But I'm scrambling to catch up a bit now, so I do apologize for posting this a little bit later than usual.
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The Dragon's form. In the original short-story version of Heartless, the Dragon never took this other form. And when I began writing the novel, I had no intention of him being anything other than the classic, fire-breathing monster.
But when I started writing this scene for the first time, it came to be suddenly--in a bolt of inspiration--that the Dragon was not limited to this one shape. Why would he be? He is a being of pure evil, and evil can take so many, many shapes.
So even as I wrote the scene, I watched with horror akin to Una's as he crossed the bridge, folded his wings, and suddenly became a towering man with lifeless skin stretched over the black skull of his head, his eyes blazing with deep, hateful fire.
It was many drafts later that I added in the early scenes of Una's dream that foreshadowed the Dragon taking this form. But when I first wrote it, this was the first that I saw him this way. Shudder!
Vampire mythology. Some of you might notice some loose connections to vampire mythology surrounding the Dragon. For instance, Una is told to "invite him in," etc. I actually didn't realize that I had done this when I first wrote the story! It wasn't until one of my beta readers, librarian Edward Blessing, pointed it out to me that I realized that mythology had slipped in there. I believe I had been reading Dracula for the first time around then, so that might have had something to do with it.
Once I realized it, however, I decided to leave it. Vampires are another classic symbol of evil that have been, in recent history "tamed." Just like dragons. So I thought it fitting to reclaim some of their malevolence and wickedness in my own literary endeavor.
Oh, Una, you know me. Some people have been confused by this line over time. They've asked me, did this refer to the dream? Or had she actually met him at some point in her life that we didn't know about?
I don't think this line refers to either of those possibilities. I think it refers to Una's unconscious knowledge of her own wickedness. She knows, deep down in a part of her spirit that remains unacknowledged, that she is as evil as he. That his fire lives inside her. And it's only a matter of time until that fire will respond to his voice and come raring to life. So in that respect, she knows him without ever having met him.
Everyone recognizes the Dragon. They all know who he is the moment they see him. Perhaps they don't know him by name, or even know how they know him. But he is as familiar to them as their own faces in a mirror. I think that is part of what makes him so dreadful! It would be one thing if (as in Veiled Rose) he appeared in his dragon-form, all fire and wings and scales. We would understand the immediate terror that vision would create! But this form of a man is somehow more horrible by far, and everyone knows him, and everyone obeys him.
Monster and the Dragon. Even brave Monster feels at the first whiff of the Dragon. I'll bet the Dragon disguised himself somehow so that Monster did not sense his presence long, long ago. We know this knightly cat has highly developed senses so that he can even smell out Una's dreams. But he did not know the Dragon was coming until the Dragon was in the house. So I'll be the Dragon knew he was there and hid himself.
And the Dragon's wicked comments to Una . . . do you think maybe he knows Monster is a Knight? I think perhaps he does. But he is much more focused on Una at the moment. (For those of you who have read Veiled Rose . . . interesting to note that the Dragon doesn't seem even remotely bothered by Monster, while he is obviously quite nervous of Beana!)
Fidel. The king obviously knows exactly who the Dragon is the moment he sees him. I can't help but wonder if Aethelbald's warnings all flooded back through his mind in an instant upon that sight. How he must have blamed himself! But he is a brave man, and protective of his children and his kingdom. A futile courage, but courage nonetheless.
The man with the white face. I just remembered . . . for most of this scene, the Dragon is referred to as "the man with the white face," almost as though it's his name. Want to know where I got that from? Tuck Everlasting. The villain of that story is called, throughout the novel, the man with the yellow suit. I always thought that dehumanizing title was so chilling, so I liked using that little technique, however briefly, in this introductory chapter of the Dragon. Thought you might find that tidbit interesting!
Una, ferocious. I sometimes get a little frustrated when reviewers talk about my Una as being totally helpless and spineless. Because the fact is, she several times over tries to attack the Dragon all by herself! Look at this moment when the Dragon is kicking Fidel down. Una actually grabs the Dragon's hand and bites it! She literally bites it!
So, yeah. I don't think she's as spineless as all that. She's a princess, yes. She's been sheltered, sure, and she's no warrior maiden. But she is fiercely protective of her family!
She's simply no match for the Dragon.
He will come. The one thought that gives Una peace, even as the inferno face of the Dragon leans in upon her. "He will come."
But who does she mean? Leonard seems an obvious choice. But Leonard wasn't the only one who promised to return to her . . . And she doesn't say a name here.
Whoever it is, the thought itself is enough to make the Dragon pull back, saying, "You'll be ready in time."
Alone in Oriana. So Una shuts the door, and she is alone in the enormous palace that was her safe home.
My Personal Favorite Lines
1. This is another one of those scenes that changed very little from the original scene I scribbled out by hand in the first draft. It came to me so clearly, so vividly, so horribly, and I really could hardly improve upon it. I still think it's some of the best writing in the whole book, outmatching even many of the later scenes that I composed as a "better" writer. So I'll not pick favorite lines because I really (perhaps arrogantly) love this whole section!
Questions on the Text
1. What do you think . . . did the Dragon compel Una to invite him to her home, or did she secretly, deep down inside, want him to come into her home?
2. Who do you think Una means when she thinks, "He will come?"
3. What do you make of the contrast between the first half of the book and the events taking place now? Do you like it? Is it perhaps a bit too jarring? A good sort of jarring?
4. Favorite lines?