Dragons Oriental and European
Dum, Dum, Dum, Dum, Dum, Dum, Dum, Dum, Dum...
Deep, incessant thuds of primitive drums carry a foreboding through the air. The ground shakes with vitality, with the power of life. Suddenly the loud piercing sound of an oriental gong shatters the air. The clouds break forth and from its midst emerges a magnificent serpentine creature. Vivid, vibrant colours adorn its body. It has the head of a horse, the tail of a snake and the claws of a hawk. The face with the whiskers and large eyes radiates wisdom. The giver of bounty, the ruler of weather and water, the imperial authority - enter the Chinese dragon.
Dragons play a very important role in Chinese myths. The oriental dragon is depicted as a serpentine creature whose features vary with accounts. It is considered a wise creature representing the vigour of life. Yu, the first emperor of China of the Xia dynasty was once said to be a dragon. Each emperor was said to be incarnations of the dragons whilst the empress was said to be the phoenix in yin and yang terminology.
In contrast to its counterpart in the west the Chinese dragon represented the auspicious and potent powers but had no associations with warfare. It symbolises strength and vitality. In Chinese myths the dragon is the bringer of water, rain, floods and hurricanes - the raw forces of nature. It had no wings, a mystical lump called Chiih-muh on its head was supposed to give it its power of flight. Different colours represented different aspects of natures. A blue dragon symbolised the coming of the spring whilst a white symbolised death. The yellow dragon was the most revered. Both the red and black dragon represented storms in Chinese Mythology.
The air reeks of burning sulphur. Deep thuds of massive feet resonate within the cave. A dark head appears at its mouth and snorts through two flaming nostrils. Suddenly it lets out a roar and then spouts forth fire from its breath. The massive body appears and wings stretch. The dinosaur like creature with four feet and leathery wings takes flight. It is ready to fight, defending jealously the treasures it has accumulated inside the cave. Thus emerges the Europe dragon - sinister and greedy.
Unlike the Oriental Dragon, the European Dragon is more often than not a covetous, demonic beast of brutal strength. Its avarice makes it terrorise villages and take bounty of maidens and treasures. The myths often set the dragons as the antagonist of hero characters, like those of Beowulf or Sigurd. Arthurian legends have the same motif of Knights slaying dragons to rescue the maiden and such. In the legend of Beowulf, a dragon terrorises the village as one of its treasures has been stolen. Beowulf goes on to slay the dragon, but the dragon-blood poisons him causing his demise. In Norse mythology, Sigurd slays the Dragon Fafnir to gain the immense treasure guarded by it. Only in Slavic dragon-myths an ambivalent temperament towards human beings is noticed.
The origin of dragon myths are said to have sprung from serpents and other similar creatures. Dragons have mystified and fascinated minds throughout ages by the sheer awesomeness of their power. Be it the majestic, sagely oriental dragons or the brutal fire breathing western ones- dragon myths will continue to fuel the imagination of people for a long time to come.
The Art of Racing in the Rain
They recently showed the 2009 film 'Hachi: A Dog's Tale” on HBO, which features a heartwarming tale about the friendship between a professor and his Akita dog. There's something about animal stories that is touching on a level all of its own, and this is particularly true of stories about Man's Best Friend.
The protagonist of Garth Stein's novel The Art of Racing in the Rain is the dog Enzo, who is lying on the floor, a few hours before he expects to die, looking back on a long and eventful life as best friend to Denny Swift, a race car driver.
The book is a story about a tragic romance. It is a story about an innocent man trying to clear his name of the false accusations placed against him. It is about a father's desperate bid to retain his rights to his child. But mostly it's about indomitable spirit in the face of the cruel curve-balls life will inevitably throw at you. Seen through the colour-blind eyes of a faithful dog, the story is richly layered and painfully funny. Enzo, like Brian Griffin from Family Guy, is a dog with a human soul. Forced to live in a form where he cannot share his profound philosophies with his intellectual equals, denied the opposable thumbs that would allow him to do the many wonderful things that human hands are capable of, he spends his entire life waiting for his next one, where he believes he will be reincarnated as a man.
The prose is simple and easy to read, the characters compelling and complicated, and the story a truly moving one. Enzo has a narrative voice that gives him an endearing personality. On the one hand, he is erudite, intelligent, and sophisticated, and on the other, he has the playful spirit of a puppy and an adorable naiveté because he is, at the end of the day, a dog, and there are things he simply cannot know. Garth Stein paints a plausible picture of how a dog like Enzo might think, and this bittersweet story has enough ironic humour to prevent it from being depressing. This is definitely the kind of read you want to take your time with, and it will prove to be a cathartic and affirming experience.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is being adapted to film, and should be released sometime next year, so if you want to read the book first, the time is now.
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