Archive for February, 2015

Cultures around the world have admired dragons and believed that even a small part of a dragon’s body held immense power. From Greece, we inherit two legends involving teeth of a dragon. When sown like grain, they sprouted a crop of warriors!

The older legend is that of Cadmus (or Kadmos) and the founding of Thebes. Cadmus was born into the royal family of Tyre. His father was King Aegnos, his mother Queen Telephassa, his brothers Phoenix, Cilix and Thasus, and his only sister was named Europa. Yes, that Europa, who was carried off by Zeus in the guise of a bull. After Europa disappeared, her whole family was distraught. King Aegnos ordered his four sons to go in search of Europa and never return without her. For whatever reason, Queen Telephassa journeyed with Cadmus.

Three of the four eventually gave up on finding Europa, and settled down to found a new civilization. Phoenix founded Phoenicia, Cilix a city called Cilicia, and Thasus settled the Aegean island of Thassos. On the island of Thrace, Telephassa died of grief and Cadmus buried her with honor. Then he sought out the Oracle at Delphi for advice.

The Oracle told Cadmus he must allow Europa her own fate (which was to found the nation of Crete) and follow a cow that he would find near the temple. Wherever the cow went, he must follow, until it stopped to rest. In that place, he should found his own great city. In sorrow, Cadmus did as the Oracle said. He found a cow, which wandered far into the land of Boetia and settled to rest on the banks of the Cephesis River.

Cadmus gathered his followers and prepared to sacrifice the cow to Athena, patroness of brave ventures. To do this, they needed clean water. Cadmus’s followers went to a nearby spring, where the water was exceptionally pure. Unfortunately, this was the home of a dragon, son of Ares the god of War. It didn’t like having its water stolen and killed them all in vengeance.

Eventually Cadmus wondered where his companions had gone. He confronted the dragon, which had a head like a crested helm and teeth of glittering gold. After a terrible battle, Cadmus slew the vicious beast and took water from the spring to complete the sacrifice. Athena herself had watched Cadmus’s deed and been pleased. She appeared to him and told him to gather all the dragon’s teeth. Half he should save, but he should plow the earth and plant the rest of the teeth like seeds.

The hero did as she advised. To his amazement, when he planted the teeth, a host of mighty warriors rose up fully grown! Cadmus named them Spartoi, or “sown men.” To test their vigor, he tossed a gem into their midst. Immediately the Spartoi began to fight over the prize. It was a bloody melee, and in the end only five were left alive.

Cadmus stopped the battle and took these fiercest fighters as his new companions. The city they founded was Thebes, one of the most powerful in all Greece. Even into historic times, the noble families of Thebes traced their lineage back to the five Spartoi.

And what about the other half of the dragon’s teeth? All shall be revealed on Tuesday!


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Today I proudly present a guest blog by C. S. Boyack, author of The Cock of the South. Take it away, friend!


Gallicus the Cockatrice

C. S. Boyack

It’s an honor to appear on Deborah’s blog today. I always enjoy her research into dragons, and will try to keep the theme going. The only dragon I’ve ever written is a cockatrice named Gallicus.

The cockatrice is roughly a mashup of a rooster and a dragon. To steal that old line about the mullet haircut, he’s rooster in the front and dragon in the rear. My research led me through many gaming systems, some beautiful European statuary, and even a reference to the Bible.

It appears the basilisk and the cockatrice may have been the same creature at one time. Time marches on, and two distinct creatures enter our mythology. The similarity is their ability to turn people to stone.

Mythology indicates the power is in the cockatrice’s gaze. Since this is a mythological creature, I took the liberty of referencing that belief, but the true weapon is the breath, like a proper dragon. I went to great lengths to honor his avian and reptilian heritage, and still keep him as a dragon. At various times he slithers between rocks, swims like a snake, stoops like a hawk, and hunts birds using his tail as a lure, much as a snapping turtle uses his tongue.

Gallicus is something of a supporting character in the novel The Cock of the South. He is not super intelligent or wise, like some dragons in novels. He is loyal to the main character, formidable, and a bit dangerous.

The Cock of the South is a dwarven fantasy set in the Greco-Roman era. It’s just a bit different than the typical dwarven fantasy. In this excerpt, my main character, a dwarf named Cobby, has just pulled what he thinks is a rooster from a tar pit.

– – –

Cobby slowly scanned the woods, but saw no one. “Is this your rooster?”

“Over here, in the crotch of the tree,” she said, “and it’s not my rooster.”

It was a fairy, no bigger than Cobby’s hand. She wore a blue gauze dress that left nothing to the imagination, and calf-high sandals like his.

