Tag Archives: Dragons

Strong Men, Strong Women – A Retroactive Review of How to Train Your Dragon

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Yes, readers, I am coming back to the subject of strong women. One cannot fail to notice how modern movies show us women who out-men the men these days. They practically hit viewers in the face with this bull-headed idea, and it has to stop.

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At first glance, Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon appears to fit this mold of “women are better than men.” Astrid, the heroine of the film and its sequel, begins the movie as the ultimate example of a girl who out-boy’s the boys. She is strong, fast, smart, and the top of her class, which is mostly made up of boys.

Now her competition is hardly the greatest; it is, in fact, a perfect example of the way Femi-Nazis want men to be perceived, by themselves and by women. Of the four boys in her class, Astrid is physically as strong as the boys. Fishlegs is a large boy and therefore relatively strong, but he is also fearful. This makes him absolutely no competition for Astrid in the arena, as he spends most of his time there running away from the dragon of the day.

Snotlout is strong, but he is so self-centered it is amazing he can even walk in a straight line. Tuffnut not only has less muscle tone than these two characters, he has lost whatever brains he had by constantly fighting with his twin sister, Ruffnut. In one of the films intriguing reversals, however, she is also no real opposition for Astrid. Ruffnut is almost as moronic as her twin brother – and in How to Train You Dragon 2, he actually shows more intelligence than she does on a couple of occasions.

As for the hero of the piece, Hiccup can barely lift an axe. He is scrawny, weak, and definitely no physical competition for Astrid, whom he adores from afar because she will not give him the time of day. So of all the young Viking warriors to whom the audience is introduced, Astrid is presented as the best, the brightest, and the strongest of the lot.Typical SFC, right?

Nope.

Things begin to change for Astrid when Hiccup secretly starts working with the Night Fury he shot down.In caring for Toothless, Hiccup learns about dragon habits, finding their weaknesses as he studies him. After a while, he outstrips Astrid in the training center by defeating the dragons sent against the trainees via his newfound knowledge. Everyone mistakes this for a sudden turn in Hicccup’s physical prowess rather than realizing he is winning these engagements through anatomical knowledge.

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Only Astrid sees how he is actually beating the dragons – and thereby her – in the training center. And she does not like it. She finally follows and confronts Hiccup in the dell where he has kept Toothless hidden, demanding answers about his sudden rise to prominence over her. This leads to her discovery of Hiccup’s secret friendship with the Night Fury.

Furious at Hiccup, but happy to be back at the top of her class, Astrid races off to tell the villagers what he has done.

Hiccup manages to derail that attempt by chasing her down on Toothless and begging her to let him explain what he has learned. Reluctantly, Astrid agrees to at least let him get her out of the tree he and the dragon set her in.

But Toothless goes further than Hiccup wanted him to go by getting Astrid to apologize for abusing his rider. When she finally does this, the dragon relents and provides her with her first real ride through the sky.

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This ride uses some of the best CGI in the film, and it is clear that Astrid is as enchanted with the beauty of the scene as the audience is. Hiccup and Toothless fly her through the clouds while the sun sets, then bring her up to see the Aurora Borealis bloom in the starry sky. Overwhelmed by the beauty, Astrid lets down the guard she has placed around her heart and wraps her arms around Hiccup’s waist – a gesture he is quick to note, though he says nothing about it.

When discussing the character, however, the critics – along with many fans and probably the actors themselves – focus not on Astrid’s reaction to this scene but on her physical skills, strength, and stamina. What most of the critics will never admit is that until Toothless gives her the first dragon ride of her life, Astrid has been living a false persona in order to get ahead.

Think about it, readers. Astrid is surrounded by fierce, resilient Vikings who have been waging a war with a local nest of dragons for three centuries. In order to fit into this world, Astrid suppresses her natural sweetness and love for beauty, focusing instead on becoming a strong, ferocious warrior in order to be the future dragon-slaying heroine of Berk.

Hiccup, who is the butt of the village jokes because he physically cannot handle a weapon, has no such recourse in his day-to-day life. He has to rely on his wits, on what he builds, to make any mark on the village – and most of those marks are more damaging than helpful. The village mantra is not eloquently spoken, but it essentially reads thus: to be accepted by the society of Berk, one has to toe the popular line. This means that the men and women of the island have to be fierce warriors with no time for, or inclination toward, study and learning.

Astrid follows this prescription from the start, more so than any of the other village children. She practices harder than they do to learn combat techniques and criticizes herself harshly when she makes the slightest mistake.

