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This article is about the novel by Cornelia Funke. For other uses, see Dragon Rider.


Dragon Rider (original title: Drachenreiter) is a 1997 German children's novel by Cornelia Funke. Originally translated by Oliver Latsch, Dragon Rider was published in 2004 by The Chicken House in the UK and Scholastic Inc. in the US, using a translation by Anthea Bell.[1] Dragon Rider follows the exploits of a silver dragon named Firedrake, the Brownie Sorrel, and Ben, a human boy, in their search for the mythical part of the Himalayas mountain range called the Rim of Heaven.

Plot

As the novel begins, Sorrel's dragon clan receives word from a rat named Rosa that their valley hide-away is intended to be flooded by water from the hateful humans. In frightened disbelief, most of the dragons refuse to accept this news and decide to stay and either hide or fight; all except two, Firedrake, and the oldest and wisest dragon in the valley, Slatebeard. Slatebeard describes a great Daywalker valley he once inhabitated as a child, the Rim of Heaven. He believes this to be one of the last places on Earth for the dragons to hide from humans. Slatebeard tells him that Firedrake must beware the Golden One, and he will live there when they flood it, unfortunately. Firedrake alone heeds Slatebeard's message and sets off with Sorrel, his brownie companion. Rosa suggests before their departure that they should see her cousin, Gilbert Graytail a white rat, who is a cartographer, to pick up a map. They do so; but since Gilbert resides in a large city, Firedrake is forced to hide in an abandoned building, where they meet Ben, a parentless human boy. Ben is astonished but not terrified by the dragon and quickly learns of its plan to journey to the Rim of Heaven. He offers to aid Sorrel in her trek to the mapmaker's home. Though reluctant to be helped by one of her perceived enemies, Sorrel agrees and accepts the company of the boy.

