A few weeks ago, I was invited to submit a story to a collection of steampunk retellings of Grimm Fairy Tales. The story I chose to retell is a rather obscure tale from the original Grimm collection called “The Dragon and His Grandmother.” Part of the reason I chose to do this story was my fondness for dragons. After all, my first professional sale was the story “The Slayers” that appeared in the August 2001 issue of Realms of Fantasy. Here you can see a detail from Mark Harrison’s fine illustration that accompanied the story.
Now, “The Dragon and His Grandmother” is also sometimes translated as “The Devil and His Grandmother”. In reading the original story in German, it’s clear we’re talking about either a devilish dragon or a very dragon-like devil.
As it turns out, there is a long-time association with the devil and dragons going at least as far back as the Bible. Quoting Revelation 12:9: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Of course, my own attraction to dragons comes from them being cool, mythical beasts, not because of their demonic associations!
As a brief aside, one might wonder about the devil—or a dragon for that matter—having a human grandmother. As best I can tell this comes from Teutonic and Russian folklore. To this day, the devil’s grandmother is invoked in Russian curses when machinery breaks down.
So, where do vampires come into this picture? Well, Dracula takes his name from the “Order of the Dragon,” an order whose mission was to fight the enemies of Christianity in the fifteenth Century. In spite of this, Dracula was treated as a demonic figure by Bram Stoker, invoking something of the dragon/devil relationship.
One thing I find interesting is that there’s something of a tie-in between the novel Dracula and the story “The Dragon and His Grandmother”. In Dracula, Jonathan Harker is met by a coach driven by a mysterious figure who might be Dracula himself. In “The Dragon and His Grandmother,” the protagonist goes on a search for the dragon’s grandmother and is met by a mysterious woman who might in fact be the object of his quest.
So, next time you read of devils, dragons, or even vampires, remember, somewhere out there, there’s probably a grandmother that loves them in spite of their nature. In the meantime, wish me luck with my story submission. I’ll be sure to let you know if it’s published and give all the details. If you want to read my dragon story “The Slayers”, it’s available for a mere 99 cents at Smashwords and Amazon.