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The Corwyn Chronicles © 2018 by J.D. Dresner

The Dragon & The Three Knights: Analysis by J.D. Dresner

In writing The Dragon & The Three Knights I had in mind to create a traditional fable, complete with some of the most typical tropes and themes that are often found in our stories. Here, we shall discuss these aspects of the story that make it recognizable as a traditional, fablesque story.

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Let us begin with…

THE DRAGON

Right off the bat the title tells the reader that this is a fantasy story that takes place during a British Medieval era, where knights and dragons were a common theme in their stories and fables.  The dragon – of course – is the vicious, fearsome reptile that slithers on the ground, but also takes to the sky.  It is therefore of the elements of earth, air, and (with its traditional mighty flame breath) fire, and it relates to many older myths and tales regarding dragons – particularly the Mesopotamian Tiamat, and the precosmogonic dragon of chaos, Uroboros.  Traditionally, the dragon hoards treasure that we (humans) seek out, and  that which we seek is often in the last place we wish to find it – the dragon’s den.

The Uroboros

In this story there are clear traces of the Uroboros, represented as the unified parent of the Great Mother, and the Great Father.  Uroboros is chaos, the infinite unknown, the vast unknown (that may include both the known and the unknown) – thus, when the hero finally sees the dragon, he can only see its head and tail (giving the representation a circling effect).  Note too that at times the dragon is represented as a “he” and at other times as a “she”.  Although Tiamat was considered a she in Mesopotamian dogma, I believe that chaos is not one-sided; it has a particular ambiguity about it.

Furthermore, the concept of chaos (especially in the Mesopotamian story) has a tendency to evoke negative personality types when incarnate.  Tiamat was traditionally an evil god who had to be taken down by the good Marduk, so that order could be restored.  Although we tend to like order (and therefore deem it ‘good’) and dislike chaos (deeming it ‘bad’), chaos might be better regarded as both – or neither.  Like the Yin and Yang or the Uroboros as it consumes its own tail, the dragon in this story embodies an ambivalent group of traits.  As earlier stated, it is both male and female, but as we come to conclude the story we see that the dragon also personifies Chance and Fate (Fortuna), and is not always fair in the eyes of a human.  Chaos – anyhow – shouldn’t be fair, and the dragon states this when he tells Sir Ivory that even if he deserves to receive the magic artifact, because he did everything right to get to where he is, he still might die for (seemingly) no reason at all.

THE GREAT FATHER FIGURE

Following the concept of the Uroboros as ‘parent’ to the Great father, Tatmai – the old man – represents that which is known.  He is the great father whose characteristics are often portrayed as stubborn, though wise.  He clings to tradition, and conforms to that which is known.  Professor Jordan Peterson states in Maps of Meaning, “the Great Father is the ‘old emperor’ and ‘dangerously out of date’.”[1]  Many times in the story the old man states, “This is the way it has always been done,” and we see that in the end, blindly clinging to tradition can lead the fool (or in this case Sir Mandamus) down a doomed path.

I was careful not to include spiteful traits in the old man, nor did I wish to portray him as particularly predatory.  The known – the great father simply follows rules without stepping into the unknown.  It is stated almost matter-of-factly that Mandamus has taken the same path as the Great Father (or Osiris in Egyptian Myth) as he continually puts all of his faith in the knowledge of the past, without showing any signs of growth or adaptation.  It is in this vein that he will eventually be “devoured” by the old man (which is perhaps an obvious allusion to the Tyrannical Father who devours his children, or like Saturn of Greek mythology, who ate his children in fear that they would one day grow strong and defeat him).

I named the old man ‘Tatmai’ – an anagram of ‘Tiamat’ – to signify that although he is not the dragon, in some respects he also is the dragon.  He mentions this to Sir Mandamus just before he devours him, saying, “I am the dragon, and I am her consort.”

Osiris, Horus, & Isis

The Magistros, by the third part of the tale, is depicted as The Great Father as well.  He is the embodiment of order, security, and safety.  Yet (through the influence of the mother figure) he is able to grow as a father.  Unlike Osiris, who was blind and needed an eye from his son Horus to break from his stagnant role, The Magistros (named Oz´rah, which is phonetically similar to Osiris) is able to adapt his role as father to suit his evolving child’s needs.

I named the old man ‘Tatmai’ – an anagram of ‘Tiamat’ – to signify that although he is not the dragon, in some respects he also is the dragon.  He mentions this to Sir Mandamus just before he devours him, saying, “I am the dragon, and I am her consort.”

Saturn, Devouring his Son

THE GREAT MOTHER FIGURE

I did not give her a name purposefully, for I believe it adds to the character’s unknown nature.  At first we see her as the Terrible Mother, often represented as a spider (like Kali, the Hindu goddess).  She is always partially in shadow, never truly seen, and can’t be caught in plain view.  She represents the unexplored territory (as stated in the textbook).  She is the unknown, but she is the unknown that lurks in the hearts of men and women – unlike Tiamat, who is the embodiment of all that is unknown.  In that way, she might be more fearsome than the dragon, because she poses an immediate threat.  Note that the old man has no knowledge regarding this hideous monster in the darkness.  As the Great, Protective Father he might have used his wealth of knowledge as a steady foundation to face the unknown, but as the Tyrannical Father he is just as afraid as the knight.

It was important for the knights to sacrifice their weapons and armour to the Terrible Mother, because one must often sacrifice something that is of great value to them in order to successfully venture through unknown territory.  Sometimes you have to give up that which you think protects you, in order to attain your goal.

Like the old man whose knowledge can devour a man if he clings to it too tightly, the Terrible Mother will devour her child if they never face her.  Sir Luddite could not face her (though he tried, he could only see her in the corner of his eye), and in the end his lack of knowledge (whether or not he killed her) and his fear and paranoia consumed him.

