should have read more carefully, and I must say, I am even more delighted that this Star Shard will be the “Director’s Cut”! It’s already late, so I’ll try to write this “Pen” doorway character quickly. This is from my favorite novel of all time, W. Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage,” a very autobiographical novel written early in the twentieth century. In addition to having a lead character who is not very noble, the novel features one of the most challenging and unpleasant women in twentieth century fiction, a woman named Mildred. Bette Davis was a working actor like many others in the 1930’s, but when she played the role of Mildred in the 1934 version of the film, she blew audiences away, and became a star.
    Maugham is my favorite novelist partially because of his matter-of-fact style of writing, and his razor-sharp descriptions of people and their motivations. His other books include “The Moon and Sixpence” (a biographical exploration of Gauguin, who was not a kind man) and “The Razor’s Edge.” Maugham is a most unsentimental writer – he often writes of struggling artists, some of whom are literally starving, and one of his best lines is “Money is like a sixth sense, without which the other five are pretty much useless.”
    Anyway – don’t want to make this boring – “Bondage” astounded me when I read it because I felt he was writing things that you’re not supposed to admit that you think, let alone put in a book. The novel opens with the death of the young boy’s mother (Maugham was asked to read the book aloud many, many years later – he broke down in sobs on the very first page.), and the young boy, Philip, thinks that on his way out of the house, he should stop into the parlor where the grieving neighbors are so they can see how brave he is in his great and real pain. This level of self-awareness is so rare, I feel, in storytelling – not something many would put in their book. (That great line from “Bull Durham” – “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”) Anyway – to the pen. A few chapters later, Philip is older and now at a boarding school, and a friend of his is playing with a pen of Philip’s. (I’ve looked it up, and it’s actually a pen-holder, but I’m going to make my life easier and just call it a pen.) Philip asks him not to play with the pen, but the boy says it will be fine. Sure enough, it breaks. Philip begins to cry. The other boy is puzzled, saying it’s just an old pen, why get so worked up? Philip, through his tears, says it was the very last thing his mother gave him before she died. The other boy is shocked, and apologizes profusely and leaves Philip holding the pieces. Philip looks down at the broken pen, and marvels at his tears, because, you see, he lied. He just bought the pen last week. Maugham has Philip think for a while about the fact that the tears are just as genuine as if the pen HAD been from his mother. Philip notes that the lie (what we might call the STORY) had the power to affect not only others, but HIMSELF AS WELL. He actually felt as miserable as if the story had been true. And yet, he’s able to step outside this, and note his feelings and why he feels them. Then he thinks he must clear his conscience and tell the truth, so he spends a few days in an “agonizing joy of humiliating himself” as he imagines how he will apologize. Then, after the few days, he feels that his suffering was sufficient to what he would have felt if he actually told the boy the truth, so he drops the subject.
    This amazed me. That someone could remember how some children think THAT clearly, and would put it down in a book – I understood that character, perhaps more clearly than I’d like to admit! Here’s one more moment, from a bit earlier in the book, when Philip has just arrived at his aunt and uncle’s, a couple who were clearly not equipped to take care of a little boy. After a few weeks of unhappiness, Philip discovers the library, and becomes a voracious reader. This is a classic Maugham description, and one I’ve never forgotten: “He could think of nothing else. He forgot the life about him. He had to be called two or three times before he would come down for dinner. Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment.”
    A great character – a great book. I’ll write the gum wrapper soon – if not here, then on Fred’s next posting!

  14. Marquee Movies Says:

    Yes, Fred, you’re right – Matthew is great too! Interesting, how we humans LOVE stories of people who want to bend and break the rules – what does that say about us? (Our friend David M. says that Americans are instinctively rebellious, because our country (USA, of course) was founded on a rebellion.)

