Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Morals of Selected East Asian Dragon Stories

At first glance, the Chinese myth, “The Legend of Pai Lung”, and the Japanese story, “Kiyo’s Revenge” seem to be alike.  They both contain similar elements, such as young women presumed to be wronged by men, and then left to fend for themselves.  Also, the endings of people seeking mercy from the dragons created by the innocent women seem to be the same.

However, there are important differences.  In “The Legend of Pai Lung”, the young girl dies from fright at what she gave birth to.  She had become the mother of Pai-Lung, the white Dragon King.  This dragon, a product of the young girl’s suffering, will offer mercy to those who ask him.  The moral of the story, “The Legend of Pai Lung” is that understanding is the key of life.  Mercy is returned for ignorance and prejudice.  Forgiveness will be granted to those who accused the young woman of wrong doing

Meanwhile, the heroine of “Kiyo’s Revenge” does not forgive but instead seeks vengeance.  Deciding not to cast her lot to the fates, Kiyo learns how to shape-shift into a dragon.  Unlike Pai Lung, Kiyo wants retribution.  She finds the priest who seduced her, and flames him.  The moral of “Kiyo’s Revenge” is to take nothing for granted.  Also, if you are immoral, you will be punished such as the priest who wronged Kiyo.

Comparing the story “Dragon Pearl” with the previous two stores adds further insight to the morals of these stories.  In this Chinese story, a young boy works to keep his mother from starving.  To feed himself and his mother, he digs up a pearl from the ground.  When thieves try to steal it, the boy swallows the pearl and transforms into a dragon.  Like the mother of Pai Lung, he gives “birth” and like Kiyo, he becomes the dragon.  This story explores want and greed.  The boy’s want becomes money which then attracts the greedy thieves.  The pearl is both a blessing and a curse.  Again goodness overcomes greed when the new dragon ends the drought for all.

The dragon of “Dragon Pearl” transmutes sorrow to joy and brings rain to the thirsty land.  The dragons of the Chinese stories are agents for good.  Meanwhile, the Japanese story has a woman shape-shifting into a dragon.  Unlike the other two heroes, Kiyo is active instead of passive, and becomes the major impetus in her own life. The major difference is that the woman Kiyo did not return mercy for wrong doing when she was a dragon.  She remained human in her being. 

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