Hi friends! I love it when authors come up with creative twists and additions to our beloved Pride and Prejudice, don’t you? One author who really has a penchant for coming up with truly unique angles and alterations is Maria Grace. And as you might have already heard she has created a series that crosses Jane Austen’s characters with dragons!!! I know! I know. I was a little wary at first about this idea, but having read the preview of the first book, Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon I see how fascinating it all is! I already know I’m going to enjoy this completely original take on Pride and Prejudice! On the fence yourself? Read how Maria came up with this idea and all the clever threads she has tied together!
The Myth and the Mashup
Meredith, thanks so much for hosting me today. It’s always such a pleasure to get to visit with you. Through the years I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being willing to put very different spins on Jane Austen’s stories and characters. That hasn’t changed with my newest series. In fact, I think it kicks it up a notch.
And with that rather dubious introduction, I’m utterly tickled to announce that the Pride and Prejudice arc of my Jane Austen’s Dragons series is complete with the release of Netherfield: Rogue Dragon. Now wait, I can hear you muttering and rolling your eyes, “Dragons? Really? Seriously—dragons? Why—just why?”
You’re not the first to roll their eyes at me and mutter that, expecting an answer like “Because zombies, vampires and werewolves have already been done.” And while that is utterly true, and the sort of thing I might say if you caught me at just the right—or wrong—moment, it isn’t a very good answer.
You’re rolling your eyes at me again. I know just it, but give me a chance and hear me out. I promise, Jane Austen would approve.
“Why?” you say, rolling your eyes yet again.
Believe it or not, I actually have a really good answer! If you take a glance at English mythology, it is full of dragons. Seriously, they are everywhere. Don’t believe me, here’s just a partial list if dragon myths: the Lambton Worm, the Dragon of Mordiford, the Dragon of Unsworth, the Dragon of Wantly, the Dragon of Longwitton, the Dragon of Loschy Hill, the Bisterne Dragon, the Worm of Linton, the Stoor Worm, the Sockburn Worm (or Wyvern), Blue Ben, and the Lyminster Knucker. With dragons just about everywhere in English myth, it seems likely that Jane Austen herself was familiar with many of these dragon legends.
That got me to thinking: What if… (A word of caution, when a writer says “what if”, it might be a good time to politely excuse yourself…)
So, what if those dragon myths contained a large helping of reality and there really were dragons in England? What it they weren’t just a thing of the medieval era, but continued to be a very real presence in British society into the modern era? How might that work?
Hmmm … that would require a research trip back to medieval dragons and the father of fabled King Arthur who had dragon connections. The best known version of King Uther Pendragon’s story comes from Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae (1136). Uther is the youngest son of King of Britannia, Constantine III upon whose death, Constans, his eldest son succeeds to the throne. Constans though is murdered by an advisor Vortigern, who seizes the throne. Uther and his other brother, Aurelius, flee to Brittany, when they grow to adulthood in safety. As adults, Aurelius and Uther return to Britannia, where Aurelius kills Vortigern and becomes king.
Under Aurelius’ reign, Uther helps Merlin bring the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland to Britain. Later, while Aurelius is too ill for battle, Uther leads his army against Vortigern’s son and his Saxon allies. On the way to the battle, Uther sees a comet in the shape of a dragon, which Merlin interprets as a sign of Aurelius’ death and Uther’s glorious future. Uther wins the battle, but returns to find that Aurelius has been poisoned. Uther becomes king and adopts the use of a golden dragon as his standard.
So, what if Uther Pendragon was embroiled in battle not just with the Saxons, but with dragons as well and he saw a real dragon who could speak with him, not a comet as most stories suggested? Would not others have heard it too? Wait, no—what if the dragons had a way of hiding in plain sight that only a select few people could see through and Uther was one of those and made peace with dragonkind…
Suddenly I saw a world, hundreds of years removed from medieval England, where mankind and dragonkind could coexist, governed by the Blue Order, an organization founded by Uther Pendragon himself, on human and dragon partnership, dedicated to protecting the safety and interests of both species while keeping the dragons secret from the very large segment of the human population with hearing insufficient to detect dragon voices.
