Let’s take a moment to discuss dragons… in all of their majesty. Yes. Majesty.
I think dragons are probably my most favorite animal of all times (yes, penguins, I will always love you, but I am not 8 anymore).
Dragons are impressive. They can fly and breathe fire. Depending on the lore you follow, they can live for hundreds of years, “hibernate” and lay in waiting for that epic moment, and they sleep on a bed of gold. Scrooge McDuck would be a great dragon sidekick.
Pop culture depicts dragons as smart, greedy jerks. They hoard. In fact, when I learned the word “hoard,” the use-it-in-a-sentence sample was about a dragon’s hoard of gold. Thanks Smaug.
My brother, Brian, and I grew up cartoons like Flight of Dragons – 1982 (which is amazing, if you haven’t seen it, voices of James Earl Jones and John Ritter). Here is the preview, if you’re interested. I have a copy and would be happy to lend out. It’s from the amazing cartoon era of the ‘80s that produced The Last Unicorn…. Sigh ….
Flight of Dragons – more cartoony dragons, complete personalities, insecurities, jokes, and cultural stereotypes
My father read us The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings before I was 8 and I grew up just knowing that there were hidden mountains where dragons snoozed for 100s of years on their piles of gold, waiting for a time when they could fly freely again.
And while Smaug might be somewhat evil (I mean, they did wake him from his slumber and try to steal from him – who wouldn’t be cranky… and the fire? I mean, we all have bad breath when we wake up), who wouldn’t want a pet dragon like Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon? Again, if you haven’t seen it, so cute, totally worth the watch (Trailer).
I think dragons get a bad rep. They’re almost always portrayed as evil and snarky. Sometimes they are redeemed through further character development, like Dragon in Shrek (“Look at my little, mutant babies!”). It also doesn’t help that most live-action movie dragons are, let’s face it, LAME. Who remembers Dragonheart? I know, you’re thinking Sean Connery and Dennis Quaid, it should be good, but it was stupid and horrible. Don’t even get me started on Eragon!
Some may not count him, but Falcor, the Luck Dragon (a.k.a. – giant furry dog dragon) from The Never-Ending Story was one of the best dragons ever: loyal, cuddly, cute, searched for you when you fell off his back…
For those of you who didn’t go to college in their early 2000s, and unfortunately didn’t watch Home Star Runner Strongbad Emails – here is a classic short video about a BAMF dragon, called Trogdor: The Burninator.
Disney dragons are extremely diverse and span the years, representing the various stages of 20th century pop dragon culture. From evil soulless demons to be defeated in Sleeping Beauty, and the witch who turns into an evil dragon who must be outwitted in The Sword in the Stone, the goofy, friendly, somewhat druggy dragon in Pete’s Dragon, the small and humorous sidekick dragon, Mushu in Mulan, and then the dragon-like Hydra of Greek mythology in Hercules.
And then there is the tradition, Chinese Dragon: Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and Chinese folklore. Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricane, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it. With this, the Emperor of China usually used the dragon as a symbol of his imperial power and strength. – Wikipedia
List of dragons in literature – works as early as the Bible and Beowulf reference dragons, though not necessarily in the form we think of today. Middle age stories of knights mention brave men slaying dragon beasts.
Entitled, Beowulf Against the Dragon– a fearsome beast to be destroyed to protect good from evil
In the early/min 1900s, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, legendary friends and authors, both featured dragons as beasts of insurmountable majesty and represented powers heroes and heroines had to outsmart or defeat along their journey to greatness, or their path to righteousness.
Smaug the Magnificent (From Tolkein’s The Hobbit) – a riddle-speaking hoarder to be outwitted and defeated
And then there was Puff the Magic Dragon, because at some point, the ‘60s and ‘70s happened, and everything was about being high. Even children’s cartoons.
And then mid 1900s to today, you’ll see dragons in more “hard-core” fantasy books and movies. They no longer represent a metaphorical struggle characters encounter to face their fears, surmount the insurmountable, etc., they now more literally represent giant lizards who can fly and often bring destruction with their fiery breath.
The Dragonriders of Pern series, by Anne McAffrey – an entire world and history of dragons
It was onetime suggested to me that I open a museum for children on dragons, the origin, the lore, the adventures, sort of the Museum of Natural History meets Port Discovery. And while I think it sounds great, complete with stories, books, activities, rides, etc… not for me at this time in my life.
I shall leave you with this: “Meddle not in the affairs of the dragon; for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”