The Book of Dragons
July 22, 2018 1:51 PM   Subscribe

“The Dragon Tamers” A short story by Edith Nesbit, one of the mothers of modern fantasy. “The child who reads her will never be quite the same again, and that is probably a good thing” (Gore Vidal, 1964)
posted by Anonymous (17 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

So, uh, I'm going to refrain from rewriting the essay I wrote in high school for Academic Decathlon about my personal hero, or the presentation I did in college for a British children's literature class, but every time one of those, "You can have a conversation with one historical figure, who do you pick?" questions comes up, it's always a battle between Edith Nesbit and Jeremy Brett. Her writing was so instrumental to the kind of fantasy I love today (characters who act like real people! magic in the real world! magic that fucks things up!) and therefore deeply influential on my own writing. I must have checked out The Enchanted Castle over a dozen times, and I'm still looking for the exact edition my library had, with full color illustrations and a lovely green cover. I don't think any book has ever captured magic for me in quite the way she did. The constant fluctuations between joy, beauty, awe, and horror--that felt like real magic to me. I still vividly remember the statues and Ugly-Wugly scenes.

I'm not going to read the short story right now just because I'm planning on reading the entire Book of Dragons in the near future, but I'm sure it's as delightful as everything else she's written.
posted by brook horse at 2:14 PM on July 22, 2018 [14 favorites]

Brook Horse, possibly this one? If not, abebooks has a variety of other choices.
posted by blob at 2:54 PM on July 22, 2018

I read and re-read the Book of Dragons again and again when I was a kid. And now I'm 40-something and I can still read a story like "The Dragon Tamers" and find it charming.
posted by bunderful at 3:00 PM on July 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Tempted to go back and re-read Five Children and It AGAIN.
posted by Peach at 3:11 PM on July 22, 2018 [9 favorites]

Here's the essay from which the Gore Vidal quote is taken: The Writing of E. Nesbit .

You can find many of Nesbit's stories and other writings, including some relatively unknown ones, at the Internet Archive.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:04 PM on July 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

E. Nesbit is the only good thing.
posted by corb at 5:00 PM on July 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've not read her properly. Properly in this context is defined as either a) as a youngster via parents, library or good fortune; or b) actively engaging with her writings on their own merits. My path was instead c) repeatedly half-seen The Railway Children and mentally filed it alongside the repeatedly half-seen Whistle Down The Wind, bounced off the Five Children And It BBC series, watched the Five Children And It film because why not? also Izzard, read whichever book it was of hers that CS Lewis ripped off for his Jadis in London lampostery, bought that same book for my adult sister because she loves The Magician's Nephew best, read another Nesbit which involved a group of children and lot of marble statues in the grounds of a great house or castle, I forget.

Will get right on this!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 5:19 PM on July 22, 2018

I can't remember if it's in Five Children and It or not, but one of the E. Nesbit books taught me to look up more often.

We are getting to the age with the eldest child where I may be able to start reading her these books at night. Thank you for the reminder, stoneweaver.
posted by offalark at 5:21 PM on July 22, 2018

What is a good age to start reading some of these to a youngster?
posted by daniel9223 at 5:39 PM on July 22, 2018

Thank you so much for this. I had never heard of her and I think I would like her.

I was taken aback by this from Vidal:

E. Nesbit’s failure in the United States is not entirely mysterious. We have always preferred how-to-do to let’s-imagine-that. In the last fifty years, considering our power and wealth, we have contributed relatively little in the way of new ideas of any sort. From radar to rocketry, we have had to rely on other societies for theory and invention. Our great contribution has been, characteristically, the assembly line.

Is that really how it was, in the early sixties? I’m not sure many would say that now. Would they?
posted by eirias at 6:46 PM on July 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

also Izzard, read whichever book it was of hers that CS Lewis ripped off for his Jadis in London lampostery

Found this intriguing and set to googling. Apparently Lewis was a big fan of Nesbitt and borrowed from The Story of The Amulet.

Just downloaded it from the library.
posted by bunderful at 8:03 PM on July 22, 2018

Wow, what a wonderful story! I’ve never heard of Nesbit before. Thanks for sharing!
posted by joedan at 10:56 PM on July 22, 2018

Ooh, I loved the House of Arden as a child and have never come across Harding's Luck. Off to find a copy!
posted by Tapioca at 2:06 AM on July 23, 2018

Warning for anti semitism in The Story of the Amulet. As with a great deal of seemingly charming late Victorian/Edwardian English writing, judicious bowdlerism called for on the part of the reading adult.
posted by glasseyes at 8:04 AM on July 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

E. Nesbit's wonderful books are free on Project Gutenberg
posted by anadem at 9:43 AM on July 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Thank you stoneweaver. I must have read that story fifty times as a child - the phrase about "twopence worth of coal" took me back 40 years in a flash - but because it was in a compendium I never knew it was by E Nesbit or that there was a whole book about dragons by her. Brilliant writing.
posted by YoungStencil at 11:37 AM on July 23, 2018

It's not often you see a story with spectacularly stupid dragons in it. But perhaps more surprising is that so many mefites love a story that shows how cats are just stupid dragons!
posted by Grither at 8:03 AM on July 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

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