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YESTERDAY, LRB REVIEWER Tom Shippey shared Dragon lore gleaned from Daniel Ogden’s The Dragon in the West: From Ancient Myth to Modern Legend. Here in Part 2, tidbits are about China, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and a Sixties Pop dragon named Puff.
Chinese Dragons. “Chinese dragons,” Shippey notes, “are similar in shape to Western ones, but are viewed as wise and benevolent, emblems of dynastic power and authority. This might be explained by the association of dragons with control of the water supply (they ‘rule’ the waters): in a hydraulic civilisation like China, where survival depends on giant irrigation schemes, it would be quite out of place to challenge a dragon.”
The dragon, Wikipedia notes, “is one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac which is used to designate years in the Chinese calendar…. There are more people born in Dragon years than in any other animal years of the zodiac.” Curiously, says Wikipedia, “During the Cultural Revolution, giant panda was situated in place of the dragon although this didn’t last for long.”
Disney’s (and Pete’s) Dragon. Elliot the Dragon arrived at Disneyland in 1977, all 16 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide, 38 ft. long of him, his illuminated 5600 lb. carrying Pete his pal and occasionally breathing California Air Resources Board-approved emissions.
“Pete’s Dragon,” his official moniker, is part of the park’s Main Street Electrical Parade. According to mickeyblog.com, “Approximately 500,000 lights are illuminated during the parade’s journey from ‘it’s a small world’ in Fantasyland to Town Square on Main Street U.S.A.”
Another parade fact: “Did you know that only six different colors of light bulbs flash throughout the parade? These are in hues of amber, blue, green, chartreuse, red and pink. Amber is the most prominent with over 150,000 glowing amber lights used in the production.”
Like thousands of others, Daughters Suz and Beth and I would hang out for the Main Street Electrical Parade. Once past, again like thousands, we’d tuck in aft of the last float and march in time to the park’s exit. I must ask them if they recall Elliot so fondly.
A Puff from the Sixties. Another dragon of my acquaintance came through the music of Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” As described by Wikipedia, it’s “a song written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary from a poem by Leonard Lipton. It was made popular by Yarrow’s group in a 1962 recording released in January 1963.”
Wikipedia continues, “Lipton wrote a poem about a dragon in 1959, and when Yarrow found it, he wrote the lyrics to ‘Puff’ based on the poem. After the song was released, Yarrow searched for Lipton to give him credit for the song.”
Blue-noses among us (you know the type…) got all puritanical about the song being in praise of marijuana, despite, as Wikipedia notes, Yarrow frequently explaining “the song is about the hardships of growing older and has no relationship to drug-taking.… He has dismissed the suggestion of it being associated with drugs as ‘sloppy research.’ ” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022