What Is It About Dragons? Guest Post by Jaq D Hawkins…

As a Fantasy reader, I love a good dragon character in a story, yet sometimes I have to wonder, why dragons? Why do they get more attention than other mythological creatures?

In traditional childhood stories, dragons usually fill the role of antagonist. You have dragon slayers who go out to save the village by killing the fell beast and getting rewarded with marriage to the princess for his heroic bravery. Not a great basis for a relationship if you ask me!

To be fair, a lot of modern children’s books have presented less threatening and even comical dragons, for which I credit Peter Yarrow who wrote Puff the Magic Dragon, both a story and a long favoured children’s song.

Sometimes the dragons in stories can speak to humans, like in The Hobbit. In most early stories, they are tricky and seek to use clever ruses to defeat the dragon slayer without taking any damage from his puny sword. Usually the dragon has a weak spot somewhere and it is this the hero must discover.

It’s easy to look for allegory in these stories. Serpents are often associated with dragons and their mythology has a long history, from the Biblical serpent in the Garden of Eden to Tiamat in the Mesopotamian mythology who gives birth to demons.

However, the focus on dragon antagonists began to turn in the 1960s with the publication of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. Suddenly dragons became allies and dragon riding a noble cause to defeat a common enemy. Dragon companions, as well as different versions of dragon riders, have continued to flourish in the realm of Fantasy fiction and even the Paranormal Romance writers have added dragon shifters to their genre of sparkly vampires and werewolves who somehow don’t tear you apart.

What is it about dragons that fascinates us so much?

Dragons have a majestic allure that surpasses other mythical beasts like unicorns and centaurs. There is something that speaks of primal strength in a huge, reptilian monster who could swallow us whole, yet often possesses an intelligence far beyond the basic bestial instinct to hunt and feed.

Even dragons who don’t talk, like those in George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Ice series, maintain the acuity to determine which humans share an affinity with them or otherwise are exempt from becoming common prey (I still suspect Tyrion may be a Targaryn bastard).

We admire their strength and in the cases of those who communicate with human characters (or elves, or hobbits, or whatever), we respect their intelligence and wisdom. They become somehow more than giant lizards with wings, yet retain the threat that comes with sharp teeth similar to carnivorous dinosaurs.

Dragons appeal to the same part of us who respect a well-written story villain or a clever anti-hero. They stimulate our imaginations in a way that makes the impossible possible. We can soar across the skies and save the day while managing not to fall off, or get punctured by massive talons when we do slip and dragon rescues us in its clutches.

Have you noticed how dragon characters have evolved over time? Tell us about your own favourite dragon stories in the comments.

Jaq D Hawkins

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12 thoughts on “What Is It About Dragons? Guest Post by Jaq D Hawkins…

  1. Dragons! Yes! I love them.
    I use them in my fantasy stories. In most, they are not intrinsically evil. They are vain, selfish, egotistical, and lacking in empathy, though.
    My dragons can talk to humans (or other races).
    I love Anne Macaffery’s dragons. They are wonderful creatures.
    And my website (and blog) is actually called Dragons Rule, OK.

    Liked by 2 people

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