Some common house dragons around the world:
Wales and West Britain: fferm gwybers
Lithuania: aitvaras; smij
Eastern Europe: puki; žaltys pisuhänd
Volga River Basin: naui
India: gnar (house); mandir (temple);
dhuan (smoke) nagas (not to be
confused with the much larger
jungle nagas); tangaroas of the PaKorea: kyeryongs
Pacific Islands: tangaroas
Back on Jabberwocky Appreciation Day, I promised to devote a special day to house dragons – and one must always keep dragon promises.
Whenever I talk to people about Dragons, there are two responses which I can be sure to hear: 1) Dragons are awesome, and 2) everyone wants a house dragon.
The former is a no brainer for anyone who has spent one moment in the company of Dragons. I believe the latter is in large part a reflection of our species’ love of ‘cute.’ Face it: we are devoted to our cats and dogs but go gaga over kittens and puppies. In fact, if house dragons were not already ubiquitous, some entrepreneurial geneticist would likely be busy in a lab, splicing and dicing to create the perfect pint-sized dragon.
Thankfully, nature has already provided us with an abundance of draco domesticus, from the frilled walek of the Australian outback to the fiery-tailed kaukas of Lithuania.
“Seldom more than a meter in length, these nimble globetrotters are the toy breeds of the pseudo-dragon world, snuggling up close to human habitations, bringing good fortune to those who treat them well, travesty to those who treat them ill.
“The code of house dragon husbandry is simple: provide them with shelter, warmth, daily meals, and the occasional scratch on the tummy, and you will garner their lifelong loyalty and protection. They will control rodents and other intrusive pests, even keep unwanted solicitors and bill collectors at bay. Some of the more sociable species are particularly adept at watching children, though it is essential to teach your kids proper dragon safety. Dragon ivories are sharp and some will breathe fire or spit venom if threatened. Terrible though this sounds, remember that dogs and cats do not hesitate to use their teeth and claws, and a parrot’s beak can slice a hand down to the bone, and these are our everyday domestic companions.
“Though they choose to be close to hearth and family, house dragons are feral creatures and need to be treated with due deference. We’re talking Dragon Interaction 101: Don’t pull their wings or step on their tails, and never to put fingers near their mouths before they’ve eaten breakfast. These are simple rules but particularly important for children to know inside out. With a little preparatory work in hand you can avoid distressing your dragon and/or making unwanted trips to the emergency room.” [“Dragons for Beginners,” p. 89-90]
Since this is a week for Dragon Tales, I thought I would tell a little known but ne’er forgot tale of a Lithuanian aitvaras and the beginnings of the House-Dragon Rebellion of 1397.
Once upon a time, Europe was alive with Dragons large and small. Then the Dark Times came, driving many of the great Westies across the Pond or beyond the mystic veil, and leaving a world in which lesser dragons could thrive. For you see, try though the Church did to demonize Dragons, the people held onto the love and respect they had of them, even if they had to transfer it all to the wee house dragons of the land. This was particularly true in the continent’s stalwart pockets of Paganism, one of the last of which was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Sadly, even Lithuania could not hold back the tide of the times, and Grand Duke Jogaila Christianized the region in 1387. This did not prevent some on the more zealous Teutonic knights from rampaging through the duchy, routing out the few remaining Pagans in the land.
Which brings us to our story. In 1396, on the banks of the Sventa River, in the acrid shadow of the razed remains of Ukmerge Fortress, there lived a woman, Giedre, and her two children, Daina and Lukas. Giedre’s husband, Zydrunas, had been a good man, a man of the fields, keeping his family in creature comforts with just enough over to meet the Crown levies. Then the wars came, good men and bad were killed, and those left behind, like Giedre, survived as best they could.
One spring morning, the children were out mushrooming in the woods when they came upon an egg shimmering in a nest of leaf-litter. Wild eggs were a rare find, especially one larger than a goose’s, so they tucked it into their basket and ran back home to show their mother. Now, Giedre was raised in the old ways and knew a aitvaras dragon egg when she saw one. In her best iron pot, she wrapped the treasure in red wool and set it by the hearth. “Don’t touch,” she warned Daina and Lukas. “We must keep the fire hot and wait.”
Wood being scarce, they fortunately didn’t have to wait long. Two days later, at the setting of the full moon, the shell cracked open with the sound of twigs underfoot and a baby house dragon, black as night with a fiery tail. Giedre gave it an omelets – preferred aitvaras fare – which it devoured as only a newborn dragonlet would. Then it curled up on the red wool and fell fast asleep.
This was the start of a long and beautiful relationship between dragon – Blykstė (Flash) was his name – and family. An omelet in the morning and he was ready to go, watching over the family as they went about their chores, helping them find the best patches of wild herbs and ‘shrooms. And then, at night, while Giedre and her brood slept, Flash would slip out through the window and scour the countryside for trinkets, coins, and jewels. Like a proud mouser with his catch, he would place them in circles, like faerie rings, round his family’s pillows.
So it was that the fortunes of the family improved. Giedre was wise enough not to flaunt their dragon-found prosperity, but, over time, the roof was repaired, an extension added to the barn for the new goats and extra hens. Daina wore new ribbons in her hair and Lukas got a soft tunic to replace the one two-years outgrown. The family knew meat when they wanted and wood when they needed. Like was good. Life was terrific.
But they were suspicious times and, since the Teutonic wars, most followers of the old ways lived in fear, those who did not convert being circumspect at best. No matter how careful Giedre was or how far afield Flash foraged, their meager increase in status was met with leers and slander. Large or small, dragons were Lucifer’s minions and those who profited from their aid surely paid for their ill-gotten gains with their souls. It did not help matters that a Papal legate was personally overseeing the construction of Ukmerge’s new church.
When the bishop – flanked by the Duke Jogaila’s guard with pikes at the ready – traipsed through her garden and pounded on her door, Giedre was not surprised. Fortunately, the bishop was even more open to a bribe than the next man, and so an arrest was forestalled. She and her children – for children were hardly exempt from judgment – had only to appear before the ecclesiastic court in one week’s time and answer to the charges of church and state. (One is always curious: who was more outraged – the state for an upending of the economic status quo, or the church for a stray sheep lost to temporal temptation. While the two are certainly linked, my inclination is that cash trumps souls every time.
As soon as the bishop left, Flash took to the skies. From the Baltic coast to the banks of the Dnepr, from the Gulf of Finland to the Carpathian heights, he sent out the call to his house-dragon kin. Puuk, zlatys, pisuhänd,even gargoyles, rallied to Giedre’s need. As she and her children stood before church and crown, a flock of house dragons filled the sky, swooping down and lifting Blykstė’s family to safety is a glorious display of draconus ex machina.
With that action, on that day, the House-Dragon Rebellion began in fact and lore, generation after generation, century after century, Robin-Hooding it around the world.
So the WAFDE Chronicles record it.
And I for one, would never doubt a history told by Dragons.