Posts Tagged With: dragons

Happy Birthday to Dungeons and Dragons!

D&D Logo Image

Current Dungeons & Dragons logo, borrowed from Wikipedia.

We celebrated my boyfriend’s birthday today, but that’s not what makes this date special to millions of gamers around the world. Today marked the 40th anniversary of one of the most recognized dragon-related names around: Dungeons and Dragons, also commonly called by its initials, D&D.  On January 26, 1974, the world got its first look at the role-playing game that would be the first to make it big, paving the way for countless expansions, revisions, and spin-offs.

For those who aren’t familiar with the system, Dungeons and Dragons is tabletop role-playing game (RPG). In basic terms, that means that it’s a game where players gather together around a table or other comfortable space to role-play their fantasy characters. Under the direction of the storyteller and game organizer, known in D&D as the Dungeon Master (DM), the party of players will verbally act out adventures together. While adventuring, dungeon-delving, and monster-killing (typically over multiple sessions), characters will use and earn skill points, collect loot, and level up into stronger characters.  The game is flexible, with plenty of opportunity for creative story-telling and unique character designs,  so it’s no wonder that fantasy-loving, game-loving individuals of all ages find themselves drawn to Dungeons and Dragons.

Not all of D&D’s publicity has been good–because the game has a big spell-casting element to it and included demons and naked human-like creatures in its early monster guides, many religious communities have protested it over the years. If there is a difference between the magic of a fictional world and the spells of witchcraft, they didn’t care to see the difference. Despite such biases and stereotypes, though, the company kept making the game–and fans kept playing it.

I love fantasy stories and games of all sorts, so I’ve cautiously set some of my preconceptions aside to take a stab at D&D and other table-top RPGs. If I’ve enjoyed PC role-playing games like Knights of the Old Republic and the Elder Scrolls games, why not try out one that gets me away from my computer and interacting with other people? My first experiences have been amusing and bumpy at best, and I’ll share a snippet of them with you in my next post. Yes, there will be dragons involved!

Until then, happy birthday, D&D! I may not have given you nearly as much consideration today as I did to a certain man who shares your birthday, but congratulations nonetheless on making it to the big four-zero!

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Categories: Gaming Dragons | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Little Girl’s Dragon Wish Granted

I wish I had been paying attention last week when this story began. Apparently, a seven-year-old girl sent some scientists a letter, hoping that they could make her a live dragon. Needless to say, they couldn’t do it. However, they got a lot of attention by posting her letter and their apology on their blog. Now,  a week later, they’ve reached a compromise: a 3D-printed dragon that may not really breathe fire, but will make an awesome gift nonetheless.

You can take a look at the full story HERE.

If only everyone took children’s requests so seriously–the world would be filled with so much more wonder.

Personally, I’d have wanted MY new dragon a bit bigger…

Categories: Dragons in the News, Real Dragons | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hiccup and Toothless Are Coming Back!

As far as dragon movies go, the big fuss lately has been over the second installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.  I can’t comment on that movie, since I haven’t been to see it yet (Will I? Still not sure–I wasn’t a big fan of the first one, though I love the book).  As Christmas gets closer, there’s another dragon movie that’s stirring up excitement: the sequel to Dreamworks’ popular How to Train Your Dragon. 

I’m usually of the opinion that sequels aren’t great movies, especially sequels to animated films. How to Train Your Dragon was an adorable movie, and I was hoping they wouldn’t ruin it by trying to add on to a good thing. I watched the trailer for the sequel for the first time this morning. The second movie, which will hit theaters in June, has actually piqued my interest. Like most trailers, it says very little about what the movie will actually be about, but it contained nothing that turned me away, and quite a few cute dragons that drew me in.  I’ll probably be watching How to Train Your Dragon 2 when it comes out, and will watch future trailers with interest.

Categories: Film Dragons | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dragons Everyone Talks About (2): Video Games

It’s time for another pile of articles from the good old Google News search on the topic “dragons.” Today’s common topic is video game reviews and announcements–a topic that shows up quite regularly, thanks to the huge number of games that are out there for the choosing these days! I set the news search to only search articles from the last 24 hours, so these four game articles that showed up on the first two pages of results are fresh. Let’s take a look and find out what they are:

Dragon Fantasy Book II: This review called the game a JRPG. I knew that an RPG was a Role-Playing Game, but I didn’t know that the J stood for Japanese until I looked it up. In this particular JRPG, characters get to move around a colorful map, killing monsters and leveling up as they follow the storyline, which wasn’t really explained in the article. This game was made for the PS3.

