According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, and I am a huge fan of dragons. They’re just very cool, and I find it fascinating and mysterious that almost every culture in the world has a dragon or dragon-esque creature in their legends, mythologies, and hagiography. I wonder if they came about in response to dinosaurs…
Funnily enough, I just finished reading The Book of Dragons, an anthology of short stories all about dragons by some of my favourite authors, and so I thought I’d combine those two coincidences into a fun, dragon-themed post! (You can read my response to this book on my own site, if you like!)
Before we get into the media recommendations, you might be wondering what’s with the title. I’d always thought ‘here be dragons’ was a phrase used by ancient mapmakers to mark unknown regions of the world. Apparently, this isn’t quite true! According to a National Geographic article, “apart from an inscription on a single, 16th-century globe, this claim is unfounded.” However, “mapmakers would often place monsters and other imagined creatures to marked unexplored areas” which might be why ‘here be dragons’ can often be found in fictional maps.
Before anything else, thanks, Sumayyah, for the inspiration for this post! I’ve quickly gotten used to wearing a ring, which, thankfully, doesn’t attract the attention of any evil entities. It also doesn’t turn me invisible, which is a bummer, but that’s life I suppose. It doesn’t even have an inscription on the inside, though maybe that was a missed opportunity. Aaaand there I go, referencing The Lord of the Rings1. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, and maybe as a librarian, I shouldn’t be admitting this… but I liked the movies more than the books in this case. Though I did read the books way back in high school. If I remember right, I read The Fellowship of the Ring, then started Two Towers, got annoyed by the lack of Gandalf and even Tolkien’s writing style at some points, and then just stopped mid-way through2. Then the movies came out. I watched the first but didn’t keep reading. Then I watched the second and decided that maybe I should finish the books before the third movie came out. I did that, but I still don’t have any desire to return to the books, whereas I’ll watch the movies again every now and then, even in their extended format. But now I’ve used a paragraph talking about the obvious choice for this topic… Without even introducing the topic within my intro, as I’ve just realized4. For those of you who don’t click on my copious links5 or read the titles of my articles, today I’m focusing on powerful jewellery in fantasy, and I’ll be introducing a few trinkets that, while maybe not as well-known as The One Ring, are perhaps shiny enough to draw your attention to their source material.
On October 5th, part three of the acclaimed Lupin series will finally air on Netflix. One of my favourite shows, Lupin is an adaptation of Arsène Lupin by Maurice Leblanc, a classic French story about a world-famous gentleman thief and master of disguise. (Heads up: the show is also in French, but since I’m pro-subtitles even for my native English, I don’t mind this.)
Lupin had me thinking about the allure of gentlemen thieves—criminals with hearts (and motives!) of gold—and I thought it’d be fun to feature media of similar noble crooks.
But first, let’s define the term. According to TV Tropes, a gentleman thief has “…roguish good looks coupled with a breeding and style that manifests as a suave and debonair manner. He’s usually a charmer, too—think James Bond without the government authorization. He steals for the challenge/pleasure of the job and generally avoids violence while restricting his targets to those who can afford the loss.”
While gentlemen thieves are usually male, that’s not always the case. No doubt, several examples of such thieves have jumped to mind, but first, let’s start with some real life representatives of this trope!