The story of St George and the Dragon reminds us that in spite of Nietzsche’s advice to the contrary it is sometimes necessary to do battle with monsters.
In our hearts, we would rather such monsters did not exist, and even in our worst case scenarios, where wings beat and talons rend at flesh, we cling to the hope that the terrifying behemoths can somehow be tamed.
Occasionally we get lucky, and the monsters consume someone else (ha!). Other times, we make our own luck. As I have discovered, it’s remarkable how easy it is to spook out ferocious dogs with the right kind of non-staring stare.
But when you’re face to face with a monster, and there really is no way out, don’t you curse yourself for all the luck and tricks you’ve burned up along the way?
Don’t you wish you’d got better at fighting?
Hmm, well, that depends.
Returning to heroic old St George, while it’s true that he rescued the princess, and truer that he slewerated the dragon, the whole courageous escapade was part of a deal.
“Sure, I’ll twat your dragon,” said the bold St George, “but only if you guys convert to the Good Lord On High.”
Seems like St George’s dragon was a take-it-or-leave-it monster — a perk of the knighting job, like a cup of tea for a plumber. Heroic St George could have stayed at home and polished his helmet.
Real monsters don’t sit and wait for would-be could-be heroes to wander along on a whim.
They hunt us down and prey on our uncertainty.
This is why unreliable narrators are such compelling reads.
Fear is probably the only thing such narrators truly believe in, and whenever we prise open the jaws of a book and stare down the throat of its unfolding narrative (an image that doesn’t quite work with an eReader, I confess — unless you’ve fitted dentures to your Nexus as part of a Live The Real Deal deal) we’re shoulder to shoulder with the monsters in our own lives.
Deep down, we all know we’re flawed, and deeper down, we know there are monsters OUT THERE.
So if you’re writing today, make sure the horns of your protagonist’s inner dilemma dwarf those of your monster’s HUMUNGOUS exterior. Makes for a better fight.
If you’re not writing today, ask what dragons fluttering over your horizon are worth a moment of your combat time. Then take a good look in the mirror and prepare for battle, one way or another.