Hmmm … that could be the start of something interesting.
Moreover, another myth, that of the Lambton Worm, began to inform my hero, Mr. Darcy, whose estate, Pemberley, (according to Austen) was in walking distance from Lambton.
The legend of the Lambton Worm originates from County Durham in North East England, near the River Wear. In it, John Lambton, an heir of the Lambton Estate, battles with a giant worm (an early reference to a dragon) that had been terrorizing the local villages.
John Lambton is actually responsible for the presence of the worm himself. As a young man, he skipped church on Sunday and went fishing in the River Wear. There he caught an odd creature whose description varies with different tellings of the myth. All agree that it was ‘no fit fish’ he caught and he discards the creature in a nearby well that later became the wishing-well known as “Worm Well.”
John forgets about the creature and goes off the fight in the crusades as penance for his youthful follies. When he returns, he discovers that his father’s estate has been laid waste by the creature. Realizing he is responsible for the creature, John seeks the advice of a witch that allows him to defeat the creature in an epic struggle.
Like many other British dragon stories, the myth connects the slaying of a dragon to the provenance of some aristocratic family and their self-proclaimed right to rule over the domain they protected from the dragon.
So many inspirations in this tale! Dragons and the landed class tied together; a dragon in Lambton, so near Pemberley, and connected to a local estate; a baby dragon who grows up abandoned in a strange place … oh, so many things that came to play in crafting Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon.
And Darcy was not the only one shaped by dragon legends. The Mordiford Dragon, began to inform my heroine, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a woman whose sympathy for and understanding of dragonkind goes far and away beyond anything England has ever known.
The story of Maud and the Mordiford dragon (a wyvern actually, not the more typical ‘worm’) is set in the Herefordshire village of Mordiford. Maud finds a green baby wyvern while out walking one morning. Maud takes the baby back to her home as a pet and feeds it milk, comforting it by stoking its claws and cuddling it.
As the creature grows older, it starts dining on the Mordiford villagers, but refuses to injure his friend Maud. Not surprisingly, the villagers insist this is intolerable and find a nobleman (or condemned convict, depending on the version of the tale) to dispatch the beast. Maud was described as ‘insane with rage’ over the death of her wyvern. A painting of the creature hung in the village church until 1811 when the vicar ordered it destroyed as a ‘sign of the devil’.
So many inspirations in this tale! A girl who loves a baby dragon; who rescues dragons and cuddles with them; a grumpy wyvern that others cannot seem to get along with; Herefordshire/Hertfordshire, Mordiford/Meryton, ok, not the same, but it did make me do a double take for sure … oh so many things that came to play in crafting the characters of both Elizabeth Bennet and her wyvern Longbourn.
All the being said, I present for you, what Pride and Prejudice might have been had Jane Austen known about the Uther Pendragon’s Blue Order.
If you’re not totally hooked by now, here’s a preview of Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon, to give you a taste of this world: http://randombitsoffascination.com/2016/10/03/pemberley-mr-darcys-dragon-ch-1/
What do you think about dragons and Jane Austen? Leave me a comment below for a chance to win your choice of e-books from this series.
I really should not be surprised that you found so many ways to intertwine dragon history and mythology into your tale! I love it! So glad you went with dragons instead of zombies or vampires! Congrats on completing the series!! We wish you all the best!
Connect with Maria
In conjunction with her lovely blog tour, Maria Grace is giving away 6 ebooks from the Jane Austen’s Dragon series (Winner’s Choice!) and 1 set of the entire Jane Austen’s Dragon series to several lucky readers!!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, a question, or some love for Maria and fill out the form below!!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Maria!
- This giveaway ends May 29th!