AtoZ 2017: L is for The Last of the Dragons by Edith Nesbit

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L is for The Last of the Dragons

Up next in the April 2017 AtoZ Challenge, I’m happy to share a really sweet story called The Last of the Dragons by English author and poet Edith Nesbit, originally published in 1925.

Last of the Dragons by E. Nesbit

That is the cover of The Last of the Dragons by Edith Nesbit, with art by Peter Firmin, in the 1980 edition.

The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia created a cute production based on Nesbit’s story called The Last Dragon on Earth, that was then brought to life by the Crabgrass Puppet Theater of Halifax, Vermont.

The synopsis for CPA’s The Last Dragon on Earth reads:

For as long as anyone can remember, princes have killed dragons and rescued princesses. It’s the way things have always been done. But what happens if the princess doesn’t need rescuing, and the dragon to be killed is the very last one on Earth?

That comes from the Study Guide* created by the CPA to accompany the production, where I found this adorable photo of their dragon taken by Crabgrass’ Jamie Keithline:

Last Dragon on Earth by Crabgrass Puppet Theater of VT, photo by Jamie Keithline

Because The Last of the Dragons was published in 1925, the copyright has run out and Nesbit’s work is now in the public domain, so you can read it for yourself —  it’s just over 2,500 words, and it’s available on Wikisource.  But to sum up, the story begins:

Of course you know that dragons were once as common as motor-omnibuses are now, and almost as dangerous.

But as every well-brought-up prince was expected to kill a dragon, and rescue a princess, the dragons grew fewer and fewer till it was often quite hard for a princess to find a dragon to be rescued from.

Nesbit’s princess definitely does not want to be rescued from a dragon — she implores her father, the king, saying:

`Father, darling, couldn’t we tie up one of the silly little princes for the dragon to look at — and then I could go and kill the dragon and rescue the prince? I fence much better than any of the princes we know.’

But her father refuses, so she meets with the prince who is to rescue her the night before the big day.

`I will kill the dragon,’ said the Prince firmly, `or perish in the attempt.’

`It’s no use your perishing,’ said the Princess.

`It’s the least I can do,’ said the Prince.

`What I’m afraid of is that it’ll be the most you can do,’ said the Princess.

Since there won’t be any witnesses (as per custom), the princess hatches a plan for the prince to come in his motorcar and untie her straight away, so they can face the dragon together (and so the prince will have a better chance of surviving).

However, once they meet the dragon, it turns out it’s a sweet thing who wants nothing to do with eating princesses.  The last of the dragons is quite put out at their intrusion, in fact, and when they try to lure it out of its cave, it says:

`One of those precious princesses, I suppose? And I’ve got to come out and fight for her. Well, I tell you straight, I’m not going to do it. A fair fight I wouldn’t say no to — a fair fight and no favour — but one of those put-up fights where you’ve got to lose — no! So I tell you. If I wanted a princess I’d come and take her, in my own time — but I don’t. What do you suppose I’d do with her, if I’d got her?’

Since nobody wants to fight, and in fact the dragon takes a liking to them because they are nice to it, they return to the kingdom with a new pet dragon, that the princess “at once named Fido.”

But that is not where the story ends!  The princess marries the prince, since that is what princesses do, and “when the happy pair were settled in their own kingdom, Fido came to them and begged to be allowed to make himself useful.”

So the Prince had a special saddle or howdah made for him — very long it was — like the tops of many tramcars fitted together. One hundred and fifty seats were fitted to this, and the dragon, whose greatest pleasure was now to give pleasure to others, delighted in taking parties of children to the seaside.

So that explains the image from the 1980 edition of the story above.  Then the story ends:

So it lived, useful and respected, till quite the other day — when someone happened to say, in his hearing, that dragons were out-of-date, now so much new machinery had come in.

This so distressed him that he asked the King to change him into something less old-fashioned, and the kindly monarch at once changed him into a mechanical contrivance. The dragon, indeed, became the first aeroplane.

Now, I wasn’t able to find many pictures related to the original story, but a quick search on deviantart didn’t disappoint, so here are some pictures of dragons with airplanes, which I thought was close enough. 😉

I was surprised to find this first one that features my favorite Toothless, called The Better Way to Fly, because it is by U.K. professional artist Shaz, posting as shazy and now as shrimposaurus — who I just featured in my Inheritance post!  You can find their galleries here and here.

the_better_way_to_fly_by_shazy

This next one is called Spitfire — which is probably a play on words meaning the type of plane and also what the dragon is about to do to said plane, but I can’t be sure — by American professional artist Ven Locklear, posting as Venishi.  You can find more of his (quite trippy) gallery here.

spitfire_by_venishi

Then we have a giant dragon in a piece that got the Snoopy song in my head (and now hopefully yours!) called Red Baron by Canadian deviantartist Boali Dashtestani, posting as bdbros.  Check out his awesome gallery (and then a video of Snoopy and the Red Baron by The Royal Guardsman at that link!).

red_baron_by_bdbros

Here’s an interesting Dragon Fighter that looks very much like a plane hybrid, by Sweedish professional artist Sofie Wikström, posting as ArtOfAProcrastinator.  Check out her awesome gallery, which includes Sailor Moon fanart, for more!

dragon_fighter_by_artofaprocrastinator

And finally, I came across a blog post on the website Gaming Shogun from March 30, 2012, about a free online video game called World of Warplanes announcing their newest upgrade, titled World of Warplanes to Include Dragons.  The article read, in part:

Wargaming.net, the award-winning online game developer and publisher, is proud to announce the next faction to join the current set of nations in the highly-anticipated flight combat action MMO World of Warplanes: dragons! The all-new line of majestic creatures will set the sky on fire when the game enters its beta stage later this year.

The initial tech tree will include 12 dragons and will eventually expand to more than 60 creatures. Each mystical animal will have its own peculiarities and strategic employment. Players can upgrade several key characteristics including fire intensity level, color, number of claws, horns, wingspan and skin thickness.

There were even some really impressive screenshots in the article:

WoWP_Smaus_Image_01

WoWP_Smaus_Image_03

But of course, one always has to read online news with a critical eye, and while they tried very hard to be sneaky and serious, the article actually posted on April 1st, and they included a small #aprilfools hashtag.  So unfortunately, you can’t fly planes against dragons (or vice versa) just yet, but maybe someday someone will make this a reality! 😉

Thank you as always for reading!  Tomorrow marks the halfway point of AtoZ (thank god!), and I’ll be showcasing another beloved Disney dragon for “M” so be sure to come back for that!  Bye!

* Just as a note, I noticed that the CPA Study Guide for The Last Dragon on Earth mistakenly names the inspiration for their production as another Nesbit story called The Fiery Dragon, but having read both stories and the puppet show synopsis, they definitely meant The Last of the Dragons.  🙂

Image credits:
The Last of the Dragons by Edith Nesbit, 1980 edition published by McGraw-Hill and found on Amazon
Photo by Jamie Keithline of the Crabgrass Puppet Theater production of The Last Dragon on Earth from the Center for Puppetry Arts Study Guide
The Better Way to Fly by shazy
Spitfire by Ven Locklear, posting as Venishi
Red Baron by Boali Dashtestani, posting as bdbros
Dragon Fighter by Sofie Wikström, posting as ArtOfAProcrastinator 
Screenshots from the Gaming Shogun April Fool’s 2012 article about World of Warplanes titled World of Warplanes to Include Dragons 

a-to-z HEADER [2017] - april

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