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On the other hand, though he tries time and again to fit in with the stereotype perpetuated and expected by his elders – especially his father – Hiccup cannot suppress his natural curiosity and sense of wonder. His skinny frame, lack of muscle tone, and reliance on machines to do what the other Vikings can do by hand is not accepted by the adults. His curiosity, his willingness to study and learn so he can invent a gadget to help him better his life, also marks him as different – a difference the villagers of Berk cannot accept until the end of the film.

In this way the Island of Berk in the movie serves as a microcosm of modern society. Though it is oft proclaimed that children should “be themselves” and pursue what makes them happy, there are no end of adults in official positions who will cheerfully slap down any signs of individuality and personal gifts the children under their supposed care demonstrate. Whether they realize it or not, they do this in order to maintain an expected status quo and the mantra that “girls rule while boys drool.”

Boys are routinely told through modern media that they are stupid, boorish, and disgusting. And if they are smarter than average, they mask their intelligence to avoid persecution. In How to Train Your Dragon, Snotlout exemplifies disgusting and boorish behavior with his constant passes at Astrid (who duly ignores his attempts to snare her for a date).

Tuffnut practically embodies the modern idea of the stupidity of boys. He regularly boasts about his strength, courage, and intelligence, only to be proved lacking in all of the above before the final battle. He hates learning about anything that does not involve pranking or fighting, disdains reading and other academic pursuits the way germophobes fear bacteria.

Fishlegs, meanwhile, is the trite smart boy. Bursting with facts he has memorized from the Book of Dragons, he is painted as the stereotypical geek overflowing with knowledge but who is, at the same time, short on courage. With competition like this, Astrid has no problem being the most likely to succeed at the Dragon Slaying Academy of Berk.

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Hiccup is the only boy to defy the Berkian – and therefore the modern – trope. By studying Toothless in order to help him fly again, Hiccup puts his knowledge to good use in the arena. He “defeats” dragon after dragon without killing them, and he does it so well that he unintentionally outshines all the other students for the first time in his life.

When Astrid discovers the source of his new skills and fame, Hiccup knows he has to convince her to change her mind, or Toothless will be killed. After their initial hard ride, Astrid admits Hiccup is correct about how amazing Toothless is. The three are then inadvertently drawn along with the swarm of dragons taking food to the Red Death, learning the secret of the dragon attacks as well as the location of the dragon’s nest. Upon their return, Hiccup is forced to stand up to Astrid when she asks if he is seriously prepared to forego ending the dragon war in order to protect Toothless.

In this moment, Astrid and Hiccup finally break down the barriers that Berkian society has forced on the two of them. Hiccup proves he is man enough to protect his friend at personal cost to himself. Meanwhile, Astrid takes on the proper role of the supportive friend who also happens to be developing romantic feelings for the boy she once scorned.

The scene shows the two discovering who they truly are, though perhaps only one recognizes the change in self-perception. Hiccup, distracted with his fear for Toothless’ safety and stopping a war which has lasted for three centuries, does not see in himself what Astrid now sees. Though he is skinny and not physically strong, Hiccup is strong in his will to protect his friend and to end the war. He does not know how he can do it, but he does intend to do it. While he knows it will cost him the acceptance he thought he longed for his whole life, his determination and courage do not waver in the face of that apparent loss.

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Recognizing this about him, Astrid’s hardened heart at last thaws out. Presented with a young man who says what he means and has the strength of will to see it out, she realizes that she has no need to show the perfect warrior front to him. Hiccup is already a warrior, having broken custom to discover something wonderful in the dragons all the other Vikings fear as menaces. So Astrid stops behaving like a violent-tempered Viking shieldmaiden and acts like what she really is: a girl longing for a true friend who will accept her for herself, not for her skills or her looks.

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This relationship between the two characters is expanded upon in the second film. In this story, it is Astrid who makes the mistake that leads to a deadly confrontation with the movie’s antagonist, Drago Bludvist. Her pride in Hiccup’s skills as a dragon master blinds her to the very real danger facing her and her friends. At the same time, Hiccup himself undergoes a metamorphosis as he learns that he cannot run from his responsibilities because, sooner or later, they will catch up with him and demand his attention. He becomes a “manly man” in How to Train Your Dragon 2, as Astrid embraces her femininity without losing her warrior skills.

The architects of modern society are trying desperately to prevent the children and youth of today from discovering this self-knowledge, readers. They are working hard to confuse them; they are telling boys that they must either act effeminately or behave like barbarians in order to be accepted by society. Girls are routinely told that they can do anything, that they are as good as the boys, even when it becomes manifestly obvious that they are not and cannot be a boy.

