“I desired dragons with a profound desire.” – C.S. Lewis
Why would C.S. Lewis say this? I ask why wouldn’t he?
Dragon’s open up a world of possibilities to the imagination that are only limited by fear of treading beyond that which is sensible. The dragon is fearsome and feral. The dragon symbolizes power and the primal elements as well as magic and mystery.
A quick search in Google about dragons will result in an endless barrage of stories, images, symbolism and meanings in regards to dragons. You find that the dragon represents both good and evil depending on who does the representation. In fantasy literature the dragon has been and will be all things magical and fantastic.
What a dragon is or is not is in the eye of the beholder. Fantasy itself is in the eye of the beholder. Anyone who tells you otherwise is narrowing down their view of the world around them and diluting the possibilities as well. I see fantasy as the perfect way to pose a question or idea that otherwise cannot be presented without being clouded by bias and prejudice. This isn’t a unique approach, in fact its the most common use, alongside religious or political views.
I prefer the allegory and parable approach. The dragon becomes an allegory of a larger ideology or pattern of thought or concept. Allegorical approaches to fantasy can take on many different forms. The three forms being modern,medieval and classical. I wont get into great detail on what each one entails. If you want more details on these forms this Wikipedia entry should give you all the info you need. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory
Ironically one of my favorite author’s J.R.R Tolkien was not very found of allegoric fantasy when people has posed the idea of Lord of the Rings being allegorical.
“It is neither allegorical nor topical… I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.” – J.R.R Tolkien
At this point, it has probably gotten boring and more intellectual and academic then is needed. So lets switch gears and look at the wolf.
The wolf in many cultures holds deep meaning, both spiritually and symbolic. In many cases the symbolic and spiritual meaning is so intertwined they can not be separated. The wolf even holds strong symbolism in dreams as well. If you do the same Google search as before but now search for the symbolism of the wolf you find the list to be even more daunting then the dragons. The wolf, like the dragon plays the dual role, hes evil and hes good. Some place him in the role of neutrality but I find that one a bit of a stretch.
Normally we see the wolf stand for strength, courage, family, loyalty as well as a free spirit uncontainable and wild at heart. The wolf in fantasy has played all these roles as well. He’s been the villain in fables and fairy tales alike. The mindless plot conflict used to move the plot along. I see the wolf as much more then all that.
The wolf is the perfect allegory wrapped into a parable. A real life example that we can look to and see the beauty and mystery of. The wolf brings fantasy closer to reality. The loneliness of the wolf separated from the pack we can relate to, it tug at our heart strings. When an author makes the wolf a focal point or central figure in a story we cannot help be become attached. We look down from our reading and see our faithful dog sleeping next to us. Suddenly the wolf is more alive now then he just was. The wolf becomes the hero’s faithful companion a symbol of unconditional love. This brings the fantasy world alive for the reader a point of comparison and emotional investment. To me the wolf is the heart of fantasy.
The castle is the perfect parable. The means to drive home a point. The castle is a symbol which houses the meaning. Just like a parable, we do not focus on the elements and details of the castle. In the parable look for the meaning of the narrative, in the castle we look for the rule it serves. Is the castle an obstacle to be over come? or is it a safe haven to defend?
Fantasy writing in the form of parables allows us to see something we would otherwise never see. Open our eyes in ways we would never dream. We are exposed to things and thoughts that we would otherwise never encounter.
The dragon, the wolf and the castle are what drives fantasy writing. If you tell a story and have nothing to conclude from its telling, then you have created nothing but foolish ramblings. Even the smallest of conclusions in its simplest form can give life to a story that lives well beyond the years of its teller.