“People seem to live at a different pace, now. Tea Dragon tea is a wonderful thing, but it takes a long time to make. Back when everything took longer to make, perhaps that didn’t matter… Sadly, the art is fading” — Hesekiel, The Tea Dragon Society, p. 36.
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Animals in Danger, Anthropomorphism, Endangered Species, Hostile Environment, Hybridity|
|Protagonist’s Identity||Greta: A brown-skinned goblin/human hybrid (Nonhuman) |
The comic also includes a multi-racial cast of characters, hybrid animal/human characters, a queer couple, and a character with disabilities who uses a wheelchair
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 4: Considerable Environmental Agency without Activism|
|Target Audience||Middle Grade (8 to 12 years)|
|Settings||Rural fantasy setting|
In The Tea Dragon Society, K. O’Neill adapts her popular webcomic into print form. The narrative centers on Greta, a young blacksmith apprentice, as she learns about the dying art form of raising the endangered species of Tea Dragons. O’Neill divides the comic into four chapters, each taking place during a different season. In the opening chapter, “Spring,” Greta rescues a Tea Dragon–a small, adorable dragon that grows tea leaves from its horns–from a pack of hungry dogs. She returns the Tea Dragon to its owners, Hesekiel and his husband Erik, and Hesekiel invites her to learn more about Tea Dragons.
In “Summer” and “Autumn,” Greta spends more time with Hesekiel and Erik as they teach her how to care for their three Tea Dragons, Jasmine, Chamomile, and Rooibos. Greta discovers that Hesekiel and Erik once led a Tea Dragon Society, but all of the other members have died out or can no longer care for the Tea Dragons. She learns more about the couple’s relationship by drinking the tea, which shows her their memories of slaying monsters together. The pair retired from their adventures after Erik was seriously injured during one of these battles and must now use a wheelchair. Additionally, Greta befriends Minette, a girl who has a damaged memory after she trained as a prophetess. In “Winter” and “Epilogue,” Greta helps Minette brew tea from Chamomile’s leaves, allowing the girl to regain some of her memories, and Hesekiel and Erik give Greta her own Tea Dragon, Ginseng, after her former owner dies.
As a gentle fantasy comic, The Tea Dragon Society emphasizes the importance of conservation, friendship, and living in harmony with nature. The characters carefully tend the Tea Dragons, with Hesekiel noting that they require “diligent care and attention” to thrive and produce tea leaves (O’Neill 60). Additionally, the comic features a diverse cast of characters. O’Neill depicts Hesekiel as a bipedal, llama-like creature that speaks and wears clothes. Minette has antlers, and Greta and her mother have bull-like horns. Hesekiel and Erik have a queer relationship, and Minette kisses a blushing Greta on the cheek at the end of the comic, hinting at a potential budding romance between the two. Finally, the comic features characters with different abilities, including the wheelchair-bound Erik and the memory-impaired Minette.
The comic includes a paratextual “Tea Dragon Handbook.” This manual contains information about the Tea Dragon species and their care, as well as information about each of the four types of Tea Dragons featured in the primary narrative.
Richards, Kelly. “Interview: Katie O’Neill and THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY.” Comicosity, 1 August 2017, http://www.comicosity.com/interview-katie-oneill-and-the-tea-dragon-society/.