Authors: Patricia C. Wrede
Text copyright Â© 1985 by Patricia C. Wrede
Introduction copyright Â© 2015 by Patricia C. Wrede
All rights reserved. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Harcourt Children's Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 1985.
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:
Wrede, Patricia C., 1953â
Talking to dragons/Patricia C. Wrede.
p.Â cm.â(The Enchanted Forest chronicles; bk. 4)
Sequel to: Calling on dragons.
Summary: Queen Cimorene sends her sixteen-year-old son, Daystar, into the Enchanted Forest with the only weapon that can combat an evil wizard's magic in an effort to restore the balance of power in the kingdom.
[1. Fairy tales. 2. MagicâFiction. 3. WizardsâFiction. 4. Kings, queens, rulers, etc.âFiction.]
I. Title. II. Series: Wrede, Patricia C., 1953â
Enchanted Forest chronicles; bk. 4.
ISBN: 978-0-15-284247-5 hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-544-54148-1 paperback
(who started it),
and for the rest of the Scribblies:
STEVE, PAM, KARA,
Talking to Dragons
is different from the other books of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I wrote it first, when I was still very much a new writerâit was my third novel ever. It was my first try at first-person narration, and the first time I wrote a book without having any idea what it would be about when I started. (I didn't have a clue what was going on until nearly halfway through the manuscript.) Also, it was not what I was intending to write at the time.
The book came about almost by accident. I had just turned in my second novel, and my publisher and I were arguing about titles (they didn't like the ones I suggested, and I didn't like the ones they suggested). I was at a local party, complaining to a friend that I had plenty of good titles that didn't have books to go with them, and, apparently, a perfectly good book with no acceptable title, and wouldn't it be a fine thing if some of them would match. My friend got tired of listening to complaints, and in order to distract me asked for some of the good titles. I rattled off four or five, among which was “Talking to Dragons.”
“âTalking to Dragons' sounds like a great book,” my friend said. “You should write that one.”
“I don't have a story to go with it; it's just a title,” I grouched. “That's my whole problem!”
The conversation and the party moved on, but I kept thinking about that comment. It floated up again while I was driving home. “âTalking to Dragons,'” I thought. “That
sound like a good story.
Mother taught me to be polite to dragons
.Â .Â . Hey, that should be the first line!”
I drove the rest of the way home repeating the opening under my breath so I wouldn't forget it, and the minute I hit the house, I grabbed a pen and paper to write it down. Only when I started writing, it didn't stop with âMother taught me to be polite to dragons'âit kept going for several more sentences.
“Cool,” I thought. “When I figure out what is going on, I have a whole first paragraph.” And I went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up knowing what the second paragraph was. So I hunted up the paper I'd written the night before, to add to it. When I finally looked up, I'd written two and a half pages and it was the middle of the morning. I really wanted to know what was going to happen next .Â .Â . and the only way to find out was to keep writing.
So I did. I didn't have any more idea what was going on than my protagonist did, which was frightening. Until somewhere between half and two-thirds of the way through the book, I didn't know if I was going to have a story or just a lot of random incidents. I felt like a high-wire walker working without a net.
Because it was the first book I wrote in the series,
Talking to Dragons
is the place where I made up a lot of the things that people have asked about in
Dealing with Dragons.
All of them occurred because of the necessities of storytellingâfor instance, the fact that a female dragon is King of the Dragons came about because my characters had just met their very first actual dragon and I wanted to show that dragons weren't just humans dressed in lizard suits. I wanted a fast way to demonstrate to readers that dragons don't see things the way we doâthat they
differently. So I made King of the Dragons a non-gender-specific job title .Â .Â . as far as the dragons were concerned.
When I finally finished the book, I sent it off to my agent, who promptly informed me that she was going to send it to some children's book publishers. I panicked. I hadn't set out to write a children's book, and I wasn't at all sure children would understand or like it. So I called up two of my writer friends who had children of the right age and begged them to give the manuscript to the kids as involuntary test readers. They humored me, and when Annie and Paul liked the story, it made me feel much calmer about my agent's recommendation.
Then came a snag: the editor liked the book, but said the pace was too slow. So I sat down with my three-hundred-page manuscript determined to cut thirty pages, hoping that would “pick up the pace,” whatever that meant. Unfortunately, every time I tried to cut a scene, I had to add one somewhere else to cover the important information that had dropped out.
