Yesterday, I almost stepped on a baby bat whilst I was out hunting dragons. Now I know that doesn’t sound like very vegan behaviour but it really wasn’t my fault: the bat was lying by the edge of the road, and it’s not the sort of thing you expect to see in broad daylight; besides, like I said, I was hunting dragons at the time.
I have been a ‘Pocket Dragon’ hunter since 1996, ever since my old school friend Elaine Blackie gifted me one for my eighteenth birthday. Pocket dragons, as their name suggests, are small enough to fit in the average pocket; they’re made of pottery and not to be confused with those pewter ‘Myth And Magic’ monstrosities, or the rather ferocious but somewhat impressive ‘Enchantica’ ones, which have recently made a mysterious appearance en masse in three of Sudbury’s charity shops despite becoming practically extinct in the late nineties.
Anyway, I fell in love: I don’t know if it was the mischievous grin or those black shiny eyes, or the fact that he was dainty enough to perch on the palm of my hand. Dragons are traditionally described as being huge, impending monstrous beasts with fangs and claws and firebreath that could roast you in a heart beat, and a tendency towards malevolent behaviour; this one, however, was called ‘Oh Goody’, and he looked the sort who was more likely to kill you with kindness.
After that, my mother bought me a second pocket dragon, and then I bought one, and then another… then I joined the pocket dragon collector’s club (the membership came free with one of the annual pieces) which came with it’s own news magazine via snail mail.
I soon learnt that there were hundreds of the wee beasties; and that the ‘Whimsical World Of Pocket Dragons’ was the brainchild of Texan sculptor, Real Musgrave, and his wife, Muff (yes, those are their actual names – he also has a brother named ‘Story’ who is a famous astronaut). Produced by ‘Collectible World Studios’ (formerly known as ‘Lilliput Lane Land Of Legend’) the company responsible for ‘Piggin Pigs’ and ‘Cherished Teddies’ and a load of other figurines, the first twenty-five pieces sculpted by Real were released in 1989 (this included two gargoyles and a teddy bear which were affectionately known as ‘pocket dragon friends’) followed by a large limited edition piece a month later and a xmas ’89 piece which was held up in production and actually didn’t make it to the shops until the new year.
I met Real once. Very briefly. I was at ‘Wetheriggs Country Pottery’ in Clifton Dykes near Penrith where the ‘National Collector’s Centre’ was and he’d come over from America to do a UK tour. I can’t remember much about it to be honest. I think I was more interested in getting one of the special tour ornaments before other fans snapped them up; that and visiting the pocket dragon museum which had rare never-been-seen-before prototypes.
Sadly, Collectible World’s marketing headquarters in Stoke On Trent were burnt down in July 2000: ten years worth of archived photos and irreplaceable artworks by Real and other prestigious artists were completely destroyed. Then, a couple of years later, there was a blaze which also destroyed the museum at Wetheriggs. I went back in 2006 but it just wasn’t the same.
Real retired shortly after this and the pocket dragons whose moulds hadn’t been broken by then retired with him, although he did make a special one-off piece in 2011.
I have approximately one-hundred-and-fifty of the wee green guys now. It’s difficult though to find them in real live outlet nowadays so my purchases tend to be from E-bay, which can be expensive. However, I have come across two pocket dragons in Sudbury in the last couple of years. And I regularly scour the charity shops just in case. That’s what I was doing when I nearly stepped on the bat… which surreptitiously took flight when a man tried to help it by scooping it up out of the way of the traffic…