Thursday 10 October 2013

Prideth – Unhappy Dragon of Pern

On Pern, a golden egg in a clutch of dragon eggs
foretells the arrival of a queen dragon.
Image by Nevit Dilmen; CC BY-SA 3.0
Decades after Anne McCaffrey started writing them, the Pern books are still among the most popular in dragon fiction. Development of dragon characters, however, wasn’t McCaffrey’s focus, at least in the early books.

Dragon Characters of Pern

If the dragons of Pern have rich inner lives, that’s hidden from the reader. Typically, we get only brief and limited telepathic conversations between the dragons and various humans; dragons don’t have (dragon) family ties, personal ambitions, or possessions of their own. A Pern dragon exists only in the context of its rider from day one.

The dragons of Pern are devoted to their riders, and we do get the impression that the dragon-human relationships work: not all the humans are nice people, but typically whatever they are up to, their dragons are up to as well. In that respect, Prideth stands out from the rest: she was not in accord with her rider Kylara. Prideth may simply have made the wrong choice on hatching day.

Manipulating a Dragon Hatchling

It wasn’t Prideth’s fault: she was manipulated her entire life, beginning even before she hatched. Her rider Kylara failed to impress a dragon at the first hatching she attended, but Weyrleader F’lar thought she had the qualities of a strong Weyrwoman. As the next hatching approached, he deliberately exposed the incubating queen dragon egg to Kylara: “F’lar… had Lessa persuade Ramoth to let Kylara near her precious golden egg.”1

Trying to influence the outcome when the egg hatched – controlling whom the hatchling chose – broke tradition, but it apparently worked. In the event, “the young queen burst from her shell and moved unerringly for Kylara.”1 Unfortunately, impression was the beginning of a short and unhappy life for Prideth.

Though we can’t be sure things would have unfolded differently if F’lar hadn’t interfered, it’s implied that the manipulation worked, but it would have been better if it had not: F’lar “regretted … that he had ever suggested to Lessa that she pressure that female into being a Weyrwoman.”2 Kylara was much too selfish and greedy to make either a good Weyrwoman, or a good dragonrider. 


Prideth's Story

Prideth first appears in Dragonflight, but her story is told in Dragonquest, the second volume of The Dragonriders of Pern series. We watch as she voices, first mild dissatisfaction with Kylara spending too much time at holds where there were no other dragons, then stronger disapproval of Kylara’s selfish handling of fire lizards. Kylara’s disrespect for other riders and the resulting squabbles cause Prideth great distress, until the ultimate betrayal, when Kylara knowingly puts Prideth in jeopardy in order to pursue her own selfish  and petty ends.

Strangely, despite the lack of depth of character in this dragon, the reader is left feeling that Kylara’s punishment, though devastating for the Weyrwoman, was nowhere near harsh enough.

1 Dragonflight. 1989. Ballantine Books. Page 187, 188.
2 Dragonquest. 1980. Ballantine Books. Page 155.

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