Kira Brady


Jan 24
2012
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A Japanese dragon from wikipedia

Dragons: fierce, evil creatures or benevolent, lucky beasts? It differs from culture to culture, but one thing is for sure–dragons have captured the imagination of humans for millennia. Welcome to the Year of the Dragon. Today starts off the Chinese New Year with fifteen days of celebration to ensure this is a year of good luck. The dragon is one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. It’s considered the luckiest and is the only one that is, according to wikipedia, legendary.

But maybe that’s just what dragons want you to think. After all, mythology from all parts of the world contain these serpentine, lizard-like creatures. Why would separate parts of the globe all believe in the same unreal being? Maybe there is a sliver of truth to the old tales.

Dragon mythology differs from region to region. Sometimes dragons are good, sometimes evil. The European version eats damsels in distress. The Chinese version is divine. Some have wings. Others breath fire. They inhabit seas and craggy mountain tops. But no matter if we believe them to be the stuff of nightmares or hope, the stories almost always paint them as capricious, powerful, and wise.

The oldest dragon mythology comes from ancient Babylon, where Tiamat, the Goddess of Primordial Chaos, is personified by a dragon. She is said to have birthed dragons along with 11 other monster races in her war against the gods. One of the ancient gates of Babylon, the Ishtar Gate, was carved with dragons.

My hometown, Seattle, has strong cultural influences with mythologies of dragons: Native Americans, Chinese, and Norse. I drew from Native American and Norse art and legend to inspire the alternate Seattle depicted in the Deadglass Trilogy.

Dragon head from Oseberg ship. (wikipedia)

Scandinavian immigrants built much of the city, giving us the legacies of Nordstrom, Swedish Hospital, and the Scandinavian neighborhood of Ballard. The ancient Vikings adopted the dragon as a symbol of their strength and sailed to conquest and adventure on their dragon ships. Loki, the trickster god, had four hideous offspring, one of which was a dragon that gnaws at the roots of the Yggdrasil, the tree of life. Northwest Coast Native American mythology talks of the Giant Animal people who lived before the humans. They could shape shift between human and animal form–including crows, whales, wolves, ravens, bears, and, best known of all, the mythical Thunderbirds. Thunderbirds have some similarities to dragons–being giant, fire throwing birds. But their arch enemies fit the bill even better: the mysterious Unktehila, who are described as dangerous reptilian monsters.

The Sioux believed that the Thunderbirds destroyed these dangerous creatures, but what if they returned? What if the Thunderbirds only killed the local population, but there were still more dragons surviving in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia? What if centuries later when the West opened up, it wasn’t just Scandinavian humans who arrived to plunder natural resources and build the new economies of the frontier? What if Norse dragons showed up and decided to claim territory in the Pacific Northwest for their own?

What explosive conflict would happen when those two powerful races came face to face–the Thunderbirds who had already fought off the native monster population, and the Norse dragons who arrived in Seattle with the American Dream burning in their hearts. Go west, go west! Be brave, be bold. The land is free, the hills are gold.*

And you know what dragons covet, don’t you?

Gold.

*(Polk) from The Presidents of the United States Poem by Alice Provensen

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