Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bookish Resolutions for 2012

I have decided to post publicly my reading resolutions for 2012. If I post them, there is a far greater chance that I will actively pursue them. So root for my success, dear readers, root for my success!

This list of ten volumes are all things that I feel I should have read by now as a former English Major. But somehow I have managed to get by all this time without cracking the cover of any them. This year, it is time to amend that fault. Here are my goals for this upcoming year of literature:

1. Les Miserables--Victor Hugo
2. For Whom the Bell Tolls--Earnest Hemingway
3. Anthony and Cleopatra--William Shakespeare
4. Tess of the d'Urbervilles--Thomas Hardy
5. The Princess Casamassima--Henry James
6. A Brave New World--Aldous Huxley
7. The Grapes of Wrath--John Steinbeck
8. Catcher in the Rye--J.D. Salinger
9. The Color Purple--Alice Walker
10. The Scarlet Letter--Nathaniel Hawthorne

Only ten, I know. But I am on an every-nine-month deadline, with novels due in both April and December, so I'll be doing good to fit these in! Some of them are quite large too.

I have read books by many of these authors before. I've read Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame; Earnest Hemingway's Farewell to Arms; lots of Shakespeare; Far from Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy; Portrait of a Lady by Henry James; Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men; Hawthorne's The Marble Fawn, and a dozen or so of his short stories. But the above listed novels have managed to slip through the literary cracks. I am quite determined to fill in those cracks now as best I can!

This last year has been a year of primarily rereads for me anyway. Which has been great! Many of the books I have reread I haven't looked at in years, so it felt like coming to a whole new story. But it's good to keep building on your literary fortifications.

My writing goals are much simpler: Finish the draft of Book 5 (currently under the working title Dragonwitch, which is subject to change) and the draft of Book 6 (working title, Shadow Hand). I will also be polishing up Starflower for an autumn release and beginning to gather notes and ideas for future projects as yet unrevealed. So lots of busy, but not quite so concrete of goals . . .

Tell me, do you have any reading/writing goals you are setting for 2012? Or any creative goals, for that matter, photography, painting, music, etc. What are you going to do to ensure that you reach them?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday's Dragon

Also known as: The Mistress of All Evil

I debated for a while who should receive the honor of final dragon in my Tuesday's Dragon series. But when it came right down to it, I really couldn't see myself writing about any dragon other than the magnificent Maleficent, antagonist of my favorite Disney film, Sleeping Beauty.

There simply is no more majestic or terrible dragon.

Yes, I know she's a film dragon and not a literary dragon, so perhaps she shouldn't qualify. But, as you will see in my article, she has all the pathos and significance of any dragon from Tiamat on!

Maleficent of the film is an evil fairy, the character molded from the evil fairy in the classic Little Briar Rose tale by the Brothers Grimm. Maleficent undergoes significantly more development than the original fairy. Her powers are greater, and she sequesters herself away from all others fairies in a remote castle full of goblins and dark things. She carries a staff with a glowing orb, teleports herself in clouds of black smoke, and rides upon lightning bolts. She is a fabulous villainous, a potent evil if there ever was one.

She is also a shape-shifter. She can take on the form of a hypnotic green light, like a will-o'-the-wisp, leading the unwary astray. But most famously, she assumes the guise of a truly enormous, monstrous, black dragon.

One thing I love about Maleficent is that she is entirely without comedic campiness, unlike most other Disney villains. The story of Sleeping Beauty has more than enough light comedy from the perspective of the three good fairies who work so hard to guard and protect lovely Briar Rose. But Maleficent is so evil, so completely given over to her own power and pride, that she no longer possesses a sense of humor--save in that terrible moment when she reveals her dragon nature to the brave Prince Philip. The look of pure horror on his face delights and amuses her and she laughs a terrible, heat-filled laugh.

Her complete possession of dignity and majesty is part of what makes Maleficent a truly magnificent villain beyond all other villains. Her anger is like an elemental storm, full of lightning and sick green fire. And in her final furnace-fueled fury, she explodes into the form of a dragon, and we cannot help but wonder if this, this is her true shape after all!

