Is there any creature more synonymous with fantasy than the DRAGON? I don’t think so.
I cannot count the number of novels and movies featuring dragons. They appear in many different guises — they may be ferocious and evil, gentle and benevolent, or else plain disinterested in man. They may or may not speak or possess magic; but they are nearly always large and have mighty wings.
Dragon: a mythical monster generally represented as a huge, winged reptile with crested head and enormous claws and teeth, and often spouting fire.
Here are some books featuring dragons I’ve enjoyed:
Robin Hobb’s Farseer, Liveship Traders, Tawny Man and Rain Wild Chronicles — These interlinked works slowly and gracefully explore the return of dragons to a world which has forgotten them. The dragons in this world hatch as sea serpents, which then metamorphose into dragons at an appointed time and place. These dragons are mighty and imperious. They consider humans their minions and communicate using mind speech.
Alison Goodman’s Eon and Eona — In this duology, inspired by Asian mythology, the twelve dragons are made of energy and exist on another plane. Their energy is channelled as a form of magic by certain chosen individuals known as Dragoneyes, one per specific dragon.
Christopher Paolini’s Eragon — I’ve only the read the first in this series, and am including because of the sheer prominence of Sapphira the dragon. In this series, Sapphira is bonded to a boy and is most assuredly benevolent. She is strong and wise and honourable and devoted to Eragon.
Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books — Unarguably one of the most classic SF/fantasy representations of dragons (of a sort). Each dragon in McCaffrey’s world also bonds to a single individual dragonrider, who rides to defeat the mysterious and destructive “threads” falling down from the sky.
George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) — OK, so I haven’t actually read these, but I’ve seen the TV series so far, and it’s another series involving the return of dragons into a world. So far I can’t determine the temperament of these dragons, although no doubt readers of later books can enlighten me!
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books — Dragons feature quite prominently in the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In Rowling’s world, the dragons are vicious and uncommunicative, and they are depicted more as animals than magical creatures.
JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit — In Tolkien’s classic novel, Smaug is the villain, a fierce, ruthless, greedy magical creature who must be defeated for the dwarfs to regain their mountain kingdom.
This is just a small selection of dragons in fantasy novels. There are doubtless many many more… And I haven’t even attempted films. (How to Train Your Dragon… Dragon Heart… Reign of Fire…)
And now for some other important fantasy D words.
Dagger: A short knife with a pointed and edged blade, used as a weapon.
Oooh, yes! Just about every single fantasy novel (set in a pre-industrial world) features daggers. They are used for everything from eating to self defence to assassination.
Desert: A dry, barren area of land, esp. one covered with sand.
Many sprawling epic (and some less epic) fantasy works feature sweeping desert landscapes that have to be traversed and survived.
Dreams: A series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep.
Yes, dreams feature very prominently in fantasy, often as some form of portent or prophecy. In my view, they’re somewhat overdone these days, but so long as they’re kept short, I can tolerate them.
Damsels, Demons, Dwarfs, Danger…
And finally some authors and books:
- Stephen Donaldson — Best known for his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (first, second and third), but also the author of the Mordant’s Need duology and The Gap Series.
- Sara Douglass — A prolific Australian fantasy author who is credited with kick-starting the local fantasy industry in the 1990s. She sadly passed away from cancer in September 2011.
- Dragon Prince, by Melanie Rawn — This series is an old favourite of mine. It has dragons in it, but since they don’t play much of a role (and I couldn’t remember what their role was) I didn’t list it above.
And that ends my A-Z of fantasy focusing on the letter D. I would love to hear any other D words I might have forgotten. And do let me know your favourite literary (or silver screen) dragons! Or any authors, books and characters I doubtless have missed.
NOTE: I haven’t included Dungeons and Dragons in this post, because I’ve been focusing mainly on books, but I guess I should acknowledge it at least…
Image courtesy Florida Center of Instructional Technology.