Dragon (Дракон, 1961) by Aleksandra Snezhko-Blotskaya

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Drakon (ru)
El Dragón (es)
דרקון (he)

Year 1961
Director(s) Snezhko-Blotskaya Aleksandra
Studio(s) Soyuzmultfilm
Language(s) Russian
Genre(s) Folklore & myth (non-Rus./USSR)
Literature (non-Rus./USSR)
War & battles
Animation Type(s)  Drawn (cel)
Length 00:21:36
Wordiness 7.49
Animator.ru profile Ru, En
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For hundreds of years, a Dragon has been oppressing the people and defeating all who would challenge it. A young boy decides to take it down. Based on a South East Asian fairytale.

The video unfortunately has interlacing, and may not have quite the right aspect ratio.




There's a pretty similar theme in Galina Barinova's 1990 film A Long Time Ago. This one is somewhat more optimistic, the narrative laid out more clearly, and stylistically more orthodox. They well represent the different eras they were made in.

Replies: >>2



In the subconscious of Southeast Asian people, the dragon (龍) is a very sacred animal and often symbolizes water which is the main element of the agricultural civilization. Of course, dragons are only fiction, but it is often associated with the crocodiles. I have watched many Western films about Asian culture, then I must say, most of the interpretation of dragons was very clumsy and different from the local beliefs. The latest film - Raya and the Last Dragon, fortunately, is more positive, because the scriptor is a Vietnamese-American man. However, since he has lived in the US since his childhood and was also hardly familiar with traditional culture of East Asia, he basically followed the familiar formula of American cinematographers : East Asia, Southeast Asia or Asia in general means only bamboo trees, red furnitures, chopsticks, conical hats, or eyelids... :D In fact, East Asians rarely used red paint, because the sun was bright all year round ; we also used spoons, forks, knives when eating, even bare hands ; especially, we also have blue or brown eyes, even blond hair (like myself), and very large eyelids. Occasionally it also snows in this area, and of course we also have some similar trees in the polar climate as : Pine, cedrus, fir, strawberry, cauliflower... Our forest just can not grow birch, and streams can not feed crayfish, because these are creatures harmful to the native. There is a very special point, because the rugged terrain of Southeast Asia is quite similar to Greece and Italy, so this area does not have horses and foxes. Southeast Asian horses have existed in history, but only as small as mules ; in the past, kings who wanted to have horsemen had to buy horses in Yunnan or India where there were very big and strong horses. "Foxes" in Southeast Asia are really just jackals, but also very few. In return, Southeast Asian elephants and tigers are invincible in all animals ; the kings of India and Southeast Asia even built arenas for lions, tigers and elephants to fight. In addition, Southeast Asia also has almost no predatory birds as buzzard, eagle, hawk, kestrel... luckily only seagulls. The nature of ancient Southeast Asia was toxic because of its abundance of snakes, the abundance of crocodiles, and the proliferation of insects. Film "Dragon" also partly reflected this nature.

Talking about the Southeast Asian worldview, the dragon is considered a mascot (or even ancestor), and because it symbolizes water, the dragon's scales are usually blue or black, of course never green. In the legend of the founding from the Vietnamese folks, hero Lạc-Long-Quân ("dragon king") cut a very ferocious giant fish into three pieces to form three locations where the people would live. At the beginning of the 15th century, an official named Nguyễn Trãi was composing a book "Lam Sơn thực lục" (藍山實錄, "true records on K'lam mountain"), said that :

When Lê Lợi was not yet king, he picked up the hilt of a sword on a high branch (which represented the element "earth" | đất), at the same time, his general named Lê Thận while fishing, caught a blade with the inscription "Will of Heaven" (順天). Here, Lê Thận was originally a fisherman, so he picked up his sword in the river which were synonymous with "water" (nước). So in Vietnamese colloquial language, "đất nước" means "country". This mythical event was intended to strengthen the legitimacy of emperor Lê Thái Tổ whom was originally a mountain leader (similar to cases of Alaric, Charlemagne, Attila, Grimaldi or Napoleon). I also have to explain more that, the blade is "linga" and the hilt of sword means "yoni" - when they are combined, the meaning is "universe" or the world. According to the ancient concept, when you have the support of "heaven-earth-human", then you have the whole world, so you are the king.

And the story of the king returning the sword to Golden Shell to form "Lake of the Returned Sword" (hồ Hoàn Kiếm) of modern Hanoi, there are two versions : Around the 18th century, writers simply said that the king took his sword and threw into the water to scare one turtle away ; however, around the beginning of the twentieth century, when compiling "Manuels de lecture en quoc-van, ou Langue indigène", scholars have said otherwise that, the golden turtle surfaced to ask for the sword back, so the king put the sword in its mouth to return the aquarium. Because to this short essay, the legend really became famous, because it contained the meaning of educating Vietnamese children about citizenship who would grow up to be revolutionaries. As early as a few years ago, I thought that this new version was an imitation of the motif "Excalibur" from the chivalric romance.

