"How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Dragons have always fascinated the human imagination. Beings of awesome power and often fierce intelligence, they are the greatest opponents in literature. Yet these majestic creatures also stand for high fantasy, for a world in which anything is possible, a world in which we have not yet forgotten a powerful sense of wonder. They are therefore both the enemy par excellence and the sure sign of a world that is deep enough to be worth living in, combining terror and an almost religious dread with longing and an awe that verges on worship.
These courses will take the readers on a fantastical journey of discovery, inviting them to see the world and themselves more clearly: both more critically and more charitably at the same time. Offered at three different levels for different age groups, this is a rare chance for members of a family to study the same material in age-appropriate settings. Common books among the three courses will offer much material for discussion, and books unique to each course will give each student something uniquely their own to bring to the conversation.
Here Be Dragons: A Practical Guide to Wonder and Meaning in Life
What can Tolkien’s Lake-town tell you about the meaning of human life? What can the old dragon Eustace stumbles across in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader reveal about the nature of pride and greed? What can we learn from Aerin, Robin McKinley’s young female protagonist, about the difficulty in seeing past ourselves in trying to see the world? The answers are profound, specific, and often life changing.
Here Be Dragons: Junior Expedition
This course is as much about philosophy as it is about literature. We will read delightful books, some of which have been dear to generations, some of which are delighting their first generation. As we quest along with Bilbo, the Pevensies, and more, we will also have occasion to ask questions about courage, true friendship, duty, honor, and sacrifice.
Here Be Dragons: An Apprenticeship in Wonder
This course will help your young child to connect the wonder and love he or she already possesses to books as reliable places to encounter stories that matter. In this course, I will both teach and model deep engagement with a text through close reading, all in a format that values and invites the children’s wildest ideas. In the lifelong journey of developing and guarding a joyous heart, these are the first steps.
Every time I hear Junius Johnson speak, I walk away asking: "Did I forget how exciting and joyful the life of the mind can be?”
A deep perspective on the human need for wonder, and the essential desire for things powerful and uncontrollable.
Why do you suppose dragons have possessed the imagination of writers and readers for most of our recorded history. Junius Johnson has come away from the dragons hoard with a few secrets to share. I found his treatment personally encouraging and a call to pick up my lance (or my pen), and join in the battle.
Junius shares such a wondrous view of the purpose of dragons in literature and why we need our imagination to be refreshed and invigorated by them.