Dragon Age: Inquisition: The article shares how this upcoming game is not an open-world game–and then proceeds to share how it is similar to (not different from) a game of that sort. I’m a little bit confused now–I thought I knew what an open-world game was, especially since the article calls Skyrim (whose predecessors, Morrowind and Oblivion, I have played) an open-world game. So what makes this game different? The article says that it has a huge world map, big regions to explore, and gameplay that is influenced by what you do or do not explore.  So what’s missing? Unfortunately, it explains itself by comparing the game to two others that I have never played (Baldur’s Gate and Origins), so that didn’t help much. Maybe I know less about game types than I thought I did.

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z: This article is brief and doesn’t say much. From what I gather, it is an XBox/Playstation 3 game that is based on a crossover between two anime series: Dragon Ball and Naruto. I’m not familiar with too many common anime series yet, not having grown up on them, but I have seen a little of the Naruto Shippuden series. Maybe I’d recognize some of the characters in this game!

Puzzle & Dragons x Dragon’s Dogma Quest: This article talks about some crossovers between smartphone games about dragons (other crossover games are also mentioned, but the focus is on the dragon games). Apparently, each game will be featuring creatures that come from the other one, and some of the maps and classes in each will also be affected. This must be fun for people who enjoy those games; for me, though, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. I don’t have a smartphone, so I can’t play smartphone games! Still, it looks fun, so to each his or her own.

The games that show up on the Google searches change as fast as people can come up with ideas for new ones. If you’re a serious gamer, you are probably already in the know about what comes out when. If you’re like me, though, and enjoy games without taking the time to keep on top of every development in the gaming world, do a quick search now and then–you might find something you’d never heard of before–I know I did! If you’re lucky, it will even be something you want to play. Do I want to play any of the above games? I’m not sure. I don’t have time for new games right now, but if I get an itch for a dragon-titled game, I know where to look!

Categories: Dragons in the News, Gaming Dragons | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dragons Everyone Talks About (1): Dragon Boats

As promised, I’m going to give you a look this week into some of the dragons that show up most frequently in my Google news searches for “dragon.”

First, there are the dragon boat festivals and races that regularly pop up in one country or another. I must confess that until I looked more deeply into it for this post, I didn’t have a good idea of what a dragon boat actually was. What I found is that they are a long, wooden boat powered by human paddlers, as pictured below. They come from China, where traditionally, dragon boat racing has been practiced since the times of the original Olympiad games in Greece. (See Wikipedia for more of the history.)

dragon boat picture

Dragon boat in Budapest, Hungary. Image from Wikipedia.

So what does the news have to say about these boats this week? Here are two of the articles that popped up for me:

(1) In this article, I learned that an area of Malaysia is looking for approval to be a viable location for international dragon boat races. Apparently, international events are very carefully regulated to make sure that all boats, locations, and teams meet the requirements.

(2) In this article, I learned that the Montana Dragon Boat Festival in the Midwestern United States had to be called off early this past weekend when bad weather started to capsize the boats. Luckily, it wasn’t a dangerous situation–everyone had life jackets and knew the protocol to follow.

I’m not a big boater (mostly from lack of experience and opportunity), but I think dragon boats look like a lot of fun. I’m curious now if one can take a casual ride in one just to get the feel of it, or if they are only used by racing teams. I would love to try one out even though I’m not into physical competition!

What about you? Have you heard of dragon boats or seen their races? Is it something you would ever try, either casually or competitively?

Categories: Dragons in the News | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Dragons for Young People, Part Three: Eon

Eon book cover art

Image borrowed from http://www.alisongoodman.com.

For those of you who still come back to read these posts despite my lengthy absences over the last year, thank you! July and August merged together into a crazy journey consisting of a cross-country road trip to a classical teacher’s conference, a week with relatives while teaching a first grade Vacation Bible School class, a freelance ghostwriting project, and preparations for the classes I teach, which start up again on Monday. It has been a load, but a fun one!

