Becoming Dragons

From people turning into dragons (and vice versa) and people inducted into dragon families or societies, there are a lot of human characters intimately intertwined with dragons. Shana in The Elvenbane is a human adopted by a female dragon and raised as part of the family alongside two dragon-siblings. Similarly, the protagonists of Dealing with Dragons and Dragon Slippers are inducted into dragon society. In Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey, the protagonist Rosalind has a finger that’s a dragon claw, which causes her all kinds of trouble, since her mother is afraid of how people would react. People and dragons form mental links in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern.

As humans, we have a very strong fascination with merging with a fictional fire-breathing creature. Maybe it’s the invincibility. Maybe it’s the power of flight. Maybe it’s the magic. Or maybe it’s just the ability to create instant barbecue.

There’s a sort of reverence for the dragon. Personally, I think the physical largeness it occupies in our imaginations has something to do with it. Who wouldn’t want to be linked, in some way, to a magical creature that could feasibly protect you from anything? On the flip side, one story, The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce, puts dragons on such a high pedestal that a shape-shifting character can take the form of any creature but a dragon.

You just don’t get this kind of reverence for unicorns.

People don’t get inducted into a unicorn society, turn into unicorns, or place them in the realms of their fictional gods with almost as much honor to the dragons as the gods. For all that unicorns come with a purity connotation, they just don’t reach the same level.

And you never see a unicorn that turns into a human, whereas there are innumerable books with dragons that can take human form. The link between us and our fictional reptiles is undeniable.

But, again, given the choice, I’d much rather be a dragon than a unicorn. And, I think, the sheer volume of literature linking humans and dragons so closely indicates that I’m not in the minority here. In Lynn Kurland’s Novels of the Nine Kingdoms, one of the protagonists Mhorgaine likes to turn herself into a dragon, jump off a castle parapet, and fly away to escape people and things she doesn’t want to deal with. This is one of the starkest examples in my mind that illustrates humanity’s need for dragons. I think everyone at some point has been hurt in some way in their lives so that they would give anything to have the armor, the strength, and the power of dragons. After all, it’s going to be a lot harder for someone to hurt you, or want to hurt you, if you’re a two-ton fireball with wings.

One thought on “Becoming Dragons”

  1. I think you’re right–dragons are a really popular choice for transformations. I spent ten minutes trying to think of other popular creatures that characters morph into, and the best I came up with were wolves (for vampires and werewolves).
    Also, to contrast your point about transforming into dragons being about freedom and power, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has Eustace turn into a dragon due to greed. 🙂

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