Fairy-Tale Files: The Storytime Reptilian

Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors, readers, editorial assistants, or contributors.


Saint George slew one. The X-Men’s Kitty Pryde fostered one. Hiccup of the Cressida Cowell series trained one. Literary staples of the scaliest order, dragons have loomed since the time of Beowulf and Gilgamesh. The Greek δράκων (“serpent of huge size, water-snake”) influenced the Latin draco, which paved the etymological way for dragon, a word that’s sparked the imaginations of authors and folklorists worldwide. Thor battles Jörmungandr. His Hittite counterpart Tarḫunz wages war against the beastly Illuyanka. There’s even a Dragon Con whose revelers once donated $20,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation, charitable fangs all.

Tortoises, be they Seussian or Teenage Mutant Ninja, are another coldblooded branch writers delight in exploring. No tour of fictional turtles is complete without mention of the Chinese Bixi, statuary tomb guards, or the West African Mbeku, a onetime sky-banquet attendee, his earthfall resulting in the shell patterns passed along to his modern-day descendants. Batibot, the Filipino version of Sesame Street, featured a giant turtle named Pong Pagong, though it’s Aesop who won the engineering day when impresarios of a Swiss botanic garden premiered their Carrousel des Fables in 2004.

What would ’80s television be without V? The passion project of Kenneth Johnson (whose credits included The Bionic Woman and The Incredible Hulk, making him the undisputed Aaron Spelling of sci/fi), this was not your average iguana’s movie-of-the-week. Led by the indefatigable Diana, the Visitors were a horde of reptilian invaders passing as human, until you tore their skin off, that is. As if draining our water and capturing us for food wasn’t enough, lizard-solider Brian impregnated valley-girl Robin, her twins (one baby, one snaky) stealing so much thunder, their story had To Be Continued…