Painting for the film done by the amazing Eyvind Earle

One of the things I appreciate the most about Maleficent, and the Sleeping Beauty movie, for that matter, is this lack of silliness or camp in the development of the character. The makers of this film and story understood and respected children, I feel. As I child, I loved and enjoyed the funny moments of the good fairies trying to sew and cook and clean (to varied degrees of success) without magic. But when the time came for the prince to fight the dragon . . . no. This was not a time for laughs. This was a serious business, good vs. evil. This was epic and this was important. And beautiful. A great and terrible contrast was being played before my eyes, and any silliness involving Maleficent earlier on would have taken away from the intensity of what was being  communicated.

The towering power of evil. The green, venomous fire and smoke. All pitted against one small prince, armed only with a shining sword.

Do you readers of Heartless see an influence on my own work? An influence that began from the time I was a tiny child, watching this terrible scene of evil's power vanquished by a lone, brave man armed only with the "shield of faith" and the "sword of truth." There was strong allegory at work in this film which, yes, movie-makers today would roll their eyes at. But I didn't as a child, and I don't now.

Artist Eric Cleworth animated the dragon for the film. He based her movements off of a rattlesnake, sinuous muscles moving a powerful body over a rocky terrain. The enormous, awe-inspiring sound of her flaming was taken from an actual US Army flamethrower. She is the only truly awful dragon seen in an animated Disney feature. (The witch-queen/dragon in the film Enchanted only want to be as amazing as Maleficent).

She has been brought to dreadful life via the Disney World animatron Maleficent:

Now that must be a sight worth seeing in person! Have any of you seen this? I wish I could!

What I have seen in the dragon lurking beneath Sleeping Beauty's castle at Eurodisney, France. I don't know if this dragon was meant to be Maleficent or not. But it was, far and away my favorite part of the whole Eurodisney experience!

Smoke billowed from her nostrils. She turned her head and roared. She watched you with evil eyes, and you could see the bones of her victims beneath her snout. And, worst of all, the great chain binding her to the stone was broken. She hadn't noticed it yet . . . but how long? How long?

Loved it.

Maleficent has also been featured in the famous video game series, Kingdom Hearts, in which she plays a major antagonist's role.

A live-action film titled Maleficent staring Angelina Jolie is rumored to be in the works. This will be a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of Maleficent.

Not sure how I feel about this. A sympathetic Mistress of All Evil is simply not as wonderful or interesting to me. But I'll be curious to see it in any case. Tim Burton was rumored to be set as the director, but it sounds like he's going to back out, leaving a directorial slot available to some hopeful.

Most recently, Maleficent has found her way into TV land via the ABC series, Once Upon a Time. Kristin Bauer plays her:

This does not impress me.

Where is the dignity or majesty? In the short clip I saw a few weeks ago of Maleficent's big scene, the actress played up the camp, and the script was as sad as it could be. The TV show might be wonderful (I hear people telling me all the time that I would love it), but if they can't handle their villains with appropriate dignity, what can they handle? I mean, she has a small black unicorn for a pet rather than her terrify trademark crow! I mean, really . . . a small black unicorn?

Yet again, I must ask: How are the mighty fallen?

This in no way damages the awe of the original Maleficent for me, though. She will live on in my imagination as the pinnacle of dragonishness and the great inspiration of all who aspire to write sinister dragons into their fairy tales!

Maleficent on a scale of 1-10

Evil:  10
The Mistress of All Evil rates a perfect score here, of course.

Scariness: 10
Terrifying! Marvelously so! She frightened me to the point of flee-to-grandma's-arms panic when I was little, and I have loved her for it ever since.

Poison: 8
Look at the green in her flames. How can that be anything but poisonous?

Hoard: 0
She lives in a dark and dreary castle in the farthest remote of remote farthests. No sign of any treasure or even a tapestry or two to lighten the mood.

