Literature / The Dragon Knight
The Dragon Knight series is a series of fantasy novels by Gordon R. Dickson
. The first book was loosely adapted into the 1982 animated movie The Flight of Dragons
. A shorter form of the first book was previously published as a short story, "St. Dragon and the George".
The books tell the story of Jim and Angela Eckert, two college graduates who are whisked away to another dimension that is nearly identical to that of Medieval England, except there's wizards, dragons, and fairies running around and everyone speaks the same language.
In the first book (The Dragon and the George
) Jim Eckert is trapped in the body of the dragon Gorbash, and must rescue his wife from the Dark Powers
, who are attempting to wrack the fabric of the world's space and time. Along the way, Jim meets Sir Brian
- an incredibly valiant knight, Silvanus Carolinus
- the world's most powerful and crotchety wizard, Daffyd Ap Hywel - the world's greatest archer and proud Welshman, Smrgol - Gorbash's uncle, Aragh the fearsome yet practical (talking) English wolf, and Secoh
- the cowardly miniature dragon. Jim poses as a Baron from America to gain the trust of the local Englishmen.
Jim succeeds in rescuing Angela from the Dark Powers, and the two of them chose to stay in the new world. As a reward, Jim is granted a modest Barony, where he plans to contentedly live out his days — until the magical energy his deeds had earned overflows, forcing him to undertake the study of magic to control it. Because of his powers and the fact that Jim is bringing 20th century technology and knowledge to a medieval world
, the Dark Powers continue to target him in an attempt to use him to tip the balance between Chance (chaos) and History (stasis).
In later books, Jim is also accompanied by Sir Giles (a selkie knight), Hob
(the hobgoblin of Jim's castle), and usually unwillingly involved in the affairs of Prince Edward Plantagenet.Novels in this Series
- The Dragon and the George - See above for summary.
- The Dragon Knight - Jim and his party must go to France to stop an evil sorcerer from carrying out his plan to manipulate the French government into attacking England and triggering a war.
- The Dragon on the Border - Jim visits his friend Sir Giles in Northunberland where the Dark Powers are raising an army of Hollow Men to destroy northern England.
- The Dragon at War - Jim and his friends must fight in a war between the dragons and the English on one side and the French and a navy of sea serpents on the other.
- The Dragon, the Earl, and the Troll: Jim and Angela adopt a baby while attempting to prevent an army of trolls from assaulting the royal Christmas party.
- The Dragon and the Djinn - Jim and Brian travel to the middle east to rescue Brian's fiance's father, captured in the crusades, so Brian can be legally married.
- The Dragon and the Gnarly King - Jim and Angela's son is kidnapped by the "Gnarly King."
- The Dragon in Lyonesse - Jim and his party travel to the mythical lost kingdom of Lyonesse.
- The Dragon and the Fair Maid of Kent - Jim helps England fight off the black plague while attempting to sort out Prince Edward's love life with the Fair Maid of Kent.
See also The Flight of Dragons
, which was in part very loosely inspired by the books.
The series provides examples of:
- The Ace: Brian is considered to possibly be the single best fighter in all of Englandnote , something he seriously needs because winning tournament prizes and ransoming horses and armor is the only way he can keep himself and his lands financially afloat for most of the series. Unfortunately this also makes him a target of envy by other knights like Sir Harrimore.
- Action Girl: Danielle in her first appearance, down to the cocky attitude.
- The Alcoholic: Pretty much all of the humans since alcohol is safer to drink than water. The king of England, especially. Dragons also have an intense love of wine and drink it by the keg.
- Alternate History: Medieval England but with magic, dragons, and fairies. And thanks to Jim, some 20th century technology that will no doubt make it even more different.
- Archer Archetype: Daffyd, a stoic, slightly-aloof loner with an unacknowledged heritage, who is as noted above, the greatest bowman in the current world, and justifiably proud of being such.
- Back from the Dead: Selkies can come back from the dead twice. However, they can only come back in human form once; if killed again, they will be modelocked in seal form.
