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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy writer’

This tale of The Lady of Langho (a.k.a. The Daughter of Hippocrates) is a really interesting exercise in distinguishing fact from fiction — if that could apply in the case of a mythical beast like dragons. The tale comes from a 14th-Century book, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, which itself has uncertain origins. Allegedly it details the adventures of an English knight, Sir John Mandeville, who traveled through exotic lands like India and China.

However, records show there never was a Sir John Mandeville. In some ways, the book resembles Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which is also a collection of stories framed as a travelogue. It seems that The Travels was widely distributed and translated, since copies have been preserved through the centuries in a number of languages.

One fun part of this origin is to pick out some of the anachronisms that “Sir John” wrote into it. Hippocrates lived in the 4th Century B.C.E., after all. There’s no way there were knights running around in that era. The Knights of the Hospital, referred to in the tale, wouldn’t even be founded until the 12th Century. You could as well expect pirates yelling “Arrr” or gangsters with tommy guns.

The Lady of Langho legend could be viewed as a proto-horror story, in which a hapless young woman is transformed against her will and everyone who might help runs from the sight of her. Some, however, have interpreted the story in a more sophisticated way. The Hospitaller attempts a rescue on his own but is killed due to lack of preparation. The common sailor who impersonates a knight shows his true colors when he flees from the lady in her cursed form.

It’s suggested that perhaps the Lady of Langho was better off in the shape of a dragon than if she had bound her fate to either of these two.


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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Long ago, in ancient Greece, the physician Hippocrates (originator of the Hippocratic Oath), had a daughter who was so lovely that she rivaled the denizens of Olympus itself. The goddess Diana became jealous and transformed the daughter into a terrible dragon. The girl’s curse could only be lifted if she found a knight who was brave enough to kiss her in her horrifying state. Even then, it was foretold that she would live only a short time longer.

Shunned by all, the unfortunate young lady retreated to the island of Langho. There she was regarded as a sovereign ruler, but languished alone and hopeless. An old castle was her dwelling. She could reclaim her human form just three days each year, and as a dragon never harmed anyone who didn’t attack her first.

As word of the lady’s condition got out, a few knights turned up hoping to save her and become lord of Langho. First was a Knight of the Hospital from nearby Rhodes. Alas, before this knight had a chance to approach, his horse caught sight of the dragon. It bolted in panic and carried him right over a cliff.

The second to attempt wasn’t a knight at all, but a sailor whose ship had stopped to get supplies on Langho. While on shore leave, he wandered into the lady’s castle and was struck by the sight of her in her dressing room, surrounded by a hoard of treasure. Not knowing of the legend, he for some reason assumed she was a prostitute and, um… asked to be her lover.

Remembering the terms of her curse, the lady demanded to know if he was a knight. He admitted that he wasn’t, so she told him he must go and be knighted before he could kiss her. Returning to his ship, the sailor persuaded his captain to “knight” him and came back the next day. Alas, the lady’s one day as a human was over. When the sailor saw her true form, he fled from her. Wailing in despair, the lady pursued him, but he reached his ship and sailed away, leaving her forlorn.

So, we are told, the Lady of Langho remains trapped in her bestial form until this very day. If only a true and noble knight would be brave enough to kiss a dragon, she might be freed from eternal torment.


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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Custard is the unlikely hero of a comic children’s poem by Ogden Nash. “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” was first published in 1936 but retains its appeal after 81 years. Indeed, in some ways it was ahead of its time. Whenever you hear someone say there were no girl heroes in 20th Century literature, you can remind them of Belinda, who was “brave as a barrel full of bears.”

The setup is that Belinda has several pets — kitten, mouse, dog — who are all brave and bold, while her “realio, trulio, little pet dragon” just wants a nice quiet cage. They all tease poor Custard — until the day a pirate shows up. Then they learn who’s really the bravest of all.

What the heck, you can read the poem here! It’s more fun than a barrel full of bears.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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One of the great heroes of Persian lore is the mighty warrior Rostam. He is part of several legends, but the most substantial of these is the epic poem Shahnameh, recorded by Ferdowsi around 1010 C.E.

Rostam dwelt in Sistan, part of modern-day Iran, where he stood high in the favor of King Kay Kaus. Unfortunately, the king undertook an ill-fated invasion of neighboring Mazandaran. He was defeated and captured. Learning of this, Rostam rode to the rescue on his faithful stallion, Rakhsh. The hero endured several trials. He was lost in the dessert and battled a lion, several demons — and a dragon.

Rostam was asleep one night when Rakhsh heard a noise near the camp. A dragon was lurking in the bushes! The horse whinnied and stamped on the ground, making such noise that the hero woke up. He also forced the dragon to retreat, so that Rostam saw no danger and was highly annoyed with his steed.

He lay down to sleep again, but a short time later the dragon returned. Again, Rakhsh sounded the alarm and woke his master. Rostam was furious and threatened to kill the horse, but then he spotted the dragon! The battle was joined, the monster was defeated, and all was well. One hopes that faithful Rakhsh got a good brushing as reward for his help.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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The evil spirit Ahriman found his perfect puppet in the person of Zahhak, a prince he deceived into becoming king — then cursed with a dragon’s head growing from either shoulder. And these dragon heads could only be placated by one food: human brains.

Whatever goodness may once have been inside Zahhak, he now gave himself completely to evil. His greatest fear was that the two dragons might turn and devour his brain someday. Using a network of spies, he began to arrest anyone who spoke against his rule. And there must have been plenty of protest — no matter how great or small the crime, two prisoners each day were sacrificed and their brains served to Zahhak.

