|St. George and the Dragon|
What difference does it make, which kind of villain a story has?
It’s the same story either way, right? A knight battles a dragon.
Imagine a story about a knight battling dragons. Three dragons.
All three kill men, burn villages, and slaughter sheep. They kill more than they need, they incinerate for no good reason, they waste and destroy. They are villains, evil, wicked, and the knight sets off to free his land from these scourges.
The first dragon crawled from beneath a mountain. His scales, skin, and flesh are charcoal black. He loves evil, takes pleasure in burning villages and slaughtering sheep. He plays with death, spreading it about for entertainment. He was born like that, has always been that way. He is a wicked beast. No matter how smart he is, no matter if he had reasoning powers, he is a brute.
The second dragon fell from the sky. Somewhere up there he chose darkness, and it has pervaded his body until he too has black flesh. His scales are black as well, although when he washes they turn white again for a brief time until the darkness in his heart overcomes their natural color once more. He hates men for what they stand for, creatures that cling to a sense of morality no matter how depraved they become. Like the first beast, he kills for fun. For him, however, it is a different kind of fun. Not only does it offer him the pleasure of seeing that which he hates suffer, it has the added thrill of rebellion. He was created good, but he has chosen evil.
The third dragon was once a man. He got lost, made wrong choices, took the wrong path and became enchanted. He hates men because he is one, he sees their humanity and envies it. But he hates himself more. He burns villages in anger and then swoops down into the furnace he created to save a child crying and lost in the burning street. He kills fields of sheep, finding pleasure in his power, then weeps at what he has become. Betrayed and angry, he kills men, but he wants nothing more than to go back to the time when he was a man himself.
The first dragon will kill, be killed, or slink back into his hole to emerge somewhere else. He waits for the knight in the cave that he lives in. He will try every dirty tactic he knows. He has no sense of fighting fair, if he did, he wouldn’t care.
|Eustace the dragon, from The Voyage|
of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.
The young knight engages, and after a hard struggle, kills the beast. The victory is complete. There is no sorrow, the brute was wicked and evil. The knight picks up his shield, shines his blackened armor, and sets out towards the second dragon.
The second dragon will kill, be killed, or turn the knight to the side of darkness. He waits on the top of a hill, watching the knight struggle uphill toward him. Unlike the first dragon, he knows perfectly well that his position gives him an unfair advantage. He chose the place on purpose.
His first aim is to wear the knight out. He dodges and ducks, not really fighting, raising hopes only to dash them, until the young knight is exhausted physically and mentally. And then the temptation begins.
He gives the knight opportunity after opportunity to fight dirty. He want to kill the knight, but even more than that, he wants the knight to do something unfair.
The knight struggles to continue to fight fair. Once he begins to give in, but stops. The fight wears on. The dragon starts to get flustered and frustrated. He makes a mistake and the young knight wounds him. Furious, the dragon throws himself on the young knight, and as they fall together the knight drives his sword into his heart.
The knight has won, but he is exhausted and wounded. It has been the fight of his life. He almost yielded to the dragon’s temptation and he feels his own vulnerability. His armor has been blackened by the dragon’s blood and not all of it will come off. He makes his way to the nearest village to recover before fighting more dragons.
The third dragon waits in an open field. He has heard of the knight coming. He is afraid, knowing that the knight is an expert dragon killer, but some part of him doesn’t care. He feels that death might be better than life as a dragon.
The knight approaches cautiously, expecting a trap, but the dragon turns toward him and sends a fireball hurtling past him, a sort of warning shot. Then he attacks, with desperation and a desire to have it over.
The battle is fierce and dramatic. There is fire and explosions, a flashing sword and bent shield. The dragon and the man are both wounded, and blood is everywhere, but this dragon’s blood does not turn armor black. It is bright red, like the knight’s blood.
Finally, the desperate struggle ends. The dragon collapses upon the grass, but as it dies, it begins to shrink and change, until lying before the knight is a man.
A man who opens his eyes to a world in which he is free at last.