Nicola Mansfield's Reviews > Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales

Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales by John Gardner
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Aug 15, 2015

really liked it
Read 3 times. Last read August 15, 2015.

I had this book as a child; the same paperback copy I have now, but I first read it from a hardcover copy from the school library. Gardner has a way with words and these are a humorous, tongue-in-cheek collection of original fairy tales. Each contains elemental tropes from the traditional fairy tales and one is even styled (very) loosely after an actual Grimm tale. But these are Gardiner's very own through and through with modern humour making them so gleefully successful. I was delighted with his writing in each story but certainly found the first two stories highly superior to the last two. Each story has two gorgeous illustrations reproduced in black and white; however, from memory I seem to recall that the hardcover had full colour illustrated panes. This book was awarded the NYT Outstanding Book for Children 1975.

1. Dragon, Dragon - Absolutely hilarious! This tale follows the usual three brothers fairy tale. Here, each, starting with the eldest who is clever, then the middle who is strong, goes off to slay the dragon and fails, until the youngest who is nervous and slender but a good boy who listens to his elders. All the usual tropes in this type of tale are used, but Gardner turns it on its head by adding hilarious humour that had me grinning the whole time. (5/5)

2. The Tailor and the Giant - Based on the Grimm tale, but really not following the plot at all. Very funny tale where the giant terrorizes the town the first Monday of every month and the tailor basically has agoraphobia and social anxiety but becomes the hero in the end. I love the writing style and the humour is tongue-in-cheek delightful. (5/5)

3. The Miller's Mule - A mule is too old to work and the miller is going to shoot him, but the mule says he will make him rich if he spares his life. However, the mule is a wicked creature who tries to get the miller killed. This one is a bit of a let down after the first too. Not really that funny, at least it falls flat for me and, I know this sounds like a foolish thing to say about silly fairytales, but this story lacks logic making it hard to get into to the magical realism. It's readable, though. I'm enjoying this author's writing. (3/5)

4. The Last Piece of Light - Quite an original fairytale with a bit of a modern feel to it at first but then we get a king and further in a prince, but settle into a Victorian feel when we meet the chimney sweep. In this story, the saviour is the Lady of the North Star who uses a female chimney sweep to become the hero and in a turn from the norm Chimorra ends up saving the Prince. A quaint feel good tale, but Gardner's humorous twist is that everyone is as dumb as a doornail. Chimorra is the only one with any bit of sense and that is even minimal as she forgets her magic words to save the world and even forgets she's forgotten! But we like Chimorra and don't feel any frustration with her as she goes through the usual fairytale tragedy upon tragedy until the happy, but, strange ending. (4/5)
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August 15, 2015 – Shelved
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