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Archive for May, 2014

Through the first volume of the Harry Potter series, we get lots of interesting and amusing tidbits about dragons. That dragon hide gloves are a required piece of equipment at Hogwarts. That dragon liver fetches a certain price. But the dragons really come alive with the introduction of Norbert.

Now, the common wisdom in Wizarding circles is that dragons are too fierce to ever be tamed. Nevertheless, there’s apparently a recognized trade in dragon eggs. The business is well enough established to provide cover for the wicked Professor Quirrell. Posing as an egg trader, Quirrell tricks Hagrid into telling him about other impressive animals he’s taken care of. Allegedly this is to prove that he can take care of a dragon. In truth, Quirrell wants to know the secret of getting past Hagrid’s guardian beast, Fluffy the three-headed dog.

Even besotted as he is with the idea of owning a dragon, Hagrid knows people aren’t supposed to keep them as pets. He hides the egg, but is found out by Harry, Ron and Hermione. From these passages we learn that baby dragons need a diet of brandy and blood, and that even baby dragons are vicious. Everyone around Norbert seems to get bitten!

Alas for Hagrid, this biting habit led to Norbert being discovered after Ron was poisoned by a bite. (In the movies, it was that sneaky Drako Malfoy who ratted them out.) Dumbledore orders little Norbert sent to one of the dragon reserves, to live among his own kind. In one of the more bizarre Hagrid scenes, our half-giant friend weeps and wonders, “What if the other dragons are mean to him?”

During the remaining books, we get periodic updates on Norbert, courtesy of Ron’s brother Charlie, who is a Dragon Keeper. At last mention, it had been discovered that Norbert was actually a female dragon and had to be re-named Norberta.

Check back next time for a few more dragons who played important roles in the Wizarding World.

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The biggest fantasy in recent memory is, of course, the Harry Potter saga. Although dragons aren’t major characters in the books, they definitely are part of the Wizarding World.

Rowling’s dragons are very traditional creations. Huge, winged and scaled, with fiery breath. They do not seem fully intelligent, but rather are higher-order animals on a par with dolphins or wolves. Ten varieties are found in various regions around the world. As with many of this author’s creations, the names are evocative and conjure vivid images: Peruvian Vipertooth, Antipodean Opaleye, Ukrainian Ironbelly. Check here to see a full list.

Dragon numbers appear to be relatively small and confined to reserves in remote locations. Some wizards serve as “Dragon Keepers” whose chief responsibility seems to be managing dragon/human interactions. When dragons encroach into Muggle areas, the Keepers bring them back in line or kill them if necessary, then perform memory charms to keep witnesses quiet. A rather Men-In-Black approach, in other words.

The Keepers must also keep an eye on Wizards who might want to exploit their charges. Dragon parts have many uses in potions and spell casting. Indeed, one of the first things readers learn about Dumbledore is that he invented twelve uses for dragon blood. Dragon heartstring is a component in magical wands, and dragon dung fertilizes the greenhouses at Hogwarts.

Next time, I’ll look at some of the notable dragon characters from the Harry Potter books.

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