The Book of Dragons

The Book of Dragons

Edith Nesbit: The Book of Dragons (first published by Harper & Brothers in 1901)

Many Thanks to Digi-Book Kiadó for sending me the book!

Dragons are the most interesting mythical creatures. Everyone knows them, they appear in many books, films and video games today, but they have been found in written and drawn works since the ancient times. They may have been created by the discovery of fossils, which explains why these creatures appeared and played different roles in the mythology of different peoples. While in Asian cultures, they are positive characters, in the European mythical world, they are always the enemies of the people.

In this book, too, dragons usually appear in a negative role. We can read eight stories about them. Some take place in fantasy worlds, some in England. There are places where a dragon is released from its prison and wreaks havoc, there are places where dragons occupy a whole country. What the stories have in common is that there are always heroes who have brave hearts and defeat the dragons as well as the evil people who often cooperate with them. Even though the book was written in 1901, it contains surprisingly modern lessons and the writer takes the edge of every story with humor. Thus, the evening tales will be enjoyed not only by children but also by adults.

It’s hard to choose, but one of my favorites is “The Ice Dragon, or Do as You Are Told,” in which two brothers embark on a journey of discovery with dreamlike adventures. The tale is a surreal but very sensual description of a child’s imagination. My other favorite is “The Island of the Nine Whirpools,” where we see a beautiful example of maternal love.

The author, Edith Nesbit, an English writer and poet, has published about 40 novels, volumes of short stories and picture books for children and almost as many more books in collaboration with others. She is considered one of the pioneers of modern children’s literature, renewing the traditions represented by Lewis Carroll and Kenneth Graham. Edith Nesbit created the genre of adventure novels for children, in which she often combined real settings with magical objects and trips to fantastic worlds. Her works have also influenced several other writers: P. L. Travers (Mary Poppins), Diana Wynn Jones (The Wandering Palace), C. S. Lewis (Narnia) or J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter).

The main lesson of the tales is what Neil Gaiman wrote:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

As you read, be careful not to release the dragons from the illustrations by Cintia Vaspöri!