Cobby looked away.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you like my dress?”

“I can see right through it.”

“Most boys like that best.”

Cobby looked again. She had the same dark complection he did, with black hair. She was voluptuous, and possibly the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

She turned around so he could see her wings and said, “Comfortable now?”

She had four clear wings on her back, like a dragonfly, but shorter and wider, like a bee perhaps.

“No,” he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my day, but this is one for the campfire,” she said. “Strangers have been pouring into the marsh as the forests are all burned. We have many dwarves, but I’ve never seen any of them help a creature like him before. “

She stepped into the dying light as the first stars made their appearance. “I’m Iris, and who, Master Dwarf, are you?”


“That’s it, just Cobby?”


“We like to know who’s tromping around in the marsh.”

“Would you like your chicken back?”

“He’s no chicken, he’s a cockatrice.”

Cobby dropped the bird’s neck and held his hand toward Iris. “Cover your eyes, my lady, he’ll turn us both to stone.”

Iris fell on her branch and laughed, a breathy sort of laugh that sounded like wind through autumn leaves. She made an adorable little snort at the end. “And how’s he going to do that, Master Cobby?”

“By gazing at us. Run away, fly away.”

Iris laughed again, harder this time. “I suppose you read that somewhere.”


“Master Cobby, he cannot stare at us and turn us to stone. There are many kinds of wyrms in this marsh, and like all wyrms it’s his breath that kills.”

Cobby slid away from the cockatrice and backed toward Iris.

“What are you afraid of? He owed you a debt. Besides, he’s just a baby. Pit fighters call a similar rooster a stag. He won’t develop a breath weapon until he’s older. He hatched in a sand bar nor far from here this spring.”

The cockatrice stepped forward and shook. Bits of tar splattered along the ground. He flapped his wings and crowed defiantly.

The tail was not matted rooster feathers at all, but that of a dragon. The tar-covered wings were leathery and featherless, with a clawed finger at the crook. His head and neck were covered with ginger hackles that blended into the black feathers of his breast. A row of spines, like an iguana’s, ran down his neck all the way to the tip of his tail. The crowning touch was a blood-red comb and wattles like an actual rooster’s.

“No breath weapon, you say. Is he good eating?”

Iris laughed oncwe more. “You’re certainly a dwarf, Master Cobby. The Gods would be angry if you killed him. I can sense him, and he is loyal to you. I’m afraid you’ve made a new friend. A formidable friend, once he grows up.”

“What was he doing on that dead beast?”

“Feeding. The goat attracts beetles, flies, maggots. He was hungry. They aren’t chickens, and are alone the second they hatch. The first year can be hard on them.”

“So what am I supposed to do with him?”

“Have you ever owned a dog or cat?”

“No. My mother had cats.”

“Try that for a start.” She flew over, reached up, and scratched the cockatrice under the chin. “See, he likes it.”

Cobby timidly copied her.

“What you did was a noble act, even if you didn’t intend it. It’s deserving of a reward, and reminds me of something from long ago. I’d like you to have it, come with me.”

“I need to get this wood back to Uncle,” Cobby said.

“It isn’t far. Many years ago, the road ran along the other side of the tar pit. There’s something hidden in the old campsite little that you should see. Take or or leave it, and you can return to your uncle.”

– – –

We authors can be a crazy bunch sometimes. When I began this story, I fell so much in love with it that I decided to make Gallicus my permanent friend. He now occupies my right shoulder, so I can cover him up for work. This happened before I even finished my first draft, and maybe he helped me make the story what it is.

I hope you’ll take a chance on The Cock of the South. I had a great time writing it, and the reviews indicate others are enjoying it, too.

Check out my novels here: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00ILXBXUY
– – –
Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck to you!

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I saw these books in the library and thought to myself, “Finally! An urban fantasy with dragons.” Well, yes and no. Relatively little time is spent with the dragons, and unfortunately the human characters didn’t make up for it. At least, not for me, but we all know how picky I am.

The cast was not terribly diverse, and most characters were some level of stereotype. I had trouble connecting with the main character, Tori. She’s spoiled and entitled and naturally gifted and beautiful, and has no idea how she’s treating others. She does come around, but then has a silly inferiority complex even after gaining more special powers than everyone else. Add that to her simultaneous crushing on two boys, and… sigh. I wanted to cheer for her more than I did.

In terms of plot, I felt several characters were being deliberately dense and not figuring out clues that seemed fairly obvious. I won’t say more because spoilers aren’t nice.