Finally, I figured out that if I cut three lines per manuscript page, I'd get my thirty pages. I spent the next three weeks hunting for unnecessary sentences, three- and four-word phrases that could be changed to one- or two-word phrases, and dialog that could be rearranged and tightened enough to get rid of three lines on every page. They were some of the more difficult and painful weeks of my writing life, but the book was vastly improved as a result, and I learned an enormous amount about revising in the process.
The original version of
Talking to Dragons
came out in 1985 as a mass market paperback, which attracted the attention of Jane Yolen. That eventually led to the development of the other books in this series, all of which are technically prequels. When we worked our way back to this one, it needed surprisingly little attentionâsome of the background had changed slightly in the course of writing the first three books, but it didn't affect the main story line.
The four Enchanted Forest books are undoubtedly the most popular and longest-lived of the books I've written, and I am very grateful to all the readers who made that happen.
OTHER TAUGHT ME
to be polite to dragons. Particularly polite, I mean; she taught me to be ordinary polite to everyone. Well, it makes sense. With all the enchanted princesses and disguised wizards and transformed kings and so on wandering around, you never know
you might be talking to. But dragons are a special case.
Not that I ever actually talked to one until after I left home. Even at the edge of the Enchanted Forest, dragons aren't exactly common. The principle is what matters, though:
be polite to a dragon. It's harder than it sounds. Dragon etiquette is incredibly complicated, and if you make a mistake, the dragon eats you. Fortunately, I was well trained.
Dragon etiquette wasn't the only thing Mother taught me. Reading and writing are unusual skills for a poor boy, but I learned them. Music, too, and fighting. Don't ask me where Mother learned to use a sword. Until I was thirteen, I didn't know we had one in the house. I even learned a little magic. Mother wasn't exactly pleased; but growing up on the edge of the Enchanted Forest, I had to know some things.
Mother is tallâabout two inches taller than I amâand slender, and very impressive when she wants to be. Her hair is black, like mine, but much longer. Most of the time she wears it in two braids wound around and around her head, but when she really wants to impress someone she lets it hang straight to her feet. A lot of the disguised princes who stopped at our cottage on their way into the Enchanted Forest thought Mother was a sorceress. You can't really blame them. Who else would live at the edge of a place like that?
Sometimes I thought they were right. Mother always knew what directions to give them, even if they didn't tell her what they were looking for. I never saw her do any real magic, though, until the day the wizard came.
I knew right away that he was a wizard. Not because of his brown beard or his blue-and-brown silk robesâalthough no one but a wizard can walk around in blue-and-brown silk robes for very long without getting really dusty. It wasn't even his staff. I knew he was a wizard because he had the same
of magic that the unicorns and griffins have when you catch a glimpse of them, farther on in the forest.
I was surprised to see him because we didn't get too many wizards. Well, actually, we'd never gotten any. Mother said that most of them preferred to go into the forest through the Gates of Mist and Pearl at the top of the Crystal Falls, or through the Caves of Fire and Night if they could manage it. The few that went into the forest in other ways never stopped at our cottage.
wizard was unusual. He turned off the road and walked right past me without saying anything, straight up to our cottage. Then he banged on the door with the head of his staff. The door splintered and fell apart.
I decided that I didn't like him.
Mother was cooking rabbit stew in the big black pot over the chimney fire. She didn't even look up when the door fell in. The wizard stood there for a minute, and I sneaked a little closer so I could see better. He was frowning, and I got the impression he wasn't used to being ignored. Mother kept stirring the stew.
“Well, Cimorene, I have found you,” the wizard said at last.
“It took you long enough,” Mother said without turning. “You're getting slow.”
“You know why I am here.”
Mother shrugged. “You're sixteen years too late. I told you, you're getting slow.”
“Ha! I can take the sword now, and the boy as well. There is nothing you can do to stop me this time,” the wizard said. I could tell he was trying to sound menacing, but he didn't do a very good job.
Mother finally turned around. I took one look at her face and backed up a couple of steps. She looked at the wizard for a minute and started to smile. “Nothing, Antorell? Are you sure?”
The wizard laughed and raised his staff. I backed up some more. I mean, I wanted to see what was going on, but I'm not
He paused a momentâfor effect, I thinkâand Mother pointed at him.
“Argelfraster,” she said, and he started to melt.
” he screamed. He shrank pretty quicklyâall but his head, which was shouting nearly the whole time. “I'll get you, Cimorene! I'll be back! You can't stop me! I'llâ”