Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

A Girl's Version of Puff
(Inspired by Uccello's painting of St. George and the Dragon)

Linda Dunn


He said the dragon must be killed for my own good, that I did not fully understand the danger it posed to the life we would live. I did understand my duty – as tradition dictated – to mold myself to his pattern, since he had come – as tradition dictated – to claim me, to take charge and provide perpetual care. There was, of course, no dilemma at all; but the inevitable made me sad.

The dragon and I met when we were both very young. One morning I slipped away from my nurse as she napped on the beach beneath my father’s fortress. I made straight for a cave hollowed out by the waves in the side of the cliff. Since I had been forbidden to enter it, I was sure the cave contained wonderful secrets. Approaching expectantly, I peeked inside the opening, bright with the morning sun, and there he lay in the light. He saw me at once, and we stared at each other, too fascinated to be afraid. I was a child and he, though larger, was not long out of the egg, and equally naïve. From that moment through the years that followed, we spent whatever time we could in each other’s company. We took wonderful flights together, soaring high above the ordinary, landing in magical glades where we filled our souls with the deep meaning of things seen and unseen, and played at being wise and grand and brave. Neither of us outgrew our eagerness for these adventures. What dimension they added to my ordinary maiden’s life, what interesting ideas and possibilities!

Holding a small hope, I told all this to the knight: that the dragon had much to offer, that he usually preferred eating fruit and honey to eating cattle, and needed very little space since he got most of his exercise flying. The knight patiently explained that he was sympathetic to how someone of my limited experience might see things; however, my attitude was not realistic. Other people, both noble and peasant, saw dragons very differently and majority opinion was undoubtedly correct. Besides, adventures and ideas weren’t really necessary to taking care of a village and raising an heir. He said such an unconventional relationship as I had with the dragon would not do once there were children in the castle; and, as there would be children in the castle very soon, it was pointless to waste energy on temporary arrangements. His words painted a vivid picture of our villagers’ alarm at the sight of their lady flying above them on a terrible beast. How could they trust me as benefactress? Might I be a witch in disguise? Would the dragon come in the night to steal their children? Traditional wisdom confirmed that where there were dragons, harm would soon follow. And even in the unlikely event that no harm did come of it, my selfish attachment to the dragon would cause great anxiety. This knight was obviously taking everyone’s best interests into consideration, so such persuasive arguments could hardly be ignored.

When I explained the situation to the dragon, he said I shouldn’t be upset. His species often encountered this sort of thing and that, contrary to popular opinion, dragons don’t actually die - they just lie low and relocate. He said he’d miss me, but we’d always have the magical glades. So I arranged for the three of us to meet near the cave at dusk. The dragon would seem more convincingly dead in low light and the knight would appreciate a good supper and early to bed right after the battle.

It all went quite smoothly. My diaphanous garments lent me an appropriate vulnerability; the armored knight was a commanding presence astride his white steed; the dragon stood tall with wings extended and fangs bared as I led him from the cave. Knight and dragon charged and retreated, roared and shouted, as expected. I rushed around the perimeter cowering and sighing, also as expected. It was over rather quickly. The dragon collapsed, pinned to the ground with a lance through his eye. As the knight dismounted to retrieve his weapon, I edged close to the dragon to whisper good-bye; he winked at me with his good eye and lay still.

I must say it was a rather heady experience when the knight, with scarcely any effort even in all that armor, swept me from the ground and onto his horse, assuring me in gentle tones that my life was safe now and always. At that moment it seemed, as he insisted, I might not miss the dragon at all.

The passing years have indeed been busy ones: children to care for, servants to supervise, textiles to weave, appearances at court on the whim of the king, villagers to placate, not to mention a seemingly endless troupe of soldiers marching in to spend the night on their way one place or another. Such is life in a castle.

Often in the early morning before the day’s routine begins, I stand at the window of my favorite tower and look toward the sea. In these quiet times I remember the dragon. I long to experience again our exhilarating adventures together for, even in the full life that I lead, there has been nothing else to equal them. Now and then I think I see wide wings high above. I wonder if the dragon flies again in these skies with a new companion and if he remembers me.

***

Linda Dunn has lived in Franklin for 30 years. She grew up in south Louisiana and has deep family roots in northeast Texas. Her writing reflects the cultures she has experienced. She says that "A Girl's Version of Puff" is a fiction piece that speaks to women like herself who came of age in the South in the late '50's and early '60's.

© Linda Dunn

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012