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Archive for October, 2015

We’re talking about Dragonball, a Japanese series that started as manga in 1984 and continues in animated form up to today. Those who have only heard the name may be wondering what, exactly, is a dragonball? Is that a sport? Perhaps a dance event for dragons.

Dragonballs are legendary artifacts that have been hidden all over the world. They were created by Kami (“God”) to reward the most worthy warriors and explorers. Each set includes seven balls. Whoever collects them all, from wherever they are hidden, can use them to summon a dragon who will grant one wish. After that, the balls become inert for at least one year and are again magically scattered until another worthy hero seeks them out.

The dragonballs appear as round orange stones, crystal or glass, about the size of a softball. Each has a number of red stars within it, denoting its place in the set. They shine with a soft light. Because they are relatively small, the dragonballs had traditionally been difficult to locate. However, one of Goku’s first companions as the series begins is Bulma, a young genius who has created a device to detect dragonballs. This “radar” allows her and Goku a big head start as they compete with evil forces who are also trying to gather the dragonballs.

Next time, I’ll talk about Shenron, the mystical dragon who is summoned by the dragonballs.

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Dragonball is one of the great epics of Twentieth Century manga and anime. Creator Akira Toriyama published the first series in 1984, in the pages of Shonen Jump. He continued producing installments until 1995. The combination of crazy humor with martial-arts adventure and operatic drama was immediately successful. Animated series based on the manga began to appear in 1986. There were also various video games and movies, some of which merely repackaged animated episodes.

At the outset, the main character was Son Goku, a young boy with a monkey tail and a cloud to fly on. He was based on Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, a character out of Chinese legend, but Toriyama was never one to stick with the tried and true. After many travails it was revealed that Goku actually was an alien of the Saiyan race. He had been dispatched to destroy the Earth, but lost his memory and grew up among a loving human family. Innocent and fun-loving, Goku loves competition and always seeks out more powerful opponents. As the years go by, we see him mature into the patriarch of a warrior clan who battle for the greater good on Earth and beyond.

With the manga spanning more than a decade, you can imagine the many epic heroes and villains who tread those pages. Important plot arcs are identified as “sagas,” some of which merge into overlapping “mega-sagas.” There’s no way I could describe them all here, but if you want you can check out the Wiki.

But wasn’t there something about dragons? You betcha! Check back on Saturday to learn more about them.

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Among the many fearsome creatures in South American myth, there also are dragons! I hadn’t realized before, but apparently dragons were a frequent artistic motif in temples of the Chimu people. The Chimu were an important culture in what is now Peru. The civilization reached its peak in the 15th century. Later they fell under dominion of the Inca Empire.

Chimu ruins are some of the most extensive human habitations in South America, and indeed the world. Because they were built of adobe, they are badly deteriorated today, but the scope is still impressive.

Dragon images have survived at a few Chimu sites, including temples near Trujillo. The Dragon Temple is so named because of a carved relief showing two dragons, face to face, beneath the arched body of a rainbow-like serpent with a head on each end. The photos I can find are proprietary, but you can see them here.

Because of the rainbows, it appears the Chimu dragons may be similar to Asian ones in their association with rain and fertility. I look forward to more research on these ancient dragons.

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Our local Folklore Society and Community College team up each fall to present a weekend of heritage music, dance, and crafts by regional artists and immigrant communities. It’s Fall Folk Fest, and it’s November 14-15, 2015. And, this year, one of those artists will be me!

That’s right, “Lucy D. Ford” (my pen name for children’s writing) will be reading selected short stories as part of Fall Folk Fest. Some will be from my 2012 podcast, The Dragon King. Others will be new to the public. All are original stories.

I’m really excited about this opportunity, but nervous, too. My plan is to dress up like Mother Goose and sit in a rocking chair to read. We’ll see how far I get with that idea.

Other coming events in the next few weeks are Inside Story, an event sponsored by Inland Northwest SCBWI, where I can talk about my books and how I got the idea for Masters of Air & Fire. That’s at the Spokane Valley Barnes and Noble on October 30, 2015.

I’m also volunteering at a Camp NaNoWriMo “boot camp/kickoff” event on October 31, 2015 at the Moran Prairie Library. And we’re having a Halloween Party the same night. It’s going to be an adventure!

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Chylde Wynde received a desperate plea from his home in Northumberland. A dragon was ravaging the countryside! He barely made it ashore in a boat of enchanted Sorb, but then he and his companions were enveloped in blinding fog. As they stumbled forward, they saw a huge eye, the color of a lemon, surrounded by the malevolent glitter of scales. A savage muzzle pierced the fog.

The soldiers closed ranks, and fearless Chylde Wynde raised his sword . Margaret-the-dragon let loose a great cry of despair as black magic forced her to attack her own brother. Somehow, within the howling, the knight recognized his dear sister’s voice. Though horrified to see her so changed, he knew what he must do.

