As I began to write this story I realized that I needed to mold my characters so that their strengths and weakness could play off of each other. The Littlest Dragon was made so small so that he would look insignificant and inept at handling difficulties of life but it is because he is so small that this apparent weakness becomes his strength. His small size would also create a coziness that would appeal to the readers, especially young girls.
I wanted to keep the story in line with the Chinese legend that Leizu discovered silk but besides changing her history from being the wife of the Yellow emperor to the daughter of the emperor, with whom young readers can identify, I wanted her to come from a very poor kingdom. It is because of this poverty that the Princess is faced with a crisis in the middle of the story that she must overcome.
The underlying message of this story is that you don’t have to have magical abilities, super human talents or extreme wealth to be successful. Anyone can become successful and achieve their dreams. A goal, persistence and action are some of the most important keys to achieve success.
Princess Leizu had a humble childhood. Her mornings were spent with her aunt who ran the royal weaving mill that had previously been managed by her husband who is now deceased. Afternoons were spent studying in the garden where she was tutored by this aunt. These morning and afternoon experiences shaped her character; she is hardworking, diligent and humble.
Recently I had the chance to watch Lindsey Lohan’s 2004 film “Mean Girls.” I hadn’t realized it when I first saw this performance but it was brought to my attention that it was based in part on the nonfiction book, “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” by Rosalind Wiseman. This insightful look at the social dynamics of teenagers gives parents advice to help girls survive cliques, gossip and other issues at school.
Wiseman’s book fundamentally changed the way that parents look at their daughter’s friendships and conflicts. It encourages them to become proactive in their children’s social development suggesting how to choose best friends and how to express anger. Similar articles on child development stress that self-discipline is a very important skill to teach children. By directing ones’ actions according to what one thinks instead of how you feel you can build your self-discipline. After the novelty of beginning a new sport or musical instrument wears off one is tempted not to practice however by acting according to what we think rather than what we feel will help us attain our goal.
The background story of The Littlest Dragon and the Princess deals with incorporating positive growth principles into our lives. It reinforces the important Napoleon Hill’s “Twelve Great Riches of Life,” presenting them as specific objectives that will increase peace and joy into our lives. Hill’s list is prioritized with the most importance at the front but as important as “positive mental attitude” is I wonder if number nine, “self discipline” is perhaps equally important in one’s life.
Life can have challenging times and if we don’t learn to discipline ourselves to prevail we face discouragement, defeat and failure. Repeatedly The Old Dragon Sage encourages The Littlest Dragon to face the bulling difficulties at school with self-discipline and not by responding to his teasing classmates.
Attainment of the Twelve Great Riches of Life is a life long pursuit but parents can ensure their children a greater likelihood of success by building self-discipline during the early years. After winning the 2012 Olympic Gold in time trial U.S. cyclist Kristin Armstrong credited her success to self-discipline, “This is an amazing moment for me…I read about things like Michael Phelps. But I always feel like I’m the normal one, the normal kid that never was told by their coach that I have anything special…It was just the determination and sacrifice that I had, all the way from when I was in elementary school.”
The advice that The Old Dragon Sage gave to The Littlest Dragon, to ignore the bulling and it will usually go away, is an important approach to this type of situation. The harassment in this story was more like mean teasing and not as severe as some of the hurtful things that happens in our Nation’s schools each day.
After The Old Dragon Sage encourages The Littlest Dragon to ignore the mean teasing he moves on to a more important part of his advise to the little guy. One of the most valuable aspects of our mental make up has to do with having a positive mental outlook about one’s self. That would be hard to do if The Littlest Dragon believed he was a nobody so The Old Dragon Sage begins a conversation about self esteem and his beliefs about himself.
As we grow up not only do we create an operating system that kept us safe during the formative years of our life, during this time we also accumulated a great number of beliefs about ourselves. One of the most common approaches of looking at these beliefs is to evaluate them as whether or not they are true or false. Unfortunately we can always find evidence that support a belief even if that belief isn’t true.
I’m not suggesting that truth is relative and you can make up your own reality and set of rules about life. To do so would be dangerously heading down a very slippery slope. The type of belief that I refer to has nothing to do with topics like, “is there a God?” “Is man basically good or bad?” etc. The beliefs I refer to are the ones that we hold to be true about ourselves, of those in relations to others and to the world.
