Guest Post: “Girls & Dragons” by Katherine Harbour
Today I’m excited to welcome Katherine Harbour to The BiblioSanctum to talk about an awesome topic! Katherine is the author of Thorn Jack, which I reviewed earlier this week. It is the first book of the Night and Nothing series which also includes the sequel Briar Queen and the upcoming Nettle King, due out next spring from Harper Voyager.
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GIRLS & DRAGONS
by Katherine Harbour
Once upon a time, it was girls and unicorns. Unicorns adorned stickers, school binders, and posters on bedroom walls. The unicorn was mysterious, noble, and pure. The unicorn was the good boy.
Then along came dragons.
Dragons have evolved from monsters that devour virgins and terrorize villages, into beings with personalities and agendas. Dragons didn’t even need to change their shape to become rock star. There’s no better example than Smaug in The Hobbit films; Smaug, the result of some gorgeous CGI artistry, is imbued with the sexy, British baritone of Benedict Cumberbatch.
And girls went from being devoured by dragons, to slaying them (The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley), to eventually befriending them.
The shift in attitude toward dragons perhaps began with Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, where the dragons are sentient beings who share a telekinetic bond with their human riders, a bond that sometimes results in tragedy. In the YA version of her Dragonrider novels, Dragonsong, a young musician, a girl named Menolly, discovers a group of little fire lizards, cousins to the great dragons, and teaches these wild creatures to sing.
Mothering dragons is Daenerys Targaryen’s thing in The Game of Thrones, a privilege that becomes more of a burden when the dragons reach adolescence and begin to do what dragons traditionally do. This proud mama soon has to choose between her savage children and the people she protects, and it’s a poignant moment.
Then there are the girls who befriend their dragons. In Patricia McKillip’s short story ‘The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath,’ instead of harrowing the dragon, the heroine sets it free. In Carrie Vaughn’s Voices of Dragons, a young woman’s friendship with a dragon may avert a war.
Dragons began to shapeshift. Talon, by Julie Kagawa, features a dragon named Ember who has taken a girl’s form in order to walk among the enemy—mankind. The heroine of Sophie Jordan’s Firelight is a dragon girl who transforms into a human after she falls in love with a dragonslayer. In Vivian Vande Velde’s Dragon’s Bait, a young woman is accused of being a witch and left for the dragon terrorizing her village. The dragon, Selendrile, takes her away, but, in his lair, he shapeshifts into a golden-haired young man. As they’re both outcasts, they bond. But Alys wants revenge on her village.
A shapechanging dragon extraordinaire called Morkeleb the Black is featured in Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane. Jenny Waynest, a mother, and a wizard wed to a scholarly dragonslayer, learns that some of the venomous and beautiful dragons that sometimes terrorize the world might actually be sentient. Morkeleb, a wizard dragon, takes a human shape to convince Jenny to stay with him. When he transforms Jenny into a dragon, she is tempted to remain that way . . .
In Thorn Jack, I’ve hidden my dragon, who is hinted at but not revealed until the third book, sort of.
So why is it that girls and women no longer seek the pretty nobility of the unicorn, but the wild power of a dragon? (That says something, doesn’t it?) Dragons can be villains, heroes, or tricksters. The bond between a girl and her dragon involves a lot of reasoning, taming, and a fascination with danger—the perfect dark romantic formula. Spiky and predatory, wealthy and erudite, arrogant and wise, dragons are the ultimate magical creature. They were bound to become the bad boys at some point.
I hope we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.
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I was born in Albany, NY (upstate NY is where Thorn Jack takes place) and now live in Sarasota, FL. I briefly attended college in Minneapolis, Minnesota, before attempting life as a painter (the artsy kind). I’ve been writing since I was seventeen and juggling a few jobs while doing it. I wrote Thorn Jack when I was seventeen—as well as many, many other things over the years—and I took it out of the trunk (a literal trunk) two years ago, dusted it off, and began revising it…