Ahriman must have settled in to enjoy the reign of terror. Zahhak did not rest easily, however. After some time, he had a terrible dream that a rebellion arose. The leader struck him down with a mighty club, then dragged him off toward a high mountain. Upon awakening, Zahhak summoned all his wise men and advisors to interpret this dream. They hemmed and hawed, none wishing to present bad news when their brains might be at stake. The king demanded answers! Finally one admitted that the dream foretold the end of Zahhak’s bloody rule. He even named the man who would bring about Zahhak’s doom. His name was Fereydun.

Nobody knew anything about this person, but Zahhak at once sent his spies to find out. After long searching, the spies discovered that Fereydun was a young boy who lived hidden in the mountains and fed on the milk of a magical cow. Somehow Fereydun must have learned that the spies were coming, for he fled before they reached him. They killed the cow and returned to Zahhak.

While the hunt went on, a pair of dissidents managed to work their way into the kitchens of Zahhak’s palace. There they worked out a plan where they served sheep’s brains instead of human and allowed some of the prisoners to escape. The dragon heads didn’t seem to notice a difference, but Fereydun’s army grew steadily.

Meanwhile, Zahhak embarked on a political campaign to head off the rebellion. He drew up a document that testified to his righteousness, thinking that this would remove the justification for a revolt. Then he summoned leaders from every part of the land and commanded them to sign it. Fearing death, most of them complied. However, a blacksmith named Kava stood up and protested that all of his sons had been arrested and only one was still alive. Seeking to appear merciful, Zahhak agreed to release Kava’s son. Once his son was freed, Kava tore up the document and fled.

He raised his blacksmith’s apron as a banner and gathered many followers. Soon they joined Fereydun’s cause. As the boy had now grown into a man, Kava made for him a mighty mace shaped like an ox’s head. They marched forth to war. The tyrant fled with his army in retreat, and Fereydun soon took the capital city. The surviving prisoners were freed.

Zahhak’s government officials swore to serve the rebel leader. However, the treasurer, Kondrow, snuck off with information on where Fereydun’s forces were arrayed. Zahhak snuck back in, thinking to catch his enemy unawares. But it all happened even as he had dreamed. Fereydun struck him down with the ox-headed mace and dragged him to Mount Damavand, a volcanic peak in modern-day Iran. There the bloodthirsty tyrant was imprisoned for all time, with his own dragon heads gnawing at his skull.

Wow. There’s just nothing like a true dragon legend, is there!


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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In 2014, I retold the legend of Zahhak, a dragonlike character from Persian and Zoroastrian mythology. Recently a comment pointed out that I had called Zahhak an “Arabian dragon” when in fact the myth is Iranian. This is true, and I apologize for assigning a generic nationality. However, the legend is complicated, as stories often are.

According to this article, the legend of Zahhak does come from Iran but the character of Zahhak is described in the legend as an Arab. It seems that Arabs had conquered Iran in the 7th Century. When it came time for storytellers to identify Zahhak’s origins, they were not able to resist the temptation of linking him to the conquerors.

Here is my original post, edited properly.


Zahhak

 

Long ago in Persia, a king named Merdas had only one son. Prince Zahhak was clever and handsome, but his character was weak. He found it easier to go along with what the courtiers and advisers said than to think for himself. This was observed by Ahriman, an evil spirit rather like Satan of Jewish and Biblical tradition. Like Satan, Ahriman aspired to cover the earth with his malevolent rule, and Zahhak seemed like a perfect tool toward this goal.

Ahriman wormed his way into King Merdas’s court and became close to Prince Zahhak. Over time, he persuaded Zahhak to murder his father and assume the throne. The means was to dig a deep pit in a place where the king often walked, and conceal it with brush. This was done; the king fell into the pit and was killed, leaving his son a bloody throne.

Perhaps the new king repented at this, for his former friend was banished from the court. But this was no impediment to Ahriman. He changed his form and returned in the guise of a chef whose food was so wonderful that after some weeks King Zahhak promised him any reward he wanted. The “humble” chef asked to kiss the king on both shoulders. This was agreed. But when the chef had kissed the king’s shoulders, he suddenly disappeared.

In that same moment, two black serpents grew from the king’s shoulders. The horrified king commanded that they be cut off, but as soon as that happened, two more dragon heads grew. Days passed by, and no one could find a way to remove the dragons. In fact, the hungry beasts bit and snapped at everyone, so that no one dared approach.

Except for Ahriman, who now wore the shape of a wise physician. Ahriman told King Zahhak that the dragons couldn’t be removed, but they could be temporarily sated. The only food they would accept? Human brains.

…Oh, didn’t I mention this is a zombie dragon story? Check back next time for the next chapter.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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Over the summer, I’ve been working as director of programming for SpoCon, my local science fiction convention. I’m going a little nuts, frankly. But it has given rise to a few fun thoughts. If dragons had a convention, what would their programming look like?

Humans: Friends or Food? Older and wiser dragons share their advice on whether to play nicely or take what you want.

The Perfect Hoard: A great hoard needs more than mountains of gold coin. Maybe you’ve thought of adding some gems or a bit of gold-plated armor. Experts discuss how to give your hoard personality and flair.

Fang and Claw vs. Flame Breath: Warrior dragons debate the best way to slay those pesky knights.

Lair Security: Are you troubled by sneak thieves and traveling salesmen? Learn a few new tricks to keep intruders out of your private space.

Human Arms and Armor: Information on the most common equipment used by knights and adventurers, with tips on how to overcome them.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

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