The Harry Potter Dragons – Part I

It is only fitting that we talk about Harry Potter when September 1 is upon us. What’s more, it’s not just any September 1; we are talking about the September 1, 2017. The closing lines in the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows say: “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.” September 1, 2017 is the post-nineteen years date that Rowling was talking about. The new generation of Potters, Weasleys and Malfoys are now on their way to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for their official entry into the magical wizarding world.

Since our blog is about people meeting dragons, let’s talk about the four ferocious creatures which exist in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book of the series. We’ve talked about friendly dragons in story books, School of Dragons with dragon riders and sun-eating solar eclipse dragons in the past. But these dragons in the Potter books seem to be more ferocious than the entire lot of the others put together.

Here are the first two dragons faced by two of the champions of the Triwizard Tournament.

  1. Common Welsh Green

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Image courtesy: Wikia

When Harry surprisedly asked Ron to confirm that there weren’t any wild dragons in Britain, he replied: “Of course there are. Common Welsh Green and Hebridean Blacks. The Ministry of Magic has a job hushing them up, I can tell you. Our lot have to keep putting spells on Muggles who’ve spotted them, to make them forget.”

A native of Wales, this relatively subdued, two-horned breed of dragons has a surprisingly melodious roar and emits fire in narrow jets when angered. It enjoys eating sheep and other smaller mammals. This was the Common Welsh Green dragon Fleur Delacour of Beauxbatons faced for her first task in the Triwizard Tournament at Hogwarts. She put the beast into a partial trance of sorts in order to retrieve the golden egg. In the process, the fire-breathing dragon snored, resulting in the hem of her robes catching fire.

  1. Chinese Fireball

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Image courtesy: Wikia

Popularly known as the Lion Dragon and native to China, the Chinese Fireball is characterized by a rich scarlet skin with smooth scales along with yellow blazing eyes. Viktor Krum from Durmstrang had to face this creature as a part of his task to get past the dragon and steal the golden egg. He decided to temporarily blind the dragon using a conjunctivitis curse. In the process, the dragon ended up crushing some of its own eggs, due to which Krum lost a couple of points.

With protruding eyes, golden spikes around the head and face and flaming nostrils, this Fireball gets its name from the large mushroom-shaped ball of fire it emits when annoyed. The story goes that it is also fond of eating mammals similar to the Common Welsh Green, preferably humans and pigs. Needless to say, the gigantic creature weighing between two and four tons is a force to reckon with.

For those of you who aren’t very familiar with the storyline, in a nutshell here’s what the Triwizard Tournament was all about. In the next post, we’ll talk about the remaining two dragons faced by the Hogwarts champions at the Tournament.

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The Sun-Eating Dragon is On Its Way

On August 21 this year, the sun-eating dragon will make its appearance. And the spectacle is bound to be frightening, beautiful or frightening beautiful; depends on how you choose to look at it.

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Eclipse” by Buddy_Nath is licensed under CC by 2.0

The word ‘eclipse’ has its origins in the Greek word meaning ‘abandonment’. Come solar eclipse, and the sun suddenly abandons the earth – light begins to fade, a disc of pure blackness slides across the face of the sun and the birds stop chirping altogether. In the early days, the ancient Chinese would bang on pots and drums and create a clamor, apparently to frighten away the dragon that ‘ate the sun’. Astrophysicist David Dearborn rightly noted: “In many ways it makes sense that eclipses would be seen as bad omens. For most early cultures, the sun was seen as a life-giver, something that was there every day, so something that blots out the sun was a terribly bad event, filled with foreboding.”

In a total solar eclipse like the one that is occurring this August, looking directly at the sun is akin to looking at moonlight. But beware – the rays can remain dangerously bright even though they may appear faint, so one should use special eclipse glasses while observing the sun.

From the point of view of science, this is what will happen in the total solar eclipse – the moon will pass between the earth and the sun and for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, blocking out all or part of the sun. According to Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate: “These cosmic moments where nature speaks to us in an emotional way, sometimes come loud, like thunderstorms, storms, hurricanes and earthquakes, but this one… will be silent. Day will turn into night and back again.”

 

The Land of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

Welcome to ‘How to Train Your Dragon land’ at Motiongate theme park in the heart of Dubai! If the pictures and videos doing the rounds are anything to go by, then this exciting space is as magical as the movie characters and their Viking escapades.

