Friday, October 16, 2009

The Dragons of DRAGONHEART: A NEW BEGINNING (part 1)

At first glance, Drake and Griffin, the two dragons of DRAGONHEART: A NEW BEGINNING (2000, LEFLER), seemed to be typical European dragons. They were scaly, breathed fire, flew in the air, and ate meat. Moreover, people were frightened of them.

However, upon further examination, there were several major differences between the two types of dragons. Those of DRAGONHEART: A NEW BEGINNING were self-aware, and understood complex concepts such as morals, while, those of Europe were mostly unthinking beings. Moreover, physically, the movie dragons could breathe ice and fire, whereas amongst the European dragons, only icedrakes could breathe ice. (However, icedrakes could not breathe fire.)

The young dragon of the movie, Drake, had to be taught how to be a dragon. Various humans (Friar Peter, Brother Monsel, Stable Boy Geoff, and Master Kwan) instructed him in morals, how to fly, and breathe fire and ice, respectively. Unlike the dragons of European myths, Drake had an education in ethics. He knew good from evil, and often conducted himself, mindful not to harm others.

In contrast, the Lambton Wurm and Mordiford Wyvern instinctively knew how to be dragons. Although people tried to appease them, these dragons continued to terrorize the countryside. Driven by basic needs such as hunger, they viewed people as prey animals.

Meanwhile, Drake felt sorrow when his friend, Father Peter, died. He said his heart hurt. Later when Geoff was killed by falling ice, Drake felt sorrow again. However this time, he chose to give his heart to his dear friend. Drake loved Geoff enough to sacrifice himself for his human friend. Afterwards, the two became one being united in joy and love.

However Griffin, the older dragon of the movie, hated people. Because he corrupted the virtuous dragons and desired human slaves, Griffin’s heart was taken from him. His punishment was to live as a hated human. (Without his dragon heart, Griffin was a clever, ambitious person, known as Osric.)

Dragons in myths generally left people alone except as prey animals. More interested in defending their territories, they usually did not consider governing villages. However, Griffin realized that he could rule over people and make them his slaves. Unlike the seemingly mindless dragons of European legends, Griffin understood the difference between good and evil.

Governance takes a complex mind and an understanding of human culture. Only the firedrake of Beowulf understood humans. He had an agreement with them –if they did not steal his treasure, he would leave them alone. This dragon, with his sophisticated knowledge, resembled Griffin and Drake.

The back history of DRAGONHEART: A NEW BEGINNING is that dragons originally ruled the world. When people emerged, they saw the potential of goodness in the newcomers. Deciding to share their wisdom with people, these dragons watched over them. When they died, the virtuous dragons became stars to guide mankind. Because they had souls, the dragons pledged to help humans achieve their full potential as sentient beings.

This is in contrast to the usual European dragons. In many myths, they were simply entities that plagued people or for heroes to test their mettle against. European dragons acted more like intelligent animals than as instructors and governors. The usual dragon possessed neither a soul nor cared much about people’s lives. Many simply regarded humans as interlopers in their territories.

The Meta theme of DRAGONHEART: A NEW BEGINNING is that people and dragons can coexist. Moreover, they can evolve together. The goal for each species is to unite into a singular entity. People’s weaknesses would be purified by the dragons, who in return would receive joy and spontaneity. The new being would have the best of both humans and dragons.
Part Two can be read here: dragons-of-dragonheart-new-beginning: part 2
Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers Enterprises, animalteachers at gmail dot com.

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