Dragon Theory

I have enough of those to teach a class on it, which would be more interesting that Literary Theory, that’s for sure.  Unfortunately, it would be a little less useful (just a little).

At the end of last week’s post I began to dive into the next stage of our exploration of the different types of dragons.  Dragons get used in more ways than any other mythological creature out there.  They serve as glorified horses in Mercedes Lackey’s Dragon Jousters series.  They provide transportation and companionship.  I’m not so much of a Harry Potter expert, but I recall in the movies that a dragon was used to protect the bank, but again the dragon was treated like an animal and acted like one.

In contrast, the dragons of Pern (Anne McCaffrey’s novels) have a relationship with humans that is largely equal.  They do serve as transportation and companions for their human riders, but at the same time the Pernese dragons also offer advice, personality, and opinion.

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t integrate Dealing with Dragons into this.  The dragons of the Mountains of Morning are extremely intelligent and, as I’ve mentioned before, are a whole civilization unto themselves.  The humans of their world alternately fear, envy, and marvel at them (much like most human nations do each other).  The dragons of Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals are similar in a respect.  While they don’t seem to have as complex a culture as Wrede’s dragons, they have a similar relationship with humans.  In both of these stories, there are also instances (as these dragons are neither inherently good nor evil) of positive interaction and even friendships with humans.  Others that fall under this category would be Dragon Slippers and Deltora, although of these the Deltoran dragons are probably the least advanced.

So dragons can have a wide variety of relationships with humans and a plethora of uses in literature—from vehicle to complex character whose trustworthiness is often times in question.  My dragons, the dragons of Il-Faaren (there are other dragons I write about but none of them with any such frequency) definitely fall in with Dealing with Dragons and The Immortals.  They can be good or bad, allies or enemies, even if by and large (like the dragons of the Mountains of Morning) Il-Faaren as a whole is good.

You can argue my point about Wrede’s dragons, but the fact remains that they refused the evil wizards easy access to the Caves of Fire and Night.  So, while some of them might go off and do evil things or go out and capture princesses, as a whole civilization they do more good than harm.

While dragons play many roles in stories (villains, mentors, heroes, living airplanes, etc.), I think things can be boiled down pretty simply.  It does seem to me that the ability of dragons to speak, as I said last week, has something to do with the independence of their character and greater equality with humans.  All of the dragons in books I have read (or movies I’ve seen) that speak are in no way dependent on humans, whereas telepathic dragons like in Pern are dependent, even to the point that if their riders die, so do they.  As I recall (correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t reread The Inheritance Cycle to find out in time to post this) dragons in that series also died of grief from their riders’ deaths.  Granted, there are a lot more books out there about dragons than I could probably read in ten years, but it’s just an observation.

Essentially, aside from displaying the varied roles of dragons in literature, everything here is really just an extended argument for my theory that dragons’ ability to speak affects their role.  I’d love to hear your opinions (or other theories).  Just comment below!

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