The Dragon Knight Series Critical Essays

Gordon R. Dickson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The first book of the Dragon Knight series was published fourteen years before the second, and it was based on a short story written years earlier. The Dragon and the George is a slight twist on the quest and companion story found throughout folklore and fantasy, such as in J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. The twist is that the hero is the dragon, or at least occupies the body of a dragon.

The story follows a traditional quest/companion formula. The hero gathers a group of Companions in order to fulfill the quest. Each Companion has an ability that is needed to defeat or conquer some trial or obstacle that the group encounters. There is a final battle, which the Companions win.

The next three books follow this same plot line, each ending with Jim fighting a duel in either dragon or human form. This formula is changed to an intellectual challenge in The Dragon, the Earl and the Troll. The greatest difference between the sequels and the original book is that Gordon Dickson becomes more concerned with place and setting. The later books involve more of Jim dealing with life in the fourteenth century. He has to adjust his thinking and attitudes to those of the time in which he now lives. Dickson also deals more with the history and politics of the times than in the first novel.

The novels stay consistent in format and characters. Jim’s Companions reappear from novel to novel, with new ones added. There are some inconsistencies from the first book to the sequels. Aragh the Wolf becomes Aargh the Wolf, and Jim was a history student in the first novel but is sometimes referred to as an English instructor later on.

Dickson, winner of both Hugo and Nebula awards, is probably more famous for his science-fiction Childe cycle than for this fantasy series. He is a prolific writer with many published novels to his credit, the first in 1956. The Dragon Knight series, with the exception of the first book, is a fairly recent addition to his credits.