This week in the arena, a scaly menace crawls through our arched entryway. Its fiery breath intends to cook our authors for the delight of our ravenous arena patrons. That’s right, we’re bringing you dragons.
Who will prevail? Let’s see what our judges have to say.
“If the sky could dream, it would dream of dragons…”
Is there a more classic topic for a story than dragons? Let’s gather our knights in armor and find us a wyrm:
“The Wiles of Dragons” by Lu Whitley – First, I need to take care of something. I read this story the first time without knowing that Ms. Whitley was working with a shortened week and I really liked it. Any lack of time quite simply does not show in the writing at all. I am very impressed and I congratulate her for that. Out of fairness, however, I will not be taking this into account in my final decision.
This story is wonderful. It has a very classic dragon tale flavor but with a twist. As the story starts we see that Galvamnir (such a wonderful dragon name) is much smaller than we, and Therfin, expected. Instead of our brave and noble prince dodging fire and talons, we get dinner and conversation.
What follows is such a beautiful telling of cunning and deceit I found myself starting to wonder if this story was going to cast dragons as misunderstood and peaceful. Dragons are near to the embodiment of evil in so many tales that every reader out there has a innate distrust of them when they appear in a story. To overcome that is no small feat.
The method of the dragon’s “recovery” is great. Our knight in shining armor is defeated not by fire, but by his own naivety and generosity. That it takes a few meals and days spent in the dragon’s home makes the story feel much more real. It’s easy to see how one’s distrust and caution could be worn down given time.
A worthy entry to the arena for sure, and a good demonstration why Ms. Whitley was invited back. Thank you.
“Build-a-Knight” by Tony Southcotte – This has got to be up there with the least expected stories the arena has seen. Given a prompt about dragons, Mr Southcotte gives us a beautiful story of a brave little stuffed bear.
Touches of Toy Story shine through with the bear taking the place of Woody in the meeting of the toys, but that is where the similarities end. The conversation that the bear and the penguin have on the edge of the crib is great. We really see how serious the bear takes her job and the mystery surrounding the dragon and we are left to wonder if it is sentient or just a decoration.
The cat as the antagonist was good, though the depth of his evil was a little disturbing. Hints at previous battles between bear and feline show the level of hatred between the two. As things progress in this story we begin to see why.
I really enjoyed the fight scenes here. Set as they were between such combatants, they still had a tension about them that belied their small scale. The introduction of the dog added a level of danger to the fight that was soon played out. I have witnessed many toys destroyed by dogs and know the completeness of their destruction well.
I loved the touch of sentimentality with the older child. The bear has been left behind until she was torn up, then the child remembers her and wants to save her. Her origin story was well done and a nice short addition to our tale.
The final fight felt epic. The struggle to free the now mobile dragon so he could save the child had me reading faster in an effort to help the bear. The way the dragon engulfed the cat and plunged out the window was a surprise. That is the only part of the story I wasn’t completely sold on. If the dragon had given its life to save the child, or been returned to the nursery, it might have worked a little better for me. Because he flees, I saw the saving of the child as a simple trade for his freedom and that changed the flavor of the story a bit. The thing I have been wrestling with is that the story still works perfectly as it is, and actually keeps the dragon’s nature closer to that of his mythical brethren. In this case, as like many others, the author may know better than I.
This was truly a tough decision, both stories are wonderfully written and the stories are ones I will share with friends and family. Unfortunately, I must pick one. That is the one that I believe went above and beyond the prompt this week. That was:
“Build-a-Knight” by Tony Southcotte.
There’s one vote for Tony. What is our next judge’s verdict?
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our second judge this week. Donald strives to write what he calls “haiku fiction,” stories that are small in scope but big on impact. Find out more about haiku fiction here. He welcomes comments at his blog http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).
Dragons are everywhere.
From Apep the Chaos Snake of Egypt to the medieval European legends of St Margaret and St George to the imperial Long of China to the feathered serpent of Mexico, Quetzalcoatl, wherever you find the human race, you find dragons. The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges calls the dragon a “necessary monster.” There’s something about human nature that causes people around the world to tell stories of dragons.
And humanity’s fascination with dragons continues to the present age. Pern and Eragon and Temeraire come to mind without any effort at all. This week’s combatants add their talents to this universal trope. As is my custom, I am going to give a few comments on the stories before moving on to my vote.
“The Wiles of Dragons” by Lu Whitley – This story has all the trappings of the traditional dragonslayer story, but deliciously subverted. The young knight has the naiveté of the third son in much folklore, but without the advantage of a wise talking cat to guide him. Certainly a parable of ignoring the advice of one’s mother! I do admit though that I had a hard time thinking him so naïve. It’s rather a wonder his family let him out of the castle.
The mention of the curse at the end makes me wonder if this tale might work better, for me at least, as the introduction to a longer story. We get glimpses of a broader world that seems more interesting than poor young Therfin. I have a feeling that Galvamnir could easily star in a novel, though perhaps as antihero rather than hero.
“Build-a-Knight” by Tony Southcotte – This story was more unexpected for me. The dragon here is a powerful but mostly benevolent guardian spirit, and thus aptly portrayed in Eastern rather than Western aspect. He is not the star of the show, but nowhere in this week’s challenge is it stated that such must be the case. He plays the role he must for the story.
This story didn’t flow as smoothly as the other for me. In particular, I wonder if the jumps in points of view could be handled better. I enjoyed the multifaceted look into the events of the story, but there were several times when it took me a moment to realize where the camera was, so to speak. But I felt for each of the characters, even the antagonist, which is quite a feat for such a large cast.
Dragons East and West. Fairy tales played out in ancient times and in our own homes. Both of our stories rose to this week’s challenge admirably. In the end, though, I am always going to cast my vote for the story that for me had the most emotional resonance. And this week that story is:
“Build-a-Knight” by Tony Southcotte.
A unanimous judge’s decision for Tony! Congratulations! Let’s see if our voters agree:
It looks like a unanimous win across the board. Tony Southcotte starts the 2015 TWA season as a victor.
The Writer’s Arena would like to thank Lu Whitley again for stepping up on short notice. She wrote a fantastic story in an amount of time that is absolutely heroic. We are grateful to have wonderful authors like her in our midst, and for her in particular for stepping up and taking on such a challenge.
We’ll see you next week as Danny Brophy returns to the arena. Things are gonna get frosty…
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