Painting Dragons: What Storytellers Need to Know About Writing Eunuch Villains

In the early 1800s, a British novelist said of a real-life Persian political tyrant who was a eunuch: “I have placed him in my narrative, as a painter sometimes inserts a dragon or some such monster in the foreground of his landscape.”

I’m asking: Why do writers paint these dragons? There are several literary tropes about eunuchs; why does the “evil eunuch” stereotype exist? How does it play out in novels? If you’re a writer, how might you change the game in your novel?

What people are saying

Check out my Feb. 13, 2019 interview by Laila Winters, my blog post “When the Person is the Message” for Book Club Babble in May 2019, and listen to my Dec. 17, 2018 interview on Episode 26, “Robot Eunuchs,” of the Stories We Tell Our Robots podcast! Painting Dragons was also mentioned on C. M. Rosens’ #VillainSleepover blog post on May 29, 2019.

The first book of its kind

This has been a mission-driven project of mine for nearly as long as I can remember. I had to write the book I wanted to see in the world. I’ve painstakingly gathered and analyzed information that I think will interest and help others. It’s my great pleasure to create something unique.

Finally, with the help of a fabulous publishing coach, four editors, and cover artist Andi Santagata, it came into the world in 2018.

Ask your favorite independent bookstore if they can order paperback ISBN 978-1-7329060-1-3 from IngramSpark. The ebook version is available on services like Kobo.

(Yes, it is also available from the corporate giant in paperback and as a Kindle ebook.)

Other things to read about eunuchs

I’ve blogged a fair amount about eunuch representation in literature. Not all of these are “villain” tropes, so they didn’t make it into the Painting Dragons book!

Read about eunuchs in: Fiction | Nonfiction | History | Myth | Film

Other things to read about villains and evil

What is evil? (Medium, 6 August 2021)
What language can we use for evil? (Dead Men Blogging, 14 June 2022)
In myth, the extra-binary thing explains everything (Medium, 13 August 2022)
Being cruel and pretending you’re not (Medium, 16 June 2022)
What murderers make philosophers think about (Medium, 22 Nov 2021)
Why are powerful people so terrible? (Medium, 10 Nov 2021)
Gods as ‘watchers’ who monitor our behavior (Medium, 19 Nov 2021)
On the ritual of political scapegoating (Medium, 16 Feb 2021)
Murmur by Will Eaves: A novel based on the castration of Alan Turing (The Shadow, 21 Nov 2022)
Orientalism by Edward Said (Medium, 5 Sept 2022)
Bababalouk in William Beckford’s Vathek (Medium, 6 Sept 2022)
The chief eunuch in Vernon Lee’s Virgin of the Seven Daggers (Medium, 9 Sept 2022)
Learning from modern responses to the Holocaust (Medium, 12 Nov 2021)
We are the book we’re talking about (Medium, 29 May 2022)
The Female by Paul Iselin Wellman (Medium, 6 Mar 2021)
Down the Coast of Barbary by Henry Bedford-Jones (Dead Men Blogging, 26 June 2022)
Do the Skeksis castrate the Podlings in Dark Crystal? (Medium, 10 Dec 2021)
Troubled Blood by ‘Robert Galbraith’ (Books Are Our Superpower, 16 Sept 2020)

Who might like Painting Dragons?

Chances are you know someone who will be intrigued. Do you know someone who…

  • reads or writes historical fiction?
  • studies or teaches social attitudes toward gender, sexuality, disability, or cultural representation?
  • is interested in villains for use in role-playing games like D&D or comic books?