John Scalzi has an almost endless amount of accomplishments under his belt. A Hugo Award winner. A New York Times bestseller (most recently of The Kaiju Preservation Society). Critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times. But we’re here to utilize possibly his most important skill of all: burrito expert extraordinaire. For Dragon Week 4: Dragons 4Ever, John weighs in on what burrito he, personally, would feed a dragon. Check out his answer below!
By John Scalzi
As an internationally renowned expert on burritos, I have been asked by the folks at Tor to essay perhaps the most important question of this or any other time in our shared cultural history:
What Burrito Would You Feed a Dragon?
And the answer is: Well, obviously, it would depend. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes and personal proclivities. It’s time to acknowledge that, just like people, they will have their own idiosyncratic tastes and preferences. Let me take five examples of dragons from history and literature and song, and suggest some possible burrito pairings.
- Mushu, from Mulan
Mushu is small enough that he is confused for a lizard, and is easily stompable by a horse, so his caloric needs are actually fairly low on a day-to-day basis. All evidence seems to indicate that he’s both omnivorous and opportunistic in his diet, which is to say, he’ll have whatever you’re having. The burrito I would feed Mushu is a quarter of whatever burrito I ordered that day, because that’s about what he could handle, and then I would still have three-quarters of a burrito. Which, as long as the basket of tortilla chips at the table keeps getting refilled, would be enough for me too.
- Dragon from the St. George legend
For those unfamiliar with this story, the legend is that a dragon demanded tribute from a small village, and once it ate through all the livestock, an agreement was reached where the village would provide a human a year, which was fine until that human was a princess. Then St. George got involved and killed the dragon, but hopefully not before the dragon said “Wow, you only got involved when a princess was on the line, really, classist much?”
That said, this painting above, by 15th century painter Paolo Uccello, seems to be telling an entirely different story, which is that a princess was out walking her pet dragon in the garden when all of a sudden a knight burst in and poked the poor dragon in the eye, to the mild annoyance of the princess, who is all, like, “Really, George, what’s the actual problem, can’t you see he’s on a friggin’ leash.”
In the traditional version of the story, the dragon actually preferred livestock and only ate humans when there were no other menu options, so a nice big carne asada or barbacoa burrito would be fine, and just keep ‘em coming. In the new revisionist version based on the painting, I would fill that burrito with ibuprofen, and arrest George for trespassing and cruelty to animals.
- Elliot from Pete’s Dragon
In the 1977 film, Elliot is a dragon who rescues a small boy sold into a life of indentured servitude and deposits him with a family which breaks out into song for no apparent reason, so, really, pick your poison here. Like Mushu, the other Disney dragon in this list, Elliot appears to be omnivorous, but in the film local fishermen complain about their daily catch disappearing mysteriously, the cause of which is Elliot, who can be invisible at will, sneaking fish when they can’t see him.
That being the case, despite the film taking place in early 1900s Maine, where everything was boiled and spices were what happened to other people, I believe Elliot is a prime candidate for a bit of fusion food, and would recommend a very large sushi burrito, with a large seaweed wrap filled with rice, fish, and of course the local Maine delicacy of lobster.
- Smaug, from The Hobbit
All the previous dragons on this list have been more or less human-scale, but Smaug is the first one which is truly huge; in the Hobbit films, the fire-drake would have been more than 130 meters or or nearly 430 feet long. This brings up all sorts of questions, not only about the questionable physics of such a large creature being able to breathe, much less, you know, fly, but also about such a large creature’s necessary daily caloric intake, which would be substantial, and how one would construct a burrito for a creature that large. Creating the tortilla alone would be a substantial logistical undertaking — a task that certainly the master craftsmen among the Dwarves of Erebor could have managed, if they had been on more friendly terms with Smaug, which, alas, they were not.
Now, true Tolkien nerds scholars will tell me that the Dragons of Middle-Earth were magical, created by Morgoth as war-beasts, most notably in the War of the Jewels during the First Age, and as such, they are not necessarily bound by the laws of physics or nutrition. Which is a good thing, since the text of The Hobbit does not offer much insight into the diet of Smaug, other than the fact he’ll eat humans, dwarves and ponies from time to time, but that as much out of spite than out of any particular need. He’ll eat you if you annoy him (and you will annoy him), but he doesn’t have to eat you.
But we also know that Smaug is erudite, cultured and appreciates the finer things in life; in the movies he’s voiced by Benedict Cumberbach, after all. So allow me to suggest a haute cuisine burrito for him. The filling hardly matters — sure, fill it with flame-broiled dwarves and humans, they’re around — but once they’re stuffed into that very large tortilla, let’s take a little bit of Smaug’s horde and make an edible gold foil to wrap the whole burrito in. Gold is incredibly ductile — you can hammer the element to just a fraction of a micron thick — so Smaug’s fortune would not be materially affected. It’ll be a tasty and shiny burrito made of his enemies, and I think that will please Smaug to no end.
- Puff the Magic Dragon, from the song “Puff, the Magic Dragon”
A 3am gas station microwave burrito, because, come on, this dragon is fully baked. Peter Paul and Mary will tell you the song is not about that, but clearly no one told the animators of the 70s TV special. They knew otherwise. They all knew otherwise. And so do we.
JOHN SCALZI is one of the most popular SF authors of his generation. His debut Old Man’s War won him the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His New York Times bestsellers include The Last Colony, Fuzzy Nation, and Redshirts (which won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel), and 2020’s The Last Emperox. Material from his blog, Whatever, has also earned him two other Hugo Awards. Scalzi also serves as critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.
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