Don’t Forget to Slay the Dragon

March 31, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Some of us are born into trying times. I, for one, often wish I had lived during the latter part of King Arthur’s reign. This would be right after his defeat of the pagans, and right before the big battle in which he was killed. The Kingdom of Camelot, filled with virtuous knighthood, equity symbolized by round tables, and undeniably beautiful flowing dresses, is right up my alley.

Just don’t remind me about the lack of running water.

Another great time for living might have been after America had been established. The war in which she threw off the bounds of her unnatural subservience to England was over, and citizens were developing a new government based upon the created order.

And there were still long flowing dresses, a definite plus.

But I live now. We all do. I live in a time which is watching the reversal of all that was accomplished by the Revolutionary War, where people in the last election cried out not for freedom, but for slavery to a ruler who would rule them in an unnatural, tyrannical way. A ruler who knows nothing of the Constitution which he vowed before the Creator to protect.

My response is to alternately listen or read the news and respond with rants and fear, or follow the model of my dear friend Lady Ostrich and stick my head in the sand.

Ranting is interesting, but generally accomplishes little. And ostriches aren’t exactly known for changing the world.

There is, of course, a monastic approach. This is one view of homeschooling in a nutshell. You take the legacy of great books, great minds, great thoughts, and you pass them down within the home, allowing little souls to marinate in virtue and nobility until a time when the world is again ready for greatness.

And then there are those who are called to slay the dragon.

Do you remember the scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo says that he wishes he had never been given the ring? This is one of the few times where the movie nicely parallels the book. Gandalf’s sage advice is that men do not choose their times, but they do choose what to do in the times that have been given to them.

Frodo was a dragon-slayer in a metaphorical sense, just as his forbear Bilbo had been in the literal sense.

Ancient tales remind us not to forget to slay the dragon, even when we feel that longing for our heavenly home.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down and read Margaret Hodges’ Saint George and the Dragon to the children. I can’t believe I put off acquiring this book for so long, for it is a treasure to behold and a joy to read. The children were enchanted! Here is another echo of timeless sage advice, given to Saint George {the Red Cross Knight} in the midst of a long journey which he knows will end in a battle with a ferocious dragon:

After many days the path became thorny and led up a steep hillside, where a good old hermit lived in a little house by himself. While Una rested, the Red Cross Knight climbed with the hermit to the top of the hill and looked out across the valley. There against the evening sky they saw a mountaintop that touched the highest heavens. It was crowned with a glorious palace, sparkling like stars and circled with walls and towers and pearls and precious stones. Joyful angels were coming and going between heaven and the High City.

Then the Red Cross Knight saw that a little path led up the distant mountain to that city, and he said, “I thought that the fairest palace in the world was the crystal tower in the city of the Fairy Queen. Now I see a palace far more lovely. Una and I should go there at once.”

But the old hermit said, “The Fairy Queen has sent you to do brave deeds in this world. That High City that you see is in another world. Before you climb the path to it and hang your shield on its wall, go down into the valley and fight the dragon that you were sent to fight.”

Sometimes, when a fierce dragon is staring us in the face, we are tempted to skip the fight and venture off in search of the High City. The High City is our ultimate destination, to be sure. But first, we have work to do. This life isn’t all that there is, but it matters nonetheless.

Words from the wise: Don’t forget to slay the dragon.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Rahime April 6, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Well, as great as Spenser’s is, I think I just might like this version better. I ordered a copy, and it should be here any day now. Thanks for letting us know about it!

    You’re right, the dragon’s do always have a weakness…and it usually is their pride…or at least their pride blinds them to the weakness and their impending doom.

    Sleep…refreshment…good.

  • Reply Mystie April 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    We had this book growing up, and it was the first children’s book I bought after Hans was born. 🙂

    Your insight is a good one; I tend toward the monastic option, but there is a need for dragon fighting.

    In encouraging Hans to tough out a fall this morning, I tried my usual, “Knights can’t cry when they get hurt. If you’re going to fight dragons, you have to practice being tough.” Hans wailed, “But I’m not! I’m just going to be a plain Daddy!” 🙂 Oh, well, it still works with the 3-year-old.

  • Reply Brandy March 31, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    It is The Faerie Queene! I remember watching you and Kristie read it and I had no idea what you were reading at the time. I had never heard of the book before. However, reading this little gem has made me want to read the real thing. Someday I will have to acquire Spenser’s work!

    According to Hodges, the dragon slayer falls asleep under an apple tree which drips magic healing dew onto him, thus refreshing him enough to allow him to carry on.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping my orchard starts growing some magic apples. 😉

    I think that dragons always have a weakness, the key is just to find it. An added benefit is that dragons are usually too arrogant to realize they have a weakness, leading them to make fatal mistakes. The problem in our day is too many people have decided they rather like the dragon.

    Interesting aside: I read a review of this book that said it is essentially embodies a dare for lit majors. You know, I dare you to boil down The Faerie Queen into less than forty pages and make children love it. 😉

  • Reply Rahime March 31, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Good reminder. I have lately been playing Madame Ostrich and avoiding all news. I saw a few bumper stickers recently that were fitting with our times: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have,” “Whatever the government gives it must first take away.”

    This little book sounds like a children’s version of The Faerie Queene. It looks good. I should read Spenser again someday.

    So, the question is: what happens when the dragon slayers become depressed and demoralized by the untouchable dragons? 🙂

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