This is hurting today’s youth. The boys are growing up, avoiding college and prospective jobs and are avoiding fatherhood at an even more alarming rate. Meanwhile, the girls must juggle their natural instincts toward beauty, marriage, and motherhood with the idea that they must be something else. As a result, more young women are thrust into college, there to take courses of dubious merit, and then trying to enter a labor force with no room for expansion. At the same time more and more young men are retreating from that front because they are being precluded from doing so.

The modern world needs more Hiccups and Astrids, readers. It needs men and women who will challenge and destroy the sacred, golden cows of modern society. The world needs women who realize they will be happier when they embrace their womanhood; it needs men who will defy the stereotype that has been forced upon them. It needs men of courage, men of honor and dignity, men who recognize and love women for who they are, not for what they can or cannot do.

A woman loses nothing by being a mother, just as a man loses nothing by being a father. If anything, the roles grant them more power, prestige, and wonder than any other job in life….if only they are willing to see that truth.

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Book Review: The Menagerie Trilogy by Tui and Kari Sutherland

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Did you know that unicorns and mermaids actually have superiority complexes and are mega-jerks?  If you have read the Sutherland sisters’ The Menagerie trilogy, then you know that and more!

Logan Wilde and his father moved to Xanadu, Wyoming, back in the summer.  After his mother sent them a postcard saying she has left them for a new job opportunity, Logan’s dad packed them up, quit his well-paying legal job in Chicago, and moved them to Xanadu.

It is October now, and Logan has yet to make any new friends in school.  His father also has yet to find his mom.  So it is a big zero all the way around for the two Wilde men.

One morning, Logan wakes up to find feathers scattered all over his room.  His first thought is that his cat, Purrsimmon, had a midnight snack on the floor of his bedroom.  Except his cat is hiding on the top shelf at the back of his closet, and she shredded his sweaters while she was up there during the night.  His betta fish and pet mice are similarly distressed; the mice are hiding in a corner of the terrarium, and the fish is swimming madly about the tank.

Confused, but in a hurry to get to school on time, Logan changes and grabs a Pop-Tart on his way out of the house.  But he never checks under his bed to see if there is anything there….

On his way to school, Logan sees more feathers, along with damage caused by something all over town.  To add to the perplexities of the day, he meets two of his classmates on his way to school:  Blue Merevy and his friend Zoe Khan, the weirdest girl in school.  Zoe looks like she is in the middle of a panic attack she is desperately hoping no one will notice.  Blue, in contrast, is as cool as a cucumber.  Logan asks what the problem is and Zoe says she has lost her dog.  Logan offers to help her find it, but she dismisses his offer as politely as possible.

The day gets weirder when he learns someone ate all the food in the school cafeteria.  (Except the lettuce – that is virtually untouched.)  But the day takes a turn for the magnificent when Logan gets home and finds a griffin cub hiding under his bed!!!

Logan soon discovers the cub’s home is behind Zoe’s house.  After sneaking in, Logan finds the place is a big zoo filled with mythological creatures:  dragons, unicorns, griffins, hellhounds, a yeti – and a whole lot more!

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Zoe, however, is somewhat horrified to find the new kid from school has gotten into her family’s top-secret Menagerie.  A bad experience with her older sister’s boyfriend has made her family crack down on absolutely ever letting anyone know of the Menagerie’s existence.  The rules were already strict before this fiasco, but afterward, they are even tighter.  How is she going to explain this to her parents?!

The return of the griffin cub mollifies her somewhat, but it does not solve the problem entirely.  See, Logan is only part of the problem.  The bigger problem is that there are six cubs missing from the Menagerie.  If any of the other five are spotted in town, the secret is out.

And that will be THE ABSOLUTE END OF HER WORLD AND THE MENAGERIE!!!!

One of the wonderful and frankly unexpected things I found enjoyable in this trilogy is that all but one of the characters comes from an unbroken family.  Blue’s parents are divorced, but Zoe’s and Logan’s parents remain true to each other throughout the trilogy, as do their friends’ parents.  Since one of the writers is the author of the Wings of Fire series, where almost none of the main characters have an intact family, this is something of a happy surprise.  It is nice to know the broken family cliché can actually be tossed aside by modern writers.  It is a bit of an over-relied upon plot device in my opinion.

These are all the tantalizing tidbits that you are getting out of me today, readers.  If you want to learn more, grab The Menagerie and its sequels – Dragon on Trial and Krakens and Lies as soon as you can.  You will want to borrow all three books at once, because you will not be able to put these books down of your own free will.  They are gripping!

