In Book One: From Under a Tree I introduce the ajatar, a mythical creature akin to a dragon. The ajatar is actually an evil spirit that manifests itself in the form of a large, winged serpent. As with a dragon, the ajatar can fly and emit fire from its breath. Additionally, it spreads disease and pestilence. The history of ajatars in the Harrow is only briefly mentioned in the first book. In fact a good ajatar, Moondancer as he is called, is introduced as the last of the En’ Carad. But in Book Two: Shadow in the Flame, more time is spent on these creatures. Much more is revealed and learned.
These creatures have been a storytelling staple for ages, and it’s easy to see why we keep coming back to them. Regal yet terrifying, these mystical creatures create instant conflict, with their fire-breathing and evil ways. Some of the more popular fictional characters include Smaug from The Hobbit, the Jabberwocky from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, Falkor from The Neverending Story, the space dragon called Sir Isaac Newton from Heinlein’s Between Planets, and Saphira Bjartskular from Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle series. Oh, yes, and there are such creatures in George R. R. Martin’s books as well.
But then there is The Worm Ouroboros, written in 1922 by E.R. Eddison. It is a classic epic heroic fantasy written well before Tolkien’s trilogy, a story of good versus evil. Eddison's 520-page tale was an inspiration to Tolkien, who wrote in a letter that he enjoyed his books "for their sheer literary merit," and CS Lewis was also a fan, judging that "no writer can be said to remind us of Eddison." For those who have not read Eddison’s novel, be warned the language is rich and is based on Tudor and Jacobean English. It takes some getting used to, but is well worth the time. Of interest is that Eddison refers to his world as Middle Earth in the book on several occasions.
The Worm Ouroboros is a classic tale. Yet, even though its title refers to the Norse mythology, the dragon named Ouroboros that swallows its own tail, no such creature appears in Eddison’s tale. The title is symbolic of the cyclical nature of the fight between good and evil, of war and battle, of death and re-birth.
Book Two: Shadow in the Flame begins to reveal the history of the Harrow’s ajatars. We learn of the two races of ajatars, the En’Carad and the Lok Tumu. We learn that each race was born of the fire of creation, the Ay’ Panul, that moment in time, or as Tollen Popperdock states, “that one instance, that one blink of an eye, when all that was suddenly became all that is.”
In one chapter, we meet the master of the Lok Tumu, the one named Mori Mengel, and we learn more of the race of ajatars.
“The mountain ‘Ksh Nierwes was a hive of fire and evil and its master was Mori Mengel, the oldest of the black ajatars, the one the others called the Tura. It was said that the malevolent Mengel was born of the fires of the Ay’ Panul, with a soul as black as the darkest place in the night sky, and it was he, Tura Mori Mengel who led the onslaught of the En’ Carad during the Age of Fire. Mengel was massive, towering over other ajatars. He was left with only one eye, which blazed a fiery orange; the other eye, lost in battle, was replaced with a large onyx stone. His scales were dark brown, lighter shades at the edges which were dulled with age, yet they still formed complicated patterns. His talons remained long and somewhat sharp; his wings still enormous and powerful, yet with gashes and holes. The aged ajatar remained dominant, ruling over ‘Ksh Nierwes, still mating with female ajatars, and intermittently fighting off younger males.”
We love dragons because dragons are more than just a creature; they represent everything we want to believe in as humans. They represent magic, wisdom, power, and most of all a notion that anyone can be a hero, the one to slay the dragon.