Cleverness: 7
Can't give her much more than that. I mean, her vengeful curse on the princess was pretty diabolic. And she did carefully plan to kidnap Prince Philip to prevent him from thwarting her scheme . . . but, being the dreadful villainess that she is, she let villainy get in the way of practicality. Wanting to draw out Philip's torment, she didn't kill him right away, but merely locked him in her dungeon.

Let that be a lesson to all you villains out there. Kill them right away. Otherwise, they will escape and slay you. Trust me. It will happen.

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the final Tuesday of 2011, and this is the last of my Tuesday's Dragons. It's been a lot of fun! I've enjoyed all the research and hope you have enjoyed reading what I've learned. Happy reading and dragon-slaying! 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday's Dragon

Also known as: The King of the Dragons

Kazul, a dragon of the Mountains of Morning, is quite a remarkable lady. Especially considering that she is the king of the dragons.

To most of us, this might seem a bit unusual. But to the dragons who live in the world of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, as created by Patricia C. Wrede, it makes perfect sense for a lady dragon to be king. After all, the office of King is just that . . . an office.

And besides, no one wants to be Queen. That's a boring job!

Kazul is remarkable for other reasons besides her rule. She's a doting grandmother, of one thing. She's also a fair and open-minded sort, willing to give folks a chance to prove themselves. For instance, when a discontented princess named Cimorene traveled all the way from her kingdom of Linderwall to the Mountains of Morning and asked to become a Dragon's Princess, some of the other dragons wanted to eat her. After all, no proper princess would come offering herself to a dragon! And if she's not proper, what good is she?

But Kazul decides to give Cimorene a try. After all, Cimorene is a decent baker and scholar.

"I like cherries jubilee," says Kazul, when the other dragons question her decision. "And I like the look of her. Besides, the Latin scrolls in my library need cataloguing, and if I can't find someone who knows a little of the language, I'll have to do it myself" (p. 19).

Yet another way in which Kazul is unusual. Who ever heard of a dragon with a library? Oh, she has a proper hoard too, complete with magic rings and suits of armor and even geni-filled bottles (don’t open those!). But a library?

A literary dragon is exactly suited to Princess Cimorene's tastes . . . and Cimorene's cherries jubilee is suited to Kazul's. So they make a fine pair, the two of them and eventually become friends.

Not that Cimorene ever becomes too comfortable with Kazul. After all, even a friendly dragon is a dragon and must be treated with utmost respect! And there's always the fire to be considered. A wise princess must take every precaution, including researching an anti-fire spell to protect herself . . .

It turns out to be a good thing Cimorene took the time for this spell. Dragon-sneezes are, well, nothing to sneeze at! And when Kazul gets a whiff of some deadly dragonsbane--just a whiff, mind you--she is plummeted into a violent illness, complete with sneezing attack, that would have incinerated Cimorene in a moment without that protective spell!

That sickness is almost enough to setback Kazul's future as the king of the dragons. For just when she falls down ill, word comes that the current king has been poisoned with a heavy dose of dragonsbane in his coffee. A new king must be selected! And Kazul, sick or not, is determined not to miss out on her chance.

But I hate to give away plot points. So you should read Dealing with Dragons and the subsequent Enchanted Forest Chronicles to learn more about Kazul on the dragon who live in the Mountains of Morning.

Kazul has found her way into several fun artistic interpretations. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles have been popular enough to merit several reprintings, which mean lots of covers! This one is my personal favorite (and the cover on the copy I own):

You may recognize the style of the brilliant Trina Schart Hyman, my all-time favorite illustrator (of St. George and the Dragon fame). I love her intelligent, possibly a little grumpy, but benevolent depiction of Kazul with her claws curved lovingly around a serving of chocolate mousse (Cimorene's other cookerly talent).

Here's a more recent cover:

I don't think that's meant to be Kazul. Looks a little too perplexed. Maybe it's Woraug, the evil dragon with designs on the throne who becomes Cimorene's nemesis?

And the image seen above but in cover format:

And here's a cover for a four-in-one anthology:

That one has my vote for the scariest depiction of Kazul.

