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A Miracle in Dragon Form

In the Scottish highlands, a young wizard plays the bagpipes for his deceased grandfather, a gentle elderly man brutally slain by the Dark Knight. Without warning, a stuntman in a rubbery dragon costume leaps out from behind a rock, his costume’s head cleverly attached to the neck by a plaid scarf. A bemused child welfare worker and an angry tax collector sprint into the scene from the other direction, their blazers askew and hair disheveled. This scene is not the muddled results of pot brownies or a slow descent into insanity. It is the climactic scene from a little-known cinematic mas-terpiece titled Dragonworld II: The Legend Continues. This movie, which chronicles a young Scot-tish boy and his pet dragon, Yowler, has evolved far past a form of entertainment for my friends and me. It has become tradition.
Tradition, as I have learned over the years, is much more than a classic Fiddler on the Roof song. Although they may seem silly or pointless, traditions help maintain a sense of routine in peo-ple’s hectic and convoluted lives. Although their purpose is to create stability, traditions often spring from unstable or unprecedented scenarios. Thanksgiving began in a time of famine and hardship. The Fourth of July began with the creation of a new country. Dragonworld proved no different. My in-fatuation with the movie began shortly after freshman year when Gavin, my best friend, developed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer.
In most situations, a Hodgkin’s patient is more likely to be killed in a car crash driving back from the hospital than from the disease itself. The factoid, while reassuring, did not assuage the fears of myself or many of my friends. To support Gavin, or perhaps to pacify our own nightmares, my friends and I spent the better part of our summer in Gavin’s basement doing nothing in particular. We played video games, we watched movies, and we ate the brownies and lasagna that concerned parents had baked for Gavin’s family. We quickly ran through our favorite movies- 300, Pan’s Labyrinth, and The Godfather to name a few- and began hunting for less conventional films. This search initially only resulted in a handful of rejects (Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior, anyone?) but eventually led us to Dragonworld, the Holy Grail of preposterously dreadful films.
Dragonworld had appallingly bad dialog, exaggerated Scottish accents, bagpipe playing, and a dragon played by a man in a sub-par theme-park costume. An unintentional self-parody, the film excelled by failing so miserably, so totally, that it succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. The Godfather may be the best movie ever made, but Dragonworld had the unique ability to transport us from a world of cancer and hospitals and into a world of dragons and low-budget special effects. It was exactly what we needed, and exactly what we would continue to need in the upcoming months of high school and chemotherapy. Put simply, it was a miracle in dragon form.
When my friends and I finished Dragonworld for the first time, sprawled on ancient couches in Gavin’s dingy basement, we considered rewinding it and immediately watching it again. We ulti-mately decided against it, hoping to save the film’s magical qualities for later gatherings. We could not keep ourselves away for long, however, and found ourselves back in Gavin’s basement less than a month later, laughing at Yowler’s antics until our stomachs ached. Thus began the unofficial tradition of Dragonworld screenings. What began in that basement mere weeks after the cancer was diagnosed has continued past Gavin’s battle and triumph over cancer and into our junior year of high school. Although no one keeps track, we try to watch the movie at least one a month, setting aside homework and band practice to do so. We claim that the film is our sole motivation, but we have all memorized the dialog by now; what’s really important is not the people on the screen, but the people on the couches watching it. High school has produced hardship and struggle for all of my friends, but watch-ing Dragonworld lets us forget those troubles and focus instead on a story of love, bravery and friendship. This monthly tradition, which began with a life-changing diagnosis, does much more than entertain us. It reminds my friends and I that life does not hinge on grades or tests or soccer games. Life is about friendship and support and courage. Life is not about surviving, but about living.



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