Turning points in "Dragonsong"

Turning points in Dragonsong

Casey Lieb '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

McCaffrey uses Menolly's dreams of dragons fighting thread to present the major changes in the story. The description of the world around Menolly just before her discovery of the fire lizard foreshadows her running away and finding her destiny.:

The first of the low marsh valleys was pink and yellow with blooming seabeachplum and marshberry, slightly blackened here and there: more from the low-flying queens catching the odd Thread that escaped the main wings. Yes and there was the patch that the flame-thrower had charred: the one Thread infestation that had gotten through. One day, Menolly told herself, she'd just throw open a window's steel shutters and see the dragons charring Thread in the sky. What a sight that must be for certain! [24]

Moments later Menolly is shown an image few before her had seen, and from the distance, it was amazing:

Dragons?...She heard dragons? It couldn't be! They didn't swarm like that. Dragons always flew in ordered wings, a pattern against the sky. These were darting, dodging, the swooping and climbing. She shaded her eyes. Blue flashes, green, the odd brown and then . . . of course, sun glinting golden off the leading, dartlike body. A queen! A queen that tiny? [25]

The turning point in the story occurs when Menolly finally sees the dragons fighting the Thread. When Menolly runs away she takes her life into her own hands and follows her heart. She embraces a life that doesn't stop her from tuning and playing with music, though for most of the story, the fear remains. This is the moment where Menolly impresses the world:

She glanced over her shoulder. The grayness was spreading across the horizon. Now she could see flashes against that gray. Flashes? Dragons! She was seeing dragons fighting Thread, their fiery breath charring the dreaded stuff midair. They were so far away that the winking lights were more like lost stars than dragons fighting for the life of Pern.

Maybe the leading edge wouldn't reach this far? Maybe she was safe. "Maybe's seldom are" as her mother would say.

In the stillness of the air, a new sound made itself heard: a soft rhythmic thrumming, something like the tuneless humming of small children. Only different. The noise seemed to come from the ground. [73]


1. The use of dragons suggests the books status as a fantasy as does the creation of some sort of evil force, Thread. What do you think the repeated associations between Menolly and dragons? Look at the structure of the book and her affect on fire lizards: "Only fire lizards could be that small and look like dragons" (25).

2. Is there significance in Menolly's thoughts of herself: "A mere girl had seen what all the boys-and men-of the Sea hold had only dreamed of seeing, fire lizards at play" (27), and the description of the fire lizard's queen as "a queen that tiny"?

3. Does the description of dragons as orderly and fire lizards as disorderly give any indication of the ways the book's changes are structured? (The first turning point being her seeing the fire lizards and helping them and the second being her running away and seeing the dragons fighting the Thread.)

4. Does McCaffrey's use of the fire lizards and there relation to Menolly (constantly around her, attending her and protecting her) parallel the ending where the people gather around her? Does this relate to the gif""t she has that had been stifled at her home?

5. Do the dragons similar tuneless humming through the hatching parallel the fire lizard's musical progression from "tuneless humming" to harmony?

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Last modified 1 February 2004