As most Wakefielders know, this time of year the village holds a dragon festival to celebrate winter and its very own snow dragon. This year though it was decided to let our dragon rest. I caught up with Ms. Winter on one of her early-morning jogs around the village…
Wandering Wakefield: First of all, Ms. Winter, let me thank you for stopping long enough for me to ask you a few questions. I was wondering if you could explain why Dragonfest has been cancelled this year. Was it because of COVID?
Ms. Winter: Well yes, partly. We were obviously concerned about people gathering together and passing on the virus to each other, and we have no idea whether dragons can catch COVID from close contact with people.
Wandering Wakefield: Yes, of course, I have seen studies of the infectivity level in quite a few different species, but no studies in dragons, that I am aware of. However, since dragons have very active lungs, I can imagine that COVID would be extremely serious for them, and they could certainly breathe and spread the virus a long way. But you indicated that was only part of the reason.
Ms. Winter: Well, Wakefield’s snow dragon is tired, and wanted an extra year to rest. Being only a teenager…you know how much sleep they need.
Wandering Wakefield: I certainly do. Plus, I imagine that it is particularly exhausting growing into a full-blown adult dragon.
I remember my final physiology exam at the University of London. There was an essay question on how one would go about adapting an animal to breathe fire. It’s many years ago now, but I remember writing about the need for specialized cells to line the throat and mouth so that they didn’t burn. I imagined a huge lung capacity, with extremely strong diaphragm and intercostal muscles to expel the air at great velocity. As for generating the fire itself, I imagined that dragons must have some form of metabolic uncoupling mechanism (a futile metabolic cycle) so that like bumblebees that burn energy to get their wings going on chilly mornings, dragons must divert food energy to a specialized metabolic pathway that generates intense heat. All that to say, I’m sure that being a dragon requires a huge amount of energy.
Ms. Winter: Yes indeed, the village wants its snow dragon to grow into a strong resilient dragon, and so is keen on protecting them as they grow.
Wandering Wakefield: It’s possible that some people reading this post are not aware of Wakefield’s snow dragon. Can you tell me a bit about how they came to be?
Ms. Winter: In the beginning, no one really knows when, but before the days of the Tenagadinozibi / Gatineau River, the land was covered in ice. There was an ICE Dragon and a FIRE Dragon and they were always fighting. Sometimes they would shoot fire and ice at each other all day! One day they had a BIG FIGHT and the fire and ice met in the middle and crashed together with so much power that it created the Tenagadinozibi and that is why we have the river today. But then, the dragons found themselves on either side of the river and they missed each other and so they built a bridge and fell in love, and that is when the SNOW Dragon was born.
When the snow dragon was born the other livings things and, well, all things helped the Ice Dragon and the Fire Dragon take care of them. As with all off-spring, the Snow Dragon started to take its own shape, sculpted by the many hearts, hands, minds, and energy that surrounded them.
Every year we celebrate this love and this baby dragon.
Wandering Wakefield: So you are saying that usually, the snow dragon emerges at the end of January – beginning of February, and spends the week playing in the snow with the children (and the grown children too).
Ms. Winter: Many years ago, the village decided to celebrate the snow dragon’s birthday with a festival. It just so happens that the snow dragon shares its birthday with the Village Poet (Phil Cohen). We sometimes slide on the dragon’s back and we have games and cake.
Fortunately, both the snow dragon and Phil love playing games and eating cake.
Wandering Wakefield: What are the favourite Dragonfest games?
Ms. Winter: Usually there is an ‘on-ice waiter race’. Teams from the local pubs and restaurants compete to skate as fast as they can round the ice rink with a tray of drinks. And then, of course, there’s the great Tug-of-War between winter and spring.
Wandering Wakefield: I bet that everyone cheers hardest for spring.
Ms. Winter: Not me, I love winter, I never want it to disappear.
Wandering Wakefield: Talking about disappearing, when does our snow dragon disappear?
Ms. Winter: Every year humans lay their hands on the young dragon to show their love and play with them to show that we are family. Sometimes the dragon has their BACK UP and makes themself look big, sometimes they blow fire from their nostrils, colourful fire. Dogs pee on them, birds rest or scan the territory from their scales. But as the days get longer and the sun stronger, the snow dragon begins to warm and so has to sink back into the earth to stay cool.
Wandering Wakefield: Even though our young dragon is sleeping, are there any signs of them that people might see around the village?
Ms. Winter: Well yes of course, if you go down to the river in the early morning you can often see dragon steam rising off the water. And if you walk up Burnside in the evening, you may see them practicing breathing huge plumes of snow in the air from the Vorlage ski hill.
Wandering Wakefield: Thank you Ms. Winter for your time. Just to finish, I wanted to ask how can the village best care for its snow dragon?
Ms. Winter: The story continues because the story never ends … as long as there are listeners…Dragons are strong. They are Fighters. They are Lovers. They believe in community because without community and people to believe in them … they would lose their reason to live … to exist. They exist because we believe.
Wandering Wakefield: Although we will certainly miss Dragonfest this year, I’m sure we all wish our snow dragon sweet winter dreams. And, Wandering Wakefield would love to hear from any of our readers, if they have dragon sightings or dragon stories to share.
With thanks to Elizabeth Logue for sharing the legends of the snow dragon and photos of Dragonfest