Happy Griffin Tracking!  ; )

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Organoids

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Organoids: the most mysterious of all the zoids on Zi. I promised in my last Spotlight! post that I would describe just what an organoid was. I shall now endeavor to fulfill that promise.

Organoids are six to seven foot tall zoids. Somewhat larger or taller than a big man, they are physically stronger than most men. They are dragon-type beings with three claws on each “hand” and foot. Most organoids have head frills or horns of some kind, though there is one organoid who lacks these. He therefore strikes Western viewers as Tyrannosaurus-type, not dragon-type.

Organoids are exclusive to the Zoids: Chaotic Century series. No subsequent series has them. In Chaotic Century, they are originally thought to be “nothing more than…childish legends.”

Nevertheless, there are those on Zi in Chaotic Century who do believe the legends and spend great time and effort searching for organoids. Why?

Organoids were/are the personal companions to the Ancient Zoidians, a humanoid species which once inhabited Zi and whose survivors are almost indistinguishable from humans. The primary purpose of an organoid, however, is to increase a larger zoid’s power; drawing out the larger creature’s potential for the pilot to utilize.

This is achieved by the organoid fusing with the larger zoid. For an idea of what this entails, check out the video below:

To fuse with a larger zoid, every organoid glows, then launches into the air, usually by means of boosters installed in their backs. The glow must be some form of “phasing,” a time when the organoid is briefly intangible, in order that it may pass through the armor of the pilot’s larger zoid.

Organoids stimulate the evolution of larger zoids when the creatures’ pilots reach a skill level those zoids cannot keep up with. Depending on the leap in skill level, the evolution can take a few days or a month. At the end of that time, the zoid bursts out of the organoid-induced cocoon (which is usually formed out of light), ready for battle and very capable of keeping up with the pilot’s new skill level.

Also, when the zoid the organoid is fused to is destroyed, the organoid will bail out, taking the pilot with him. Sometimes the pilot is found standing next to the organoid, almost totally unhurt. In times of great danger, however, the organoid opens up its own body and uses it as a temporary stasis pod to protect the pilot. Depending on the circumstances, this can be very draining for the organoid, which may have to rest up for a bit before it can become active again.

The organoid’s ability to strengthen larger zoids, giving them more power and drawing out their full potential, makes these small zoids highly sought after by governments, bandits, and others who have a vested interest in control of others. Van and his friends had no end of trouble due to the fact that Van had an organoid. Many wanted to steal the little zoid from him, not realizing that organoids are loyal to only one person, two at the most. And their loyalty must somehow be earned; stealing them is not enough. You have to gain their trust and respect.

“Okay, back up,” I hear some of you say, “I thought zoids were dumb mechanical animals. Now you’re telling me these organoids choose their owners?”

Yes, I am. Because unlike most zoids, organoids are not dumb. Their speech mainly consists of growls, gestures, snarls, or roars, but it is possible for humans to communicate with and understand an organoid. Therefore, they are more intelligent than regular zoids.

We are only introduced to four organoids in Chaotic Century. Each organoid has its own personality and effect on the events of the series. With that in mind, I will now list these four organoids for you, readers. First up:

Zeke

Zeke

Zeke is the first organoid we meet. Silver with fuchsia eyes, Zeke lacks the head frills and horns of later organoids. This makes him more reminiscent to Westerners of a Tyrannosaurus Rex than dragon-type, as the translators for Chaotic Century and doubtless the Japanese story tellers and voice actors referred to him. I believe that he is called dragon-type in the English translation of the series because he has three claws on each “hand” and foot. Japanese dragons have only three digits on all their claws; Japanese lore holds that when dragons migrate away from Japan, they gain more claws. To me, this is the reason Zeke is referred to as a dragon-type zoid in the series.

Of all the organoids in the series, Zeke is the friendliest and kindest. He and Van meet in the first episode, where Van discovers the organoid’s stasis pod and inadvertently opens it, releasing Zeke. Zeke is nervous upon meeting Van, and when the fourteen year old approaches him to make friends, Zeke smacks him upside the head with his tail.

Van does not lose his temper over the blow, however, shrugging it off and saying that Zeke “has to prove he can take care of himself.” This reaction convinces Zeke that Van is not a threat. But when a bandit enters the building, searching for Van, he spots Zeke in the process and things get dangerous. The bandit demands Van hand Zeke over to him but, armed only with a live electric cord, Van attacks the zoid the bandit is riding in to protect Zeke.