- Berserk Button: Never call a magician a sorcerer.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Hobgoblins are cowardly and kindly goblins who have power over smoke and hide in chimneys. In one of the latter books, Jim's hob raises an army of hobgoblins who summarily wipe the floor with a much larger and more well-trained army of goblins.
- Demoted to Extra:
- Danielle is not seen again after the second book, merely mentioned in passing.
- Angie swings back and forth between this and being a third protagonist. Justified by the setting, since the Middle Ages were very Stay In The Castle. In some books like The Dragon and The Djinn or The Dragon and The Fair Maid of Kent, which are domestic, Angie plays a far greater role.
- Doing In the Wizard: The laws of reality follow this. Magic that becomes too common stops being magic and starts being science. Consequently the Collegiate prizes the ability to create new magic above all others.
- The Dung Ages: The reality of the medieval world, rammed home quite quickly to Jim. He uses magic to try to at least bring a little sanitation to his personal spaces, but has to deal with the rest of the world on its terms.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Dark Powers in general. Unlike most examples, they are helpless to do anything directly to the world; they instead hire, seduce or subvert others to do their bidding. Some major classes of demons Such as Ahriman, the Bigger Bad from The Dragon and the Djinn, also qualify.
- Embarrassing Nickname: The evil magician Jim fights in The Dragon Knight was known as "Stinky" to Carolinus from their time in school together.
- Eternal English: Discussed in the first book by Angie and Jim, the former of whom notices that their speech patterns are different than they're used to in the present day.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: After Jim regains his own body, Gorbash, the dragon whose body he inhabited, frequently takes the credit for Jim's first adventure.
- Fan of the Past: Jim was studying for his Medieval European studies doctorate before being tossed there. Even with his training he's still not aware of much of the day to day life of being a knight or running a castle, though, and before he arrived he definitely didn't realize that its politics and social expectations were at least as difficult and as serious as modern day America's.
- From a Certain Point of View: When Jim arrives in England, he tells Carolinus he's a "Master of the Arts" and Carolinus construes it as meaning he's a master of the magical arts. He also tells Brian he's a baron from America. Later, Carolinus tells Jim there's no such thing as an evil Magician, but he later admits that he only said that because evil Magicians are technically called "Sorcerers". However, in The Dragon At War, Carolinus explains that sorcerers work alone, and have sold themselves to The Dark Powers in return for learning more offensive and evil "counter-magic" (as opposed to normal magic, which cannot be used for personal gain or any sort of evil).
- Heroic Willpower: Many examples, but Daffyd deciding not to die of harpy venom because Danielle ordered him not to has to count.
- Honor Before Reason: Pretty much every knight in the setting, but especially Sir Brian.
- Hyper Awareness: In Dragon Knight, Daffyd can deduce from a single arrow with scratches on it that the castle is under attack, by whom, for how long, as well as who shot the arrow.
- The Lady's Favor: Lady Geronde's favor means a lot to Brian.
- Lady of War: Lady Geronde, Brian's wife, is quite handy with a boar spear.
- Love at First Sight: Daffyd to Danielle, literally. Later played with in that Danielle is worried about losing him if her looks were the only thing that attracted him in the first place.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Magick has inviolate rules, spelled out in a painfully large encylopedia. The two most often referenced in the series are that magick cannot be used offensively, and magick cannot cure diseases.
- However, Carolinus and KinetetE both note that at the highest level of magick, a magician discovers entire new worlds of magic to be studied which are not bound by these rules. Jim actually determines that 'magick' as Magickians know it is just one fraction of the accessible powers of the world.
- Jim also raises questions about magick that even Carolinus hasn't considered, to the latter's half-amazement, half-annoyance.
- Speculatively, magick can't cure diseases only because no one has figured out how to do it properly; even the wisest medieval minds focused on symptoms, not causes.
