Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Peek Beneath the Duct Tape: Hoarder

First things first. The painting at right is by noted Lord of the Rings artist John Howe. When I went looking for a dragon illustration for this post, I immediately thought of Howe because he does all the best dragons. So I did a bit of googling and came up with the perfect image to tie in with Hoarder. I promise I'd never seen this picture before writing this post, but once I saw it, I knew I didn't need to look any further.

As for "Hoarder" itself, I've mentioned before that it began as a personal fantasy about MC by dragon. I'd been running it in my head since I was a teen, but it didn't have much of a plot until recently. The original fantasy sprang from the 1981 movie Dragonslayer. In the film, a kingdom is terrorized by a dragon and sacrifices maidens to it to keep it pacified, they draw the victims' names by lot, and the princess's name is always withheld - though in the movie, Princess Elspeth doesn't suspect that. When she finds out, she rigs the lot so that her name is chosen...but that's all I'll say in case anyone out there wants to watch the movie. I have no idea how well it stands the test of time, though, so be warned. After all, it is an '80's flick.

I built my private fantasy on that movie and added in the idea of layered enchantments, each one binding the victim a little tighter and entrancing her a little deeper until she had no freedom left at all. But then, because my fantasy began with an unjust sacrifice, I imagined the dragon turning its victim against her hometown. She'd be taking revenge for what they did to her, even if she was in no position to realize it by then.

And that's all there was to my fantasy at first. Not much of a story for the EMCSA, eh? But I loved the basic idea and always planned to write it up, if I could just think of the right plot. And as it turned out, I'd had that plot in my head all along.

When I was a child, I owned a book of fairy tales that included a bastardized version of the Childe Rowland fable. Whoever adapted it for a children's book decided, for some inexplicable reason, that the King of Elfland should turn his kidnapped maidens into jewels. Even as a kid I didn't understand the point of that. If it's maidens you want, why turn them into gemstones? If it's gemstones you want, why make them out of maidens? It just seemed like the waste of a good captive to me.

A few months ago I was thinking about that old bastardized Childe Rowland story when suddenly it hit me: the jewel thing was illogical if an Elf or wizard did it, but if a dragon were the mage, it made perfect sense. And right there was the solution to my dragon-story dilemma!

Excited now, I looked up the Childe Rowland story online and was surprised to find how badly it had been mangled for me. In the official version, "Childe" Rowland was chopping off heads left and right - not excluding the kind people who helped him along the way; and there were no jewels at all aside from the lamp, which made its way into my story. There was, however, a lovely suggestion of MC in the spell placed on Burd Ellen. (Do notice her name, by the way. ;-)) And if you choose to follow the Childe Rowland link above, you'll find several other names and things I appropriated for "Hoarder." The more I delved into the original fable, the more I found that I could make use of).

As I said several times while hinting about my upcoming story (here and here, for instance) "Hoarder" really did write itself. My favorite "aha" moment was realizing that the seams of gold in Ehlen's lapis lazuli could easily be the remnants of her poison, but stuff like that kept happening all through the writing process. I didn't even know how the dragon would use the Sword when I started out, but when the idea came to me, I knew it was perfect.

I'm extremely happy with the way "Hoarder" turned out. I hope you are, too.

P.S.: Rule 34 came to my aid again, in researching what a dragon's sexual organs might look like.

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