Sorrel and Ben reach Gilbert's abode only to discover that he has been unable, despite constant efforts, to locate the Rim of Heaven. He does mention that the pair's queries are similar to those of some mysterious ravens who visited him recently. Returning to the warehouse with a general world-map, Sorrel and Ben gather up Firedrake and set out from the city. Becoming lost, they encounter a group of dwarves, obsessive miners who are on the lookout for gold. Although the dwarves are largely friendly, one of them conveys news of the party's prescense to Nettlebrand, a golden-scaled, murderous draconoid occupying a nearby castle. Nettlebrand, whose only passion is hunting and killing weaker silver dragons, excitedly sets his armour-cleaner, a tiny "homunculus", called Twigleg to follow and spy on Firedrake and his party in the hope that they will lead him to other dragons. With the homunculus continuing to spy on them, Firedrake, Sorrel, and Ben fly onward, but are soon swept of course, arricing on the shore of Egypt. Encountering a band of zealous archaeologists and a basilisk, the party eventually befriends a human man named Professor Greenbloom. Sorrel is initially suspicious but soon warms to the kindly scientist, whose skills at cooking food far exceed his ability to tolerate elevation. As a keepsake, Professor Greenbloom gives Ben one of two freezing-cold metallic scales of Nettlebrand, which unknown to the humans once belonged to their enemy. Twigleg, who is at this point stowed away in Ben's backpack, is intrigued and relays the news this to Nettlebrand, who immediately makes his way to the dig site to find Professor Greenbloom and recover the scale. Meanwhille, the three searchers set out on the advice of the professor to seek the advice of a Djinn, whose thousand eyes can see everything and who knows the answer to every question that is put to him. Ben succeeds in fulfilling the Djinn's arcane requirements with the question: "Where does the Rim of Heaven lie?" The answer to the question appears in two of the Djinn's thousand eyes; it is a path, marked by the Indus River, by a mountain range, and by a monastery. Beyond this monastery is the Rim of Heaven. The Djinn tells his audience that they must seek these images. In the monastery, Ben must break the moonlight on the stone dragon's head. "When that day comes, twenty fingers will point the way to the Rim of Heaven, and silver will be worth more than gold." Meanwhile, Nettlebrand has been trying to track down first Barnabas Greenbloom who manages to escape him and then Firedrake and his companions. Twigleg has been growing very attached to Ben, though, and he begins relaying false information to whose master. Over the ocean, Firedrake is in a lot of trouble. Without moonlight, he cannot fly, since he has lived exclusively on it for many years. When the Moon passes through eclipse, he falls, and lands on the back of a sea serpent who tells them stories. Frightening as she may seem, the Serpent is quite amiable and agrees to take the friends to Pakistan, where they shall rendezvous with a Dracologist, Zubeida Ghalib, who alone of all Life-Forms knows a way to help Firedrake fly without moonlight. Along the way, the Serpent tells them (among other things) about Nettlebrand and his army of red-eyed Ravens. As the peaceful voyage atop Serpent-back continues, it is interrupted by one of these Ravens– the same Bird who was once Twigleg's mount. Annoyed, Sorrel distracts it by throwing a stone which she has smeared her adhesive saliva. The stone sticks to the Raven's wing and sends him panicking to shore. In Pakistan, the friends enter a village where Zubeida the Dracologist is living. Thanks to the skills of Twigleg as a (somewhat imperfect) translator of languages, they find Dr. Ghalib with some ease. Unexpectedly, they also find Professor Greenbloom, who, with his wife and daughter Guinevere, have come to visit on account of the incident with Nettlebrand. Deeply worried, the two parties compare their findings, which all point to a single grim fact; Nettlebrand is hunting the Dragons who live in the Rim of Heaven, and expects Firedrake to find them for him. Even so, it is perhaps to the best effect that they travel forth. Dr. Ghalib reveals a legend of a Dragon Rider who once lived in the village and is supposed to return. Ben is his reincarnation, and his destiny is to save Dragonkind from a terrible enemy. No sooner have they heard the legend than two more of Nettlebrand's ravens descend on them. Sorrel attempts the saliva trick again, with one variation: a few sparks of Dragon-fire are added to the mix. The stones do not adhere, but the Ravens are indeed changed before the eyes of all, into a few crabs. This new strangeness on the part of Nettlebrand disturbs the searchers, ultimately inducing Twigleg to tell the truth. Ashamed to near breakdown, the homunculus reveals his part as a spy, along with the tale of Nettlebrand's origin. It seems that an alchemist created Nettlebrand as a dragon killing machine, for to obtain the Dragons' horns which he used in his experiments. Twigleg, and eleven other miniature men, were made as Nettlebrand's caretakers. When the Silver Dragons went into hiding, Nettlebrand killed the alchemist and all of Twigleg's brothers, then went hunting on his own. After hearing the story, Zubeida shows Firedrake and company not only the tomb of the original Dragon Rider, but also a species of flower which collects moonlight in the dewdrops on its leaves. Having drunk this "moon-dew", Firedrake is able to fly in the daytime. Knowing this, the searchers carry on, losing Nettlebrand's pursuit in the mountains. Ironically, they lose it through a fight with a Roc, who challenges Firedrake for the possession of Ben and nearly feeds him to her chick, but Ben is saved. During the conflict, they are forced off course and must take refuge in a valley. Beyond the mountains, within the Indus River, is Nettlebrand. He has followed the Dragon, but is now tailing a boat wherein are Professor Greenbloom and his family. According to Nettlebrand, Greenbloom will meet up with Firedrake. Unwittingly, Nettlebrand is himself seen by the Professor's daughter, Guinevere. In the valley, Firedrake and company are sidetracked and need help. It comes to them in the form of Lola Graytail, Gilbert's niece. Lola had been cartographing the country on Gilbert's orders when she found the searchers; it is she who guides them to the monastery. There, they are welcomed by the monks, who look on Firedrake as a bringer of good fortune. Also it is here that Ben "breaks the moonlight"--- actually a moonstone kept by the monks for this purpose. The stone Dragon is a statue projecting from the Gon-Khang, the Temple of the Angry Gods. Ben shatters the moonstone and summons the aid of a four-armed brownie, entitled Burr-Burr-Chan. His species is a relative of forest brownies. He is observed by Gravelbeard. Burr-Burr-Chan agrees to guide Firedrake, Sorrel, Twigleg, and Ben to the Rim of Heaven. He warns, however, that Firedrake's kin have degenerated into earthbound cowards as a result of hiding from Nettlebrand. Whilst waiting for the moment of departure, the company discover Gravelbeard but fail to catch him. This sharpens their resolve to attain their goal. They fly on their way swiftly, with Nettlebrand in pursuit. To Twigleg's dismay, in the center of the circular arrangement of mountain peaks that forms the Rim of Heaven is a great lake; a gateway for Nettlebrand to enter by. To make sure that the homunculus is correct in his assumption, Lola takes Twigleg in her miniature airplane to investigate and distract the Golden One, while above the others seek the Dragons' cave. The two small ones lead Nettlebrand astray. They dive and loop and bank round and about, driving Nettlebrand almost crazy with frustration as he tries frantically to catch it. Firedrake sees them looping the loop and takes refuge in the cave he sought. There, they meet with a she-Dragon, Maia. She is the only living dragon there, as the other twenty-two have since turned into stone through lack of moonlight. Maia, on hearing that Nettlebrand is alive and within the valley, is filled with the desire to destroy him. So too does Firedrake, even though neither has what could be called a plan. Outside, Lola and Twigleg have just settled down to some soup, when Gravelbeard had apparently appeared. In the struggle that follows, the Dwarf's hat, which evidently functions as an altitude compensator, is taken by Twigleg. Promptly Gravelbeard is struck with mountain sickness, allowing himself to be taken a prisoner. Yet the work is far from over, for Nettlebrand is coming. Plan after plan is proposed and refuted by the company. They are virtually helpless against Nettlebrand, for he has the size and strength of twenty Dragons as well as a total immunity to their firepower. Stone, metal, heat, weight, deceit, speed– all are sure to fail as weapons. In disgust, Sorrel spits on the golden scale which the Professor gave to Ben. Inspired by his success with the Ravens, Firedrake flames the thing and reduces it to gold paint. Twigleg comes up with a plan. He frees the dwarf Gravelbeard, who is then sent back to Nettlebrand. The Golden One, elated by success, orders the Dwarf to polish his armor. Unfortunately for Nettlebrand, the armor polish has been replaced with Brownie spit. The mixture, far from glossing Nettlebrand's armor, instead dulls its bright shine. Vainly, he takes brief notice of this, but Gravelbeard assures him that his scales do indeed shine brightly. Nettlebrand enters the cave, and is at once dive-bombed by Firedrake, Maia, and Lola, who circle around the monster and distract him. Teasing and haranguing him, they fly rings around the great heavy beast. At last, the Dragons come together and set Nettlebrand afire. The Brownie spit reacts at once, dissolving Nettlebrand's armor and weakening him. He falls like as a collapsing exoskeleton, steaming like melting ice. Underneath the armor and the wickedness is a toad. As the company stare in wonder at this transformation, Gravelbeard enters. He has seen the marvellous gemstones and rock formations in the cave, and wishes to enhance them with his own skill. At first, the Dragons are hesitant. But their reluctance changes to consent when Gravelbeard promises to revitalize their petrified relations. This promise, at least, he keeps. Within a few days, all the silver dragons are awake and aware. Firedrake and Maia, for their part, fly Northward with Sorrel and Burr-Burr-Chan to bring the others of their species home. Ben and Twigleg go to live with Professor Greenbloom, on the grounds that Ben needs his own kind as do all Life-Forms. Two months later, news reaches the humans that Firedrake has convinced the silver dragons to come with him to the Rim of Heaven. Eager to see their friends again, Ben and Guinevere occupy their time with other investigations as they wait until they can visit the silver dragons again.

