I love Christmas music. To be clear, I really love Christmas music. Most of my fondest childhood Christmas memories have a background soundtrack of holiday songs from John Denver, Brenda Lee, Andy Williams, The Carpenters, Glen Campbell, Nat King Cole, and Johnny Mathis — and that’s a very short list. This may seem odd to some, considering I lean towards atheism and some of the best Christmas songs are all about the birth of Christ. That doesn’t make me love songs like “Silent Night,” “Adeste Fidelis,” or “What Child is This?” any less.
I fire up the Christmas playlist the day after Thanksgiving and listen to the over 17 hours of Christmas music I love. Which bring me to “Darcy the Dragon,” from Roger Whittaker’s self-titled 1976 Christmas album. I was five when this album came out, and it was a favorite in our house. My mom even had a beloved dragon tchotchke that she named Darcy, which my brother fought me for (and won) when we were going through her things after she passed.
As a kid in the ’70s, the story of Darcy was delightful. It’s about a kind dragon named Darcy who wants to buy presents for his friends. Darcy has a problem, however: whenever he speaks, he breathes fire, which causes trouble in the village (and by trouble, of course I mean fire). After being chased away twice when trying to buy gifts and setting things aflame, Darcy finds himself sadly sitting alone during a winter storm. He was so upset that he “opened his mouth so wide, that the wind and snow went right down his throat, and put out the fire inside.” Once he realizes that the fire inside him is out, he is able to return to the village, is now treated kindly by the villagers, and is able to buy presents for his friends.
Check out Darcy the Dragon’s lyrics for yourself, before reading on.
Or listen (it really is a cute song).
Cute story and happy ending, right? It was a cute story in 1976. As I listened to this song the other day (in 2023) I was struck by two thoughts. How awful it must have been for Darcy to have to change himself to be accepted, and damn it! Another Christmas song I love, ruined. Now when I hear Darcy the Dragon, all I hear is a story of intolerance, acceptance through assimilation, and lack of agency.
Unfortunately, the song implies that the only way for Darcy to be accepted by the villagers is to suppress his true nature and learn to speak without breathing fire. This promotes the idea that assimilation is the only path to acceptance, which ignores the value of celebrating individuality and diversity.
Also problematic is villagers intolerance of Darcy’s differences. Ok, to be fair, he did set shit on fire. But surely there was a better solution than everyone cheering because Darcy is no longer Darcy (is a dragon that can’t breath fire really a dragon any more? ?).
Finally, while the song ultimately ends on a positive note, it does so by focusing on Darcy’s drastic change that lets him fit in. This undermines his agency and reinforces the idea that it is the responsibility of marginalized groups to adapt to the majority rather than the other way around. I say Fuck That.
From shop to shop, he then did goRoger Whittaker, from “Darcy the Dragon”
In each, he made his choice
Darcy was treated so kindly now
No need to fear his voice
And so here I am. Sad about a favorite Christmas song. I still listen to it and am nostalgic about it, but I recognize the problems it reinforces. To make myself feel better, I think it’s time to cue up “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”