Dragons are fascinating creatures, myths and legends abound in the ancient tales of disparate cultures and their presence remains well represented in modern fairytales and teen narratives such as the Harry Potter series. The first dragon that made an impact on me was Puff the Magic Dragon who was immortalised in Peter, Paul & Mary’s 1969 song. Puff’s origins can be traced to a poem by Leonard Lipton, who in turn found his inspiration in the Ogden Nash poem Custard the Dragon.
The story was one of several my older sister and I had on single LPs in the 70s, a collection that included Danny Kaye’s rendition of Tubby the Tuba complete with musical sound effects (Tubby was overlooked and disparaged until his contribution to the orchestra was seen to be just as important as that of the more vivacious and egotistical violins). Another favourite was The Chinese Children Next Door by Pearl Buck, a story about her Chinese neighbour who fathered an inordinate amount of girl babies (becoming increasingly disinterested and despondent each time) until he produced the greatly revered Son, thus setting him back on the path of happiness and social standing.
But I digress. Puff the friendly dragon always seemed like such a nice fellow to my sister and I who also, ‘lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mists’ so we had a lot to bond over. He was also the epitome of childhood imaginings, a skill I was exceedingly good at. Because of Puff the native dragons of Australia have always occupied a particularly fond place in my heart and this little Eastern Water-Dragon is no exception.
Eastern Water-Dragons are semi-aquatic lizards that are found along the east coast of Australia. They normally live around creeks, rivers or lakes. They can remain submerged for up to 30 minutes and rise to the surface where they are able to breathe to check the area for danger, before emerging back onto land.
This one was relaxing on a little tree stump when I joined him beside the Richmond River in the northern NSW township of Woodburn. We had a catch up on what Puff was up to these days and how much the revered Son had been eclipsed by the talents of his illustrious sisters.