By KellyAnn Bonnell
On November 22, 2011 Anne McCaffrey died at the age of 85. Anne introduced us to the world of Pern and the characters and dragons who resided there. Then Lev Grossman, with Time, published his memorial blog in which he said,
McCaffrey’s work is a landmark in the fantasy canon, but she will never make it into the literary canon. She was a hugely powerful presence in her field – she did as much or more than anybody to make tough, powerful heroines part of the fantasy and SF tradition – but you don’t see her work taught in colleges. I understand why. She wasn’t a writer who hoarded her gifts: she wrote a lot, 21 novels about Pern alone, some of the last in collaboration with her son Todd. They weren’t all great. But they all have their moments…
And I found myself asking why not? These books are all but required reading for most middle school girls and all fans of fantasy literature. And so I sit here writing because if anyone deserves to be in our classrooms, its Anne and her vision of Pern.
Anne was an American-Irish author who found her voice in fantasy fiction and opened the door for other female writers of the genre to be taken seriously. She was an author significantly impacted by the times in which she lived. The first book in the series was published in 1967 and her characters are early templates for the female protagonists we have come to expect. Through the world of Pern, Anne introduced us to a new kind of heroine, one who could be a partner to the hero rather than a hindrance. Before there was a Katniss Everdeen — or even a Hermione Granger — there were Menolly and Killashandra Ree. Why not have your students use Pinterest to create an electronic collage representing the evolution of the female protagonist?
There’s a real chance that Anne’s dragons won’t resound with all your students which is fine because her’s aren’t the only dragons in literature. You might consider approaching dragons through the lens of American Lit authors and introduce them to Ray Bradbury. His 1955 short story “The Dragon” is about a pair of knights who set out to fight what they think is a dragon. It is only after their death that we learn that the dragon is actually a steam train.
You can look at the history and mythology of the Dragon with the help of Animal Planet’s Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real narrated by Patrick Stewart. Their site even has a great bibliography for further exploration.
What about real dragons? Nat Geo Wild has an entire page dedicated to the Komodo Dragon or how about the smaller and infinitely cooler Draco Volans. Here’s a great picture of a winged dragon from the Lambusango Forest Reserve. Then there are the Dragon Blood Trees of Socotra. Where is Socotra? These trees are on the Red List for Endangered Threatened Species. Staying on the science theme NASA announced recently it has set the date for the Dragon’s Space Station debut.
Perhaps CTE is more your cup of tea? Teaching a business class? The BBC2 has a great show for introductory business classes called The Dragon’s Den . In a single episode, three intrepid entrepreneurs pitch their business concept to multimillionaires who may become investors. Your students learn valuable lessons watching and discussing these pitch postmortems.
KellyAnn Bonnell is not a compensated to promote any brand, site or product.