I love Pinterest. Yes, I do use it to house an ever growing list of recipes. And, yes, I do use it to get ideas for party themes and decor (I’m a huge Halloween fan, and throw a massive party every year). But I ALSO use it to feed my geeky fantasy loving soul. Here are some great fantasy pinterest boards to help you get your geek on!
Oh lord Cthulu is there some awesome stuff on this board. Look, I don’t play with Lego. I also don’t have kids. But this site is filled to bursting with the sort of creative geeks that make us all swoon. Star Wars? Check. Terminator? Check. Dwarves? Check. Chickens with uzis? Yep. This board as 2,300 pins to keep you entertained, and 1.4 million (MILLION) followers. It’s well worth a visit.
In Indonesian and Malay culture, the word for dragon is “Naga” or “Nogo”. “Naga” is also sanskrit for “serpent” and appears in not only Indo-Malaysian myth, but Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The naga is a large part of myth and culture in this part of the world, appearing in countless stories and legends as well as in art and architecture. Nagas of all kinds of forms transcend country lines and religions, and is believed to have originated in the Indo-Malaysian areas. Read more →
Not very much is known about the Paisa Bird (pronounced Pie-a-saw), a dragon of Native America that has been found painted on a mural above the Mississppi river. It’s depiction is based off of old sketches, lithographs, and ancient accounts.
Descriptions of the Paisa Bird or Dragon
Accounts of this dragon go back to 1673. The first person to describe it whose account still exists is Father Jscqes Marquette. He described it as a flying monster with birdlike qualities, as well as the features of many other animals. He saw the painting while traveling along the Mississippi River. He described it “as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger’s, a face like a man, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs.” Read more →
The Middle World contains both humans and magical or supernatural mythical creatures, from mermaids to ghosts to dragons. The dragons of Hungary, the Sárkány, is a terrifying and powerful monster that, like in Western myth, is the antagonist in most stories. The Sárkány seeks to destroy the hero of the tale, myth, or legend and often represents the hero’s own inner struggle. It’s large and scary and powerful and while it seems to be a worthy adversary, is always slain by the hero. Read more →
Dragons as they are portrayed culturally and historically differ all over the world. While they maintain certain characteristics – mostly in appearance – different cultures revere or fear them for different reasons. In this article we’ll explore the dragons of Kmer.
One of the most notable and interesting examples of this are the neak, which are the dragons of Kmer. The word comes from the Indian naga, which also means dragon. Like most dragons, the neak is large, powerful and, serpentine. A neak can have up to nine heads, indicative of its rank and power; the more heads, the higher its power and rank. Male energy is most prevalent in dragons with an odd number of heads, female power and energy for an even number of heads. It can be compared to the Makar which can be serpentine and have crocodile-like traits, or the Tao which has serpentine cat-like features.
While most cultures find dragons fearsome, deadly, and evil, the dragons of Kmer are adored and seen as a symbol of goodness and purity. The neak is perhaps most known in Cambodia for being the dragon princess that is the hero of the creation myth in Cambodia. The neak also appears in many myths and legends throughout history, so much so that Kmer people often feel a thread of familial relation and honor to the neak dragons from these stories.
One of the best examples of the neak being seen as a force for good is its connection to the monkhood.
The Dragon Monk
Neak is also the term used in Cambodia to describe a man who wants to be ordained as a monk. Kmer people believe that to be a monk is one of the most prestigious things a man can do with his life. The word itself denotes goodness. The term “Bombous Neak” means ordained dragon and describes a fully actualized monk.
The connection between dragons and the monkhood comes from a Cambodian legend. It goes like this: There was once a Buddha named Preah Samma Sampot. A Buddhist dragon once visited him in the form of a man because he wanted to be a monk. The Buddha ordained the dragon, not knowing of his true form until the dragon accidentally transformed while taking a nap. Another monk saw and called the others to look. Preah Samma Sampot vowed that no animal or spirit will every be ordained again, but the dragon monk pleaded with him to call all human monks “neak” in his memory since he was so dedicated to Buddhism.
The ceremony to become a monk evokes much of the dragon neak as well. The Achar will carry a palm tree fashioned with leaves to look like a bird. He will spin it and call on spirits to stay with the body of monk, here called neak. There is also a “Teeth of the Dragon” ceremony where wood is mixed with coconut water and boiled into a paste. This is then smeared on the new monks’ teeth in order to weaken the poison of the dragon and dispel his earthly sins.
I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.
~ Ursula Le Guin, The Farthest Shore
To some cultures, dragons might just be folklore or myths, presented to the modern world in the form of fairy tales, cartoons or animated series. But to other cultures dragons used to exist, and they might exist still, somewhere humans have no reach. Certainly in the minds of the creators of worlds such as Pern and Seraphina, as well as in the minds of lovers of fantasy, dragons have a place of great honor. Or of great terror.
Dragons are known with different names in different languages and cultures around the world. As an example, what is Latin for dragon? Most of us know the answer to that question is ‘Draco’. But what about the Imoogi from Korea, the Balaur from Romania, or the Ejderha from Turkey?
If the sky could dream, it would dream of dragons.
