10 December 2012

"Here Be Dragons"

"Last year Janet Ellis examined why mermaids continue to hold such a fascination; now she turns her attention to a figure every bit as resonant with audiences down the generations - the dragon. From the earliest days of story-telling the dragon has appeared across international cultures, occasionally a benign presence, as in the Chinese tradition, though most often a ferocious beast that lays waste to its enemies without a moment's hesitation. More recently the dragon has become a favourite of children's programmes and books from Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog to the How to Train your Dragon series of books - now turned into a major Hollywood film. Its close resemblance to real life creatures and formerly dinosaurs lends the dragon a particularly interesting position among mythological beasts, and Janet hears from poet Simon Armitage who says that those reading medieval stories including those about dragons would most likely have believed in the real possibility of meeting up with the beasts out on the crusades - lending them a special degree of excitement. She also speaks to Cressida Cowell the author behind the "How to Train..." books, as well as the co-creator of TV's Merlin which contains one of the most impressive dragon characters to appear in recent years, played with such relish by John Hurt.
"Here be Dragons" is a lively and informative ride on the back of one of the great stalwarts of the imaginative landscape.


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