The Dragon Griaule

Lucius Shepard
The Dragon Griaule Cover

Lucius Shepard - The Dragon Griaule (1984 - 2012)


"'Griaule... God! I used to feel him in the temple. Perhaps you think that's just my imagination, but I swear it's true. We all concentrated on him, we sang to him, we believed in him, we conjured him in our thoughts, and soon we could feel him. Cold and vast. Inhuman. This great scaly chill that owned a world.'

"Korrogly was struck by the similarity of phrasing with which the old woman Kirin and now Mirielle had referred to their apprehension of Griaule, and thought to make mention of it, but Mirielle continued speaking, and he let the matter drop.

"'I can still feel his touch in my mind. Heavy and steeped in blackness. Each one of his thoughts a century in forming, a tonnage of hatred, of sheer enmity. He'd brush against me, and I'd be cold for hours."'

Lucius Shepard wrote the first story about the Dragon Griaule in 1984 near the beginning of his career as a writer of genre fiction, and continued to write about him on and off throughout his career. The central idea is so compelling that you can understand why he kept coming back to it: Griaule is a massive dragon, thousands of feet long, paralyzed by a spell that was meant to kill him. Overgrown with trees and foliage and home to wondrously bizarre parasites, Griaule exudes malevolence into the surrounding countryside and towns, and psychically manipulates the people who live there to do his bidding. It's a wonderfully elegant idea that takes one of the staples of the Fantasy genre and twists it into an unfamiliar new context. Griaule is both an imaginative and compelling setting, a hallucinogenic psycho-geography reminiscent of M. John Harrison's Viriconium (with its well drawn characters, inventive setting and lyrical writing, perhaps the only thing other than themselves that the Griaule tales much resemble), and a character in his own right. Through his machinations and the human characters who live off him, Griaule's vicious, arrogant and hateful character permeates the stories. Yet what makes the Griaule stories stick in the mind is how artfully Shepard exploits the ambiguity of his presence. The exact extent of Griaule's powers are never fully explained, leaving it to the reader to determine how much of the characters' frequently unpleasant actions are the result of Griaule's manipulations, how much Griaule's character accentuates the dragonish aspects of their own natures, and how much the Dragon's presence acts as a handy excuse for their bad behaviour, a chance for them to waive responsibility for their own actions due to a malevolent higher power. The rest of this review is too large to fit in this box, but click on the link to read the rest of it at my blog