Dealing with Dragons has even been translated into Hebrew! Check out this fun cover:

I also found this interest fan-art of Kazul and Cimorene:

A little video-game-y, but fun!Kazul on a scale of 1-10

Evil:  0
Kazul is a dignified, but good dragon. Treat her with proper respect, and you'll be fine.

Scariness: 7
Not scary to her friends . . . but dishonest wizards and foolish heroes had better watch out!

Poison: 0
Not poisonous. But pretty hot fire!

Hoard: 10
She gets a 10 because not only does she have all the classic jewels and gems (rooms of them!), she also has a library. Enough said.

Cleverness: 9
Kazul is a very clever and intelligent king.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Winner!

All right, ladies and gentlemen! The winner for our Name Needed contest is ready to be announced.

For those of you who need updating, the contest was to select a name for a dog character in my upcoming novel, Starflower. The name needed to be Southlands-appropriate and fit for a female hunting/fighting dog, a scruffy gray lurcher.

This is a lurcher, in case you were wondering.

There were so many to choose from, it was almost impossible to pick! But, after great deliberation, the dog has been named. She will be called:



This means that Anonymous is our winner. So if Anonymous would please email me, I will be certain he/she receives his/her winnings (a signed copy of Veiled Rose.)

Thank you so much for your participation, everyone! For those of you interested, here were some of my favorite runner-ups:

Firefiend--by Amber
Harefoot--by Jenny
Fearfang--by al
Hemlock--by Elizabeth (Elizabeth Anne! The reverse me!). Also suggested by taylor2taylor74
Stormcloud--by Clara
Ashdust--by Clara
Tala--by Clara and Sister (but it isn't a Southlands sounding name, so I couldn't use it.)
Lyrk--by Maren (again, not a Southlands name, but a great name for a lurcher!)

But there were so many great ones to choose from! Thank you so much for your participation, and keep your eyes open for more name-drawings and contests!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday's Dragon

Also called: Trâgu, The Golden, The Magnificent, The Dragon of Erebor

You knew you would see him on this list eventually. Possibly the most famous dragon of modern literature, Smaug is an essential component of any dragon listing. And with good reason!

Smaug was heavily inspired by the famous dragon in the Beowulf epic and, indeed, so closely resembles that dragon that one could easily call Smaug his "literary descendant." Unlike Beowulf's nemesis, however, Smaug is far more sentient and, therefore, more evil. But just like that dragon, Smaug keeps a vast and fabulous hoard, a pile of gold on which he slumbers amid greedy dreams. And make no mistake, just like his predecessor, Smaug knows every last piece of his hoard!

There are four known dragons who inhabit Tolkien's elaborate and brilliant world of Middle Earth: Ancalagon, Glaurung, Scatha, and Smaug. In the later part of the Third Age of Middle Earth, Smaug is the greatest dragon yet living, possibly the greatest that ever was. With violence and fire, he took the land of Erebor for his own, driving out the dwarves who dwelled in the Lonely Mountain, and stealing all their treasures. He ruled that land and terrorized the inhabitants for two whole centuries before we finally meet him for the first time in Tolkien's first novel of Middle Earth, The Hobbit.

In that book, we see an echo of the Beowulf themes that must have been an enormous influence on Tolkien. We meet his protagonist, the hobbit of the title, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, assuming the role of the runaway slave from the original epic. But that thief slipped by accident down to the dragon's hoard; Bilbo goes on purpose, a reconnaissance mission for the dwarves with whom he is traveling.

Thirteen dwarves, as led by Thorin Oakenshield, solicited Bilbo to be their personal burglar, a useful asset, they feel, on a quest to reclaim their treasures from Smaug's hold. So Bilbo journeyed with them to the Lonely Mountain and is sent at last down to the treasure hold. There he beholds the hoard of Smaug for the first time:

"Bilbo had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment and with the desire of dwarves" (The Hobbit, Chapter XII).

Many artists have painted and sketched their own personal visions of Smaug's treasure trove. My personal favorite is the picture at the top of this page by Greg and Tim Hildebrant. It was in the hardbound copy of The Hobbit that my parents owned when I was growing up. But two of the other most famous versions have been John Howe's:

And Alan Lee's

Definitely starting to feel some dragonish glory now!

