Fantastic Wonder: Dragons
Fantastic Wonder is a series of Fantasy related posts where I discuss different aspects of the genre and the many tropes and plot lines associated with it. In today’s post, I talk about the mightiest of all fantasy creatures, Dragons.
Dragons. You hear that word, and you know exactly what it is. Big, lizard-like creatures with wings. And they breathe fire. What’s not to like? Yet as a fantasy creature they show up a lot. Usually as evil creatures. With plenty of exceptions, nearly every fantasy story has a dragon in it or at least referenced. After all, they’re as common as the medieval setting that the genre is known for.
I for one love dragons, but I do admit they come up a lot. Even my upcoming novel has a dragon in it (Or at least a protagonist who partially transforms into a dragon). Either way, I want to talk about my love for dragons and how we can make things different for them.
Why I love dragons
What is there to say about dragons? Big monsters who destroy pretty much anything in their path. They’re essentially medieval dinosaurs. Yet they can also be beautiful too. For example, in Warcraft, I love Ysera’s design with her green scales and her crest. I also love dragons that when they talk, show some aspect of humanity to them, like they’re another race altogether.
Two types of dragons exist. Ones where they have four legs and a set of wings. These are the ones most people think of when they hear “dragon.” It’s the common look of a dragon. The other kind has only back legs and a pair of wings that act as hands when they land. Think of the dragons from Game of Thrones. These are called wyvern. They’re also pretty common. I prefer the former kind since dragons having wings for front legs seems unusual for me. But, you might be different.
As for stories that feature them, I don’t mind. Sure they’re really crowded in a lot of fantasy stories, but then again, there are a lot of stories set in the medieval era as well. It’d be like complaining about a romance novel that has a love triangle, or a western that has a horse. It’s a staple of the genre and I won’t hold it against the author if they use it.
That said, I’m not expecting stories that feature dragons. You don’t have to include them if you don’t want to, and that’s fine. Dwarves and orc are also common fantasy races, yet my story doesn’t feature them (I do have elves, however. Your mileage may vary on that). I don’t think it’s a good thing to cram everything fantasy into a story. A little shake up is nice. After all, the more differentiation between fantasy stories is a good thing. You want to include dragons? Fine. Don’t want to? Also fine. Just be different with how you handle them and everything will fall into place.
Dragons as a plot device
Dragons are usually a villain and rarely good. Either as a servant of a human master or just a force of nature, these beasts are antagonists. It’s easy to see why. They’re threatening, dangerous and, of course, big. They’re monsters, first and foremost and may not even be antagonists at all, just a detour on the hero’s mission.
Sometimes, they’re good. The Warcraft series has dragons that are protectors of their world and while one of them is a major villain, the rest are noble and even shapeshift to mingle with mortal races. The movie Dragonheart has another dragon who is misunderstood and bonds with a knight trying to kill him. It’s rare to see dragons portrayed in a positive light, but those stories do exist.
I do try to make these dragons more intelligent and civilized than the mindless killers they’re depicted as. Yes, they’re fearsome, but I feel dragons are capable of far more. I find talking dragons more fascinating than animal-like ones. It’s as if they’re their own race and humans just hunt them without care.
I do want to see more variation in them, though, but how can we accomplish that? We obviously can’t change the dragons themselves, since if we did, then what kinds of dragons are they?
Making dragons different
But what if we can change dragons? What if instead of making them big creatures, they were normal creatures, like another race? Humanoid dragons that acted like people and lived in a society all their own? They could have wings, they might not. Perhaps they can shapeshift into the bigger monsters if they got angry, like the Hulk. What if they were feral and acted like civilized people.
Heck, who said they had to be scaled lizards? Why not feathered like Trico in The Last Guardian? Or something else like fur or having a dog or cat-like face or body?
They can still have the general shape of a dragon, but minor changes can change them up so much. Just talking about this, I love the thought of a humanoid race of dragons, but that’s another story for another time (quite literally, I might add).
How I use dragons in my stories
Obviously, I won’t flood my universe with dragons, but I do have a few stories that I want to incorporate them in. So how do I see dragons? I tend to see them as any other wild creature. Only out for survival and never to harm anyone unless it has to. My dragons are capable of greater intelligence than that of a human, yet are more docile not in a frightened sense, but in a “leave me alone” type.
In my upcoming novel, they’re seen as guardians, revered by mortals rather than hunted. In my alpha phase, only one is known and he is the main antagonist, but I do have plans for others along the way. I’ll get into more detail once I’m ready to share it.
It might not seem like much, but it’s these subtle differences that can change how people see dragons. If anything I feel we should take a step back on the whole “out for blood” archetype that Dragons are known for. Yes, they’re big and breathe fire, but they’re animals, not murders. I equate them to a lion or a shark. More afraid of humans than we are of them.
Overall, not much to add that isn’t already known. The only thing I can add is that I’m not bothered by seeing dragons. I love these beasts and I enjoy works that feature them. What about you? Do you enjoy dragons? Do you prefer it when they talk or when they’re animal-like? Better yet, are you an Eastern or Western dragon fan? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.