Firefang the Dragon and the Quest for Individuality

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Firefang the dragon was very unhappy. His life was one irritation after the other, and he had no idea what to do, for his problem wasn’t a problem dragons usually faced. When he was an adolescent in the 1300s he had to deal with a knight every once in a while, but being the medieval warrior’s natural enemy he wasn’t too troubled by them. He didn’t have a hoard and was actually a vegetarian who didn’t kill cattle, so the attacks against him were infrequent and half-hearted, and Firefang generally went about his business unmolested. Reclusive by nature, he wasn’t bothered by the hatred humans felt toward him. He was happy with his cave and his grazing grounds.
Firefang dwelt near a small village, and over time the small village developed into a large city. The dragon knew that any attempts to keep humans away would result in military intervention and his death or incarceration, so he had to allow them closer and closer to his home. Being a proud individual, he didn’t want to tarnish dragons’ reputations, and adopted many new habits. Each day he would fly in majestic loops around his territory, spewing the occasional fireball, and catch a deer before returning home. (He would usually carry the live animal into the mountains, out of view, before releasing it and chowing down on leaves and grass.) It was difficult to conform, but Firefang had the satisfaction of upholding his species’ honor. Humans generally left him alone; they were too busy to attack him. But around his 700th birthday – middle age for a dragon – things took a turn for the worse when people stopped hating him.
It was about 1990 when Firefang began to hear the term “marketable” directed at him a lot. Apparently his appearance and lifestyle were reminiscent of those of many fictional dragons of pop culture, and this resemblance became his downfall. It began innocently enough, with small groups of wildlife photographers trying to hide in the woods around his cave. But soon the photographers were replaced by men in suits who bought the land Firefang lived on and through an aggressive marketing campaign turned the dragon into a successful tourist attraction. One day Firefang emerged from his cave to find a viewing platform half a mile away. Over two months it sprouted a parking lot, an eatery, a boardwalk and a small amusement park. Businesses battled over the rights to his image, and each month the park changed colors and logos in an attempt to link Firefang to a different book, movie or video game. The dragon had to fly farther and farther for food, and each week the people and their residual trash edged a little closer to his home. Then animal rights groups showed up and tried to protect him- they were more irritating than the tourists. Firefang realized that he would have to take drastic action to get rid of the annoying humans and turn his life around.

So it was that one day Firefang overflew a self-image seminar and, with acute dragon hearing discovered what he would have to do. The next day, instead of getting up at sunrise, he slept in until ten. When he emerged from his cave he walked off into the woods and ate a breakfast of grass, right in front of everybody. He rolled in the mud to obscure his brilliant scales and didn’t fly for the whole day (for, as he discovered, walking was actually a pleasant change of pace.) He stepped on a couple of the kids who were always lurking around trying to ride him, but otherwise he allowed his natural benevolent curiosity to prevail, regularly walking right up to the observation platform and staring at everyone. He even changed his name to Edward because, let’s face it, Firefang is quite a stereotypical and crappy name. Soon enough his plan came to fruition. Having seen Edward’s real personality, the movie/book fans lost interest in him. Wannabe dragon-riders were afraid of being stepped on; pretend knights didn’t think of him as evil; and no one wanted to take pictures of a muddy dragon. Attendance at the park fell off, the owners went bankrupt and closed it down, and Edward has lived contentedly ever since.





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