‘Camp Viking’ is an interactive playground within the DreamWorks section of the park wherein kids can run amok, armed with crawl nets, water guns and other dragon training tools. Then there’s a suspended in the air, inverted roller coaster of sorts with twisting seats called ‘Dragon Gliders’ stationed above the village of Berk replete with scenery befitting the Viking village, which, in the words of the makers themselves, is ‘storytelling through the use of technology at its very best’.

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Image courtesy: TravellerCzech

Last but not the least, the third major attraction is the gondola-shaped ride called ‘The Swinging Viking’. With this, you can embark on a hijacking adventure with the mischievous twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, and hold the ship to ransom. This is as real to the reel story as it can get; rest assured, we all know where we are heading to for our family holiday in the next vacation!

Pet Dragons, Anyone?

Last weekend, my son had a declaration to make on the dinner table to the entire family. His best pal in the neighborhood had a pet dragon (apparently), and so he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why he wasn’t allowed pets of any kind, dragons or otherwise. We’ve had a strict ‘no pets’ policy at our place since the beginning, due to various factors. However, as the little tyke said, it was high time we ‘changed our policy’. As for me, I was more interested in what type of ‘dragon’ the neighborhood friend had as a pet.

When I first heard of it, I was pretty sure it must be one of the following: either a dragon toy car or animal which could be pulled by a rope behind you (we played with these types of rope toy steam engines back as a kid), a tortoise which looked like a dragon (since I couldn’t imagine any other domesticated pet which would resemble a dragon even remotely), one of the dragon-like animals from the pet games that are the rage with children of all ages these days, or simply a non-existent, make-believe creature which held pride of place only in their imaginations. Little did I know that the ‘dragon’ being referred to was actually a real pet. What’s more, it was a dragon, in the literal sense of the word. A bearded dragon at that.

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Image courtesy: Shieldsink

For those of you who still didn’t get it, let me throw some more light on the neighborhood dragon pet. I did some research on the creature and here’s the gist of it all. A bearded dragon is nothing but a lizard species. These ‘beardies’, as they are lovingly called (though why in this whole wide world would someone refer to lizards lovingly at all escapes me), are supposed to be low-maintenance, easy-to-nurture pets, especially for kids. Originating from the Australian subcontinent, they get their names from the flat spines on their throat area.

Reasons why bearded dragons are ideal for a pet, according to the neighborhood mum who, I now learnt, was also averse to pets of any shape or size till the recent past: First and foremost, they stay awake when humans do and sleep at night, unlike certain other species of lizards. Two, they are known to live for at least a good 8-10 years, under normal circumstances. Three (which was a very important factor for her kid while choosing his pet), they come in a variety of colors – brown, red, yellow, orange. All in all, they are hardy yet docile creatures which are good for the purpose of companionship (which I assume meant that if you just wished to say no to your child for a high-maintenance puppy, go for this bearded dragon).

I admit I’m still not fully convinced welcoming a beardie or anything else within the four walls of my house. One, I don’t think a pet lizard is cute from any angle whatsoever. Two, I’m convinced that my son will simply grow bored of his pet sooner rather than later and then the responsibility of looking after it will automatically be transferred to his lizard-fearing mum. Last but not the least, there are tons of things I would rather do instead of looking lovingly into the eyes of a supposedly adorable lizard.

Thankfully, there are lots of like-minded people like me out there. For instance, have a look at this article which talks about destruction and pets combined. Amen.

Dragons Now Race To The Top!

Friends, dragon lovers, countrymen… Lend me your ears!  Season 4 of DreamWorks’ spin-off series ‘Race to the Edge’ is out now, and has turned out to be even more glorious than expected. What’s more, the show boasts of a whopping 17 per cent share of children’s viewership in its debut month itself!

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Image courtesy: How To Train Your Dragon

What’s so exciting about the new season? Well, a couple of instances:

  • The action sequences set in the gorgeously scenic dragon-inhabited islands are seamless, to say the least. Be it skimming the ocean surfaces on their dragons, mid-air spins to escape dragon hunter arrows or just working about on their dwelling place, each scene holds so much fine detailing in it. A feast for the senses.
  • A coming-of-age tale if there ever was one. The characters are their usual selves, albeit a bit more grown up and mature versions of themselves (especially Hiccup, who demonstrates a newfound sense of responsibility and leadership in certain situations). Trials and tribulations come and go, and our characters give it all they’ve got.
  • A complete package is what this season of Dragons is – action and humor, friendships and enmities, challenges and responsibilities. Perhaps this is what makes it an ideal watch for all age groups, not just kids alone.

