Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday's Dragon


Vollys is the creation of notable children's book writer Gail Carson Levine, a character in her second novel, The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

I decided that after quite a lot of the Older Dragons it was time to write up a blog on one of my favorite dragons of recent history! Vollys is, in my opinion, one of the best dragons ever to find her way into children's lit.

The funny thing about this story is that Ms. Levine never intended to write it. After the success of her first novel, Ella Enchanted (a Newberry Honor Book), she intended to write a retelling of the classic fairy tale, "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." But as she worked on it, she number of princesses dwindled away until she was left with Meryl and Addie, two very different young woman, devoted sisters, whom she pitted against an entire kingdom of monsters. Not quite the same as magical dances!

Vollys is Levine's most successful literary creation. She is a raiding, pillaging dragon, completely sentient and completely convinced of her own right to take whatever she wants whenever she wants it. In a way, she's a very human character. A human broken down to the rawest, most depraved essentials. A human that is only just human, and therefore the most monstrous kind.

The princesses' nursemaid lists for them some of the many atrocities Vollys has committed upon the people of Bamarre: "farms burned, livestock eaten on the spot, families carried off, knights roasted in their armor, castles plundered. And all the humans--dead, or never seen again." (p. 56)

There were at least three known dragons living in Bamarre at the time of this story: Kih, Jafe, and Vollys. Princess Addie (for reasons I will not give away here) finds herself obliged to seek out one of these three and convince her to tell her a great secret. Before she goes, Rhys the sorcerer explains to her about dragons:

"They are solitary. They dislike other dragons and hate all other cratures. Yet they're lonely and they enjoy conversation. It's why they spin out the deaths of their human victims. If you're captured, you must keep the dragon entertained." (p. 123)

That's right. Vollys the dragon likes to capture herself a likely-looking human upon occasion. She tries to "make them last," rather like a good chocolate truffle that you don't chew but simply let melt slowly in your mouth. But her attention is difficult to keep, and when she grows bored . . . that's it!

"Believe me," says Vollys, "when I say I want you to stay a long  time with me. I am sad when I am alone. My unhappiest hours are after I have destroyed a guest. I have never forgotten any of you. I have remembered my first guest for over seven hundred years. He had a short life breathing the air, but a long life in memory." (p. 153)

Vollys is deliciously creepy!

But she's also . . . interesting. Beautiful. Enchanting.

I do hate to give a good story away, however! So let me leave you there and encourage you to pick up The Two Princesses of Bamarre, my favorite of Gail Carson Levine's delightful children's books.

I hear rumor that there's a movie being made. But it is no more than a breath of rumor.

Vollys on a scale of 1-10

Evil:  9
She is dreadfully evil. But she also does have a small inkling of goodness in that she feels genuine fondness for her guests. It's a fondness prey to her ever-changing whims, however . . .

Scariness: 9
I found her quite delightfully scary!

Poison: 1
I don't remember and can find no reference to her being poisonous. She certainly has a hot, searing fire, though!

Hoard: 9
Vollys is described with quite a magnificent hoard full of many delightful curiosities. Seriously, do yourself a favor and read about her!

Cleverness: 9
Wickedly clever. Fascinating, in fact!


Clara said...

Thanks for doing one on Vollys! I love The Two Princesses of Bamarre and have read it several times! Oh, and thank you for the tip about the possible movie:)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

I know, isn't that exciting news? I hope it actually happens! I think it would make a great movie. :)

al said...

I love this book, and I definitely thought Vollys one of my favorite literary villains. However, when analyzing her character, I have to say, I would rate her overall "evilness" a bit lower. Although she does end up consuming all of her "guests," (excluding Addie) I believe that the underlying cause is not an inherent evil on her part but many other complexities muddled together. She is vain, proud, acutely intelligent, easily bored, and short tempered. All of these may be characterized as flaws, yet if Vollys were truly evil, she would be sadistic in her dealings with humans. However, this is not the case. Her true nature is much more along the lines of interested loneliness. When Vollys becomes disinterested or disenchanted with her lodgers, it is only logical to her precise mind that the only thing to do is kill them. How would it look to the other dragons if she merely released her prisoners? Weak and utterly un-dragonlike. As a side note, I really hope that there will be a dragon profile on Kazul from the "Dealing with Dragons" series by Patricia C. Wrede. She is definitely one of the most interesting dragons I've read about; besides the Dragon from "Heartless," of course!

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Hmmm, interesting point. I think it all comes down to what you describe as "evil." Personally, I think enslavements to the ones own desires and utter selfishness such as Vollys displays are the very definition of evil. Interesting and complex . . . you certainly cannot write her off as a simple character! But she completely goverened by her own passions and forces her "guests" to live or die according to those passions. Such selfishness is nothing short of pure evil. While Vollys is by no means simple (she is a far more complex character than St. George's dragon!), she definitely fits the bill as far as my definition of evil goes!

And I do plan to do a profile on Kazul! She will be an interesting compare/contrast to Vollys, won't she? :)