Wallie asked me the other day, “Do dragons have two legs, or four?”
It is an important thing to think about.
“Four,” I said. “No, two. It depends.”
It isn’t easy changing your mind in Impish.*
Wallie is an Imp, you see, something like a goblin only quite a bit stranger. I found him in my bedroom drawer. He is always asking questions that he doesn’t know the answers to. (I make it a practice to ask only questions I am certain of. If the given answer is wrong, you become an Authority, which is always a state worth being.)
It just so happened that my Friend** was listening to this particular answer, this time. He himself is not an Imp, though I have my theories. My answer must have upset him, because he jerked up his head from the book he was reading.
“Depends? Depends on what?”
“Depends on ‘who,’” I corrected him. “In Anne McCaffrey’s books the dragons have four legs. And yet in Skyrim*** the dragons have two, and in Peter Jackson’s fantasy films, two. In the Harry Potter movies, again—two legs. It depends on the imagination.”
I’ve got him there. My Friend is rather fond of Michael Whelan’s cover art for the McCaffrey books. But that white dragon in—was it Part Two?—of the last Harry Potter films struck him as one of the most beautiful dragons ever visualized. Since he saw it, he has shut up about inferior movie dragons.
Now I know you are going to laugh.
“But it can’t depend on imagination,” my Friend said, “if dragons are real.”
Yes, he does believe it.
Wallie said: “Curlycru26 writes IMO, Jackson’s Smaug is not dragon, because he only has two legs. He is wyvern.”
Curlycru26? That must be one of Wallie’s Internet friends.
I wish he would stay off my iPhone (my Friend says it is good for his English).
My Friend closed his book with emphasis.
“Smaug is a dragon,” he said. “Who are we to say if dragons have four legs or two? What is a wyvern? Who says it is not a dragon?”
He is passionate that way. Less sense than bare reason.
“Wikipedia,” said Wallie.
“Wikipedia. ‘A legendary creature winged creature with a dragon’s head…[and] two legs (sometimes none).’ ‘Dragon’s head’ equals difference. Rest of wyvern not dragon. Wachamahoo!”
“Wachamahoo!” is the Impish cry for victory. Every conversation is a war with Wallie.
My Friend snatched the phone from him.
My Friend is one of those wild people who reads fantasy like fact. He expects to see a unicorn one day, if he only looks hard enough, and I caught him fairy-watching on campus one day, under a bench.
He adores dragons like he’s their knight in shining armor.
There’s a paradox in that.
“Ah-ha!” he cried at last. “Look. Etymology. ‘The usual spelling wyvern is not attested before the 17th century as “winged two-footed dragon.”’ So who is to say that a wyvern is not a different breed of dragon, like the Welsh Wyrm, the Lindworm, the drac, the Imoogi?”
He may have his head in the clouds, but he doesn’t spare the stuffing.
“Well,” I said. “It is possible.”
Wallie doesn’t say anything.
“Think of lizards,” said my Friend. “There are lizards with four legs and some with none at all! Think of the skink. Think of the anole. Does it not make a dragon a more natural creature, to admit that there are variances depending on breed?”
Well, if a dragon were natural at all—