“Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance
January 16 is Appreciate a Dragon Day, and what better way to celebrate than to look at some of our favorite dragons in literature?
The Dragon that Slays Beowulf
The epic poem Beowulf is one of the oldest surviving and most important works of Old English literature. It is certainly one of the most important works in regards to dragons, as Beowulf was the first piece of English literature to represent a fire-breathing dragon as we think of them today. This unnamed dragon is the third monster that Beowulf faces and is the monster that deals him the wound that costs him his life. The dragon is slain by Beowulf’s distant cousin Wiglaf, who Beowulf names as his heir as he lays dying.
The greedy, wicked worm from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit is probably the most well-known dragon in the world. Described as “the greatest of the dragons of his day,” Smaug attacked against King Thrór without warning and engulfed the dwarf king’s mountain in flames, causing the dwarves to flee. Smaug then moved in, taking the dwarves’ riches for himself and resided in the mountain for 150 years, until a meddlesome wizard and a band of dwarves elicited the help of a simple hobbit to take back the mountain. For more about this dragon and what brought about the quest to recapture the mountain, read Appendix A from The Return of the King and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales.
The Reluctant Dragon
I would be remiss in my duties to truly appreciate literary dragons if I did not mention the peaceful, poetry-loving dragon in Kenneth Grahame’s short story “The Reluctant Dragon” from the book Dream Days. This story contains the first dragon that abandons his antagonist role and presents himself as a more sympathetic character, forever changing the way readers view dragons.
Childhood memories compel me to add Michael Ende’s luckdragon, Falkor, from The Neverending Story to this list. Falkor’s original name was Fuchur and taken from the Japanese “FuKuryū,” meaning lucky dragon, which is why the illustrations in the German novel originally depicted him as an Asian dragon or a dog with an elongated body. Luckdragons can breathe fire, but their greatest talent is that they are lucky in everything they do.
Rhaegal, Viserion and Drogon
The three dragons commanded by Daenerys Targaryen in George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Ice series are the youngest dragons on this list, having only existed since 1996, but they have certainly made an impression on readers, climbing the polls as some of the most popular dragons in pop culture with the success of the HPB series, Game of Thrones.
I could go on to mention Eragon’s Saphira, Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, Norbert from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Sword of Truth’s Scarlet and Gregory and all the dragons in Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern series, but then this blog would be too long. It just goes to show you that there are a lot of adventures worth telling. No matter who your favorite dragon is, friendly or frightening, rash or reluctant, you can find them at your local Half Price Books or at HPB.com.
So, who is your favorite dragon?