The dragons were what I really wanted to see. I love when writers come up with new concepts for this amazing mythical beast. Hill’s dragons lurked offstage most of the time. The one that showed up was suitably impressive and dangerous, but had no independent personality. With the focus so much on the human antagonist, Overdrake, the dragons didn’t really stand out.

I did enjoy the master villain, who was appropriately devious and cruel. The way he uses Tori’s special power to heckle her was amusing. If I check out future volumes, it will be because of Overdrake.

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The Dragons Are Singing Tonight is a picture book from the notable children’s poet, Jack Prelutsky, with illustration by Peter Sis. It was published in 1993 by Greenwillow and is part of a set by the same author featuring other fantastic creatures such as ogres.

Each of the 17 short poems stands alone, yet connected by the general theme of dragons. There’s a good balance between short and snarky poems with longer, meditative ones. Although the focus is mostly on children wishing they could have dragons for pets, something longtime readers will know irritates me, Prelutsky does find time for the dragon’s perspective. Here’s the third of the volume:

If You Don’t Believe In Dragons, by Jack Prelutsky

If you don’t believe in dragons

It is curiously true

That the dragons you disparage

Choose not to believe in you.

My personal favorite is “I Am My Master’s Dragon,” a poignant statement of the pet dragon’s longing to be free. No matter how kindly the master may be, servitude of dragons to humans is a great wrong.

As you can tell from the vocabulary and ironic concepts, this is a book for the older-aged picture book reader, perhaps 9-12. It also could be read by parents to younger kids sitting in a lap. For adults, this is a brief and fond look back to our own days when every new book was an adventure waiting to happen. Thanks much to Princess of Dragons for cluing me into this one.

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I encountered this kite with a vivid dragon print in a classroom for intellectually disabled students at Salk Middle School. I like to think of it as a guardian spirit for these vulnerable youth.

The rooster-like head gives it special charm.

Dragon kite in classroom, Salk Middle School; photo by Deby Fredericks, Jan 2015

Dragon kite in classroom, Salk Middle School; photo by Deby Fredericks, Jan 2015

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Although Islam and Christianity have become dominant faiths in Indonesia and Malaysia, ancient cultures of the island chains passed down their own folklore about dragons.

On Bali, people revered Barong, a lion-headed dragon deity who reigned over the spirit world and did battle with Ranga, queen of demons.

On Java, Antaboga was the creator spirit of traditional lore, shown as a winged serpent. Only Antagoba existed at the beginning of time. It meditated and brought into being Bedwang, the World Turtle, who created all other life.

In the Phillines, people believed that lunar eclipses were caused by a wicked dragon called Bakunawa. This giant serpent had two sets of wings and its mouth was the size of a lake. Sometimes Bakunawa was so hungry that it flew up and tried to eat the moon! Then Filipinos would rush out of the houses, banging pots and pans and making noise to startle the beast so it would spit the moon back out.


Now, a couple of announcements. My next novel is coming out this Friday! The Grimhold Wolf, edited by David Lee Summers for Sky Warrior Books, is a gothic family drama with demons and a werewolf. This is the trailer, if you’re interested. It’s available in all e-book formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.com. Paper versions are available through CreateSpace.

Also, I’ll be traveling this weekend, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to blog. I’ll see you next Tuesday, for sure.

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Of late I’ve been focusing on Chinese dragon lore, since Chinese New Year will be on the 19th. I’ve also spent time with Japanese folklore in the past. Now I’d like to take a break and acknowledge that the Chinese and Japanese, while amazing and beautiful, are not the sum of Asian culture. Most Asian cultures, from India to Korea and throughout the archipelagos, have dragon legends passed down from antiquity. Here are a few of them.

Vietnamese dragons are known are Rong, and are very similar to China’s Long or Lung dragons. They are symbols of life and growth.

In Korea, dragons begin as lesser water spirits known as Imugi. These benevolent serpents aspire to become true dragons, or Yong. Some legends state they must live for 1,000 years and do good works to reach this goal. Other tales claim they have been cursed and can never realize their dream. Still others say an Imugi must capture a yeouiju, the celestial pearl, in order to ascend.

The Naga of India are great serpents with human torso, arms and head whose mythic civilization played a vital role in Indian legend. I’ve written about them in the past, if you’d like to check it out. Hindu lore also includes Makara, a semi-draconic goddess of the Ganges River.

The Khmer people of Cambodia tell of the Neak, benevolent spirits that appear as giant cobras with multiple heads. Some can have as many as nine cobra heads! Male Neak have odd numbers of heads, while females have even numbers.

I know there are more. If you’ve heard of any other Asian dragons, please share!.

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