Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beware of Dragons

Welcome, Monster-hunters and fellow Monstrologists!

Today I’m participating in the MonsterFest 2011 blog-hop, hosted by Sommer Leigh at “Tell Great Stories”. (Go check out the details and other participants by clicking the MonsterFest icon in my left sidebar.)

The “monster” I’ve chosen to research and share with you readers is…dragons! While not necessarily a “Halloween-time” monster, dragons have been considered monsters for ages all over the world. Many popular myths, legends, and fairy-tales involve dragons and their species. But what are dragons exactly?

Dragons are generally considered a mythical serpentine or reptilian creature with scales, large wings, sharp teeth, and fire-breathing abilities. But their exact physical characteristics depend on the myth or legend you hear, or the world-region the story comes from.

Legs: can either have four, two, or none (these are closer to serpents than lizards)

Wings: mostly found on European styled dragons

Scales: ranging in various colors and usually extremely tough with a soft skin underneath

Fire-breathing: not a requirement, though one of the most iconic traits

Just as their physical characteristics differ, so does the cultural meaning and attitude towards dragons. European dragons are often malevolent and scary creatures that horde treasures and eat maidens or knights that come their way. Asian dragons are often benevolent guardians of water-based landscapes, and are symbols of great power and good luck. These scaly monsters can also be found in Greek, Indian, Jewish, Middle-Eastern, and Central American cultures.

So…are dragons more like snakes or crocodiles? Are they good or evil? Do they eat people, nest in treasure, soar through the clouds, or lurk in the ocean? Are they even magical?

Honestly, dragons are whatever you want them to be! There is tons-upon-tons of research on these creatures out there in the world, you just have to find it. And once you do, you can choose to rely on the cultural myths or popular fairy-tales…or you can make your own kind of dragon. You want dragons to be purple and have fairy wings…sure! You want a tiny dragon that fits in a person’s pocket…no problem! You want a giant demonic beast with sharp claws ready to slay any trespassers on your property…then remind me not to visit you ever again! You’re only limited by your imagination…and whether you have a fire extinguisher close at hand.

Interested in some dragon reading materials:

Firelight by Sophie Jordan (and the rest of the series)

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Eragon by Christopher Paolini (and the rest of this series)

Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges (classic picture book version of the legend)

DragonSpell by Donita K. Paul (and the rest of the series)

The Dragon DelaSangre by Alan F. Troop (and the rest of the series)

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin (but you’ll probably need to read the first books in this series or you'll be confused)

These books all fall into the Fantasy genre, but some mix dragon mythological with modern day elements and others stick with a “sword & sorcery” approach to dragons. But they all display these mythical monsters in different ways. Have any other dragon reading suggestions?

Be careful, readers…here, there be dragons!

These three dragons belong to me. They are some of the many dragon figurines and toys that rest on my desk and shelves. I have a slight obsession with dragons (and various other fantasy creatures).

(Elvish Farewell)


  1. Hm ... somehow I have trouble to leave a comment ... but I believe the problem lies with my browser.

    Well, again :)
    I liked this very much, in fact I'm now considering writing my own dragon-story one day.

    You might want to add the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey.
    They are labelled as SciFi and certainly aren't Fantasy, but they are in fact something special and quite original.
    Anyways, the dragons are adorable and very interesting, too.

  2. I started researching dragons for a character in one of my novels, and you're absolutely right that they are so different in each culture. Though I'm creating my own, I wanted something familiar about them.

    By the way, I have the collection of the little green dragons from your pic! Love them. I don't have them all, but got most of the ones I fell in love with when they were out. So fun to see someone else with them!