The copy of Dragon Rider (by Cornelia Funke) that I own is the new edition which features “Sorrel’s Story”, which is a brand new chapter. And then the other text bellow that says “Plus Dragon Lore & More!”. If that part is what I think it is, it’s rather short. To find out about dragons you’d be better off with Wikipedia. I finished Dragon Rider last night, and then spent most of my afternoon today reading about dragons on Wikipedia. German, Norse, Celtic, dragons in Iberian mythology (Asturian, Aragonese, Basque, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian), Chinese dargons, Japanese dragons, Korean dragons, Vietnamese dragons, Vedic dragons, Persian dragons, Greek dragons, and “European dragons” (including Roman ones). It’s actually quite interesting. Basically, I read every (or almost every) Wikipedia article on dragons.
But before I start going on about how odd Slavic dragons are, or how much I smiled when I read about Greek dragons, I had better get to telling you about the book Dragon Rider, or this won’t be a book review at all. It starts with “Rat” (who’s name is actually Rosa) hurrying to the valley of the dragons (which is located in Scotland) to tell them that “humans are coming!” She is met by Sorrel, the forest brownie who is Firedrake’s companion. Brownies are the only ones who can cheer up a sad dragon. And quite a few things make dragons sad, like rain. And it rained a lot in the valley of the dragons. Anyway, after Sorrel stopped saying things like “oh putrid puffballs” (brownies are very fond of mushrooms), Rat woke up Firedrake, who stretched his silvery neck (all dragons are silver) and greeted her. Rat kept on ranting on about how the dragons hadn’t listened to her etc. etc.
Firedrake asked Sorrel what in the world Rat was talking about, but Sorrel had no idea, because Rat wouldn’t tell her. Then Rat calmed down and squeaked “humans are coming!” So then all the dragons gathered. Slatebeard was the oldest, so they waited for him to come outside before they started. Rat announced the news to the dragons, and they all started worrying. Slatebeard eventually told them to seek the Rim of Heaven, where he had been born. He said that he knew most of them regarded it as a fairytale, even though a few of them actually had been there. One of the dragons said they’d scare the humans away “let them come!” he said. Rat said “if you won’t believe me, ask Sorrel”. So everyone turned to Sorrel and she told them about humans, “they never have all they want”. One of the dragons was scornful and turned, so Sorrel got mad. She started telling them that humans somehow keep sunlight trapped in their houses at night, the planes which went by overhead (“Being so stupid you call them noisybirds” Sorrel said) were a way the humans had devised that allowed them to fly, they make cups of ice that never melt, they can do wonderful things, and terrible things. And that if they want to flood the valley (which is what they’re going to do) they will.
Most of the dragons go to hide again, but Firedrake says he shall search for the Rim of Heaven (against Sorrel’s protests). Slatebeard goes to his cave, and they follow. Then the old dragon tells them all he can remember about the Rim of Heaven, and he adds a warning. Here I directly quote from the book:
“But… beware,” he said, his voice so soft they could hardly hear it, “beware of the Golden One.”
Then he fell asleep. So Sorrel went to grab provisions (leaves and mushrooms and such, for her. Dragons “drink” moonlight). Rat then told them where they could get a map that might help them find the Rim of Heaven. Her cousin Gilbert Graytale made maps, the only problem with getting to him though, would be the fact that he lives in a human city. Nevertheless, Sorrel and Firedrake set off for the city. When they reach it, Firedrake has to swim through the dirty rivers by night to avoid being seen. They hide in a warehouse that smells abandoned to Sorrel. But there is a human boy there, who smells exactly like his surroundings. His name is Ben, he has no family, and he was taken totally by surprise by the appearance of Sorrel and Firedrake. He told them they could stay as long as they needed to, and when he found out that Sorrel had to reach the warehouses where Gilbert was, he offered to guide her. She had to wear human clothes (which she wasn’t pleased with) though. Firedrake was grateful, and said so, even though Sorrel was moaning about how she wouldn’t be able to get the “human stink” out of her fur for days.
They went and met Gilbert, and he gave them his best map (they had to pay for it though, and Sorrel had a mini-rant about how he couldn’t just give them a bit of friendly help), but when they came back, they had to get Firedrake out fast. The warehouse he was in was going to get destroyed. They rushed in, evading the workers, and then Ben told Sorrel he’d hold them off while she got Firedrake out. But Firedrake wanted to know where Ben was. Ben was grabbed by two guys and they started questioning him, at one point Ben got hurt (I think), and Firedrake sprang like a cat. When Ben saw him he ran towards him, saying he was supposed to have been gone by then! But Firedrake ignored him and growled, saying that Ben was his, the men stepped back, (the usual, “I’m dreaming! There’s a dragon!” and all that stupid stuff), but when Firedrake blew some blue dragon fire, they screamed and ran.
