I have always loved the concept of turning a main-character into a dragon. I think there is so much opportunity for good fantasy there. Your character would of course be affected by the physiology of the draconic form, and that would HAVE to affect his/her interactions and thought processes. Basic instincts and urges such as hunger and sex will be affected by the change. Abstract things such as morals and values will all be affected by the wearing of a body that is in many ways omnipotent. The prospect of comparative immortality opens many opportunities to really affect your character’s personal growth. You can use this opportunity to make a saint or a villain. I think that I would be tempted to go the villain route!
In a stroke of brilliance, C. S. Lewis turned one of his main characters, Eustace into a dragon in the book ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’; book three of his immortal Chronicles of Narnia. Each book in the series is a stand-alone novel, which is one of the things I personally love about that series. Eustace is Lucy’s cousin, and he is an unhappy, lazy boy. He starts out his adventure by being nothing but trouble and many of the characters whom they meet when they first find themselves in Narnia would cheerfully leave him behind.
Finally at the second island they visit, Eustace leaves the group to avoid having to do the work needed to make the ship seaworthy after a storm has damaged it. He hides in a cave that is the lair of a dead Dragon to escape a sudden rain-storm. The dragon’s treasure kindles his greed: he fills his pockets with gold and jewels and puts on a large golden bracelet. Unfortunately the bracelet is enchanted, and as he sleeps, he is transformed into a dragon. It is only as a dragon that Eustace becomes aware of how bad his previous behavior was. He then uses his draconic strength to help make amends for his bad behavior.
In his classic fantasy tale ‘The Dragon and the George’ Gordon R. Dickson also transformed his main character, James Eckert into a dragon. Jim is a man of science who is originally from our world. His fiancée Angie has been kidnapped by the Dark Powers, and desperate to save her, James follows her through an astral projection machine into a bizarre alternate dimension. Unfortunately, his spirit becomes trapped in the body of a dragon named Gorbash. Jim says that he is a Baron upon first contact with the very courtly Sir Brian, who is the quintessential Good Knight and who becomes his closest friend and companion.
On the way to rescue Angie, Jim and his companions must fight a band of ‘georges’ (or what the Dragons call knights – a reference to St George) and an evil rogue dragon, who have sold their services to the Dark Powers and their evil creatures. The Dark Powers are very powerful and are planning an attack upon England and the entire world. Over the course of the tale Jim gradually comes to realize that the world in which he finds himself is real, and not simply a game as he had thought. To his surprise and consternation, what he does will have effects, for good or ill, on the people around him. At the end of the book, Jim (or Sir James, as he is now called) regains his human form.
I have not yet turned a character into a dragon, but I never rule anything out – I write fantasy after all (insert evil laugh here) and once I have the tree of events all laid out the stories tend to write themselves as they are happening. Major changes to the story occur all the time as it is being written, quite often surprising even me!
The world of Waldeyn, which is the setting of Huw the Bard, sprang from the idle thought that came to me while working on another tale: “What if Medieval Britain evolved in an alternate reality?” Waldeyn and Britain are similar but different. In Waldeyn, morality is a murky place; might makes right as long as you can back it up with your sword. Waldeyn has never had an industrial revolution, the names are skewed, magic is real, and so are the mythical beasts and demons that are relegated to nightmares and fairy-tales in the real world.
When I was picturing the dragon, I thought of dinosaurs and how birds are the modern descendants of them. That led to the realization that the birds in my yard were the perfect examples of how my dragon would behave. The neighborhood stellar-jays are curious and quick and always agreeable to a free meal and that is how the dragon that made its den in the Grimmenstock Mine was. That merry raucous camaraderie that the jays display in the yard is what I had in mind when writing that passage. I deliberately did not make the dragon a wise creature, and I didn’t make it unnecessarily cruel.
Next week I will finish up this three part series on dragons by discussing the wonderful, wise, and comforting Dragons of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Series, and also the canny, dangerous, wise old dragon in Danielle Raver’s Brother, Betrayed. Danielle has been kind enough to agree to tell us what was in her mind when she was writing him into her tale.