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I mentioned on Wednesday that the taniwha of New Zealand were guardians to their own, but could be dangerous to outsiders. In fact, taniwha could be man-eaters as much as any other dragon. Many tales relate attacks by taniwha against humans they weren’t connected to. Luckily, there were warriors with enough spiritual prowess to defeat a rogue spirit, whether by use of wits or force of arms.

One taniwha, Nagarara Haurau, had devoured several villagers before capturing a young woman as his bride. He lived with her in a cave near the sea. The villagers pretended to accept him as their neighbor, and prepared a feast to honor him. During the festivities they ambushed and killed him. It’s said that Nagarara’s severed tail flew off and landed in a lake or stream. Prominent waterfalls in various locations are thought to have been created by the impact of Nagarara’s tail.

Another taniwha, named Kaiwhare, was preying on the people of Manukau. No one could stop him. There was a warrior named Tamure who lived in Hauraki and owned a magical club with power to defeat taniwha. The people of Manukau pleaded for help and Tamure came to them. Kaiwhare readily attacked, for Tamure was a stranger. They wrestled on the shore until Tamure bashed the taniwha over the head with his club. Kaiwhare was not killed, but he did become tame. This taniwha is still believed to live in the waters near Manukau. His diet now consists of octopus and crab.

Near Kaipara, three sisters were out gathering berries one day. As they returned, a taniwha fell upon them. He captured each in turn, finally selecting the loveliest one as his bride. (The fate of the other girls is unspoken. Perhaps he ate them.) The taniwha took the lucky (?) girl to his cave. As time passed, she bore him six sons. Three were taniwha, like their father, and three were human, like their mother. In secret, the captive mother taught her human sons to be warriors. The human sons eventually killed their taniwha brothers, and later their father. They then returned to their mother’s home with her.

Like their distant cousins, the mo’o of Hawai’ian tradition, taniwha could sometimes blur the line with humans. Tales tell of a “woman from the sea” named Pania, who married a human man. Their child was a taniwha. A priest named Te Tahi-o-te-rangi had served as a spirit medium for taniwha. He transformed into one of them after his death.


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Taniwha are nature spirits in the folklore of New Zealand’s Maori culture. They can appear as large sharks, whales, crocodiles — or dragons! According to legend, these spirits traveled alongside the canoes that carried Maori ancestors over the sea from their original islands. After the Maori established their new homes, the taniwha remained to watch over them. Even in modern times, many tribes and local communities can name a specific taniwha who is their guardian.

It was believed that taniwha granted visions to priests, warning of natural disasters or that enemies were nearby. However, taniwha could be both friendly or deadly. They made their homes in deep rivers, caves, and ocean shores prone to dangerous currents or sneaker waves. Friends of the taniwha might be guided away or rescued from drowning. In return, taniwha expected to be treated with respect. They received offerings of the first fruit each season. Even friendly tribesmen passing near a taniwha’s home would make offerings to please these spirits.

In addition to spiritual guardianship, taniwha were enforcers of tapu (commonly Anglicized as taboo), the social code governing Maori life. Violations of tapu would be met by swift retribution. So would any intrusion into the taniwha’s domain. Though they protected their own people, outsiders were fair game. Strangers might be dragged into the water or attacked and devoured. Women might be captured as brides.

Respect for the taniwha has remained strong even into modern times. Several news reports from the early 2000s related that construction projects had been moved or redesigned to avoid disturbing areas where taniwha were believed to dwell.

Check back on Saturday for a few taniwha legends.


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Coming up on January 16, it’s Appreciate A Dragon Day! In celebration, here’s a reblog from 2016.

Appreciate A Dragon Day

Appreciate A Dragon Day was created by Christian children’s writer Donita K. Paul in 2004 to commemorate the publication of her novel, Dragonspell. This was the first in her award-winning Dragonkeeper series.

Paul called upon her readers and fans to recognize the significance of dragons in cultures all over the world. She urged participants to choose one special dragon character and re-create it for others, explaining why the dragon is your favorite. Her web site includes a number of suggestions, such as puppetry, classroom or library activities, and various art projects.

How can I resist? My favorite dragon is Mnementh, the first speaking dragon character in another first-of-series book, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight. This, of course, was the first in her ground-breaking Pern series. I read it as a teen. Until then, I had heard and read only of evil, destructive dragons. The idea that dragons and riders could bond in a friendship that nothing could destroy was captivating.

Mnementh was a bronze dragon who stayed calm and carried on while all the humans were getting frantic. He set the standard for me, and I went on to write lots of Pern fan fiction in my twenties and thirties. Many friends I met during that time are still close today. My husband, for one!

So here’s a toast to Mnementh and his writer, Anne McCaffrey.


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It’s hard to believe that I’m heading into my seventh year of blogging here at Wyrmflight. Way back in 2012, I was looking for ways to publicize a podcast of my middle-grade novel, Masters of Air & Fire. The book is focused on a family of kid dragons, and I thought a blog might be a good way to begin.

I figured I would go with the topic until I ran out of ideas. At the time, I was most familiar with the European idea of a dragon, though also aware that there were Asian dragons, too. Six years later, I haven’t run out of ideas yet.

Sure, there are legendary dragons like Fafnir, Typhon and Tiamat. There are literary dragons like Morkeleb, Smaug and Kalessin. But who knew there were trees named after dragons? Or flowers? Or fish? Who knew dragons could be ghosts? Or rivers? Or cosmic guardians? Who knew a dragon could rule the underworld?

So here’s to all the dragons, from ages long past and from contemporary minds. And here’s to you, my readers, whether you’ve been following for all six years or just found me. Long may we fly on the wings of dragons!


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IMG_20180101_084103447_HDRHere’s the latest addition to my personal dragon menagerie. It was a Christmas gift, of course. My family knows me well.

Say a prayer and ring the bell!


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IMG_20171223_111134070

Wine-holding dragon. Photo by Deby Fredericks, December 2017.

Here’s a friendly and helpful dragon, seen on a store shelf at Christmas time. It even guards your wine bottle for you!

 


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Don’t Let the Door Hit You, 2017

Last year was turbulent for many of us. The political climate in the U.S…. Need I say more? And the daily trials like large, unexpected bills. Plus I was intensely involved with SpoCon, my local science fiction convention. That appropriated a lot of my creative energy this year.

I’ve felt very much off my pace in 2017. My goal was to write 4 short stories and 15 chapters (60,000 words) of a new novel. I managed to write 2 short stories, neither of which have sold yet, and the novel I started last January stalled. I’m up to 10,000 words on a different novel now.

I’ve also been waiting for my publisher to set a release date on my next novel, Trials of the Eighth Order. I hasn’t come. That leaves me with no new, traditional publications in 2017. Of course, I did self-publish my two novellas, so I’m not completely skunked.

Coming Up in 2018

My next project will be a short story collection of my work for adult audiences. Tentatively known as Aunt Anne’s Archive, it should appear sometime in the spring. Aunt Anne’s Archive will contrast with Aunt Ursula’s Atlas which represents my children’s work as Lucy D. Ford.

There is also a good possibility I’ll go through my five+ years of blogging here on Wyrmflight to select the most interesting and popular posts for a collection. Dragon legends and Real-Life Dragons are probably the best categories for this project. I’d love to get feedback on which topics you readers might want to see.


Sign up for my newsletter and win a free E-book, The Weight of Their Souls. Just to go my Facebook page, AuthorDebyFredericks, and click the link on the left that says “Join my mailing list.” Easy, right?

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