The Dragon of Og by Rumer Godden

The Dragon of Og cover

I read The Dragon of Og by Rumer Godden ages ago but I’m so behind with some book thoughts that I’m only getting around to it now. It was published in 1981, it’s only the second or third children’s book by Godden that I’ve read and I must admit that it was the book cover that attracted me to it although I’m quite a fan of her books for adults. Pauline Baynes illustrated the book in colour and black and white and the cover. I’ve always liked her designs, she designed C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books in the 1960s.

Anyway, I was particularly delighted when I started to read this one as the setting is the Scottish Borders at a time when the castles were made of wood. The Castle of Tundergarth stands high on a hill overlooking broad meadows and forests through which flows the Water of Milk which isn’t as benign as it sounds as beneath its pools lies a deep cave where a dragon lives.

This isn’t an ordinary dragon though, he’s a lonely soul as his mother left him at the cave as a youngster and he has no friends, and no idea of what it means to be a dragon. The young wife of the new laird befriends him, but the laird isn’t pleased with that as Og the Dragon occasionally eats one of his bullocks and the laird is determined that Og must die. Matilda and the locals villager are up in arms about that. The story is based on an old legend of the Scottish Lowlands.

What amazed me about this book is that Godden writes quite a lot of the dialogue in Scots, using a fair few Scots words and ways of speech. She even uses correctly amn’t I instead of the less grammatical English aren’t I. That is a big bugbear of mine as editors often wrongly anglicise it and even directors have Scottish actots saying it the English way when they definitely shouldn’t be as they are speaking Scots.

I always thought of Rumer Godden as being one of those very English women – in the way that a woman who had grown up in the Indian Raj always was. But after a teeny bit of research I discovered that in her old age she moved to the Scottish Lowlands to be close to her daughter. She certainly soaked up all of the atmosphere of the area, she must have enjoyed living here I think.

4 thoughts on “The Dragon of Og by Rumer Godden

  1. I didn’t know that amn’t I was used in Scotland. Both my kids said it when they were very little and first figuring out language because, logically, it makes more sense than aren’t I. I was sad when they switched over to aren’t I as they got older.

    A Rumer Godden book that involves dragons will have to be investigated.

    • Jennifer,
      Yes it always annoys me because I and are just don’t go together and it always sounds so weird to me. Maybe your children were picking up brain ‘echoes’ from Scottish ancestors!

  2. An immensely creative, gifted writer who truly understood children–That’s how I think of Rumer Godden. I don’t expect the “straight-laced” English woman from her, mostly because during the five years she and her sister spent in India as children, most of the time they were not rigidly “governed” by governesses or by traditional schooling. When they were older, I assume they were, but under the age of 12, the sense I got from the book Two under the Indian Sun, written by both Rumer and her sister Jon Godden, was that they were allowed to interact with their environment unencumbered. A perfect route to developing the creative mind!

    • Judith,
      She certainly cast off her Raj-English-ness when she moved to Scotland anyway. I read that book too. I think their parents probably got quite a shock when they realised how close to the Indian servants they really were! Of course as their father wasn’t a government worker or in the army they wouldn’t have moved in those ultra snooty Anglo Indian circles.

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