Surely with all that treasure to keep track of, the dragon couldn't possibly miss a single cup? Or so, Bilbo reasoned. But no sooner had Bilbo escaped with his purloined goods, and hardly had the dwarves had a chance to admire his achievement, when Smaug awoke.

"He stirred and stretched forth his neck to sniff. Then he missed the cup!
Thieves! Fire! Murder!  Such a thing had not happened since he came to the Mountain! His passes description . . ." (The Hobbit, Chapter XII).

So, just like Beowulf's dragon, Smaug comes bellowing forth in full fury. His hide is armor plated and impervious to all harm save on his tender underbelly. But even this has been so crusted over with gems after centuries of sleeping on treasure, that no mere sword can hope to pierce it.

This is Smaug's boast to Bilbo when, after the fire of his first fury passes, he returns to his lair and there meets the hobbit thief. He boasts and even proves his words by rolling over so that Bilbo may see the glorious armor he has accumulated over the years. Only Bilbo, though his eyes are dazzled by the glitter, sees something else as well: A bare patch in the hollow of Smaug's left breast.

And when Bilbo later communicates this message to the dwarves, he is overheard by thrush.

(Hmmm . . . A thrush! Now isn't that just the oddest literary connection? It's been so long since I read The Hobbit, I didn't actually remember that part!)

Anyway, as it turns out, there was a day when the Men of the Lake-town had been able to speak the language of birds. And there is one who still does: Bard the Bowman. When the time comes, and Smaug, in a rage once more, is burning and destroying Lake Town once and for all, the wise thrush comes to him and whispers: "The moon is rising. Look for the hollow of the left breast as he flies and turns above you!"

So Bard shoots his final arrow, a black arrow. And it sinks home.

Thus ends the flaming, furious, dreadful life of Smaug the Magnificent, greatest dragon of the Third Age.

And one can't help but think it was just in time for more reasons than one! Not just for the people of Lake Town or the dwarves. After all, it wasn't long after these events that Sauron rose up from Mordor and summoned all the dark powers to his thrall. What might he have done with an evil as mighty and deadly as Smaug if given half the chance? Interesting speculation . . .

Smaug has found his way into numerous depictions. Many great artists have illustrated him, not to mention the famous illustration rendered by Tolkien himself:

Yes, we have seen Smaug more magnificent. But there really is nothing quite like seeing an author's own interpretation, is there?

Smaug has made his way into Movie World via this 1977 filmadaption:

What a charmer he was back then, eh? Kind of like a scale-covered cat.

Smaug even made it into Video Game World in 2003.
Complete with Video Game hoard.

But, of course, everyone is the most excited about the upcoming 2012 feature film of The Hobbit.

Though I can't help but wonder if we'll see any of Smaug in this part 1 movie? We might not get much Smaug-ishness until 2013 when part 2 releases. In the meanwhile, we do know that Smaug will be voiced by the marvelous Benedict Cumberbatch.

If you have seen him in his Sherlock Holmes role you know he has the perfect voice for a dragon! I'm excited. You should be as well.

Smaug on a scale of 1-10

Evil:  9
 Smaug is a satisfyingly and wonderfully evil villain!

Scariness: 10
I can only remember one dragon who ever scared me more! (More on that one later.)

Poison: ?
I can find no references to Smaug being poisonous.

Hoard: 10
A sublime hoard that includes mithril silver and the dwarves' brilliant Arkenstone.

Cleverness: 4
I'm not giving him more than 4. After all, he did roll over and show Bilbo his weakness. Seriously, Smaug? After centuries of people wanting to slay you? You've gotten to comfortable in your scariness.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Name Needed . . .

Hey, guess what. This is my 100th post!

I think we need to celebrate. Who's up for a game?