Zeke is quick to return the favor when Van is thrown against the wall. This is what kicks off the friendship between the two, and their bond remains strong throughout the series. Zeke obeys Van, who always refers to him as his “best friend.” Zeke is also the only organoid who is consistently shown to be male. Van never says “it” when talking about Zeke, always saying “he,” “him,” “his,” etc. Many other characters, before they get to know him, call Zeke an “it,” though he never takes obvious offense over this.

Zeke is also shown to be protective of Van, the first episode being proof positive of this. Zeke considers Van his best friend as much as Van thinks of him as such. The two talk often – though naturally, we in the audience only understand Van’s half of the conversation.

There is one other person Zeke will take orders from, his Ancient Zoidian partner Fiona. Fiona, physically the same age as Van, is discovered in a second stasis pod in the same place where Van finds Zeke. However, she has no memory of her past, only remembering the name “Fiona.”

For that reason, Van dubs her Fiona. Throughout the series, Fiona exerts almost as much, if not more, control over Zeke than Van does. Her and Zeke’s bond is almost like that of siblings. Organoids were the constant companions, as far as we know, for all Ancient Zoidians. It therefore makes sense that Fiona would be more able to influence Zeke in some situations than Van could.

Like Fiona, Zeke starts out as something of an innocent. He is easily distracted by almost anything. A running gag in the series is his interest in moths and butterflies (he has been shown chasing the latter around from time to time). He is also the only organoid revealed to have a sense of humor, laughing when Van or one of his friends gets into a scrape. He is also the only organoid I know of who is ticklish.

Zeke can also be embarrassed, though this last does not occur often. This mood is demonstrated by beads of sweat on his head, sheepish growls, and occasional ducks of the head, as if he wants to hide his face in mortification.

Unlike Fiona, at least for the majority of the series, Zeke is also a capable fighter. He will jump to her and Van’s defense on many occasions, and has been shown to be protective of those close to them. This is demonstrated most notably in the second episode of the series, when he helps rescue Van’s older sister, Maria.

Of the four organoids, Zeke is the least threatening and most friendly. In combat or during tense situations, he is a stoic member of the team. At other times, he is as playful and oblivious as a five year old and quite as capable with children as any of the other characters. In some cases, he is even better with children than other characters are.

Shadow

Shadow the Organoid

Shadow is the second organoid seen in Zoids: Chaotic Century. Black, with blue eyes, four horns projecting from the back of his head, and with two large, bat-like wings in place of the traditional boosters, Shadow is the exact opposite of Zeke. This is because he belongs to Van’s archenemy Raven, who is the complete antithesis of Van and the Winter Soldier of zoid pilots.

Shadow never laughs, only growls with pleasure after taking down an opponent or causing some kind of damage. More so than Raven, he seems to enjoy the destruction he wreaks on others. This has been shown to disturb Raven, whose primary desire is simply to destroy zoids.

Like Raven, Shadow is a savage in a fight. Though he never clashes with Zeke in direct combat, I would say the odds of such a battle are not in Zeke’s favor. Shadow can take down armed adult men in seconds, and destroy zoids in less time than Raven. Also, Raven does not rely on Shadow much in a fight, whereas Van is initially very reliant on Zeke in a combat situation. Both boys have the raw potential to be great pilots, but Raven is the only one of the two who had official training before the series began.

Because of the difference in their skill levels, Shadow is more independent than Zeke. He usually sits on the sidelines to watch Raven battle; when Raven decides the organoid needs exercise or, when Van later proves to be more able to challenge Raven’s skill, then he calls on Shadow to fuse with his zoid.

Despite the fact that Raven appears to consider Shadow as nothing more than a tool, it is eventually revealed that their bond is deeper than even Raven suspects or knows. Shadow is quite protective of Raven, even willing to die for him. Though bloodthirsty and happy to cause carnage in battle, Shadow is quite loyal to Raven and sees him as more than a master or source of fun. He really does consider Raven his best friend, though it takes Raven much longer to return the favor.

As a way to explain this, I will tell you how Raven became Shadow’s master. Shadow was initially a wild organoid, wilder than Zeke or any other organoid in the series. It took something on the order of five men to bring him, struggling all the way, into the room where Raven was waiting.

In order to tame him, Raven tackled Shadow to the ground and wrestled with him, until the organoid realized he had met his match. After that, he stopped struggling and allowed Raven to rip his collar off. He followed Raven wherever the other went after that.