I read Eon while staying with my relatives a month ago. I have a cousin who loves fantasy books and dragons, so it was on her shelf that I found this YA novel by Alison Goldman. I had thought that Seraphina would be the best YA dragon book addressed in this blog series, but I just might have been wrong—I finished Eon within a couple of days and snagged Eona, the sequel, to borrow when I returned home. With the ghostwriting and school prep, I still haven’t read it, but I’m excited to see whether it soars or flops as the next chapter of the story. Without further ado, though, here are the top 3’s of Eon:

 

Top 3 Stereotypes

1.  The secret that would prove deadly if discovered

Just like Seraphina, Eon has a secret: the back of the book reveals this one, so it’s no spoiler to say that the young boy Eon is actually a girl (Eona) in disguise. It is forbidden for females to become Dragoneyes (individuals who bond with one of the twelve energy dragons to represent them and share in their power), so only one or two servants and the master who is training her know her true identity. If she is discovered, she will likely be killed.

2. The commoner who falls in with royalty

This stereotype harkens back to both Seraphina and Dragon Slippers. Eon(a) once worked as a slave in a salt mine, but by the time this book reaches full swing, she suddenly becomes a favored member of the royal court and a friend to the emperor’s heir. All this happens just because her master found and trained her to become a Dragoneye—a decision on his part that I don’t remember ever learning the reasoning behind.

3. The youth with a powerful, unheard-of ability

Many stories for young readers wouldn’t exist if the main character wasn’t able to do something that set them apart—something that nobody else could do. In the case of Eon, Eon(a) has the ability to see all eleven of the lesser energy dragons. The dragons don’t exist in the physical realm, so only the individuals specifically bonded to each one can see that dragon. However, even before Eon(a) bonds unexpectedly with the red Mirror Dragon (who used to rule over the other dragons but has been missing for hundreds of years), she can see all of the dragons and is able to communicate with the Rat Dragon in particular. It’s a lot of unexplained power for one sixteen-year-old girl to have.

 

Top 3 Unique Points

1.  A refreshingly fresh take on sexuality

This was by far my favorite aspect of Goodman’s book. Many young adult stories of a girl in a man’s world put across one of two stereotypical worldviews: (1) that women are really the same as men and can do whatever men can do or (2) that women are out-and-out better than men. At first, I was afraid that Eon was telling a tale that would focus on the first stereotype. It was, after all, about a girl attempting to break into a male-only role. However, as the story progresses, Eon learns to accept her real identity as Eona and to quit denying her feminine side—not because it is “just as good as” or “better than”  masculinity, but because her gender has an important, unique function to fulfill in the power balance. The important roles of several eunuchs and a transgender “lady” of the court also open up deeper questions of what it really means to be male or female in a way that gently prompts thought without casting a judgment in any particular direction.

2. The unique Eastern setting

I’m happy whenever I find a fantasy book that doesn’t take place in a stereotypically Tolkien, Rowling, Lewis, or Paolini-esque world, and Eon made me happy in this regard. Goodman’s novel takes place in a land reminiscent of ancient China yet completely comfortable and almost familiar to me as a Western reader. She uses the ideas of zodiac-like dragons, martial arts-like fighting, sun (male)/moon (female) balance, symbol-writing, and an emperor’s court and harem in a world that somehow does not feel sharply foreign and strange like some authors’ attempts at Eastern tales. This land, with its political intrigue, social system, and Dragoneye lords, was quite believable and readable to me as a reader. I’m interested to see how she expands on it in Eona.

3. The elusive sense of something done right

I just can’t put my finger on what it is, but something about this book clicks. Is it the well-rounded, believable characters and the realistically messy relationships between them? Is it the world where there are enough complexities and details to make it seem real and alive without including the extra side plots, character information, or confusing twists that make books vague and unclear? Is it the first-person voice that gives us insight into Eon(a)’s mind and character while painting a clear, compelling, and easy-to-read picture of the world around her?  Whatever it is, I have to applaud Alison Goodman for a book done well.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Eon is a book that I absolutely recommend. It’s more for teens (or adults who enjoy reading good books about teens) than for younger children, but I think that anyone could read and enjoy it. If you live in the UK, note that you may find this book published under the title The Two Pearls of Wisdom or Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye. The first chapter is available to read on Alison Goodman’s site at http://www.alisongoodman.com.au/e.html.  If you have already read this book, I would love to hear if you enjoyed it as much as I did and can shed light on what that elusive “something” is that makes this book hit the spot!

Categories: Fantasy Literature | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy July 4th!

In America, we just celebrated our Independence Day with flashy displays of fireworks. They’re everywhere–I went to a show last night and tonight, and littler ones are still popping all over my neighborhood as I head to bed. The whole shebang reminded me of a little dragon and a lot of fireworks in Mulan–Disney’s fictional take on a girl giving all of China a chance at their own freedom from the threat of evil Huns. Here’s the climactic moment where dragon+fireworks=freedom. Enjoy, and for my American readers, tell me how you spend your Independence Day!