- Magick also cannot cross over into kingdoms, such as those of the Dragons and Wolves, since they would have no way to be aware of or defend themselves from whatever would come their way. Jim uses this to his advantage by having Aargh attack Malvinne, for instance.
- The Magic Goes Away: Magic is constantly leaking out into science.
- Carolinus somehow manages to pronounce it this way, while Jim says it without the "K".
- No less wise a wizard than Merlin points out that "Magick" and "magic" are two completely different things.
- Magic Knight: Jim, though he's not too good at the fundamental skills of the knight part. He's substantially better at the chivalry and nobility part, but constantly fails to realize this.
- Magitek: Most of Jim's spells revolve around this, making up for his gaps of knowledge on the laws of magic by MacGyvering up technology. He initially constructs his spells like C-written computer programs, for instance.
- Man Behind the Man: To the point of Jigsaw Puzzle Plot from The Dragon and the Djinn:
- The first Sir Geoffrey the main characters find is fake.
- This leads to the real Sir Geoffrey, pretending to be his master, Murad of the Heavy Purse, but instead, cursed and controlled by...
- The Dragon, Hasan ad-Dimri, Grandmaster of the Assassins, who in turn is controlled by...
- ibn-Tariq, a powerful sorcerer and the Man Behind the Man. The book strongly suggest the Big Bad behind it all is an evil Djinni, Sakhr al-Jinni...
- But he's a Red Herring, appearing and being banished within a couple of lines. The Bigger Bad really is Ahriman, a summoned Demon Lord and Eldritch Abomination - a Dark Power all his own - that all must join together to banish back to his own Kingdom.
- Mr. Vice Guy:
- Sir Brian is the most honorable and true person you'd ever meet, but he has a terrible gambling addiction.
- The dragon species in general are a race of gentle giants, but are also lazy and easily distracted by treasure and wine.
- Mundane Utility: Overuse of magic to do mundane things causes it to stop being magic. Jim uses his dragon form (which technically isn't magic perse but a special personal thing he can do) for a lot of mundane uses, though, such as maintaining his castle and lands.
- Noble Fugitive: Giles of the Wold is hinted to be this, although his identity never actually is revealed.
- Our Dragons Are Different: They can't breathe fire, their body structure is very similar to birds of prey, and they can echo-locate (although even most of the dragons don't realize this). They spend most of their lives fearing their own Super Drowning Skills, which don't actually exist; though a dragon body is substantially heavier than water and thus prone to sinking, it can inhale more than enough air to make itself buoyant.
- Our Goblins Are Different: Goblins are the lowest rank of demon. Stronger demons actually kicked them out of the underworld in a fit of sadism and scapegoating. Hobgoblins began existence as freak (nonsadistic) goblins.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Not technically werewolves, but the wolves of the setting are all sentient, capable of speach, and live solitary lives instead of living in packs - only meeting to mate and raise cubs. They're also twice the size of "earth" wolves, being quite a bit more like bears than wolves and filling a similar ecological niche.
- Out-Gambitted: Jim with regards to the Dark Powers, who have every desire to control him and those he loves, but they're also frequently thwarted by his 20th century knowledge and attitude. As Carolinus has often said, Jim's expertise with magic would scarcely be enough to graduate him past a C rank, but his understanding of people and danger, beyond anything the other humans in his new time can fathom, provide a far more vast pool of potential than anyone can expect. And sometimes, he even unexpectedly thwarts their plans just by doing what comes naturally to him, even if it wildly contradicts what other people in his situation would do.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Sir John Chandos is often this, a major ally for Jim and his friends at court and not as prone to excitable actions as the Bishop of Bath, the king or Prince Edward.
- Red Shirt: The common men-at-arms in Jim's castle, though he does his best to not use their lives causally. One suffers a particularly horrible fate in book four, Swallowed Whole by a marauding sea serpent that was hiding in a dark wood - though he had time enough to get off one scream and warn Jim.