In my upcoming novel, Starflower (2012), my heroine has a dog. A rough-and-tumble lurcher female, whose former owner wanted her to be a hunting/fighting brute of a dog. She looks something like this:

Problem is, she needs a name. And not a pretty name like Starflower might give her . . . no, she needs a name appropriate for the vicious fighting dog she was meant to be. Want to help me out?

Please feel free to list as many Southlands-sounding names as you like in the comments section! (Southlander names are like Lionheart, Foxbrush, Catspaw, Hawkeye, Starflower, etc.) I will pick the one I like best for the name of Starflower's lurcher, and whoever it was who gave me the winning name will win a free, autographed copy of Veiled Rose.

So go ahead! Begin listing! The winner will be announced a week from today and the prize sent out soon thereafter. Have fun!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Manuscript Graveyard

Here I sit on this (surprisingly warm) December morning, heaving a sigh because the (altogether-dreadful-and-never-to-be-seen-by-living-eyes) rough draft of Book 5 is now complete. Redrafting awaits, yes! But for a moment, I may breathe.

And as I breathe, I can't help but reflect on other novels begun in the last few years that have not made it so far even as the (altogether-dreadful-and-never-to-be-seen-by-living-eyes) rough draft. My list of abandoned projects is not as extensive as it might be . . . I'm a pretty stubborn cookie when I set my mind to it. But there are definitely a handful of pieces that I have begun and discarded. Some with very good reason! Some . . . well, there might be potential in them. Someday. Maybe.

Thought you might like a peek into my own personal Manuscript Graveyard:

1. Phantom Dancers--A seriously boring, rather full-of-itself, ghost-story retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." If I ever touch it again, it will need some major revamping!

2. The Mute Princess--A comedic novella about a princess who has a brilliant gift for eloquence . . . except when she meets the love of her life. Then the curse of her evil fairy godmother descends, and the princess falls completely tongue-tied and can't speak a word! Kind of cute. Might pull it out again someday, just for exercise.

3. Cinderbelle--A retelling of "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" starring one of the bad-tempered older sisters who is sent to the Beast instead of the sweet and beautiful youngest. I mean, who wants to keep that around the house anyway? Let the Beast have her! Heheh, I rather like this one. I might have to finish it one day.

4. The Song of Love--A comedy novella about an art thief in post-WWII Venice, loosely parodying The Maltese Falcon. When was I ever that ambitious? Can't imagine how that one got started!

5. Troll Hunt --A short story based on my own childhood in England during the Gulf War. This one's actually finished, but needs to be illustrated. Don't know when I'll ever get around to that, though!

6. The Song-Holder--A convoluted retelling of "The Snow Queen" and "The Marsh King's Daughter." Meant to be co-written with my sister-friend, Erin. Too mixed-up to support itself, however. But some interesting ideas down at the core. Might shake it out again one day.

So there you have my Graveyard of Forgotten Stories. Even professionals go chasing up rabbit-trails sometimes. Often. More often than I like to admit . . .

But please do note, for every forgotten story, I have finished at least two others. Don't abandon your work unless you see absolutely no alternative! And never throw it out entirely, because there might be a gem hidden in the midst of all that nonsense that will glint with inspiration for you one day . . .

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday's Dragon


Also known by his surname: Scrubb

Here with this most distinctive dragon in children's literature, we find ourselves coming back to the themes begun with Fáfnir in old Norse Mythology: The dragon transformed by greed.

Eustace did not begin life as a dragon. In fact, he was far worse, a snotty little boy with a superior attitude toward everyone and everything. One of those people who can Never Be Wrong, and are, therefore, nearly impossible to like.

And ultimately, the only hope for someone who can Never Be Wrong is to be placed in a position where there is no possible way to argue that he is right. That's exactly what happened to poor (but completely had-it-coming) Eustace Scrubb.

On a fantastic voyage across the oceans of Narnia (as recounted in C.S. Lewis's marvelous Voyage of the Dawn Treader) Eustace and his fellow sea-voyagers come to an island that is, unbeknownst to them, inhabited by a dragon. A dying dragon, as it turns out. Eustace, who wandered away from the rest of his company, comes upon the poor beast even as it is drawing its last, struggling breaths.

