Dragons and Treasure

We all have a traditional image of dragons in our heads, fostered by countless cartoons, children’s books, movies, and fables.  The dragon:  monstrously large, scaled, with wings, fangs, and an ability to breathe fire.  And, they sleep on a pile of golden treasure.  For me, that iconic image comes from The Hobbit, where Bilbo Baggins, cloaked by the One Ring, enters the lair of Smaug.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion:  dragons treat golden spoils as if they were a Posturpedic bed.

Kinda begs the question – what do they use as a blanket then?

Or toilet paper?  Yipes.

Two adventurers slay the dread dragon and begin sifting through the loot.

Adventurer 1:  Wow, look at this chalice!

Adventurer 2:  Amazing!  But, um… does gold usually look rusted?  (Holds nose.)  And smell that bad?

But, I digress.

So, let’s imagine, if you will, dragons in today’s culture.  What’s a dragon going to sleep on in the present?  I mean, gold’s not the easiest to come by, and it’s pretty heavy for the volume it occupies.  It wouldn’t take much to come crashing through the floor of an upper level apartment.  What’s a modern day dragon to use instead?  Dollar bills?  Have you ever smelled a wad of used cash?  That greasy sour smell can’t be easy on the nostrils, especially when those same nares have a tendency to blow fireballs when sneezing.  The danger of fire is also there for stock certificates and bonds.

Well, paper is definitely out.

Maybe coins would be the answer.  The more well to do dragons could sleep on gold double eagle dollars.  Down trodden dragons might have to resort to pennies.  Though that might be hard to explain to the odd princess who’s abducted for a visit.

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Gnomes

I figure gnomes are a good places to start.  You know, a small subject.

Okay, I’ll admit, that was a bad pun.  It was the gnome’s idea.

Reading through contemporary fantasy – or urban fantasy, whichever you prefer to call the genre – a lot of monsters of myth and / or legend are being pulled into the light of the modern era.  Vampires and werewolves seem to be garnering the lion’s share of the attention.  I suppose this is because both of these supernatural creatures look like a normal human 95% of the time.  I would imagine that it’s easier to believe that the guy in the car next to you howls at the moon once a month, than that a two foot tall man is living in your flower bed.

So, what do gnomes even look like?  The few books I’ve read that feature gnomes all, predictably, describe them as short.  But that’s where the similarities end, I find.  One particular series I read long ago had gnomes play a prominent part.  They were like diminutive warriors, set to fight tooth and nails, wielding… well… nails as weapons.  They were described as small, fierce, and bright yellow.  Now, I don’t know about others out there, but when I think of someone as being yellow in color, the first thing that pops into my mind is jaundice.  You know, jaundice – when bilirubin builds up in your system because your liver can’t process it for excretion anymore.  It happens in liver failure.  It’s a little freaky when you see it; it starts with the white part of the eyes turning yellow.

Anyway, the way that one series described gnomes, they were all rather cranky, jaundiced, and short.

The other way I’ve seen gnomes portrayed the most lately is through commercials.  Garden gnomes seem to be making a resurgence.  Everywhere I go these days, I see another garden gnome.  Bright, cheery, with a hat that must have been starched six ways to Sunday to get it to stick upright like that.  Either that, or gnomes are the original coneheads, I’m not sure.

Anyway, garden gnomes.  They’re everywhere, and they seem to be associated with traveling.  One is the spokesman for a travel booking website.  Others have been kidnapped from their gardens to be whisked around the globe on adventures by college students, who then take pictures of their hostages at various locations, only to return the gnome later with their own scrapbook.  You don’t see people trying this with vampires!

For a gnome to work in a typical urban fantasy book, I can see them either living out their lives in a hidden community, or – in this day and age – working in the technology industry.  Companies aren’t outsourcing tech calls to India, they’re outsourcing them to gnomes.  Or, they’re behind the scenes, making sure everything is running smoothly.  Internet down in your area?  The gnomes are working on it.

Or maybe, just maybe, the gnomes interbred with regular humans long ago.  They still exist, they’re just all six feet tall.

How would you envision gnomes fitting in to modern society?