“The Making of Dragons” by Jane Yolen and why I love it

The Making of Dragons (from Here There Be Dragons)

by Jane Yolen

If only it were still simple,
fire, water, earth, air,
the staples
of the older gods. But modern days
require choice, that modern phrase.
So choose–good dragon, bad dragon, west or east.

We must prioritize your beast.

You buy your myth with hollow coins.
So choose:
fire in the mouth or in the loins.

The Head:
the placement of the jagged teeth,
the poison glands, above, beneath
the forking tongue.
Eyes that spark fire?
The mouth, when open, breathing desire?
The jaw reticulated, viz. the snake.
The voice articulated, viz. the crake.
The tone: a cry, a scream, a roar?
In the making of dragons less is not more.

The Trunk:
the body comes in three basic styles.
One, the sinuous body that goes on for miles
(or meters in our continental design).
That is our Ororoborus line.
Two, the stumpy, humpy dinosaur
which will cost you a bit more
but comes with guarantees in parts replacement.
(We keep a years supply in the basement.)
The third, imported from the east,
well, we recommend that one the least.

The Tail:
caudal vertebrae aside,
a tail can be narrow, or it can be wide,
it can be flexible, or it can be hard,
used for a rudder, a weapon, a guard,
but all tails must be a certain length
to guarantee balance, poise, and strength.
Here is the formula (or as we say in the trade, the key):
Length from nose to sacrum + 2 X  2 1/2 equals tail
NSL+2 X 2.5=T

scales, feathers, skin, or fur.
Sexes: him, it, hermaphro, her.
Nails: oak, teak, ivory, or steel.
Diet preferences: beef, chicken, pork, game, or veal,
vegetarian (this last within reason),
or maidens in or out of season.

Our payment plan is based on need.
We take your house, your soul, your seed.
Please understand:
a dragon is a work of art.
If you prefer installments, we take your heart.
Just initial your preferred design
and here, on the bottom line . . .



I found this poem in a book called Here There be Dragons by Jane Yolen and illustrated by David Wilgus. It’s an old book and there are almost no copies in the library now. But somehow, magically, I found it on the shelves. It’s a great collection about dragons (obviously) that’s stayed with me, especially this poem (again obviously I guess).

I always love poems that tell stories, this one doubly so because it tells the story in rhyme.