Chylde Wynde ordered his men to stand down, while he sheathed his sword and approached the dragon. Her breath scorched his cheeks and stung his eyes, but he knelt to kiss her face. Sharp scales tore his skin, but still he embraced his sister. Twice more he kissed her. Margaret-the-dragon gave another shriek and stumbled back. Her fearsome body began to decay. The hellish light went out of her eyes and the scales crumbled like autumn leaves. From the midst, a naked girl stumbled out. It was Margaret, restored to her former beauty! Chylde Wynde ran forward to give her his cloak, and they shared a tearful reunion.

Soon he and his men escorted Margaret back to Bamburgh Castle, where their father was overjoyed to see them. But Chylde Wynde still had work to do. He burst into the chambers of his mother-in-law, the wicked queen, only to find her backed into a corner of her room. The moment the ship of Sorb had touched the shore, her magic unravelled. All she could do was stare in dread as he approached with a rod of Sorb from his ship.

The queen wailed in agony when the magical wood touched her. She withered and shrank into the form of a toad, which finished her scream as a shrill croaking. Everyone was shocked, but then Chylde Wynde burst out laughing. The toad sprang away, pursued by mockery. Down the stairs she fled, over the drawbridge, and no one ever saw where she finally took refuge.

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Terrified by the sudden appearance of a dragon in their midst, the people of Northumberland called upon a wizard. The sage quickly perceived the connection between this event and the sudden disappearance of Princess Margaret. He told them, “Only one person can restore our princess to her true form and punish the one who did this. You must seek Chylde Wynde beyond the seas.”

The old king could not believe what his new wife was accused of, but he also mourned the loss of his dear daughter. After many sad days losing sheep into Margaret-the-dragon’s maw, he learned that if he poured out a huge trough of milk each day the creature would drink it and fall into a deep sleep. Thus he shielded his people from the loss of their stock.

Chylde Wynde had been away for several years, fighting in the Crusades, but at last word reached him of events in his home. He set off at once aboard a ship made of sorb, a wood that ancient lore held as proof against evil magic. The queen got news of his coming and prepared a cruel welcome. Even as Bamburgh Castle came over the horizon, the ship was attacked by spirits of the sea. The wicked spirits were invisible except for the light of their eyes and the gleam of their teeth. They circled the ship like malevolent bats and whipped up a great storm. It seemed that all was lost, but the power of sorb wood protected that vessel. The spirits eventually exhausted themselves and sank back into the waves, allowing the ship to approach the shore.

Alas, the queen had been watching all this. She had a back-up plan. Even as Chylde Wynde’s ship drew near to land, Margaret-the-dragon uncoiled from her slumber. The queen’s power compelled her to prowl the shore. She saw her brother’s ship and recognized his banner, but could not resist the queen’s command. Margaret plunged into the sea, using her powerful tail to swim out and intercept the vessel. Her great head crashed into the prow, unseating the oarsmen and making the hull creak alarmingly. The sorb wood held — but just barely.

Twice more the brave seamen tried to land. Each time the dragon forced them back. In the end, Chylde Wynde ordered them to fall back. He remembered a small spit farther down the shore. They turned their oars and aimed for that spit. This time no dragon barred the way. Chylde Wynde alighted on a beach of pebbles and water weeds. He advanced with his men, but a sudden fog blew up. Seagulls cried warning of some danger they couldn’t see.

What could it possibly be?? Check back on Saturday for the rest of the story.

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Centuries ago, the kings of Northumberland lived in Bamburgh Castle. The somber fortress stood on a headland over the village and the sea. At this time, the king was an older man with two children. His son, Chylde Wynde, was a knight fighting in the Crusades, while his daughter, Margaret, devoted herself to her father.

Long widowed, the king decided to ease his loneliness by taking a new wife. At the wedding, Margaret greeted her new mother-in-law with every courtesy, but the new queen was haughty in response. During the banquet, her cold demeanor surprised many of the courtiers. Beneath the music and dancing, they murmured how charming and lovely their own princess was compared to the bride.

Perhaps the new queen heard this. By the end of the celebrations, her husband and all the court lay snoring. As the moon rose high, the queen slipped into the castle courtyard and began to draw mysterious symbols upon the stones while chanting a curse. Some time later, Margaret awoke with a strange sensation in her limbs and a fierce hunger. A great paw, scaled and clawed, glittered in the moonlight. She jumped, startled, and the paw moved! She cried out, but a horrible croak emerged instead. Worse and worse, as she tried to escape, a great tail and wings battered around her, demolishing the furnishings. At last the newly-made dragon collapsed in a swoon.

But the morning proved this was no mere nightmare. Margaret-the-dragon was hungrier than ever. She went in search of food, and everyone who saw her ran away shrieking. Margaret fought back the impulse to bite at them, and was saved by another scent blowing into the courtyard. Sheep grazed on the slope between the castle and the town. She swooped down and savaged the flock, while courtiers and commoners alike watched with terror.

What shall become of poor Margaret and her kingdom? Check back on Tuesday to find out!

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