I’m in a bit of a quandary though; the previous season had the at times annoying, pompous Snotlout as my favorite dragon rider. However, this season it seems the ‘Nut’ twins are vying for my affection, Tuffnut in particular. Just can’t do without him and his ‘Chicken’!

3 Popular Dragon Story Books for Kids

Kids (and adults like me) have always loved dragons. Be it in books, cartoons, games, movies or anywhere else, dragons have somehow always held a charm that is impossible to go unnoticed. It may be hard to believe but we are such a staunch dragon-loving family that we have hand-made dragon eyes of all shapes, sizes and colors, both ferocious as well as friendly, peeking out at us from various corners of our home – the refrigerator magnets, on the doors of the wardrobe in the kids’ room and even a menacing pair on the door of their room proclaiming: ‘Enter at your own risk!’

Let’s talk about three popular dragon story books for kids which my kids are big fans of as well.

How to Train Your Dragon (by Cressida Cowell)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

First and foremost on the list has to be the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. The story narrates the transformation of the quiet, thoughtful son of the village chief into an extraordinary Viking hero. Those who have watched the DreamWorks movies based on the story may not find it exactly like the movie but it makes for a captivating read nonetheless. And yes, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III might sound like a scary character, but in the story he is the exact opposite of ‘horrendous’ – polite, kind, modest, ever ready to help. The places they explore are dangerous at times but then the Hiccup gang provides a wonderful sense of comic relief to the story, both in the book and the movies.

The Reluctant Dragon (by Kenneth Grahame)

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Image courtesy: Usborne Books at Home

Funny, cute and whimsical – this sums up the story of The Reluctant Dragon. Colorful illustrations make this picture book a hit with young audiences. The English might be a little old world for today’s kids – after all, this classic was published way back in the year 1938 – but the story remains evergreen till date. A dragon who loves poetry becomes friends with a young boy. However, the townsfolk are of the view that a dragon is a dragon and deserves to be slayed, come what may. Now it is up to the young friend of our friendly dragon to come up with a plan to save his life from the people out to destroy him. The Walt Disney movie based on the book was released as an American live action and animated film in 1941.

Eragon (by Christopher Paolini)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Who knew that a polished, blue-colored stone found in the forest would bring forth something that is nothing short of extraordinary – a dragon hatchling? Along with it come all sorts of hitherto unknown magic, accompanied with dangerous enemies, including an extremely evil king. Call it fiction, fantasy, adventure or simply an amalgamation of all three, but as the story of Eragon unfolds, one is left waiting eagerly to find out what happens next as you turn the pages. The movie based on the novel came out back in 2006, an enjoyable adventure flick which the entire family can watch for movie nights at home together.

Wish to add to this list?

Halloween with the Dragons

For all the young minds that love dragons and Halloween and everything spooky yet fun, Dragon’s Halloween by Dav Pilkey is the ideal book to be read this ghostly season.

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Image courtesy: Scholastic

Who doesn’t enjoy spooky Halloweens? So does the endearing blue Dragon in the story, who is more cute than scary. He arrives at the pumpkin patch with plans to celebrate the festival in his own unique manner, but alas! All of the bigger-sized pumpkins have already gone. He ends up laying his hands on six small pumpkins instead.

The story goes on to narrate how he manages to convert those pumpkins into a large, formidably carved jack-o’-lantern, visits a Halloween party wearing a particularly spine-chilling costume (a pumpkin actually lands on his head) and also is terrified of his very own whining and grumbling empty stomach while walking through a pitch-dark forest.

The illustrations add more life and color to the already exciting tale. And for those who love pumpkins, the extremely appetizing pumpkin food drawings are like the icing on the cake.

Ideal for kindergarten and up, the Dragon’s Halloween makes for an exceedingly enjoyable read.

3 Fun Dragon Games & Apps for Kids

I recently came across an article here which talked about why we should be sharing old, traditional stories which involve dragons, fairies and Greek Gods with our kids. That made me think about how the world today has changed from how we knew it back when we were kids; then, it was all about books and stories like Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud, Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey and The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French, among others. But now, it’s more about online video games and mobile apps involving dragons than old folklore and story books.

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Dragon” by AnoviJoe is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here are three dragon games and apps which are very popular with kids today.

Dragon City

The primary goal of Dragon City is to rear and raise dragons to turn into a ‘dragon master’ – the player needs to provide food for them to grow, nurture them, ensure they are well suited to their natural habitats and surroundings and also have sparring matches with other dragons. The best way to earn virtual currency – ‘free gems’ – is by participating in surveys within the game, in addition to completing certain other activities that enable you to progress more rapidly through the initial levels. Kids love it because the dragons appear to be cute and friendly creatures. You can also build a magical world in Dragon City through the Dragon City mobile apps on platforms like Android and iOS.