Reception

Dragon Rider ranked #1 of the New York Times children's books bestseller list in September 2004.[2]

Characters

  • Protagonists
    • Firedrake
      • Young silver dragon who decides to set out to find the Rim of Heaven with Sorrel, Ben, and the homulucus, Twigleg.
    • Sorrel
      • Young brownie girl, she is one of Firedrake's closest friends. She enjoys eating and using 'mushroom phrases'.
    • Ben
      • Human boy found by Firedrake and Sorrel in an abandoned warehouse. Becomes the "Dragon Rider".
    • Twigleg
      • One of twelve homunculi created by Petrosius. Eleven of those homunculi were devoured by Nettlebrand, and Twigleg is the last. Twigleg has been Nettlebrand's armor polisher for hundreds of years. After Nettlebrand finds out about Firedrake through Gravelbeard, Twigleg is sent to spy on Firedrake and friends. However, Ben soon catches Twigleg's heart and Twigleg abandons Nettlebrand to help the trio on their quest.
    • Professor Barnabas Greenbloom
      • A professor that is 'obsessed' with fantastical creatures. He provides useful information to Firedrake, Sorrel, and Ben about finding the Rim of Heaven. He frequently travels with his wife Vita and daughter Guinevere
  • Antagonists
    • Nettlebrand
      • A golden Dragon-like creature created by an Alchemist, Nettlebrand was created to hunt actual Dragons. Because he was created and not born a dragon, he is unable to fly but has power over water.
    • Gravelbeard
      • A Mountain dwarf that works as a spy for Nettlebrand. He is the one that first tells Nettlebrand of Firedrake. After Twigleg departs, at first to spy on the trio and later to help them, he becomes Nettlebrand's new armor cleaner.
  • Supporting cast
    • Burr-Burr-Chan
      • A male mountain brownie with four arms. He helps out Ben, Sorrel, Firedrake and Twigleg in the Rim of Heaven.
    • Slatebeard
      • An old and wise dragon that lives in the valley of the dragons. Warns Sorrel and Firedrake about Nettlebrand.
    • Vita Greenbloom
      • Professor Greenbloom's wife.
    • Guinevere Greenbloom
      • The daughter of the professor. Warns him about Nettlebrand.

References

Firedrake Sorrel Ben The Rat Gilbert Graytail Burr-Burr-Chan Maia Professor Greenbloom Guinevere

Professor Greenbloom’s wife

The giant roc


Nettlebrand Twigleg Gravelbeard The dragons that were freed from the stone. Lola Graytail The Djinn Zubeida The ravens The sea serpent

External links

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