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Dragon On:2020-09-27 13:57:35

First1, at least as far as we know, there was the Old English poem which we now call Beowulf. This told the story of three great fights between its eponymous and indeed onomastic hero: in hall, mere and slot; against monster, mum and dragon (and quite a few rather meh! fights between mere humans) and tells it largely from a Beowulfian perspective, then later, much later, there came Martin Gardener's great novel Grendel which, surprisingly considering its name, told Grendel's story.

And just now I've been reading the recent The Mere Wife by a writer with the resplendent name of Maria Dahvana Headley (though her last name was a bit of an anticlimax) which tells the story largely from the women's point of view (mainly Grendel's Mother's) in a wild prose that made me think of Salman Rushdie on acid.
But now, after all these tellings and retellings, it has occurred to me that no one, at least as far as I know, no one has ever told the story from the Dragon's point of view.
The natural history, and indeed the unnatural history of dragons is a sad one repleat with depletion and extinction, what one might well think of as a sort of Dodo Pre-enactment Society. As the well-known Victorian Miserable Ballad writer George R Sims2 put it, so miserably:
Fafnir's dead and gone to glory so is Fafnir's sister3 Smaug
There is a tale I know about them were I a poet I would blaug4
Soft it comes, with perfume laden, like a breath of burning air
Wafted down that filthy alley bringing fiery odours there...
[voice change - snore/snort]
"Nothing beats snoozing on a big pile of gold with the odd gem in it. Some would maintain that it's too irregular for comfort, but let those snowflake princesses complain about the odd pea under all those mattresses, I'll go for the extreme thermal conductivity of gold any day.
"And, as an added benefit, I don't need to count sheep (which always makes me so hungry, rather than tired) when I can count goblets, and dishes and crowns.
"Now where was I with my count...? Ah yes... four million eight hundred and forty seven thousand, six hundred and twelve; four million, eight hundred and forty seven thousand six hundred and thirteen; four million, eight hundred and forty seven thousand, six hundred and fifteen; four million, eight hundred and forty seven thousand, six hundred and hang on a mo.... where's item four million, eight hundred and forty seven thousand, six hundred and fourteen? "WHERE'S ITEMFOURMILLIONEIGHTHUNDRED- ANDFORTYSEVENTHOUSANDSIXHUNDRED-


"I bet it's one of those damned Hobbits again. [Sniff! Sniffsniff!]
"No, that smell I know. One of those wealas5 the Old English are always frothing about6.
"Right!! Time, as the motorcyclists say, to go for a bit of a burn-up!"
[voice change]
Time passes, and admittedly there is a bit of conflagration and just a smidgen of collateral damage. But as these things so often go, the authorities over-reacted and charged in mob-handed and armed to the hilt.
Old Beowulf (and he was pretty old by now) charged up with this whole bunch of goons not to mention dreams of Siegfrieds dancing in his head. Of course it could only end one way...
[voice change]
"Well I've seen off that whole bunch of goons, now there's just this heavily armed bruiser who's supposedly got the strength thirty men to deal with, so no problems there.
"OUCH! Did he just break a sword on my bonce? Time to turn the gas up to mark ten7, see if he likes me burning his byrnie.
"A quick venomous bite and I can finish this in time for tea
"Aha! Got 'im! ...but OUCH AGAIN! I say that's not cricket, the bugger brought a knife to a fire fight and stabbed me. That was unsporting, and it really hurt!
"URRKKK! What was that? Oh! No!! Some sneaky little swine wiggled up and now he's laughing8.
"And I feel weird... and not so hot... and everything's going......."
[voice change]
I can't look any more. It's horrible! Last of a fine and famous breed, and they just dumped his noble, cooling corpse over the cliff and into the sea.

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton


1 On the origin of the poem. There is still a lot of debate about this: vide, etc

2 George R Sims: see my Shed 'em now. Here is a later, though inferior, version of the poem.

3 Sister. It has long been traditional to refer to dragons as 'he', but unlike amoebae they were sexual creatures: where do you think baby dragons came from? Eh??

4 The rhyme shows that Mr Sims didn't know how to pronounce 'Smaug' (/smaʊɡ/) or 'blog' (/blɒɡ/) or quite possibly both.

5 See the Wictionary entry for Wealas

6 This is no doubt a veiled reference to the scurrilous rhyme:
Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef.
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy wasn't home;
Taffy came to my house and stole a marrow-bone.
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was in bed,
I took the marrow-bone and beat about his head.

7 For non-UK listeners that's "Extremely Hot" 270°C (520°F)

8 Wiggling and laughing is just what Wiglaf would do, even though it's pronounced [ˈwiːjlɑːf] and not as you might think.

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