~ Ilona Andrews, Fate’s Edge
Some believe that the ancient peoples might have found fossils of large dinosaurs, thus giving birth to stories of dragons. Others believe these stories of dragons were merely creative embellishments of large reptiles and snakes commonly (or perhaps not so commonly seen) at the time. Their origins may be shaded in the depths of history, but one thing is certain. Stories of dragons run through most cultures, both modern and ancient.
Throughout history stories of radiant and powerful creatures, called dragons, have come from every continent except Antartica. Almost every culture has stories of dragons, some good and benevolent, others evil and vile. The stories go back to around 6000 years ago and include some well known (to us in the USA) stories such as St. George and the Dragon (a story also painted by the artist Raphael, currently hanging in the Louvre museum in Paris), or Perseus and the Dragon of Poseidon.
What Do Dragons Look Like?
The appearance of dragons varies as widely as the cultures they come from. In the US we most often think of the ferocious looking, fire breathing, winged giants of Game of Thrones. But this is not consistent from culture to culture. In Turkey, the Ejderha breathe fire from their tails instead of their mouths, and have no legs. Others are multi headed, or leave fire in their wake as they fly rather than breathing it. Some command the skies, others command the seas. Their diversity is breathtaking.
The Bottom Line:
Was there ever a beast which used to walk or fly the face of the earth that can account for such stories and myths? Were the stories inspired by the remains of dinosaurs or simply by human imagination? We might never know what triggered ancient peoples to come up with these myths, but for lovers of the fantastical – we certainly are happy they did.
I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighborhood. But the world that contained even the imagination of Fáfnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever the cost of peril.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien
Stories may consist of a mix of words and ink and paper, but they hold a powerful magic. They have the ability to change us, shape us, maybe even to save us, even long after they first touch us. I was struck by a poignant example of this today. I realized that when I’m brave, even now, it’s because Puff the Magic Dragon showed me how.
The looming release of Pete’s Dragon had me waxing nostalgic for some of the dragon tales of my youth and I’ve been walking around humming Puff the Magic Dragon for days. So today I thought I’d see if it was available on YouTube for a watch. It was, of course, because, literally everything is on YouTube.
The film does show it’s age in many ways. The 1978 animation and storyline are much different from the sorts of films we see today. But the message was surprisingly on point even now. I’m not ashamed to admit it choked me up a bit. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if this tale of a young boy coming to terms with fear and the bewildering array of ‘shit’ in the world doesn’t choke you up at least a little, you’re just not human.
What really caught me off guard was just how much this little film influenced me. If you’d have asked me last week to list films or stories that had shaped my life Puff the Magic Dragon would not have made the list. But today, after a re-watch, I realize just how much it really did.
We all experience fear, after all. When we’re young it’s often from our own imaginations, the terrifying monsters we imagine living in the darkness beneath our beds or in our closets. We’re no more immune to fear as adults either, though the source of that fear shifts. We fear other people laughing at us, hating our books (me!), we fear failing at something, or even trying something and looking foolish in our clumsiness. Adults still fear the unknown too – our monsters under the bed become rapists, serial killers, immigrants, or the people who live on the other side of the border.
In Puff the Magic Dragon, little Peter Draper has become so afraid and so filled with self doubt he can no longer speak. But then Puff comes along and takes Peter on the adventure of a lifetime. Three little lessons forever changed Peter Draper, helping him realize things are not so scary as they seem.
Lesson One: See things as they really are. Not everything that seems scary is actually scary at all. And while it’s easy to imagine all the terrible things that can happen, how about imagining all the wondrous things that can happen too?
Lesson Two: Believe in yourself and have the courage to try. You may still fail, but at least you tried. The reality is that failure is rarely as scary as it seems (see lesson one).
Lesson Three: With the help of friends and family, we can do anything. No one is successful alone. We all need help from time to time, and there is real strength in those ties that bind us.
After watching this not-quite 30 minute cartoon I realized that I use these three little lessons almost every day. This is what allowed me to write and finish my first book, to write and publish more books, to start a business, and to write and publish this blog post. Even things such as how I think about politics, my attitudes on economics… all of these things are influenced by these three little lessons.
Now, I’m certainly not saying that Puff get’s all the credit here. We all have millions of influences in our lives that help shape who we are. But, stories… stories are one of the great influencers. And they are mighty. I think that’s why I have such a love affair with books. Who can resist that sort of magic?
The Pern books are unquestionably one of the giants of fantasy and one the best fantasy series. They were one of my earliest introductions to the genre and oh did my heart sing within those pages! My standard answer to that little-kid question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ was ‘dragonrider’. Between you and me, I’d still love to answer that question the same way today!
You know what ALL dragons have in common.
You own a copy of the Dragonriders of Pern board game
You know which colors belong to which gender of dragon
You know that ‘thread’ has nothing to do with sewing
You know how many passes occurred through all the books (9)
You can name every main characters, know which book they appear in, AND the year the book was published
You know the names of every rider and the dragon they rode
You know the names of all of Menolly’s fire dragons
You’ve played the Dragonriders of Pern 1983 video game
You danced in glee when you heard Warner Bros. has optioned the entire Pern series – that’s 12 books of awesomeness to work with!
And, for your viewing pleasure, a trailer made by one fan on what she feels is the direction the films should take. She put this together using clips from other films, and it’s pretty great!