He also comes upon its treasure trove.

From the way Mr. Lewis describes this dragon's hoard, it would have rated a solid 9 if not a perfect 10. Coins, rings, bracelets, diamonds, diadems, gems, cups, plates, everything a proper dragon hoard should contain, in fact. Eustace swiftly succumbs to the charm of it, slides a diamond-studded bracelet up his arm and over his elbow, and eventually falls asleep dreaming greedy thoughts of gold and wealth.

Similar, in fact, to the dreams Fáfnir the dwarf must have dreamt when he coveted the red gold of Loki. And like Fáfnir, Eustace woke from those dreams to find that his outer form had given way to the truer form that waited just beneath. The form of a ghastly, gnarled, enormous, fire-breathing dragon.

It came as something of a shock.

And sometimes a good shock is exactly what a pest like Eustace Scrubb needs. Utterly humiliated and unable to hide his shame (it's hard to hide thirty-odd foot of gnarly, scale-covered self after all), he is obliged to return to his company and let them discover for themselves what he has become.

Oddly enough, now that he is unable to feel any superiority to anyone present, Eustace finds himself for the first time in his life being liked . . . and liking in return. He undergoes a change of heart and searches out ways to help those he once despised. Though he can no longer communicate with speech, he communicates through actions, proving himself able to learn from his humiliation.

But none of this can save him from his dragon form. As Eustace begins to discover, no good deed will ever counterbalance the greed and wickedness that brought him to his hideous state. The only hope for one such as Eustace Scrubb is undeserved grace.

Which is extended to him by the great lion, Aslan.

In one of the most compelling scenes I can remember reading, Eustace tells how Aslan led him in his dragon form to a beautiful well, a fountain of bubbling, cleansing water. Before he could enter it, he must shed his dragon hide. But no matter how many times Eustace scrapes off his horrible scales, shedding layer after layer, there is always a new, terrible layer to be found underneath. He will never be clean enough to enter that well!

So Aslan must do it for him. Rending him deeply with his terrible claws, Aslan tears the dragon hide from his flesh. And Eustace by now is so desperate that, though it pains him terribly, he is ready to undergo the transformation. What a blessed relief when he is finally free of those hideous scales, when he enters the water and finds himself once more in the form of the boy he was . . .

Or rather, the boy he was always meant to be, humbler, able to think of others, with the potential for real heroism budding in his heart.

Eustace's subsequent adventures post-dragon you will have to read for yourselves in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, however.

There are several great depictions of Eustace. The most famous, of course, is the wonderful Pauline Baynes's original illustions such as the portrait of the sobbing dragon above. David Wiesner (of Tuesday fame) also did a fun cover for one Dawn Treader edition:

Yet another weepy dragon. I wonder if dragon tears boil?

Eustace has been portrayed on film twice. This first was this BBC production of Dawn Treader:

I grew up watching this one and always rather liked the dragon puppet. For a movie without CGI advantages, this one did a fine job with convincing dragons and a darn freaky sea serpent!

Earlier this year, the new Voyage of the Dawn Treader was released with plenty of fancy special effects and plenty more changes to C.S. Lewis's original storyline and intended meaning. Not my favorite movie. But the dragon Eustace was beautiful!

See similarities to David Weisner's image? Makes me happy.

Eustace on a scale of 1-10

 Evil:  8
Definitely redeemable, but Eustace is a pretty sinful, messed up young fellow when his story begins. His own greed brings on his transformation, and only grace can bring him back.

 Scariness: 4
His friends and comrades were frightened of him at first (and he was more than a little frightened of himself!), but Eustace is ultimately not a very terrifying dragon.

 Poison: 0
I don't think this dragon is poisonous. Couldn't find any references to it anyway . . .

Hoard: 9
At least a 9! While Eustace doesn't keep any of this hoard in the long run, for a little while, he is a very wealthy dragon.

Cleverness: 3
Eustace tends to think himself a bit cleverer than he actually is. But he's not clever enough to avoid dragon treasure and dragon dreams!