Of course, dragon fire doesn’t harm anyone at all, it heals creatures, and it restores enchanted creatures to their natural state. Ben and Sorrel got on Ben’s little boat so that Firedrake could dive down bellow the water if he needed to, and they agreed to regroup under the bridge. When they regrouped, Ben admitted that he wanted to go with them. Firedrake told him he could, despite Sorrels’s protestations. Finally, she agreed, as long as Ben was going to be sitting behind her. So they flew on, unfortunately… Sorrel didn’t read the map correctly, and directed them to a yellow patch on the map, mixing up yellow and grey. Yellow was a place that was dangerous, and grey was a place to rest. So they landed on a mountain near a castle.
They met some mountain dwarves, and when they went to get supplies for Sorrel (they wanted Firedrake to tell them if there were any precious metals or stones on the mountain, and Sorrel promised to call to them as soon as Firedrake woke up), but one of them, Gravelbeard, snuck away to go to the castle. The owner of the castle (which was worn down) was bigger than a dragon, but looked like one. He was called Nettlebrand. The Golden One. He had a tiny little homunculus, Twigleg, as an armor cleaner. Nettlebrand had eaten his creator (a brilliant alchemist) and Twigleg’s eleven brothers. He had thousands of enchanted ravens and will-o-wisp spies. Nettlebrand had been waiting to hunt dragons for centuries (his creator had made him to hunt dragons, because the alchemist had needed powdered dragon horns to make gold, and the knights he was paying couldn’t bring him the horns fast enough for his experiments.
So as soon as Nettlebrand heard of Firedrake, he sent Twigleg on a raven to confirm the silver dragon’s existence. Then he told Twigleg to tail Firedrake, with the raven’s help. Twigleg found out that he didn’t come from the Rim of Heaven, and that he was looking for it. He was close to finding out where the silver dragons Firedrake had left lived, but Sorrel stopped Firedrake from saying anything about that to the dwarves, so she unknowingly saved those dragons from Nettlebrand. When they left, they thought they would be able to go smoothly now. But no, the wind blew them off course towards Egypt, which was covered in yellow spots. There Sorrel was captured by humans while she was trying to wipe out Firedrake’s tracks, so Ben had to go free her. And there they discovered there was a man called Professor Greenbloom who knew exactly what Sorrel was, meanwhile, his colleagues suggested that she might be a “mutant monkey” (how ridiculous). And Twigleg was there too, the other professors thought Twigleg was a tiny little machine. Professor Greenbloom however, knew exactly what Twigleg was as well.
As soon as the professors left to look at Firedrake’s tracks, Ben freed Twigleg and Sorrel, Twigleg reached into Sorrel’s lock and opened it, then he set free the monkey, and the chickens at Ben’s request. Then they escaped the camp. Meanwhile, Firedrake had been sleeping when he was woken by a horrific sight. The sight of a basilisk. It almost killed him, but someone stepped on Firedrake’s tail, breaking Firedrake’s eye contact with the basilisk as he whipped around. There was Professor Greenbloom, holding up a mirror, he told Firedrake to move to the side and not look the basilisk in the eyes. The basilisk saw it’s reflection, swelled up to a gigantic size and exploded. But when Firedrake breathed dragon fire on the remains, they turned to silver dust.
Barnabas Greenbloom told them to go talk to the blue djinn of a thousand eyes, named Asif, to find out where the Rim of Heaven was. The only problem was that Asif would only answer the question if no one had asked him that question before, if the question was in seven words exactly, and if a human asked. If he had been asked the question before, then he would take the human as a servant. And where did Asif live? Inside a car in a valley. And Professor Greenbloom also recommended visiting a friend of his, named Zubeida, who was a dracologist and probably knew more about dragons than anyone else in the world. And even more surprisingly, she might know how Firedrake could fly when the moon was not in the sky. Dragons get all their power from the moon, and cannot fly when it isn’t there.
So they flew around the world, and Twigleg helped them get past some sand elves, or maybe they were fairies (you have to insult them in alphabetical order, but according to Twigleg, they don’t notice if you leave out X). Anyway, Ben asked the right question, and he was the first not to ask for himself. The first. Twigleg had grown attached to Ben, and knew that Nettlebrand planned to eat Ben. So he became suddenly determined to protect Ben. So he sent Nettlebrand to the biggest desert he could find. Because Nettlebrand could only travel with water, if one of his servants threw a stone into water, or spat into water, they could communicate with him.
I won’t say anymore (even though there is plenty more to talk about) because then I’ll just steam on and on until I’ve told you whether or not Nettlebrand gets them, and that would totally ruin the story for you. SO I can’t do that. I hope you understand. Anyway, it’s a very good book. And here is a quote from the author that was in the “Dragon Tales” section:
“I admit, I prefer Asian dragons, as they are forces of nature and not, like in Western myth, incarnations of evil. It sometimes seems to me that in our dragon stories we show how we look upon nature: as something to love and respect, or as something we want to rule over and destroy.”
I heartily agree with her.