"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Friday, March 7, 2014

Folktales of the Dragon King and His Sons

Legend of the Chinese Dragon by Marie Sellier, Illus. by Catherine Louis, Calligraphy by Wang Fei, 2006.

In ancient China, tribes lived under the protection of local animal spirits, such the bird of the mountains and the serpent of the high plains. But, because the people fought each other in the names of their spirit protectors, the children of China decided to create an animal that would watch over everyone, putting together the best qualities of each tribe's animal spirit. They came up with: a dragon! When the adults saw the beautiful creature, they vowed to end wars, and so the Chinese dragon became a symbol of peace.

Louis' art appears to be woodblock prints tinted with strong rainbow colors.

The Sons of the Dragon King: a Chinese Legend by Ed Young, 2004.

The uniting dragon mentioned above is here called the Dragon King and in this story he has nine sons who are each given a purpose. Every son has a habit that is judged to be unbecoming in the son of a king. The king is ready to scold, but then wisely finds a way that each behavior can be channeled for the benefit of the people. His noisy son Pu-Lao learns to become as musician, and his image decorates the musical instruments of China. Sixth son Ba-Sha frolicks all day in the water, but as he is a strong swimmer, the Dragon King recognizes that he can protect water travelers, and his face is used on China's bridges. Disruptively angry Ya Zi is pegged for military service and adorns the country's weapons. Therefore, the Dragon king is satisfied as each of his children learns and settles into his appropriate role.

Ed Young's illustrations of the dragon sons contrast their activities before and after parental guidance: indulging in their inappropriate behaviors and in their noble symbolic forms.

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