Saturday, May 28, 2011

Guest Post: Jackie Gamber

Dragons and YA Fantasy – Playing with Fire?

By Jackie Gamber, Author of Redheart

Dragon mythology has the distinction of being found in nearly every culture from ancient to modern, in all parts of the world. Asia, South America, Europe, even Australia; images of scaled and serpent-like creatures seem to inhabit the collective psyche of humans everywhere.

In asking ourselves why, we struggle for an answer; dragons just seem true to us. Sure, they’re long gone now. Extinct, one way or another. But if we examine our history, our art, and our written language, dragon representations across culture are too common. Too familiar. Too coincidental. Dragons must have existed once upon a time. Didn’t they?

At least one thing is certain. Dragons have existed, still exist, in our imagination.

And in our literature.

In our imagination, dragons are free to evolve, develop, and grow into personalized symbols. Fire can destroy, but can also cleanse. Scales are a toughened shell against the world, or a protective armor. Claws dig, or climb. Wings carry or evade.

How we perceive dragons, either communally or individually, becomes how we believe them to be. Let’s say if dragons did exist, to us they would be killers. Or monsters. Or pets. Or friends.

In this way, as with so many mythological beasts (vampires, werewolves, or slimy bog creatures) dragons can come to represent parts of ourselves. Our untamed human nature. Our wild side. Our monster within.

What better place to explore this theme than in Young Adult literature? Young adults are in the act of becoming. An evolution in themselves, busily examining values, trying to settle on just how they see the world, and their place in it. They know the struggle with the beast on an intimate level.

If you’re a teen, you’re on a first name basis with your monster.
So how do we face the dragon? Is it a beast to be slain? A monster to be destroyed? A strength to be unleashed? Do we battle with our wild nature to the death, or nail it with a tranq gun and drag it off into the brush?

The best part of YA fantasy (classic or otherwise) as that we’re able to investigate all those options. Whether our dragon is a skin to be shed, as with C.S. Lewis, or a beast of burden to be ridden, as with Anne McCaffery, or a bully to be outsmarted, as with J.R.R. Tolkien, we can see each dragon as the author sees it. We can regard how a master storyteller deals with his or her dragon, and we can take notes.

Jackie Gamber is an award-winning freelance editor, as well as award-winning author of the fantasy novel Redheart, available now through Seventh Star Press ( and ebook at a special rate of $1.99!

A veteran of the USAF, she is now, among other things, a rosarian, a professional BookTaster, and an avid believer in imagination. Visit Jackie and her BookTastings on the world wide web at

Many thanks to Jackie Gamber for vising my blog! Come back tomorrow for my review of her novel, Redheart.


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