It may be this wildness which is responsible for Shadow’s love of battle and destruction. Like a tamed wolf, he is loyal to Raven and obedient to him. To all others he bares his teeth and snarls, or ignores them as inferiors. They are nothing, Raven is everything. Also, battle is a constant in the wild. Half-feral as he is, Shadow would respond to a fight or challenge to battle with the instincts of a wild animal. He is only docile to Raven; to all others, he is a wild and dangerous creature not to be approached on even a dare.

A fit companion for Raven, I have to say.

Ambient

Ambient

Ambient is a red organoid with green eyes. He has five horns projecting from the back of his head and a small, hook-shaped spike on the bottom of his chin. Also, like a Stegosaurus, he has four silver spikes on the end of his tail. These are flexible, and he will not hesitate to use them in a fight.

Ambient is partnered with the mysterious red-haired, green-eyed Hillz. Hillz’s mission is hidden for most of the second half of Chaotic Century, and so I intend to reveal as little about it as I possibly can.

Ambient is even more bloodthirsty than Shadow, and twice as dangerous. He is less wild and more controlled than the black organoid, however. Therefore only by his actions in combat do we understand him any better.

He seems, like his master Hillz, to hold all those around him as inferiors. He only meets Zeke directly once, when the latter bulldozes into Ambient to save Van, caught in combat with the deadly red organoid. But Ambient has traded angry growls with Shadow, and it is clear that the two have no love for each other.

The only thing Ambient desires is destruction. Anything that furthers those goals is quite acceptable. He does not seem to take pleasure and joy out of much, except for the “honor” of being “chosen” to – well, that is telling too much.

Ambient’s power is to tap directly into a zoid’s core and draw out its full potential instantly. This is the power of most organoids, apparently, but Ambient appears to be especially proficient in this area. He is not an organoid to be trifled with, nor should he be challenged by just anyone. He is too dangerous for that.

Specula

Specular the Organoid

The one organoid consistently called “it” throughout the latter half of Chaotic Century, the timbre of Specula’s growls suggest to me that this organoid is female. Taller and thinner than most organoids, Specula has blue armor and gold eyes. Specula has one horn projecting from the back of her head, with two silver horns on her cheeks which are reminiscent of an insect’s mouth pincers. Having seen her do battle with Shadow, a shorter organoid, I can say with all surety that Specula is not physically a match for many other organoids, though she can certainly overpower humans.

Specula’s mistress is Reese, a blue-haired, blue-eyed psychic with a special grudge against Fiona. Why? Well, you will have to watch the series to learn that!

Specula shares Reese’s psychic talents and can even increase them. Reese takes great pleasure in using her telepathic talents to manipulate others; a joy Specula seems to share. This earns Reese the moniker “the Blue Devil” in the series, and for a while she certainly lives up to this name!

Later, after Reese recovers from injuries sustained in battle, she believes Specula is dead until the organoid puts her head through a hole in the roof and gives an affectionate growl to say hello. So it appears that Specula does have some warmth in her, but that it is stored up and directed toward Reese alone.

Interestingly, Specula’s name is Latin. It means a variety of things, including “summit” and “bit of hope.” But you will have to watch the series to know why I mention this!

Specula, like all organoids and their chosen partners, is shown to be protective of Reese. When Reese needles Ambient, the organoid is not pleased and shows his anger by growling. Specula responds in kind, rumbling a warning in no little anger at the red organoid. Strong or not, she will defend Reese to the bitter end.

The Gojulas

Well, readers, this has been a rather long post! I will sign off for now but be back with another zoid soon enough, I assure you! Until then –

I guess I’ll catch ya later!

The Mithril Guardian

Wings of Fire – Choose Your Tribe!

A friend asked me if I could come up with a couple of polls for a series that we have both been reading: Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland.  The series is unbelievably addicting, focusing first on five dragons prophesied to end a twenty year war over the succession to the throne of the Sand dragons’ kingdom (these dragons are known as Sandwings).

If you have never read the series, you may want to check out the books, or cheat and look here: http://wingsoffire.wikia.com/wiki/Wings_of_Fire_Wiki for spoilers.

If you have read the series and enjoyed it as much as my friend and I have, then choose your tribe – and decide which dragon you most resemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles

                               

 

 When I was young I stumbled across The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The series captured my imagination like no other had before. It turned several different fairy tales I had heard when I was a wee child inside out or upside down in fun, surprising ways.

For example, did you know that one of the lessons a princess is expected to take is how to scream when being carried off by an ogre? Or that she has to learn when to scream so the knight who has come to her rescue is motivated to continue the battle whenever he falters?