  15. Marquee Movies Says:

    I again apologize for the wait for this final favorite example of a doorway character. On Anne, though, I’m glad that she reminds Elizabeth, Shieldmaiden, and Swordlily of such great moments, and I want to say to Swordlily that you definitely should see the 1985 movie, and that you do indeed have the ability to see life the way that Anne does. You’ve always had the power.
    Fred, you showcased your marvelous teaching instincts by choosing to read Anne of Green Gables simply because two students were reading it. I suspect every single one of your students feels blessed to have such an enthusiastic and engaged teacher such as yourself. O Captain my Captain!
    And finally – the gum wrapper. I’ll start by saying that from the very beginning, I’ve been enjoying Fred’s blog – I love reading his postings, and I so greatly appreciate how he encourages responses. Everyone is welcome to comment, and Fred’s magnanimity is infectious. In many ways, this blog, created by Fred, is a typical example of Fred’s living out a particular philosophy in one of his favorite movies of all time, “Field of Dreams.” Fred wants everyone to enjoy reading and/or writing, and he lives the motto stated by Ray Kinsella, “They’re all welcome here.”
    I appreciate that spirit wherever I may find it, and it is all over the Harry Potter books. As I said before, these books were written out of grief, and what came forth was example after example of how everyone matters, we all can make a difference. The spectre of death hangs over every chapter, but this merely heightens such concepts as loyalty, friendship, kindness, and love.
    Of course, the trio of friends make up the bulk of the Harry Potter adventures, but one character, who might have been nothing more than a one-joke caricature, turns out to be far more heroic and noble than anyone could have guessed. To a casual reader, Neville Longbottom seems to be nothing more than hapless and hopeless, but Rowling’s propensity for giving dignity to those that society likes to toss out is evident right in the very first book, when she makes Neville the winner of the final ten points, and thus the reason Gryffindor wins the house cup.
    One of the saddest and most powerful moments in the seven marvelous books comes in book five when the trio learn the truth about what happened to Neville’s parents. (Harry already knew, but had promised not to tell.) I believe Fred hasn’t reached this yet, so I’ll try to be brief – I hope you’ll forgive me, Fred. This scene is so moving, so sad, and yet allows us to feel an enormous rush of empathy for Neville, who may be clumsy, but is very kind-hearted. This poweful scene allows readers to feel genuine emotions for people who don’t really exist. (This is the real magic of storytelling.)
    The scene takes place in a hospital, and Ron, Harry, and Hermione are there visiting someone else. They happen to run into Neville and his imperious grandmother. Ron and Hermione don’t realize that Neville’s parents were tortured into insanity by a Death-Eater. Every day they lie in the hospital wing, seeing but not understanding that it is their son who comes to visit them, getting older and older, understanding better and better how great the loss is. Neville’s pain and grief is palpable, especially when his grandmother mistakes his silence in front of his friends for shame. He defiantly tells her, “I’m not ashamed!” His grandmother dismisses him, and it is while she is proudly explaining how the Longbottoms stood up against evil, that Neville’s mother comes from behind her curtain, and begins walking slowly towards her son. She looks awful, and clearly doesn’t understand much, but she has a gift for her son. It’s a gum wrapper. Neville takes it from her, saying very quietly, “Thanks, mom.” Neville’s grandmother, who has seen this too many times, sighs, and tells Neville to throw it out. Harry, who doesn’t know if he’s ever seen anything sadder in his life, watches Neville as he puts the wrapper in his pocket.
    As Father Mulcahy says in an episode of MASH, “Who could see such a thing and not be changed by it?”
    There is an extraordinary amount of love and affection given to these many, many characters, and that in turn is why millions of people have fallen in love themselves. It is so rewarding to read something that was clearly written with the greatest affection. Characters such as Anne of Green Gables, or Ramona, or Bilbo Baggins, or Scarlet O’Hara, or Pippi Longstocking, or Ebenezer Scrooge (who is the hero of that book, by the way!)….A library says, “All are welcome here.”
    That spectre of death that hovers over the seven Harry Potter books reminds me of a powerful speech in a great film by Brian DePalma, “Casualties of War.” A very young and jittery private (much like a Neville Longbottom) has been killed by a trip mine only hours after he has first arrived in Vietnam. A very battle-hardened soldier scoffs, and says, “They should have bagged him before he even left home.” Michael J. Fox’s character, who has seen much horror and death himself, says that (paraphrasing) “…just because we could all be dead at any moment doesn’t mean we can go around doing whatever we want. Maybe it’s the other way around – because it could all be over any minute, maybe we need to be extra careful in how we treat each other, because maybe it matters. Maybe it matters more than we’ll ever know.”
    That’s the spirit that infuses these, and all great stories. We can write, read, watch, or listen to any beloved story, and love the characters we love. WE all matter – we’re all welcome here. Thanks, Fred, for putting this together.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Annie: “Nice baseball field, Ray.”
      Ray: “Kinda purty, isn’t it?”
      Annie: “Mm-hmm.”

      “If you build it, they will come”–a blog where all are welcome; a Table Round; a library with room for an infinite number of characters to care about, who teach us to care for one another. . . . The Lord is good.

      Thank you for this wonderful, wonderful comment. And thank you all for coming to the party. Let’s stay out in the garden all night and never go indoors!

  16. Kyran Says:

    Congratz Fred! I am so happy and I can not wait till The Star Shard finally comes out! I do hope, if you have some book signings, at least one of them comes near here ^^

    I loved the way you described everything in this post, especially the many examples of the dragon. If there is something guarding this world, watching over it, taking, and giving away when necessary I think a dragon is a great representation of that. I always imagined dragons to be something to be feared, but also to trust. In many a book dragons are described as monsterous creatures who could burn you to a crisp. At the same time in the same books, if a human is to approach the dragon with a humble and submitting attitude the dragon will respect the human and maybe even offer advice. Despite the fact that they seemed like a monster without feeling when the person actually approaches them, they turn out to be smart and, more importantly, understanding and forgiving. —

    If that doesn’t make sense I apologize in advance, I was just trying to express what I felt when I read your post. ^_^

    Marquee Movies: I loved your comment about Neville and things that we can not help but be effected by. I read the Harry Potter books a long time ago, but I still remember that scene. The quote from Michael J. Fox is amazing, I think that is one of the most fundamental principals of life and everyone should follow it.

