Girl's Version of Puff
(Inspired by Uccello's painting of St. George and
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.
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 fathers
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 others 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 maidens
life, what interesting ideas and possibilities!
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
werent 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 everyones
best interests into consideration, so such persuasive arguments
could hardly be ignored.
I explained the situation to the dragon, he said I shouldnt
be upset. His species often encountered this sort of thing and
that, contrary to popular opinion, dragons dont actually
die - they just lie low and relocate. He said hed miss me,
but wed 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.
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.
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.
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.
in the early morning before the days 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.
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.