VISITORS to Nunnington Hall, near York, have until September 4 to help to determine the look of the Nunnington dragon as part of a story creation project in Ryedale.
Literacy specialist Rosie Barrett and artist Karen Thompson have been working with school groups and families to retell this folktale.
The story features in the Creatures Of Curiosity project, funded by grants from Arts Council England and Ryedale District Council, to encourage young people to engage with stories rooted in local places.
“There are some fascinating stories from the region, but the dragon has really captured imagination,” says Rosie. “Lots of regions have their own version of a dragon story, but most of us have only really heard of the most famous dragons – those featured in stories such as The Hobbit, for example, or Beowulf.
“The project was a great opportunity to engage Ryedale people with our own dragon and find out a bit more about it.”
Rosie and Karen took their retelling of the story into schools in Ryedale to gauge their responses, inviting children to create their own illustrations and writing. “They had very strong ideas,” says Rosie.
“The original folktale has a devastatingly sad ending. We asked the children about it and how we should tell this element. We thought they’d want a happy ending and were surprised by their stoicism!”
Artist Karen illustrated the dragon based on the children’s ideas and consequently it slithers down the exhibition corridor. “The children helped us to get an idea of what the dragon should look like at the exhibition,” she says. “Based on details in the story, they were quite clear that the dragon should be long and worm-like.”
Now Rosie and Karen are inviting more visitors to participate by creating a scale to go on the dragon’s body and tail.
“It’s been fantastic to see the dragon develop over the summer, but we’ve only got until September 4 to get enough scales to finish it,” says Karen. “We’re really hoping it will be complete by the end of the exhibition.”
Other stories featured in the Creatures Of Curiosity exhibition at the National Trust property include moorland myths about “hobs”, the secretive and mischievous creatures believed to have helped around farms and houses on the North York Moors, and an original tale based on the prehistoric creatures whose fossil remains were found at Kirkdale Caves.
Look out too for artwork by children’s author and illustrator Tim Hopgood, who has illustrated the Kirkdale creatures, such as hyenas, lions and long-tusk elephants, once native to the region, and for sensory textile creations by Wanda Szajna-Hopgood, based on Tim’s illustrations, that showcase the story of the Kirkdale Caves. Artwork by schoolchildren is on display too.
Based on a range of real and mythological creatures from the Ryedale area, the exhibition pulls together history, archaeology, science and folklore. The real creatures are themselves in some ways fantastical: creatures that lived there during the Ice Age, including mammoths, hyenas and giant deer.
The exhibition offers the opportunity to explore how local myths were created and how even real stories can take on mythical status.
On August 25 comes the chance to join Dr Liam Herringshaw, from the Fossil Roadshow and Scarborough Museums, to learn about fascinating fossils. Hands-on art and storytelling activities will take place on August 30 from 11am to 3pm.
Find out more at: nationaltrust.org.uk/nunnington-hall/features/exhibitions-at-nunnington-hall.