These are the lessons Princess Cimorene has to learn in the first book of the Chronicles: Dealing with Dragons. Cimorene is the seventh daughter of the King and Queen of Linderwall, and a complete irritation to her parents. Unlike her six older sisters, Cimorene is as tall as a man. She is also stubborn, has jet black hair instead of the proper blonde color, and refuses to be the damsel in distress. She manages to bully fencing lessons out of the castle armsmaster, magic lessons out of the court magician, cooking lessons out of the castle chef, and Latin lessons from the castle scholar.

All these activities are discovered, one by one, by the king and queen who put the kibosh on each project with the admonition, “Cimorene, this just isn’t done!

Cimorene, admittedly, puts up with all this better than some girls would. But her forbearance comes to an end when her parents plan to marry her off to the Prince of Sathem-by-the-Mountains. Cimorene wants nothing to do with Prince Therandil (who is a complete airhead), and walks out onto the castle lawn muttering, “I’d rather be eaten by a dragon!”

Be careful what you wish for.

Cimorene does not get eaten by a dragon, but she does become the dragon Kazul’s princess. The two quickly become friends. Thinking about it now, I wonder if, on some level, Kazul felt like Cimorene’s mom occasionally.

The next book in the series is Searching for Dragons. The king of the Enchanted Forest, Mendenbar, is feeling haggled by his steward. Why? The determined old elf is desperately trying to marry off the king. The problem? All the prospective princesses on his list are total airheads.

In frustration, Mendenbar leaves the castle and takes a walk in the forest where he finds a burned-out patch of ground. This is unusual because the magic of the forest should have either protected it or repaired the damage by now. Mendenbar steps into the burnt circle and stumbles as he realizes this patch of forest has not healed because there is no longer any magic in it.

Mendenbar’s quest to solve this riddle leads him to Cimorene who is waiting for Kazul to return from a visit with her grandchildren. But Kazul is late in returning, and Cimorene is sure something bad happened to her. She and Mendenbar head out to find Kazul – and the culprit who is responsible for stealing magic from the Enchanted Forest.

The third book in the series, Calling on Dragons, is told from the perspective of one of Kazul and Cimorene’s best friends, the witch Morwen. Morwen is a witch who keeps her house absolutely spotless and neat. Unlike other witches, she is pretty, diminutive, practical, has ginger hair, and nine cats – and none of them are the proper witchy black. In this series it turns out that witches can understand their cats. Throughout the story Morwen keeps up a running dialogue with her cats as she, Cimorene, Kazul, and the magician Telemain set out in search of Mendenbar’s stolen magic sword.

Oh, yeah, and there is a giant white rabbit in this book, too. His name is Killer.

Killer’s plight in the story is actually more fun to read about than you might think.

The final book in the series is Talking to Dragons. The teenager Daystar has spent his whole life on the outskirts of the Enchanted Forest. His mother has raised him to always be polite; she has also taught him spells and every scrap of dragon lore she knows. One day, a wizard drops by the house. He tells Daystar’s mother that he will “take the sword, and the boy.”

Things really do not go the way the wizard wants. And this guy is so pathetic that it is no surprise. With the wizard gone, Daystar’s mother disappears and leaves him to clean up the puddle that was a wizard. (Wizards, not witches, melt in this series. It takes them a few days to pull themselves back together after this, unless they have been melted many times and therefore have had practice whipping themselves back into shape, that is.)

Daystar has just finished this task when he sees his mother coming out of the Enchanted Forest carrying a sword. The startling thing about this is that his mother never goes into the forest. Ever.

But she just has. And she has brought a sword like no other out of the forest with her.

I will not spoil the rest of the story, readers. Draw your own conclusions or read the books, whichever idea suits you best. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles are among the best sword and sorcery stories out there. I highly recommend them.

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

Dragonheart

I have always been fascinated with flying and being up high. The reason I mention this interest in flying is because, since I have this attraction to soaring, I am naturally fascinated by all creatures that can take wing. One of my favorite fictional flying creatures would of course, therefore, be DRAGONS!

This is where the movie I wanted to discuss today comes in. It is a film called Dragonheart.  Dragonheart is a movie that the critics apparently panned, to their everlasting detriment. The movie focuses on a knight “of the old code” named Bowen (played by Dennis Quaid) who, in the first act of the story, is the knight appointed to instruct young Prince Einon in the ways of knighthood. Bowen starts out very cheerful and devoted to his young charge, hoping to change the young prince’s outlook on life so that he will not be as cruel a king as his father.

