Today on the site we’re welcoming Minerva Cerridwen, author of fantasy novella The Dragon of Ynys, “an inclusive fairytale for all ages” starring an aromantic asexual main character (and lesbian and trans side characters) which was rereleased this past September from Atthis Arts. Here’s the blurb:
Every time something goes missing from the village, Sir Violet, the local knight, makes his way to the dragon’s cave and negotiates the item’s return. It’s annoying, but at least the dragon is polite.
But when the dragon hoards a person, that’s a step too far. Sir Violet storms off to the mountainside to escort the baker home, only to find a more complex mystery—a quest that leads him far beyond the cave. Accompanied by the missing baker’s wife and the dragon himself, the dutiful village knight embarks on his greatest adventure yet.
And here’s the post!
The Dragon of Ynys is a fairy tale with an aromantic asexual main character, and lesbian and trans supporting characters. And, of course, a dragon!
The story was first published in 2018 with a different publishing house, which unfortunately went out of business last year. After the release of the 2018 edition, sensitivity issues were pointed out to me, mainly regarding trans representation. It was all too clear in the story that I had not completely figured out my genderqueer identity when I first wrote it. Having learned more about the depth of the story’s issues and about myself, I have worked with a new team of editors and sensitivity readers to improve the book before re-publication. The 2020 edition, now published with Atthis Arts, also has a new epilogue, and an afterword about the story’s (and my own) journey towards what it is now.
The Dragon of Ynys is innocent, very clear about the message it wants to send, and the novella-length plot is relatively simple.
You might conclude that sounds like a children’s book. Booksellers would definitely prefer if it was that easy to know on which shelf to put it. And sure, it is suited for children and middle-grade readers, but I think the story will speak to adults just as much. After all, the person for whom I wrote this in the first place was… me.
I was 25 when I wrote the first draft. I hadn’t discovered everything about myself and maybe I still haven’t now, at 29. I wrote the story that I needed to read, about acceptance—not only of others but also myself. Considering some of the phrases I had written into the first version, the tale couldn’t be clear enough in its messages.
When I’m not writing or drawing, I work as a pharmacist. Every day, I meet people who are quite a bit older than me, who share little parts of their worries and thoughts in the context of medical conversations. I hear people try desperately to conform to expectations without stopping to wonder if those things really are what they want to do with their lives. (Of course, sometimes they are, and society simply isn’t making it easy for everyone to achieve those goals.) Still, these chats often make me think that a lot of adults would benefit from reading a story that clearly shows the advantages of listening to different perspectives, to better understand others as well as to learn more about their own true selves. Hearing relatable stories can not only make us feel less alone, but also help us grow the confidence to allow others to get to know the real you. In turn, we learn to truly listen to what those new friends are telling us—and that’s the difficult part. Sometimes we need to challenge everything we’ve ever been taught in order to open our minds. This message of listening combined with acceptance is very present in The Dragon of Ynys.
Of course children’s books can be read and loved at any age—I certainly still enjoy them. But it wouldn’t feel right to me to name only younger readers as the intended audience for my fairy tale, because the adults who influenced me as a child would have needed to hear its messages in order to pass them on to me. Most (queer) people I know who are around my age experience moments of nostalgia where we grab a book that we wish we could have had as a child, or a teenager, or three years ago when we were struggling to make sense of our identity—because the media we had access to when we were younger did not contain any, or barely any, LGBTQIA+ representation, and even if the subject ever came up, the adults we knew might not have acknowledged that this could be us.
I hope that The Dragon of Ynys can be one of those moments of nostalgia and comfort for some of us. Obviously it’s more important that people can find support from their friends, family or community rather than from a book, but I am certain that there are sixty-, seventy-, eighty-year-olds in our current society who might benefit simply from reading that nothing is wrong with them. And it can inspire adults to be those supportive people to the children around them. That’s why it’s so important to me to present this story as a fairy tale for all ages. Really, all.
Minerva Cerridwen is a genderqueer aromantic asexual writer and pharmacist from Belgium. She enjoys baking, drawing and handlettering.
Since 2013 she has been writing for Paranatellonta, a project combining photography and flash fiction. Her first published work was the queer fairy tale ‘Match Sticks’ in the Unburied Fables anthology (2016). Her short stories have also appeared in Atthis Arts anthologies Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove (2019) and Community of Magic Pens (2020).