dragons I have known

When I first started writing fantasy, I swore that I would never ever include something so cliched, so stale, so overdone, as a dragon.


Whether I wanted them or not, dragons crept or stormed into my fiction anyway.

The sleeping dragon whose awakening would restart an ancient war. The cultured dragon who likes books and foreign travel. The continent-sized space dragon whose skeleton is home to humans and humanoid species.

And these are all in some way influenced by the dragons I have known, and fall in one of the categories below:

Force of Nature/Actively Evil

The dragons of Western literature dragons are seen as forces of nature–like a destructive storm–or actively evil. These are the dragons that Beowulf and St. George battle. These are the dragons from the movie Reign of Fire. The ones that are intelligent as well as malevolent are the most compelling and frightening of all–from Smaug in The Hobbit to the transformed Maleficent in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

Loyal Companions

Two words: Pernese dragons.

Admit it, you were thinking about Pernese dragons too when you saw the “Loyal Companions” heading

These telepathic dragons are genetically engineered to bond with human riders and fight Thread. They are sentient, but they are also totally, irrevocably loyal to and protective of their riders. These dragons fulfill a powerful human fantasy to command the utter devotion of such fearsome beasts.

They’re also from my grown-up perspective, a little boring. (I wonder what would happen if a genetic mutant in that sort of world didn’t bond with a human, didn’t die from lack of such bond, and grew up wondering what made humans so special that dragons had to obey them?).

Cute and Cuddly

These abound in children’s books, from the little kitten-sized dragon in There’s No Such Thing As a Dragon to the three, darling troublemakers in Good Night, Good Knight.

See, dragons just want to be cuddled and petted. Hmm, also sounds like Pernese fire lizards.

Very cute story. And look at those adorable little dragonlings!

Just Like Us

They may have sharp teeth and be overfond of princesses and sparkly stuff, but they are like us. They talk, they give dinner parties, they form governments. They argue and form alliances. Some of them are inquisitive and question everything. Others would rather read poetry than fight. They are easy to identify with.

Who are your favorite dragons? Any dragon categories I might’ve missed?


  1. I love dragons!!!

  2. I love LeGuinn’s dragons best of all. They are themselves, forces of nature and yet so much like people: some good, some evil, and yet always just totally dragonish.

    In the last category you provided, I admit that my favorite are those books about Cimorene and her dragon and the other princesses. Now, if I could just remember who wrote those books and what they were called!

  3. I loved Pern’s dragons. Always wanted to bond and fly one of those! Although I would really love to see what happens if one didn’t want to bond with a human. That would be quite intriguing!
    I also really love the dragon in “Dragonsbane” by Barbara Hambly, because of how much the dragon and the woman change because of their relationship.
    My favorite dragon of all is Vermithrax, the dragon in the film “Dragonslayer.” Not a book dragon, but she is so well realized, and so beautiful, she’s still the best and coolest dragon ever put on film.

    • I haven’t seen “Dragonslayer”. Is it worth watching for more than the dragon? :D

      I loved the Pern books as a teen, but they’re not my cup of tea any more. I still have very fond memories of reading them from cover to cover. :) Temraire from His Majesty’s Dragon questions the accepted notion that dragons are intellectually inferior to humans, though I don’t know if that extends to him having a big conflict with his bonded human. It’s been a while since I read the book.

      • I still haven’t read beyond the first book. If I ever get up the funds, I’ll buy and inhale the entire set.

      • I really enjoy the movie and own it on DVD. For a Disney movie, it’s very dark and mature, and it is quite violent. It has a clever plot with some really nice twists, and characters I really like, and the dragon, of course, is awesome. There’s wizards and kings and princesses, but they live in a very gritty, dark world. I always liked that about the movie. And I love the whole climax. Scenery’s pretty gorgeous too.

  4. I was a Dragonlance fan in my teenage years. I loved the evil dragons particularly. There are others but they are lost in the mists of time.

    • I never got into Dragonlance. My brother did–I think he had some by Elaine Cunningham(?) and I read a couple. No dragons in those, though.

      At least, not that I can remember.

      • I think Elaine Cunningham wrote mainly Forgotten Realms books. Same publisher, and based on the same game, but a different world with a diferent history, and a few significantly different races, particularly in outlook. {Smile}

        As for me and dragons, well, Pern is one of the series I and both of my parents enjoy. I tend to like the fire lizards better than the dragons, in part because they are more independant. The watchweres are interesting, and the third branch of that family. {Smile}

        I also like Smaug. Correction: I like to hate him, since he’d see me as a snack if we ever met.

        In ones no one’s mentioned yet, I like Tomie dePaolo’s dragon in the picture book _The Knight and the Dragon_. He’s cute, but he can take care of himself better than most cute dragons. Also, I like the mix of good and evil in the dragon in _The Two Princesses of Bamarre_ by Gail Carson Levine. {Smile}

        I also like the dragons of folklore. Not the the western dragons you mentioned, but the Chinese dragons, which aren’t always good, and aren’t always evil. And the Hawaiian dragons, the mo’o. They’re big, dumb, and absolutely humongous, but they’re interesting opponents, and good alternatives to climb if you meet a cliff. Part of me wonders about counting them as dragons, since they’re really just huge lizards, with plenty to distinguish them from traditional, more magical and intelligent dragons. However, if you showed one to a medieval European, they’d never believe that wasn’t a dragon, anymore than someone from ancient Hawai’i would believe a European dragon wasn’t a really nasty mo’o. {SMILE}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

        • I’m willing to concede that Elaine Cunningham wrote Forgotten Realms books. Like I said, I didn’t get into shared-world series much at all.

          I know the McCaffreys have done more with watchweres since I stopped reading the Pern books. I’m glad, though–watchweres always seemed to have gotten the short end of the stick!

          Ooh. Hawaiian dragons! What mythology or lore exists around the mo’o? I’d love to know more.

          • I sense Hawaiian dragon stories a’brew!

          • Sorry I didn’t answer sooner. “Hawaiian Mythology” by Martha Beckwith is a good source on mo’o and other features and creatures of Hawaiian legends.

            (By the way, the “apostrophes” in Hawaiian words like mo’o are letters borrowed from Arabic script which look like backwards, upside-down apostrophes, and stand for glottal stops. I use the wrong apostrophe because my American keyboard doesn’t have the right one. {Smile})

            Anyway, on my own, I’ve noticed really three situations with mo’o. Mo’o on their own tend to stand around, not doing much. In one legend, the heros swarmed up a mo’o at the back of a valley to get out of the valley before whoever was chasing them caught up. Then they attacked the mo’o so their enemies couldn’t climb it as easily as they did.

            Far more common mo’o who are evil priests’ pets. Like all evil priests’ pets, they are huge, and tend to sit in the middle of the trail to guard the route to their master’s home. They may or may not talk to warn folks off. They will fight to prevent folks from passing, often growing many times bigger than they already are. Other priests’ pets do the same thing, but if there’s a mo’o, it’s the closest to the priests’ home,a nd the toughest to get past. They’re even tougher than the honu, the turtles, who are either second to the last, or the last for priests who don’t have a mo’o. Dogs and pigs are also common, but they’re earlier and easier to get by. {Smile}

            The third type of mo’o is the ‘aumakua, or ancestral guardian spirit. ‘Aumakua take far more forms than priests’ pets, and the ranking is not as clear. They protect members of the human family they’ve adopted with magic, Mostly they warn their people of danger or steer them away from danger, tho they also may nudge them towards specially good opportunities. {Smile}

            I hope that helps. {Smile}

            Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  5. I like Robin Hobb’s dragons. :)

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