Study Guide

Dragonwings Fear

By Laurence Yep


I was afraid of the Golden Mountain, and yet my father, who lived there, wanted me to join him. I only knew that there was a certain rightness in life – the feeling you got when you did something the way you knew you should. I owed it to Father to obey him in everything – even if it meant going to such a fearful place as the Golden Mountain. (1.34)

Though Moon Shadow is afraid of all the unknowns of the Land of the Golden Mountain, his larger sense of duty to family extinguishes his fears.

"Trust to your hands and do not think about what you are doing." The Dragon King added, "And do not fear. No harm will come to you if you fail. I called you here as my old friend." (3.43)

The Dragon King's mandate to Windrider fortifies him with a sense of impossible failure. In this way, belief in the supernatural empowers Windrider with a sense of purpose and confidence.

"These are wings, if you have the courage to use them," the Lord said.
I looked dubiously at the wings. They seemed fragile things. But I was ashamed to let the Lord see me frightened after all the things he had said about the former me. (3.54-55)

The Dragon King's self-assured faith in Windrider makes him feel silly for ever doubting himself.

Some demon boys were out in the street. They stooped as if to pick up things to throw, and Father whispered to me to sit up straight and not show I was afraid. The demon boys called out some things, but we ignored them until we had passed them by. A rock whizzed by my ear and hit Red Rabbit in the side. He snorted, but plodded on as steadily as before. (4.33)

Windrider instills a sense of bravado, or false courage, in Moon Shadow that paves the way to actual courage.

I'd rather lose both [Moon Shadow and Windrider] than see you bring your poor mother over here. What kind of place is this for her when we're afraid to set foot outside our own door? (4.92)

Uncle Bright Star's comment shows that fear for Mother's well being is what keeps him from signing off on her immigration.

Miss Whitlaw leaned over and spoke gently. "How would you feel if you were plunked right down in China in a small village with almost no hope of going back? Wouldn't you be scared?"

"Well, yes,"
the demon girl admitted reluctantly. Then she looked at me. "But I'd listen to some Chinaman who told me there wasn't anything in the village pump or anything near it that could hurt me." (6.62-63)

Early on we see Miss Whitlaw flex her empathy and Robin's wish to alleviate fear in Moon Shadow.

She went on breaking pea pods into the pot. "But now you take that Jack," she said. "You know him. He's the boy with the brown hair and the freckles. Well, he's the biggest boy in our school, and yet I happen to know personally from Maisie, his sister, that he'd rather die than let anyone know he was afraid of being hit in the nose, 'cause he's scared of the sight of blood – especially his." (8.84)

Robin dispels Moon Shadow's fear of Jack by showing that most people, including Jack, are afraid of something.

I don't think the demons were necessarily bad for not wanting to help others. They might have been scared, or so shocked they could not really know how selfish they were being. (9.95)

Moon Shadow acknowledges how powerful a force fear is, and how it can momentarily turn a person into someone they usually are not.