School of Dragons

Best suited for kids aged 10 years and above, the School of Dragons is a popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) which is a big hit with both kids and parents alike – kids because of the much-loved game characters based on the DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon movie series; and parents love it since the dragon games are full of underlying educational scientific themes, which help in students learning about various concepts of science, all the while playing with their favorite characters and dragons. The game begins by hatching dragon eggs, acquiring food for them from various sources and eventually preparing them for combat. This one is available on all major mobile platforms as well.

Jurassic Story Dragon Games

Kids who love dragons would definitely wish to keep dinosaurs as pets too! This game is all about raising several dinosaurs in a park (kids will especially adore the cute little baby dragons), breeding and collecting these creatures using a series of hints, working their way through very realistic islands, valleys and volcanoes, looking for rare dragon and dinosaur eggs through simple strategy games and the like. The player earns more coins and jewels as he progresses through the game. Easy, fun and enjoyable – the Jurassic Story Dragon Games are a complete package of sorts.

Wish to add any more to the list?

Dragons in Animated Movies – Mushu & Maleficent

Here are two popular dragon characters from animated movies, which are as different as chalk and cheese.

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Image courtesy: Fanpop

Mushu (Mulan): This dragon is unlike a dragon in size; a lot smaller than you would imagine a dragon to be, but nevertheless, Mushu, Mulan’s protector and closest companion, is a true hero with a big heart. Not very often can you find a dragon who has good intentions plus a great comic sense. Voiced by Eddie Murphy, Mushu is a guardian spirit in his own right. Oh, and he might not look ferocious, but he does have a fire breath.

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Image courtesy: Flickr

Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty): In stark contrast to the amiable Mushu, Maleficent is one of the most powerful villains in the history of Disney. This dragon is the epitome of evilness. She’s vindictive, arrogant, extremely powerful and menacing. Her popular dialogue says it all: ‘You poor simple fools, thinking you could defeat me. ME?! The mistress of all evil?’

Where did Dragons come from?

‘If the sky could dream, it would dream of dragons.’

True that. In addition to the cute little catchable Pokemon monsters and the virtual pets that are becoming increasingly popular day by day, we keep hearing about dragons all around us – in books, in movies, as cartoon characters, as characters in science fiction films and so on. But have you ever stopped to think where the myth of dragons came from in the first place? There are several legends and stories which claim to be correct as far as the origin of dragons are concerned. However, which one among them is true is as good as anybody’s guess.

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Dragon” by ArtsyBee is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here are a couple of real-life animals which seem to have triggered the advent of dragons as we know them today.

“Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.”          

Steve Irwin (‘The Crocodile Hunter’)

More specifically it’s the Nile crocodile, the second largest reptile existing in the world today (an adult of the species commonly reaches a length of 16-18 feet), which is thought to have acted as a precursor for dragons. What makes it different from other crocodiles? Well, a fascinating characteristic known popularly as the ‘high walk’ – this menacing reptile has the ability to move by raising their trunks above the ground. Can you imagine a mammoth, lurching, scaly creature walking towards you? No doubt it would resemble a dragon of sorts.

“They were like these Gods of the earth who could understand it so well.”

Peter Sohn (Director – ‘The Good Dinosaur’)

Now this one is pretty obvious. According to this report on the StrangeScience website, ‘some creationists claim that medieval dragons were really ruling reptiles of the Mesozoic era that survived into modern times’ – and who are these medieval dragons being talked about? Dinosaurs. What’s more, there was a Chinese historian named Chang Qu who lived back in the 4th century BC; he discovered a dinosaur fossil, eventually misinterpreting and mislabeling it as the remains of dragons.

“The snake will always bite back.”

Jake Roberts (professional wrestler nicknamed ‘Jake the Snake’)

Prolonged, winding bodies and elongated necks with menacing fangs; how can a snake not be a sort of a miniature dragon? They are ready to strike at a moment’s notice, their sting (read: bite) is mostly lethal and the entire experience of encountering one in real life, poisonous or not, is nothing short of petrifying. Now try to visualize a gargantuan fire-emitting snake with legs for appendages – does it not conjure up the image of a dragon in your minds?

No doubt dragons are scary creatures; but then, who can say no to having a cute little monster for a pet, especially if it looks up at you with those puppy-dog eyes like Toothless does to Hiccup?