Categories: Film Dragons | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interlude: the Hobbit movies

Right after I started my series on dragon lit for young people, the trailers for the new Hobbit movie came out. I don’t want to wait for that series to wrap up before I briefly mention the trailer, so I’m using this post as an aside on the Hobbit. I’ll get back to the dragon lit later in the week.

Movie teaser poster

Movie teaser poster borrowed from Wikipedia.com

I’m a fan of Tolkien. Admittedly, the only time I’ve read through The Lord of the Rings in its entirety was when I was eleven, but I acknowledge its superiority above the movies (which I watch regularly) and grew up in a Middle-Earth-loving home.  I was first introduced to The Hobbit when my dad read it to me and my sister as a bedtime story when we were young (much like he did with My Father’s Dragon). I loved it, and having enjoyed the LotR movies, I expected great things from Peter Jackson’s take on the prequel.

I didn’t post about the first movie after I went to see it at Christmas because it hadn’t reached the dragon portion of the story yet (Jackson chose to expand the book into a movie trilogy). Even though almost everyone I knew loved the movie, I wasn’t so crazy about it. I didn’t feel like it kept the heart of the story or characters for me, and too many flashy effects common to today’s action/adventure genre were added in. After part one alone, I wasn’t sure if I would be planning on seeing the other two parts.

Enter the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Friend after friend posted the link on Facebook as they practically drooled in excitement, so I took a look. As expected, the trailer hints at more material that isn’t from the book, more added drama and action, and just plain more of everything that made me dislike the first movie. The fact that this is the segment involving giant spiders doesn’t help matters any, either–I may or may not have a bit of a phobia. And then there was Smaug.

Smaug, for those of you who don’t know, is the dragon from the Hobbit movies. He’s big, he likes to destroy villages, and his hoard happens to be the destination of the adventurers. The dragon eye shown at the end of the first Hobbit move is impressive; the scaly CGI creation that chases Bilbo around the second trailer is not. For such a high-budget, reputable production, I was disappointed. Even if they didn’t get the characters “right” according to my picture of the story, how can you go wrong with a dragon? Apparently, Jackson and I have far more differences in our imaginations than I guessed after The Lord of the Rings.

Here is my question for my readers: What about you? Why do you like or dislike what Jackson is doing with the Hobbit story? I have the trailer below, so let me know what you think. Am I alone in my disappointment, or are these movies and this dragon really that far off?

Categories: Film Dragons | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Dragons for Young People, Part Two: Seraphina

Seraphina book cover

Book cover art borrowed from Wikipedia.com.

Last summer, I read review after review that sang the praises of Rachel Hartman’s debut novel, Seraphina. I finally got my hands on it last month, and it was a great read. Just like my last post, here are the ups and downs:

 

Top 3 Stereotypes

1.       The commoner who falls in with royalty
Recognize this stereotype from Dragon Slippers? It’s back! To be fair, Seraphina is slightly more than a commoner. Her father has worked his way up to become the top expert on the dragon-human treaty, a position that helped him get his daughter into a comfortable job with a famous musician. Still, Seraphina does a lot more than teach the young princess her music lessons. She serves as a friend to the girl, and even befriends (and falls in love with—big surprise there…) the princess’s cousin and intended fiancé, Prince Lucian Kiggs. They trust her enough to let her be a part of the plans that save the day, even after they find out her terrible secret.

2.       The secret that would prove deadly if discovered
Yes, Seraphina has a secret. In a book about a girl with an unbelievable gift in a world where dragons take human form, it’s not too hard to guess what that secret is. In her novel, Hartman uses a common plot device that adds tension to many stories: both humans and dragons would kill Seraphina if the truth came out. She is conveniently stuck in the middle, where young readers will feel for her and desperately want her to be accepted as she is.

3.       The treaty on the verge of collapse
Treaties never work out well in fantasy stories. After all, where would the story be if they did? Seraphina contains the age-old tale of a human-dragon treaty about to go wrong (this is another similarity to Dragon Slippers). As is the case in many dragon tales, humans and dragons don’t get along so well, and there are those on both sides who want war. Naturally, it’s up to a young heroine to jump in and save the day—but that’s another stereotype in and of itself, so I won’t go there.