Kali

Once the hero takes a leap of faith, and relinquishes his weapons and armour, the Terrible Mother turns into the Nurturing Mother (this occurred with Sir Ivory).  She is like the Greco-roman goddess Diana (or Artemis), who guides him safely toward his goal with her hand on his shoulder.  Peterson states, “The benevolent aspect of the unknown will return if the present schema of adaptation… is sufficiently altered”, and then says, “the voluntary ‘stripping’ of such identity makes the supplicant into a ‘new man’ – at least if the sacrifice was genuine”[2].  We see this theme with Sir Ivory as he strips himself of his armour and weapons to appease the Great Mother.

Sir Ivory’s mother also represents this nurturing aspect of the Great Mother.  Her occupation in the council is that of a ‘healer’, and so she is the nurturing aspect of the Great Mother.  Her words are always soft, and she has a strange power over her husband to sooth him, and to keep him from stagnation.

Artemis, Greek Goddess

THE HERO, THE SON, THE EXPLORER

Sir Ivory is the literal son of the Magistros and the Healer, but he understands that he is also – in a way – the son who inherits the old man’s knowledge, and the son who needs the nurturing mother’s guidance through uncharted territory.  He is careful not to fall to the negative aspects of his figurative parents; he will not blindly follow the out-of-date father and his knowledge, and he will not blindly swing at the darkness of the unknown Tyrannical Mother.

Ivory has often been used as a colour of purity, and I believe that – in this case – it is better than white (depicting total purity, as opposed to an off-white colour), or pearl (which often depicts feminine traits, like the ‘egg’ of an oyster).  It was especially important that the character was not portrayed as ‘perfect’, and this will be further discussed in the following paragraph.

 

Sir Ivory is neither too rigorous in his adherence to man made laws (like Sir Mandamus), nor does he question everything with paranoid eyes (like Sir Luddite).  I portrayed him as a balanced individual with a clear head, though he is not perfect.  For, he does tend to be a bit blind at times while following Tatmai around, but at least he is aware that there had to be something behind the old man’s motives.  It was important for me to portray him hence, as ‘imperfect’ but still ultimately successful in finding the dragon’s den.  People stumble all the time, and so long as they do not make the same mistakes again and again (like Mandamus did by listening to the old man three times), they may eventually reach their goals.

 

He does not abandon the old man, nor the nurturing woman once their usefulness has come to an end, and this is important.  While it is dangerous to keep them around (for they may return to there ‘Terrible’ states if not properly watched or maintained) leaving them unattended can produce far worse consequences later in life.  This theme is reminiscent of the story told in class called “There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon”.  The lesson at the end was that a dragon that was only kitten-sized wasn’t so bad, and can be easily managed so long as you do not denounce its existence.

Other Themes

BLINDNESS

There are many points in the tale where variations of the term ‘blindness’ come up.  Sir Mandamus wore a helmet that blocked most of his vision, whereas Sir Luddite wore no helmet at all in fear that he would not see impending attacks.  It posits the question of which is better: being able to see, and relying on one’s technology and past knowledge to save oneself.

On many other occasions sight (or lack thereof) comes up in the story as a prominent theme.  Sir Ivory says that he cannot slay that which he cannot fully see, to the dragon.  He then says that the old man and the nurturing woman is useful to him, so long as he does not allow himself to become blind to their darker nature.  It is a delicate balance (between the known and the unknown, the Great Father and the Great Mother) because one must see them – that is, understand their nature – which implies that they are invoking the knowledge given to them by the Father, and trying to devise various unknowns from the Mother, in order to reconcile the two and not be devoured by either of them.  Being ‘blind’ often means ‘not having knowledge’… does this mean that one must ally themselves with the Father as much as they can?  Does this also mean that they should be blind when dealing with the Mother?

THE LION, THE TORTOISE, & THE OWL

To put it simply, I chose those animals for their typical iconic representations in stories.  The Lion is the wise and courageous beast that leads the pack like a king.  He is the emperor, and all others look up to him.  In this way he is like The Great Father.  The Tortoise too represents age and wisdom.  The tortoise tends to be a slow and steady creature, and in this way may sometimes seem to be out-of-date (like the Tyrannical Father).  The Owl is wisdom, but he is an odd creature, for he always questions things (“who”), and in this he is like Sir Luddite.  I placed the owl last, for it was at that gate Sir Luddite finally puts all of his questioning to good use.

 

NAMES

It has been discussed why Sir Ivory was given his name, both in the story and in this interpretive aspect.  Tatmai was also said to have been an anagram for ‘Tiamat’.

Sir Regulus Mandamus was named as such, because it refers to ‘regulation’ and ‘mandate’; words that etymologically follow down the path of laws, constitution, and rules.  He is the embodiment of the established guidelines that should not be deviated or questioned, and we see this in his character.  Regulus also sounds close to ‘regalia’, the decorations and emblems that establish rank and order.  There is no chaos to this man’s persona, for he is rigid and orderly in all that he does.

Sir Pan Luddite follows a less orderly path.  Pan traditionally may be referred to as the god of the forest, who was half man and half goat.  He played the lute, and was deemed quite mischievous (hence leaning to the side of chaos, rather than order).  A Luddite refers to a social movement in nineteenth century Britain.  The Luddites were against industrial revolution and often tried to prevent the new way of life by causing [pan]demonium and destroying the machines that were built.  They were said to be led by a King Ludd, who was the fictive representation of a man named Ned Ludd.  Pan can also mean “all” which (when combined with Luddite) can mean ‘all-chaotic’.

[1] Maps Of Meaning, The Architecture Of Belief, by Jordan Peterson, page 215.

 

[2] Maps Of Meaning, The Architecture Of Belief, by Jordan Peterson, page 217.