The unceasing faith is what dragons create in Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. Unlike the other writers pursuing the topic of the mythology, she makes dragons the central characters of her story as opposed to the way Tolkien used dragons. In this story, dragons are already beings with heart and with feelings of compassion and affection. The dragon that saves the girl, Branth, is a clear-cut example of an image of a dragon coming so close to the one of a human being that the boundary between the two can be hardly drawn. In this respect, the dragon depicted by McCaffrey is very similar to the creature which was described by Vandergrift: “If a dragon dies and the rider survives, he or she is but a half creature” (28). Indeed, as the dragon rescues the girl, he seems to be an integral part of her, as if they were a single creature, struggling with the unjust people, willing to free itself and thrashing about in the nets of the foes.
However, it must be admitted that Branth is the only exception out of the range of the fierce dragons of the fairy-tale world. The rest of them, the fire-breathing lizards, create an impression of wild savages. Still, being a part of the guard that does not let the heroine go, these dragons are the slaves of the people, the watchdogs which have duties and which are supposed to follow people’s orders.
Thus, exploring the image of Branth, McCaffey shows the way an enslaved, “fire-breathing lizard,” turning into a free and proud dragon, the animal which makes the foes tremble in dread and fear. The final part of the trilogy, The White Dragon, shows a beast completely different from the one seen in Dragonsong. Branth has turned into a wild and free creature, with all his gorgeousness.
Thus, McCaffey shows the readers that dragons can be wild, mad and very, very unhappy. The humane approach of hers makes it clear that the era when dragons were the enemies of a man is over, and the new era of legends begins, when dragons can make friends with the mankind. The very term, ‘dragonrider’, which is rather humiliating for a dragon, is the symbol of the wrong relationship between a man and a dragon – why not saying, “dragonfriend” instead?
Vandergrift, Kay E. “Meaning-Making and the Dragons of Pern.” Children's Literature Association Quarterly 15.1, 1990, 27-32.