A Cultural Marxist Review of
Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury
by L.R.W. Lee
In reading Blast of the Dragon’s Fury, I found myself torn between two approaches to the book. On one hand, I wanted to approach it from a Cultural Studies perspective, examining how parts of the author’s world interjected into the work to create a piece that is both entertaining to young readers and helps connect them to the plot.
On the other hand, certain aspects of the story called out for Marx. Not because the author or her characters are supporting a communist ideal – they do not. They do, however, seem to provide an answer to it, or at least a counter point to the idea of completely overthrowing the elite.
With that in mind, let us examine Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury through a pair of bi-focals.
The Cultural Perspective
From the first page of the story, cultural references familiar to the author and her readers are peppered through the story. When Princess Imogenia arrives to the underworld, she is greeted with signs to organize the arrival of the dead – Guest Services, Unclaimed Baggage, and Waiting Area. The Land of the Dead even has a Beta testing line in the Unfinished Business Office, for spirits who wish to try something unique to get back at the living. This is, naturally, Imogenia’s choice as she wants to get back at her brother for killing her.
When we meet Andy Smithson, we encounter more cultural references. We meet him as he is about to kill a dragon – in a video game. He is destined for a dinnertime lecture due to getting in trouble in Ms. Crabtree’s class. Crabtree is the name of the beloved teacher from Our Gang – a.k.a. Little Rascals. Before you wonder if today’s children would get the reference, consider that Edna Krabappel, the beloved Simpson’s teacher, was named for the same character. Dinner is, of course, endured in the presence of a “perfect” older sister – a feeling familiar to any child with a sibling.
Such references continue throughout the story from a wizard, related to Merlin, who cannot say his r’s properly to a medieval king’s fascination with a mailbox. Governors of the kingdom rule towns with names like “City of Oops”, which can only have a colorful and amusing story behind it. Then there is the remembrance of curse day, in which the flatulence of cows temporarily removes the cursed fog over the land, granting clear sight.
The cultural references and jokes move quickly. Too many of them exist for the story to be a copy of another. The story is its own unique tale that uses familiar cultural images to good effect. They are too light to be full homages (such a thing would slow the pace of the story). They function well to help pull young readers into the story and keep them amused. That amusement keeps them engaged.
The Marxist Response
The basic premise of the story is simple. A jealous young Prince decides to kill off the rest of the royal family, starting with his older sister, so that he can rule the Kingdom of Oomaldee. The reader meets the Princess in the Land of the Dead as she waits for the rest of her family to join her, so that she can exact revenge on her brother. She sets a curse upon Oomaldee in the form of an unending fog.
Imogenia’s curse sets up the innocent citizens of the kingdom to be punished for the sins of their new king. It is the kind of thing Marx would point to as reason for revolution. The Bourgeoisie lays more abuses upon the Proletariat. Revolution is what Imogenia has in mind. She wants her brother laid low, brought to his knees to repent. That is not the direction Lee takes with the story, however. This is not merely the story of the breaking of a curse.
It is also a tale of redemption.
Rather than being overthrown by the suffering of the Proletariat, the Bourgeoisie is instead moved by it. Seeing how the people have suffered for his sins, the new king changes from a spoiled, ambitious child, to a wise and crafty ruler. When he meets Andy Smithson, he is hopeful that the curse can finally be broken.
The King has learned the lesson of Marxism, from the elite’s perspective at least. If oppression of the working class (the peasants) will eventually lead to revolt, the upper classes have a choice. Either they can strengthen the ruling hand, pushing the lower classes further down or they can strive to work to help the lower classes, to ease the suffering put upon them.
The former creates more enmity and is a brewing pot from which a hero can be crafted, to rise up and overthrow both curse and tyranny. The latter draws the hero to the King, and ensures that once the curse is broken, the ruling caste stays intact.
So is a young reader going to consider how different cultural references bring them into a story and maintain their attention? Are they likely to notice leaders learning lessons from the march of Marxism through world history? Probably not. Adults will, however, and when a parent is looking for good characters to show to her child, she will not do much better than a ruler learning to care for his people.
Visit L.R.W. Lee online.
Lynn Perretta is a contributing author to StreetWraith Press. If you want to see more of her work, please visit The Writer’s Manifest. You can also check out her published work through Amazon or Smashwords.