Inspiration for each trope comes from Diana Wynn Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Accordingly;
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?
Having read other blogs’ entries for this month’s tough travelling, it appears many of us are suffering from the same problem;
it’s been some time since I’ve read a book with dragons in it.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to recommend anything new or exciting to the mix, but rather I’d like to present you with some of my favourite dragons, before rounding off with a selection of dragons I would like to get to know.
First on my list is… can you guess?
Smaug of course! (From J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit)
As Fantasy Faction put it, he is your “murderous magpie” stereotype.
Having claimed the Lonely Mountain for his own, along with all the wealth of the Dwarves, he lays to waste the environs surrounding the Lonely Mountain and none dare to challenge.
He is the first who comes to mind whenever dragons are mentioned.
Syrax and Caraxes from George R. R. Martin’s The Princess and The Queen, or, The Blacks and The Greens.
That title is almost a short story in itself!
George R. R. Martin has made dragons very popular; Daenerys’ Drogon is a firm fan favourite. But if you want to experience more of the dragons from Targaryen history, look up some of Martin’s short stories, such as this one found in the anthology Dangerous Women.
Princess Rhaenys made no attempt to flee. With a glad cry and a crack of her whip, she turned Meleys toward the foe. Against Vhagar alone she might have had some chance, for the Red Queen was old and cunning, and no stranger to battle. Against Vhagar and Sunfyre together, doom was certain. The dragons met violently a thousand feet above the field of battle. as balls of fire burst and blossomed, so bright that men swore later that the sky was full of suns.
I love that this short story reads like a historical text, and yet feature some glorious scenes of battles with dragons.
I’ve always felt that A Game of Thrones was set too far in the future.
Querig from Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant
Whether or not you believe The Buried Giant falls under the genre of fantasy or not (there’s been arguments and everything) the facts of the matter are:
- It has a dragon in it (her name is Querig)
- It’s a bloody good book, please go read it.
I really don’t want to give too much away about this wonderful story, but Querig is a lasting bastion from the Arthurian age; a magical, mystical representation of dragons.
Errol (or, Goodboy Bindle Featherstone of Quirm) from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!
Errol has been surprisingly missing from the other Tough Travelling posts I’ve read. Despite featuring your more stereotypical fearsome dragons (such as when he parodied McCaffrey’s dragonriders in The Colour of Magic), Pratchett’s Discworld is also home to the more lovable swamp dragons. It’s been a ridiculously long time since I’ve read Guards! Guards! (I’m, quite controversially, not a fan of the city watch novels), Errol has always remained in my mind as some kind of adorable, but flammable, pooch.
It bore about the same resemblance to the rest of them as Nobby did to the average human being. Something in its ancestry had given it a pair of eyebrows that were about the same size as its stubby wings, which could never have supported it in the air. Its head was the wrong shape, like an anteater. It had nostrils like jet intakes…
Goodboy Bindle Featherstone bore up stoically under the weight of the name, and sniffed a table leg.
‘He looks more like my brother Errol,’ said Nobby… ‘Got the same pointed nose, excuse me for saying so, milady.’
Of course I can’t write a blog post about dragons and not discuss my own national emblem; the Welsh Dragon.
The first recorded instance of a dragon to symbolise Wales can be found in the Historia Brittonum, circa 829AD.
In the Mabinogion story of Lludd a Llefelys, Lludd digs a pit, fills it with mead and covers it with a cloth in order to capture the warring red and white dragons. The drink the mead and fall asleep, whereupon Lludd imprisons them in Dinas-Emrys in Snowdonia.
The story in the Historia Brittonum carries on the tale, telling of King Voritgern’s attempts to build a castle upon the imprisoned dragons. The castle cannot be completed, as every night the walls and foundations are ruined by unseen forces.
In answer, his advisers suggest to find a boy with no natural father and sacrifice him. The king finds the boy, a wizard; who tells the kind about the dragons. Vortigern frees the dragons from the hill, and their fight continues until the red dragon finally defeats the white dragon.
The boy tells Vortigern that the white dragon symbolises the Saxons, and the red dragon symbolises his own people.
Finally, I’d like to wrap this blog post up with some examples of dragons I’d like to re-read and dragons on my wish list:
I’ve read the Eragon series of books, although I think there have been one or two new ones since I read them, and loved them. Set in what felt like the love child of Middle Earth and… er… the place the Belgariad is set; but with dragons! I think these are a safe investment for my children, I’ll have to start collecting them.
Similar goes for Tales from Earthsea and Dragons of Pern; I loved the Tales from Earthsea series, and have recently discovered there’s more in the series than the four I’ve read. And despite thoroughly enjoying Dragonflight and the concept of bonding and riding a dragon, I’ve never managed to get around to actually reading anymore of the series.
Temeraire has been sitting on my physical TBR shelf for a while now, purchased for the very reason that it has dragons in it.
The Copper Promise is a recent addition to my wish list, again because dragons, and I’m hoping it will be amongst my Christmas books this year.
Did I miss out your favourite dragon? Let me know your recommendations!