I’m participating in the Deal Me In readathon this year, in which we read one short story each week. I’m doing more than that, since #4 Daughter, The Amazing Sara Marian, loaned me THE DRAGON: FIFTEEN STORIES by Yevgeny Zamyatin.
This week’s card suit is clubs, which means I should have read a Chekov story, but I read some Zamyatin stories, so I want to talk about the title story today. “The Dragon” may be one of the best stories I ever read.
Flash fiction, it uses a common trope of an inhumane person performing a humane act for an animal. The wonder of this story is how beautifully an economically “The Dragon” evokes an entire environment, an entire society. The soldier isn’t a soldier, he’s a dragon. His uniform is empty (except for his ears) until he spots a frozen sparrow at his feet. The he extrudes “paws.” He pushes up his cap and reveals human eyes. When he has revived the sparrow with his dragon’s breath, he becomes a dragon again.
He learned nothing and remains unchanged. His humanity is there, but still under a horrible enchantment.
Sara tells me that this translation by Mirra Ginsburg isn’t the best, but I can’t imagine this story being any better. Highly recommended.
A WRITING PROMPT BASED ON MY PROMPT: Write about an unpleasant person doing something kind.