Saturday, July 25, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009 (Part II)

Monday, July 20, 2009 (Part II)
Ljubljana, Slovenia

Kevin here.

Michael has already described the main focus of the day, which was meeting Barbara Simoniti and learning about her own personal ‘voyages’ in the world of nonsense. So I’ll write about a few other things.

First, some good news for the project; we received an email this morning from Dr. Mavis Reimer, Canada Research Chair in Children’s Culture, and my colleague at the University of Winnipeg. Mavis wrote to inform us that the Center for Young People’s Texts and Culture (CRYTC) at Winnipeg has pledged some financial support for this voyage. Many thanks to Mavis for that. This support along with two other grants from U Winnipeg have helped to make this trip possible.

Moving on to other things—When I’m not making a movie of my eye I try to keep at least one eye open for images of dragons in Eastern Europe. I think I mentioned the dragon that was apparently attacking our train bound from Romania to Bulgaria… Fact is, lots of dragon tales and fairy tales about dragons come from this corner of the world. Dragon lore is all around us on this trip.

According to one legend Ljubljana was protected by a dragon that guarded, in medieval times, what was the one bridge leading into the town. Thus today Ljubljana proudly displays fierce statues on the four corners of what is now known as “Dragon Bridge.” It’s interesting that the legendary dragon of Ljubljana was a protector of its people, and not a tormentor, as is usually the case in European folklore. Normally European dragons are good only to be hunted up and beheaded. Thus we have the legends of St. George and the Dragon in England, and the related tales of St. Patrick and the snakes of Ireland and even St. Columba and the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. All these stories position dragons as evil, as representatives of the pagan belief system that Christianity was struggling to erase. But in Ljubljana it’s different. Here the dragon protected the people from invasion, like a patron Saint, really. In this way the Ljubljana dragon is a lot more like Asian dragons, who were often wise and served as protectors of the people. Dragon carvings and sculpture were everywhere in Ljubljana. Below are a few examples that I snapped photos of.

Click on the photos to enlarge them:

One of the Four Dragons that sit on the corners of Dragon Bridge

Dragon carrying off sheep (pub sign)

Wrought Iron dragon in the entrance to the castle above town

A poster advertising a play

There are, no doubt, more dragon legends that will come our way. In Brno, in the Czech Republic, there is a story about a giant alligator/crocodile-like-thing that ravaged the town. And I know that once we get to Krakow in Poland, we will see plenty of images of the famous dragon, Krak, for whom the city is named.


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