- Rightful King Returns: Subverted in Lyonesse: Daffyd is heir to the quasi-elven kingdom, but he has chosen to live in the real world, rather than staying and dwindling with the rest of his people. He does go back to defend them—but he leaves right after.
- Shapeshifting Squick:
- Implicitly played for laughs at the start of the second book. Jim awakens to find himself turned into a dragon once more... while in bed, with a naked Angie sleeping soundly next to him. Getting up without waking her proves tricky.
- Even better, Jim briefly considers that he may be stuck like this for some time - which wouldn't please his wife. Not at all.
- Shown Their Work: Not for the first book, but from book two on Dickson did extensive amounts of research on the middle ages, usually pointing out how terrible the Ye Goode Olde Days trope is. Jim has to constantly use magic just to keep insects off of his bedding and clothes.
- Sidekick Glass Ceiling:
- In one of the books, Angela turns into a dragon through sheer force of will but Carolinus locks away her powers because two 20th-century time-traveling magitek wizard weredragons would be more than he or the world could handle.
- Angela, however, had no magickal credit, no training, no association with the Accounting Office, and no inherent ability to transform. According to Carolinus, whatever she did nearly destroyed the fundamental cosmic balance.
- Fortunately for their relationship, this does not forbid Jim from using magic to transform Angie when she wishes - except this only happens once in the series.
- Sorceror King: The Dragon Knight is a baron who's also a magician (albeit a low-level one, since being a feudal lord means he can't dedicate his life to magecraft).
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In the Dragon on the Border, Aargh declines Jim's offer to go with him to the north, but Jim finds that Sir Giles's sister has a friendly wolf companion with nearly the exact same personality.
- Super Smoke: The innate ability of hobgoblins is to control and fly on smoke.
- Swallowed Whole: In the fourth book, the sea serpents' primary method of attack - and they're big enough to do this to dragons.
- Temporal Paradox:
- Possibly because of Jim, the history of medieval England is all off. Bits of the Renaissance have leaked in prematurely, such as early aqueducts/sewer systems, some medicine, blood transfusions, paned windows, more efficient indoor heating, and theatrical special effects. (It's all either managed or chalked up to magic, though.) Plague is ahead of schedule and noted events don't match the times they historically occurred. Carolinus dismisses this as the history books being wrong.
- Jim is explicitly responsible for several changes, however. He may have blunted the Black Plague substantially, by explaining how the disease is transmitted by fleas, found on rats, even going so far as to suggest bringing in more cats in order to deal with them. He also taught his fellow knights a lot of songs they shouldn't quite have known.
- The series implies, however, that these changes and discrepancies are all to the good; if History grows too strong and these chaotic elements are not introduced, the world lapses into Stasis.
- Trickster Mentor: Carolinus is often this, sending Jim into a situation with only partial information about what's going on and expecting him to be able to use his unique world-view to figure out a solution. Fortunately he's also usually right.
- Vocal Dissonance: In the fourth book, most of the giant creatures of the sea (e.g. Granfer the giant squid, the sea serpents) speak with high pitched, squeaky voices...the bigger, the squeakier. Notably, the Sea Devils (a race of friendly aquatic giants) are an exception.
- The Voice: The Accounting Office is a neutral disembodied voice created by the magicians of the world to keep track of the world's supply of magic and enforce some basic rules of magic. It also acts as some sort of magical bank that slightly increases the supply of magic via investment. It typically bosses Jim around, though Carolinus and later (once he graduates) Jim can intimidate it by threatening to pull their supply of magic from its management. It also doesn't concern itself with the morality of magic, only the danger a magician poses to potentially decreasing the supply of magic.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A series example, at the end of The Dragon, the Earl, and the Troll Agatha Falon appears to have softened somewhat with her renewed familial relationship with her adoptive grandfather Mnrogar, the troll and appears to suggest she'll be at least putting off any political ambitions to focus on visiting him. This is not mentioned in any of the later books and Agatha seems at least as ambitious and dangerous as before, if not more so.