    • Chris Says:

      Isn’t the dragon in Chinese culture more a symbol of “power” and to be respected?

      My simplistic understanding of the dragon in Chinese culture is that it is something more to be respected than feared as a capricious monster.

      So as you say, Kyran, in some cases approaching the dragon with “respect” yields something other than being burned to a crisp.

      I find this differentiation quite amazing. One would think that something of some “universal appearance” as a “dragon” (presumably a mythical creature, hence why would the same image have so little commonality?) would result in the same type of “response” (ie fear and dread and avoidance).

      I think this is the nature of “power” in relation to most people though. We all intrisically “fear” the power of others over us, but we also realize that often times we must “respect” it.

      Similarly to religion. Many worshippers “worship” (“fear the Lord”) with respect, and some obsequiously beg not to be destroyed by the omnipotent power. Some love with all their hearts the power that protects them.

      It is up to the object of the worship/fear/respect/obsequiousness to choose how to respond. All we can do is ask nicely.

  17. Shelley Says:

    I missed most of the conversation so just have 3 quick comments.
    One is that I always imagined the writing process as being something like tuning a static-prone radio to a far away, all important radio station. Hunched over the radio, sitting in the closet, twiddling with the knob. “This is London calling.” And me in an occupied country, hoping for news…
    Secondly, about dragons…nobody mentioned Haku from Spirited Away. He is the love of my life–a boy warrior and a great and beautiful dragon! I love it when she rushes to the door and opens it and he’s standing there in the twilight with the wind blowing his fur, his head tipped down so she can hug him… “I knew you were good, I knew you were good!”
    Thirdly, and this is not to disparage you lovers of the south, but when I was in Alabama last summer (a truly faerie-forsaken place) all I could think when leaving on the plane was “to Narnia and the North!”

    • Elizabeth Says:

      Ah! — excellent description, Shelley! “And me, in occupied country, hoping for news..” I like it. Very apropos of the writing process, particularly in the dark times or in the early days, when there’s not much there and you just want a little, a spark, a piece, a bit of hope to put in your pocket and hold on to.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        I also love that analogy of the writing process! Yes, that describes it just about perfectly. Just when we think we’ve found the signal, we get another burst of static. Like you, Elizabeth, what strikes me especially is the “occupied country” part! We, trying to write, live furtively in an occupied country — the country of Not-a-Story. We live in the Shadowlands, with the stories dancing on the distant hilltops where the sun blazes down in slanting rays. We work with the Underground Resistance to smuggle stories into Not-a-Story, because the people here need them.

  18. Michelle Muenzler Says:

    Congratulations on finding a publisher for The Star Shard! That is wonderful news, and you certainly deserve it. 🙂

  19. I think me dumb Says:

    Wow Shelley! “This is London calling” Perfect! And I lived in Alabama for three summers, and it is the climate of Hell for sure. I loved the place, hated the weather. Even the winters are not ‘real’.

    I like all this talk of dragons. To me, the dragon has always been an enemy, a source of ravenous evil, ever-ready to ravage the crops of the serfs and cast the whole society into starvation.

    This is, of course, a very white-European view, but, as Chris noted, it is up to the object to determine the manner in which the beast is to be viewed, and I have always seen the dragon as just that — a beast.

    I rejoiced with Turin as Glaurung lies dying, Gurthang haven bitten “deep into the vitals of the worm, even to the hilts.”

  20. fsdthreshold Says:

    “Yes, I know this dragon of yours: Vermithrax Pejorative. Look at these scales, these ridges. When a dragon gets this old, it feels nothing but pain. . . . Constant pain and misery.”

    What movie? What movie? 🙂 You get more points if you can name the character speaking and who s/he’s speaking to. And if you can name the actors — all without using the IMDB — you win!

  21. I think me dumb Says:

    “That’s not a claw, by the gods, its a tooth!”
    The answer is Dragonslayer, and until I see what WETA DIGITAL boys can do with Smaug, it remains to this day as the best on-screen dragon in my opinion.
    Isn’t it Ulrich who is talking? To Valerian, the girl who came to us as a boy?

    “If he’s prepared to put a dragon in its grave he has nothing to fear from me. But don’t you want to be sure you’ve got the right man?”
    “Ahh, its a test you want, is it? Well you are not going to get one!”
    “Of course, not! They NEVER do tests, nor many real deeds, either. Ohh, a conversation with your grandmothers shade or a love potion or two here and there, but never any ‘real’ deeds. The entrails aren’t right, or the planets are not aligned correctly … they NEVER do tests.”

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