Here, There Be Dragons

It’s Sunday, and, as promised, I’m going to finally get at what I’m sure loads of people are interested in hearing about. A staple in any fantasy novel worth its salt: Dragons. (For the record, I don’t actually believe that fantasy novels need any one mythical creature in order for it to be called fantasy.)

Cue dramatic music.

Before we begin, I’d like to say that this post is mostly about the distinctions between western and eastern dragons. It’s going to be a pretty short post talking about the vast diversity in regards to dragons. Now, to begin.

Here There Be Dragons

Source for image of dragon

I have to say, dragons are (and perhaps always have been) a source of great inspiration and intrigue. Look up ‘dragon’ in a Google search, and you’ll get thousands of results. Find some fantasy games, and you’ll see dozens of these awe-inspiring beasts.

But we’re here for the books, right? Right. Well, in books it’s no different. In books, you’ll find hundreds of different kinds of dragons. You’ll find in books what you see in those fabulous pieces of art.

Images found at The Design Inspiration

There are two Main kinds of dragons, named after which part of the world you find them most frequently. Eastern dragons (also known as Chinese dragons) are slim, serpent-like. More often than not, they have no wings, and they just sort of float through the clouds. According to http://corafoerstner.com, Eastern dragons are made up of nine different creatures: they have the head of a camel or horse, scales of a fish, horns of a stag, eyes of a rabbit, ears of a bull, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, paws of a tiger, and claws of an eagle.

Hover mouse over image for the sources.

Western dragons, on the other hand, are bulky and muscular. They almost always have wings, and the most favored configuration for limbs is four legs + 2 wings + tail. Think Saphira in Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Or the dragon in the Merlin TV show. Game of Thrones (aka A Song of Ice and Fire) has Western-inspired dragons as well, although on the show at least, the dragon’s wings are attached to the dragons’ front paws.

Beyond that, a dragon’s appearance can vary greatly. They can be anywhere from blue to red to gold to green in color. They can have two wings or four, or more. Often, a western dragon’s wings have claws or hooks on them. Their tails can be spiked or clubbed, can be poisonous or not. Most dragons breathe fire, but some spit water or belch out noxious fumes. Basically, if you can think it, it’s probably already done.

What I find most interesting about dragons are their various roles in stories. In the fairy tales, dragons are considered malevolent brutes who steal princesses. In Game of Thrones, the dragons are little more than wild predators, kings of the sky. In books like Eragon, however, they’re smarter than humans. They have actual magic, and help or halt humanity in their quests depending on whether or not the dragon agrees with their quest. Sometimes dragons are regal. Sometimes they’re the stuff of nightmares.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own novel, you will not lack for sources. Google images, drawing sites like Deviantart, etc.   Below, you’ll find two links for more information, especially regarding Eastern Dragons (since I figure most people are familiar with Western Dragons).

tvtropes.org explained the differences between Eastern and Western dragons.

chinahighlights.com offers up some information on the lore surrounding Chinese dragons.

Next Sunday, I hope to go into depth with different kinds of elves, fairies, etc. See you then!

 

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