That plan seemingly goes out the window when, after Einon charges out to help his father put down a peasant revolt, he is mortally wounded. Einon’s mother, Queen Aislinn, has Einon taken to a dragon (voiced by Sean Connery) who lives near the kingdom. She begs the dragon to save her son’s life and the dragon agrees, giving Einon half of his heart after the young prince swears to rule with justice and virtue. The Dragon’s heart saves the young prince’s life and at the same time grants him virtual immortality.

So now everything is all hunky-dory, right?

Eh, not so much. It turns out that Einon is a worse monster than his father. He enslaves the peasant rebels and sets up a corrupt court. Bowen, in his fury, blames the Dragon for Einon’s apparent change of heart and vows to kill him.

Years later, Einon (now portrayed by David Thewlis) has a new castle and Bowen has become a champion dragon-slayer more interested in destroying dragons than in following the old code he so greatly revered and tried to pass on to Einon. Bowen eventually tracks down the Dragon, who reveals that Bowen’s last prize was his mate. The two battle but eventually end up in a stalemate.

The Dragon then manages to break their draw and pins Bowen, whereupon he points out that if Bowen kills him, the former knight will be out of a job and the Dragon will be dead. But the Dragon has a proposal to keep them both alive and in business. Bowen, at first, does not want to hear it, but he finally gives in and asks, “What’s the alternative?”

The alternative, it turns out, is defrauding people into paying heaping sums of gold to Bowen to “kill” the same dragon over and over again. All the while Bowen does not realize he has allied himself with the very Dragon he swore to kill. Nor does he realize that the Dragon, whom he at last dubs Draco, has suffered as much, if not more, with Einon’s rule than he himself has.

I will avoid spoiling the rest of the film for you, readers, but I will say that it is worth your time to hunt up and watch Dragonheart. The film has two sequels: Dragonheart II: A New Beginning, and a third film which came out this year, Dragonheart: The Sorcerer’s Curse. Truth be told, I would be more interested in this third installment if it had been done earlier. But it was not. Rats.

            Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

 

Spotlight: Hiccup and Toothless – Rider and Dragon

Without a doubt, Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon films and television series have been unmitigated successes. For myself, I absolutely love the scenes that show Hiccup and the real star of the films/TV series, Toothless, in flight. The movies make me wish I was born with wings – or that I had a dragon of my own (preferably a Night Fury, but I could take a Stormcutter if no Night Fury presented himself/herself on the spot).

One of the films’ strong points is the friendship that forms between Hiccup and Toothless. While Hiccup starts out in the first movie as a veritable outcast in his own Viking tribe, Toothless similarly stands apart from the other dragons in the Red Death’s nest. He is the only Night Fury known to exist, and for that reason seems as out of place in the dragon world as Hiccup does in his village. Also, where Hiccup is smarter than your average Viking, Toothless is smarter than the average dragon. Whether that is a talent all Night Furies have in common or whether it is a special gift Toothless himself possesses, we cannot be sure.

These likenesses between the two characters are what lead to their extraordinary (for their world, that is) friendship. Hiccup’s higher intelligence means that he is naturally curious. This leads him to make inventions to help him in his work around the village, and thus he begins to learn how the world around him works.

Perhaps because of his curiosity and natural compassion, in the first How to Train Your Dragon film, Hiccup spares Toothless’ life when he could easily kill him. In return, Toothless neither eats nor kills Hiccup – though he does let the young Viking know he is not pleased with the previous night’s events. Later, Hiccup realizes that he may have spared Toothless and allowed him to live, but without a tail the dragon will be easy prey for other creatures – dragons and Vikings in particular. Feeling bad for putting the Night Fury in such a desperate situation, Hiccup designs a new tail to help the dragon survive on his own. However, the new tail does not work properly, prompting Hiccup to try again.

And again … and again.

Before either Toothless or Hiccup realizes what has happened, their work together on eliminating Toothless’ vulnerability has led to a friendship, or brotherhood, forming between them. Toothless knows that he would not have survived without Hiccup’s help, and Hiccup learns that dragons are not monsters hell-bent on destroying the Vikings. And if it is possible for one Viking to become friends with a dragon, why cannot other dragons and Vikings become partners?

Why, in short, should there be no dragon trainers – or dragon riders?

The friendship between Hiccup and Toothless is the heart of both How to Train Your Dragon films and is the underlying basis for the TV series. Without that friendship, there would be no story, and we would not know how to train our own dragons. ‘Cause let’s face it – some of the people we like could probably be dragons in another world. In this world, they just happen to be human!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian