Welcome to another Monstrous Monday! Since I didn’t get any suggestions or requests for the next beastie, I have defaulted to another one of my all-time favorites: Dragons. You may have noticed ‘True Dragons’ in the parentheses in the title and this is because the term dragon is an umbrella one. Beneath it, there’s a broad swathe of subvariants that, if I went into all of them in a single post, would likely be book length by the time I was finished. For that reason, I want to focus on just one today: the True Dragon.
So what exactly is a true dragon? I’m sure you know. You’ve seen them aplenty but the main distinction for such a creature is the fact that it has four legs and two wings.
As you can see, all of these dragons have four legs and two wings so are considered true dragons. It’s not necessary for them to breathe fire, though all of these dragons do. Toothless is a bit of an exception in that he does use fire but it’s called a plasma blast. The rest have stereotypical fire attacks.
In case you’re wondering, the dragons and their respective movies are (from left to right):
- Draco from Dragonheart (1996)
- Gorbash from The Flight of Dragons (1982)
- Red Dragon from Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG
- Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Now, barring the red dragon, all of these creatures are positive representations of their respective species. There’s a reason the red dragon is pretty much iconic in Dungeons and Dragons and it’s often because they’re one of the most intelligent big bads you might encounter, insofar as dragons go.
Just take a look at this excerpt from the Forgotten Realms Wiki about them:
Red dragons, referred to by sages as D. conflagratio horribilis, were covetous, evil creatures, interested only in their own well-being, vanity and the extension of their treasure hoards. They were supremely confident of their own abilities and were prone to making snap decisions without any forethought.https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Red_dragon
The largest and most powerful of the chromatic dragons, red dragons were also the most fearsome and cruel. These dragons delighted in ruin, death and destruction. They breathed a cone of fire.
It should come as no surprise that the red dragon best embodies the archetype of the western dragon as villain. Historically speaking, it is the one that has a reputation for burning, pillaging, and general wanton destruction. It’s also the one that most heroes or knights in shining armor went off to slay, either to save the kingdom or rescue the damsel in distress or reclaim the hoard of treasure the dragon had stored up. Western legends and stories are rife with such representations, though the depictions can occasionally be something other than a true dragon. Notably, wyverns are also depicted frequently in such stories. I will be discussing them at a later time, but it’s safe to say the primary distinction between a wyvern and a true dragon is the fact that it has two legs and two wings only (front arms / legs are wings).
Honestly, I’m glad that we’ve seen a shift in the general representation of dragons, especially on the western front. Harking back to ancient and religious times, they were traditionally viewed as evil creatures without redemption, sometimes intelligent but more often merely a creature of primal urges following its natural greedy, avaricious, malicious nature. This version is typically seen in older literature especially, but in more modern times, there has been a decided shift. Though some are still evil in nature, there is a growing body of benevolent, benign, or simply downright friendly beasties.
I fell in love with dragons when I was introduced to Anne McCaffrey’s ‘The Dragonriders of Pern’ series and I haven’t looked back since.
Dungeons and Dragons was a natural extension of that love (even the terrible movie from 2000). Notably, the dragons in D&D are metallic or chromatic and which side they fall on determines their alignment and willingness to work with humans or other races. Metallic dragons: gold, silver, copper, bronze, and brass are good or of good alignment whereas Chromatic dragons: red, black, blue, green, and white are evil or of evil alignment.
While I know there are probably countless other examples that I’m not aware of, some that I found or were introduced to include series like: Temeraire by Naomi Novik (must give a shout-out to my fantastic brother and sister-in-law for this one – great find!)
The Eragon series by Christopher Paolini (though I do have to admit I have only actually read the first book and the movie was a massive disappointment but it still counts!)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede (been so long since I’ve read them, I nearly forgot lol)
And honestly, there really are so many others, but I think this is a good start for our true dragons here. Draco from ‘Dragonheart’ will always have a place in my heart (not the least of which is because he’s voiced by Sean Connery of all people) and I definitely fell in love with Toothless from ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ but it’s safe to say the literary world is where I first really fell down that rabbit hole. XD In historical western writings, they are typically seen as monsters, but in my eyes, they have always been fantastic, majestic creatures of thought and grace and sheer beauty. This is the approach I most often taken when I feature dragons in my own writing. Oh, there are occasionally baddies as related to their riders or alignments, but I will forever enjoy a good heroic dragon. ❤
So who’s your favorite true dragon? If they’re not listed here, feel free to let me know in the comments. Or if you have any recommendations or suggestions, I’m all ears. Also, if you have any requests or suggestions for our next Monstrous Monday, I’d love to hear from you! Thank you and have a lovely day!
**Header image pulled from: https://wallpaperaccess.com/giant-dragon
Additional links for more follow-up dragon information if you’re interested:
- https://www.dragonsinn.net/ (website with general introductory information about dragons)
- https://howtotrainyourdragon.fandom.com/wiki/Dragon_Anatomy (How to Train Your Dragon Wiki)
- https://pern.fandom.com/wiki/Dragon (Dragonriders of Pern Wiki)
- https://naominovik.fandom.com/wiki/Dragon_Breeds (Temeraire Wiki)
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_(Dungeons_%26_Dragons) (Dungeons and Dragons Wiki)
- https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Dragon (Forgotten Realms Wiki)
- https://www.livescience.com/25559-dragons.html (a more scientific approach to looking at the history of dragons)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Gkh7WgPAc8 (video showing various dragons from mythology – not all are considered true dragons, though you will see a fair few of the most notable / iconic ones listed here)