 

Top 3 Unique Points

1.       Music as a theme
Rachel Hartman worked more complex themes into Seraphina than many writers do when writing fantasy stories for youth.  One of the most beautiful things that she did with Seraphina was to weave the theme of music into the story. From Seraphina’s special talent to the songs of the characters in her mental garden, the book is full of different music styles that enrich both the culture and the storyline in the novel.

2.       A mental garden
When Seraphina first started having strange visions, a distinct set of characters would appear and take turns pulling her into their worlds. She doesn’t figure out who they are until well into the book, yet she manages to organize the mental chaos by arranging her mind’s visitors into an imaginary garden.  Due to the nature of those characters, I found her ability to organize them unique and fascinating. Keeping with the book’s music theme, it almost seems as though she has composed a piece of music where each character must play their part.

3.       Science instead of magic
This is becoming a little more common in books today, but I still appreciated reading a fantasy story that doesn’t assume magic. The morphing of dragons into human forms, the communication devices that dragons use, and the musical machines and masterpieces created by the humans are all scientific in design. If sentient dragons existed in our world, it would not be jarring to find the culture of Seraphina fitting in nicely.

Overall, Seraphina was a great book. It did have its share of stereotypes, but if I had read this book when I was going through my first dragon phase, it would have become a fast favorite. As it is, I’m looking forward to the eventual sequel. I’m hoping the unique story and lovely writing style are just as good in the next installment!

Categories: Children's, Fantasy Literature | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dragons for Young People, Part One: Dragon Slippers

Dragon Slippers cover image

Image borrowed from Goodreads.com.

This latest blog series all started when a reader recommended Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers as one of their favorites. I’d like to say I promptly ran off the library and picked it up, but in reality, it took a couple of months (and the book sat waiting on my dresser until it was all but overdue) before I read it. When I finally got to it, though, it proved a quick, pleasant read. Its sequel now sits waiting much like the first did.  I’ll let its top stereotypes and unique points speak for the rest of it:


Top 3 Stereotypes

1.       The country orphan trying to make her way in the big city

The main character, Creel, grew up with country relatives after her parents died, but now is where so many young fantasy heroes and heroines find themselves: all alone in the big city with not a penny nor a friend to her name. Creel is there intentionally, to chase her dream of eventually opening a shop that features the gorgeous embroidery she learned from her mother. In the meantime, she’s stuck with a harsh mistress and some girls who range from rivals to friends.

2.       The commoner who falls in with royalty

If the first point didn’t already make this obvious, Creel is a nobody, as far as any social system is concerned. She is an orphan, an apprentice that is hardly more than a servant… and yet remarkably quickly, she becomes a friend to the young prince (and an enemy to a young princess). This seems a favorite theme of children’s books—young main characters almost always fall in with people who are more important than the sort that they seem likely to meet.

3.       The coincidental stumbling upon the main plot device

In so many books, there’s no feasible reason for why the main character chances upon the right thing at the right place and time to allow the story to happen. To be fair, some of the best stories in real life do happen when the unlikely happens, but in books, it’s treated like an everyday occurrence. In Dragon Slippers, the dragon slippers themselves are the coincidental plot device. In a huge room full of shoes, Cree finds, chooses, and has the right size feet for the slippers that are an important clue in the human-dragon relations of the story and are so crucial to the plot.

 

Top 3 Unique Points

1. The varied dragon hoards

These dragons don’t just collect valuable things—each has its own perceived treasure. One collects shoes, another dogs, and another stained-glass windows. I loved this aspect of the book. It gave the dragons an opportunity to stand out as quirky individuals instead of stereotypical gold-hoarders.

2.       The idea of being sacrificed to a dragon as a financial aid

Creel’s aunt and uncle, who raised her, are not rich, and so the aunt comes up with a crazy scheme: if they send Creel up into the hills to be caught by a nearby dragon, she can be rescued and married by a rich nobleman and share her new fortunes with her family. The idea is probably unique for good reason (no character in their right mind ought to suggest such a thing!) but the entertainingly awkward situation it creates is a great start to the story.

3.       An intelligent bratty princess

How often is the evil antagonist the same character as the annoyingly spiteful little princess? Not only does the future queen-to-be have a whiny, irrational side, she also has a side that is smart enough to concoct a great deal of trouble. The extend of her scheming was quite surprising, but that’s all I’ll say for now.

Was Dragon Slippers full of stereotypes? Certainly. Did that make it not worth reading? Absolutely not. Some of those stereotypes are used as types that young readers can identify with, and the unique twists that Jessica Day George brought to the story left me smiling and interested in reading the two sequels.

Categories: Children's, Fantasy Literature | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

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