Instead of looking at beliefs as whether they are true or false The Old Dragon Sage suggests that a better approach is to look at your beliefs about yourself as whether or not they are resourceful to you. Thinking that you’re insignificant, a looser, unlovable or a misfit doesn’t do anything but bring unhappiness. These types of beliefs should be discarded and replaced with ones that affirm uniqueness, success, talent and goodness.
I expect that some would feel that presenting this information to my target audience, 8 to 12 year olds might be a bit too soon, perhaps, but one of the driving forces behind this project is that I didn’t encounter the 12 Great Riches of Life or positive life coaching until much later in life. The question “Why I was unaware of these insights” turned into “What can I do to interject this way of thinking to the youth of our society,” hence The Littlest Dragon and the Princess.
There seems to be numerous items in the news each week about the trials our young go through at school. One of the most disturbing is when an unfortunate youngster is picked on, worst still when they are bullied. In this story The Littlest Dragon is teased about his height because he is about the size of a chipmunk and most of the other dragons were as big as horses.
Dragons in this society were supposed to be symbols of power and respect and like many different societies that lived in this area size mattered. If you were big you seemed more important than others.
During the first year of The Littlest Dragon’s schooling some of the other dragons in his class begin to tease him about how small he is, they even try to convince him that he is so small that he is a nobody. At the end of a rather grueling week instead of going home he retreats to the high mountaintops to be by himself and think. It is in this area that he encounters one of the oldest dragons he has ever seen. He is about the size of a dog.
The Old Dragon Sage listens patiently about how the other classmates have teased The Littlest Dragon. He then gives him advise about how to create a situation that would reduce the amount of teasing and bulling.
Most of the classroom teasing and bulling is decreased if the individual being bullies doesn’t respond. The more kids see that their target is uncomfortable and bothered with the verbal assaults the more they continue but if the target doesn’t react the bullies soon move on to other classmates who will become upset with the mean teasing.
I have the utmost respect for Eoin Colfer, the author of the very successful series of children books Artemis Fowl. In these books the precocious and very intelligent young boy, Artemis Fowl II, attempts to regain his family’s fortune by researching clues on the Internet. He is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind who helped in his quest by Domovoi Butler a huge Eurasian manservant bodyguard. I can see why this story and Artemis would entrance many young boys because they adore the antics of this preteen James Bond.
Sadly the very few preteens have the skills and aptitudes of a character like Artemis Fowl and when they are confronted with the normal issues and problems when growing up they need direction and good advise. It was my goal to create a character that was normal, perhaps even challenged in some areas to serve as an example to school age kids of how deal with adversity.
The research that dealt with Chinese dragon mythology revealed that these beneficial dragons could vary in size from as small as a chipmunk to as large as a school bus. Because our society usually makes such a big thing about the importance of being big I choose to have my young hero be the smallest that had ever been born. I also felt that if his character was based on goodness and perseverance his actions could serve as a role model for the youth of today. His main strength was that “He was able to stay focused on a task or problem for a long time and eventually always found a solution.” Because he wasn’t gifted and had to work hard to learn a lesson he developed a strong self-discipline.
Self-discipline is one of Napoleon Hill’s Great Riches of Life and usually it is the ninth one listed but I feel that it is one of the most important. Even though we have the intelligence and skills to achieve we can fail if we never get started achieving our goals. Whether it is the objective of being physically fit, at peace with our relatives or giving attention to the other twelve riches of life self-discipline is needed to attain that goal.
Growing up in the second half of the Twenth Century I was lucky to spend some of the spare time watching animated works from the golden age of cartoons. Walt Disney Studio’s Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were at first my favorites but my appreciation to cartoons characters soon spread to those from Warner Brothers. The antics of Porky Pig were always amusing and I was especially fond of the clowning around of Bugs Bunny.
Since I grew up in the city of Burbank where these two studios were located I felt especially proud of their work. In time my sensibilities grew to appreciate the work of other animators especially the work of Walter Lantz. The Lantz studios were best known for Woody Woodpecker who I always enjoyed watching but in time I found that the characters Andy Panda and Chilly Willy, who seemed less polished, were therefore more endearing to me.
It was to my surprise that when The Littlest Dragon finally appeared on my drawing board he had a look that stylistic was similar to the characters from the Lantz studio. He had that cute innocent look of Andy Panda, much like a ten-year-old boy with lots of energy mixed with a naïve curiosity. The interesting thing was that I hadn’t thought of Lantz’s work or any cartoon characters until I saw the likeness in my drawing.