In the end, the "dragon" image in this film probably reflected colonialism, the conservative monarchy and the capitalist-financier forces that dominated Southeast Asia, and Maung Tin the kid represented the youth. Also, please notice that the Vauban architectural style resembled stars or turtles. In East Asian philosophy, the star is always white and has a round shape, so quite similar to the sun (which is always red). However, the turtle represents the stronghold, or rather urban civilization. Here, the turtle also means the capital or the creation of a new government. Also note that, in the past, technology was still very poor, Asian people every time they build some citadels, they let turtles crawled around, animal instincts will help them locate a stable place to foundation, it was quite similar to the legend of King Vortigern. In Nguyễn Trãi's story, it is also said that, when Lê Lợi was chased by the Ming soldiers, the corpse of a village maiden suddenly turned into a fox which has distracted the enemy to save the king. After ascending the throne, Lê Lợi named this "fox" as The Lady, ie a demigod. This legend probably refered to the future capital of Lê Dynasty, ie modern Hanoi. Why so ? In the North of Hanoi city, there is a vast water with big waves what was named as West Lake (hồ Tây). It is also known as "Golden Buffalo Lake" (hồ Kim Ngưu) or "Fox Corpse Swamp" (đầm Xác Cáo), because indeed, its shape is easily reminiscent of a certain animal. Legend has it that Lạc Long Quân (ie "dragon king") defeated a nine-tailed fox, so it stayed there forever.



Noname lullaby by Á-nam Trần-tuấn-Khải, 1921】

Let us sightsee the Sword Lake scene together,
With the Bridge of "the Rising and Perching Sun" and the Temple of "the Gem Mountain".
The Ink Slab and the Pen Tower is not worn yet,
Ask, who built this "Mountain and Lake" (land + water = country) ?

Rủ nhau xem cảnh Kiếm Hồ,
Xem cầu Thê Húc, xem chùa Ngọc Sơn.
Đài Nghiên, tháp Bút chưa mòn,
Hỏi ai xây dựng nên non nước này ?

Langue indigène, 1926】

1. Lê-Lai rescues his lord

Lê-Lợi at that time in Chi-linh mountain was surrounded by Chinese troops ; the enemy was about to defeat the fort, so the King was in danger of being killed. He asked his general that : "Who dares to break the siege and fight the enemy on my behalf ? That man will of course be captured by the enemy, but I take advantage of their retreat, so I will recruit more troops and gather together to plot revenge. Lê-Lai the youngman took it. He wore a robe, then rode an elephant out of the fort, and called himself "Prince of Pacify" which was the title of King Lê-Lợi at that time. Ming army thought him as the real King Lê-Lợi, so they gathered to arrest and kill him. General Lê-Lai risked his life like that to save King Lê-Lợi from an accident, so that our country could gain self-control, from being oppressed by the Chinese army.

a. Ông Lê-Lai liều mình cứu chúa

Lê-Lợi bấy giờ ở Chí-linh bị quân Tàu vây riết lắm ; quân giặc sắp hạ được đồn, vua Lê tất bị giết. Vua mới hỏi tướng-tá rằng : "Ai dám thay trẫm ra phá vòng vây, đánh nhau với giặc ? Người ấy sẽ bị giặc bắt, còn trẫm thì nhân lúc giặc lui, mộ thêm quân, họp binh lại, mưu sự báo thù”. Ông Lê-Lai ra nhận việc ấy. Ông mặc áo ngự-bào, cưỡi voi ra ngoài đồn, tự xưng là “Bình-định vương” là hiệu vua Lê-Lợi bấy giờ. Quân nhà Minh tưởng là vua Lê-Lợi thực, xúm nhau lại bắt ông giết đi. Ông Lê-Lai liều mình như thế thành ra cứu được vua Lê-Lợi thoát nạn, mà nhân đó nước ta mới được tự chủ, khỏi phải quân Tàu áp chế.

2. Story about the magic sword of King Lê-Lợi

Legend has it that King Lê-Lợi, before he rose to fight the Ming army, was still in Hanoi working as a fisherman. One day he threw his net into Hoàn-kiếm Lake, then called Tả-vọng Lake ("Lake of the Left Looking"), when he pulled it up, he could not catch any fish, but he got a very beautiful sword with a wide, hard, and shiny blade. He got that sword, so rose up to fight the Chinese army, chased it out of the country, then he was crowned the king in Thang-long ("the Rising Dragon", at that time Hanoi). One day he was playing in a boat on the lake : He saw a big turtle emerging, swimming close to him. He was afraid, took his sword away, but the tortoise grabbed the sword and disappeared. He then knew that the turtle was the lake god who helped him fight the Chinese. After that, people built in the middle of the lake a tower called "Quy-sơn tower" (Tower of the Tortoise Hill), and that lake was called "Hoàn-kiếm lake" (Lake of the Returned Sword).

b. Truyện gươm thần của vua Lê-Lợi

Tục truyền rằng vua Lê-Lợi, trước khi nổi lên đánh quân Minh, vẫn ở Hà-nội làm nghề đánh cá. Một hôm ngài quăng lưới xuống hồ Hoàn–kiếm, bấy giờ còn gọi là hồ Tả-vọng, lúc kéo lên không được cá, lại được một thanh gươm rất đẹp lưỡi rộng, cứng mà sáng loáng. Ngài được thanh gươm ấy, nổi lên đánh quân Tàu, đuổi ra ngoài nước, rồi lên ngôi vua ở Thăng-long (Hà–nội bấy giờ). Một hôm ngài ngự thuyền chơi trên hồ : Ngài thấy có một con rùa to nổi lên, bơi lại gần ngài. Ngài sợ, lấy gươm gạt ra, nhưng con rùa ấy đớp lấy gươm rồi biến mất. Ngài bấy giờ mới biết rằng con rùa ấy là vị thần hồ đã giúp ngài đánh quân Tàu. Sau người ta xây ở giữa hồ một cái tháp gọi là “Quy-sơn tháp” (tháp Núi-rùa), còn cái hồ ấy thì gọi là “Hoàn-kiếm hồ” (hồ Giả-gươm).


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