Beware the Dragon – by A.R. Patterson

Before putting pen to paper of their fantasy story, many writers will already have a fair idea of their story in their heads. The main characters, basic plot, the world and perhaps its creatures. Fantasy stories already have a stock full of amazing creatures at a writer’s disposal, with the writer having the ability to alter these creatures to their tales. Dwarves, elves, goblins and fairies are common in fantasy stories, however what possibly rules over all is the dragon. This month as you undoubtedly know, the dragon takes focus. Whilst its majesty is being spoken by other writers this month, my article is both a warning and advice; when writing about dragons, tread lightly. In order to preserve the magnificence of these beasts, we must ensure that dragons are used when they have to be, not because it’s a fantasy story and therefore they have to be included.

An example would be JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Dragons make an appearance in three of the seven books, and each time they are present, they undoubtedly steal the scene. This sparing use of them maintains that they are indeed powerful creatures, and that even in the magical world of the Potter-verse, they are rare and dangerous. Take an extract from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the passage of dragons mentions that they are “probably the most famous of magical beasts” and they have the highest danger level. Dangerous and famous, no wonder the world loves dragons.

Rowling’s use of dragons adds to their mythos, she does not cheapen them by having them common and less powerful. How different would the Potter stories be if instead of owls, dragons ferried mail, and if most the students had them as pets? Instead we fall in love with Rowling’s other magical beasts, the Owls, the Hippogriffs, the House Elves. Taking these creatures and making them her own, these names are synonymous with the Potter books, and all who read the books longed for the day an Owl would arrive with their letter to Hogwarts. Rowling knew the power of dragons and used them when needed, keeping to their legendary status; and in doing so allowed other creatures to steal our hearts.

Take JRR Tolkien, a mastermind and perhaps the father of epic fantasy. His complex, high fantasy Middle-Earth was rife with magical creatures, dragons included. However, once again, they were only used when the story needed. What other creature could remove a dwarven clan from their gold and rule the mountain for decades, while people cowered in fear? Only a dragon. Tolkien’s Smaug is undoubtedly my favourite dragon of all time, giving him human emotions, left us in awe and frightened of Smaug, chiefest of calamities.

Lastly, GRR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Undoubtedly you are aware of the power and revere dragons are held within the lands of Westeros and Essos. The way the characters speak of the Targaryen rule, where dragons swept over the battlefield, destroying armies and burning castles. Dragons were power and death. Then they vanished. Only to return with the last Targaryen as she makes her way to claim the throne with three dragons in tow. Whispers spread, dragons have returned, dragons have returned. No other creature holds such power in its own name.

These are just three examples in many fantasy stories where dragons are used at the writer’s disposal amongst other creatures. Each with a different take on the beast, but with very common themes, a dragon is powerful, a dragon is dangerous, a dragon is rare. So there it is, passed down from the greats of fantasy to us, the unspoken rules of writing about dragons. Do not cheapen the dragon, use your skills to create fascination with other creatures, Tolkien did it with his own Hobbits and Great Eagles, along with Dwarves and Elves. Rowling has done it with a whole menagerie of creatures, all fantastic. GRR Martin underlined the power of the dragon, after all they cannot be tamed. Respect their power, beware the dragon.


ARPatterson_BioA.R Patterson is a young Melbourne writer from Australia. During his school years he had always written and becoming a published author had always been a dream of his. At the moment he is funding his book Annabelle’s Dream and Other Stories on Inkshares.

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