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C.C. Hogan

On the Dragons of Dirt

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Your life is a reflection of you

Humans are terribly limited creatures.  We tend to think of ourselves as the great hunters and conquerors, but if you take away our technology, what is left?  A creature that does not run very fast, relatively speaking, has pathetic natural weapons (small teeth and nails), mediocre hearing, is small and not strong, and without help lives to about 35 years or so.  The average pig can take us out with only a bit of a run-up.  But we have two powerful weapons; brains big enough to invent tools and a tribal mentality so we can throw lots of us at a problem.

We don't travel very far in a primitive world, so we will gather together and protect our lands and borders.  We need to be organised, so that creates a hierarchy which often leads to autocracy.  We have to share lots of resources, so we create centralised trading that all can use; a market town, basically.  Pretty soon we have nations, borders, differences, jealousy and protectionism.  Throw in a couple of invented gods and you have wars.

Dragons' lives could not be more different.  They are at least as intelligent as humans, though the psychology is not the same.  They don't lie, for instance.  They can keep a confidence and tell a story, but they don't understand the idea of deceiving.  Weasel, one of my clever characters, says that it is almost as if the bit of the brain needed to lie is missing in dragons, and this leaves them open to being fooled by humans who are rather good at it; they don't recognise the lie.

But more importantly, dragons are very different physically.  To begin with, they fly and can cross huge distances very easily.  When you can fly, several things change.  To start with, the ideas of territory and borders become rather blurred, as does privacy.  It is difficult to maintain the efficacy of your fences when you neighbour can simply fly over your house.  Flying is quicker than walking or horse riding.  Dragons when flying at a high altitude, twenty thousand feet or more, fly at twenty leagues an hour, around seventy miles an hour.  Some dragon species like the desert dragons fly a little faster.  Catch a really strong wind and you can go faster still.  If you are not carrying weight or a human who cannot breathe easily at very high altitudes, you can cross a continent in a few days without much effort.

For dragons, communications are much better than for humans.  Humans create towns because travel is slow and it makes sense to gather together somewhere locally to trade and co-operate.  Dragons travel quickly over long distance and so have no need for towns.  In all dragon history there has only been one town; Ponack.  And that was a shared human-dragon town.

The huge red dragon called Bren-HevvinDragons live many, many years.  A sea dragon, a Draig Morglas, can live up to a thousand years, the longest-lived of the greater dragons, though eight to nine hundred is more usual.  That changes your perspective of the world.  Importantly, it changes your ideas about what is a family or even what is a tribe.  It is very rare that a dragon stays in one community for their entire life, as much out of boredom as anything else.  Most dragons move around a lot since it is easy for them to do, and do not rely on blood ties.  Dragons are gregarious by nature and very accepting of whoever is their neighbour.  Their family is made up of who their friends are at any given point, and that will not remain fixed.

When you live hundreds of years, you are also acutely aware of who you are and your place in the world.  As the Draig Mynyth Coh Bren-Hevvin says, you may do a lot of good in that time, but the chances are you will also make a lot of mistakes.  It is unavoidable.  That life expectancy also bridges generations, possibly another reason why dragons do not put family higher than friends.  Dragons do not appear to age much, not until they become very old and lose their strength.  Dragons primary method of travel is flying which takes a lot of energy.  Dragons are fit and strong, therefore, and the only ones who might have weight problems, for instance, are those that for some reason cannot fly; from injury, perhaps.  Be-Elin says that dragons do not do “that wrinkly skin thing” that humans do and do not put one dragon higher than another simply because they are older.  It is not unusual for dragons to be vastly different in age to their friends.  Bren-Hevvin is six hundred years older than his Fren (dragon equivalent of a wife), and Be-Elin over five hundred years older than her occasional partner Mab-Corin.

The book People of DirtOne way or another, with small communities, no borders, no towns, no nations, and fluid, individual lives, dragons have nothing to fight over.  In consequence, there is no history of dragon on dragon wars.  Silvi says it best in People of Dirt, book three of series two, when speaking to the vast red dragon Bren-Hevvin, as pictured on the cover of the book:

“Dragons don’t want to go to war, do they, despite your dreadful jokes.  It is not in your blood.  I see it in your eyes sometimes.”

“You do?  What do you see?  I don’t think you want to go to war either, but you do.”

“I didn’t want this war, you are right.  But there is a difference between you and me; between humans and dragons.  When I look into Hal’s eyes, when we are planning and realising the consequences of our plans, I see his hatred of war, but I see a tolerance of it.  He knows we have no choice, and he understands that however terrible, it happens again and again and is part of our existence.  War makes sense to him, even if he abhors it.”

“And what do you see in my eyes?”

Silvi turned and looked up into the big, soft, face of the Draig Mynyth Coh.  He was not beautiful like a desert dragon or a sea dragon, but he had a face you could love.  Even when he was angry she could happily hug his face if she had long enough arms. 

“When I look into your eyes, I not only see a hatred of death, dear Bren-Hevvin, I see puzzlement and confusion.  You don’t understand war in any way whatsoever; it mystifies you.  You only know that they happen and humans start them.  I have seen the same in every single dragon I have ever met.”

Next: Dragon Communities »

  1. On the Dragons of Dirt
  2. A Long Time Ago
  3. Growing Apart
  4. Your Life is a Reflection of You
  5. Dragon Communities
  6. A Shared Life


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