Every month, Fantasy Faction runs a feature where they seek out examples of fantasy tropes. Other bloggers are welcome to join in, finding their own books to match the given topic. This week’s topic is dragons:
The Tough Guide advises that Dragons are ‘very large scaly beings with wings and long spiky tails, capable of breathing fire through their mouths. They can be almost any colour or combination of colours, though green, red and black are preferred. They are always very old. Most of them seem to have flown to Fantasyland aeons ago across the void. This migration was almost certainly to get away from our world, where people would insist that they were dangerous monsters that had to be exterminated. Dragons, as all Fantasyland knows, are no such thing.’ Or are they?
Even though dragons are definitely a staple of the genre, I can’t think of a book I’ve read in ages that actually featured them. Everything’s political and low-fantasy now, so the archetypal dungeon inhabitants aren’t in the dungeons that also aren’t there much. Dragons pop up now-and-again in books, but they aren’t as frequent as they once were, and they’re hardly ever the focus.
So these are the dragons that made an impression, the ones that I remember years later, despite having led a dragon-free life for quite some time. The list is in no particular order.
1. Smaug – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Smaug is everything a dragon should be; there’s no altering of the formula here. He sleeps on a huge pile of gold, breathes fire, and terrorises villagers. He’s the classic example, mostly because he’s very heavily based on the even earlier classic examples, like Fafnir.
2. The dragons of Pern – Anne McCaffrey, Dragonriders of Pern
These aren’t really dragons – they’re genetically-modified psychic lizards. However, they look and act like dragons (albeit teleporting ones), so they should count. Frankly, I enjoyed Pern much more before all of the sci-fi elements started appearing. You can ride a dragon and talk to it with your mind, which is all I’ve ever really wanted from anything.
3. Temeraire – Naomi Novik, Temeraire
The Napoleonic era is a fascinating one, with all sorts of interesting social and cultural things going on. Into this world of sailing ships and empire-building, Naomi Novik added dragons. Conscripted, musketmen-carrying dragons in service of the British crown.
4. Noble dragons – Terry Pratchett, Discworld
Dragons don’t make sense. They’re too large and heavy to live in the real world – there isn’t enough food, and nothing that big should be able to fly. So noble dragons don’t live in the real world – they live in a dimension filled with, made of, and only understandable as dragons. In rare circumstances, one of them comes through into reality, but only as long as there’s enough magic to keep it in the air.
That’s my (rather short) list. The parent post on Fantasy Faction is here.
Next month’s topic is minions. Hopefully I’ll have another list then.