D is for Dragons

Jane Yolen is my hero. Picking up her Heart’s Blood series changed my life in so many ways that there is no way to express them all. It was the first time I cried while reading a book. The first time I’d really connected with a protagonist. The first time I’d read a book where villains weren’t really villains, and science fiction was freaking awesome. She made me really want to be a writer, not just do something casually, but really devote myself to moving people like she moved me.

But also, dragons are just really cool.

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Yes, you did just fall back into a Geocities website from the 90s.

Of course, Jane Yolen’s books were not my first exposure to dragons. I’d been drawing them for a great deal of my childhood. I think the first story that really affected me utterly, though, was Dragonheart. This is one of those movies that, honestly, still holds up. There’s something about all of the characters, and just the general, classic nature of the movie… not to mention the animators deciding (wisely) not to make Draco shiny. It keeps him from standing out too much.

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“I’m so glad I’m not going to be around for the sequel.”

Also, it was just one of the more elegant deaths of a character I’ve seen on screen: it left my heart wrenching and sad, but not without anything to console me. It was probably also the first movie where I genuinely feared the villain. Einon still gives me the creeps, which attests to the amazing acting of David Thewlis. In general, all of the characters created, I think, my first blueprints for what a cast should look like in order to support a story.

I was six years old when Dragonheart came out. It ushered me out of My Little Pony (I actually believed there was an episode wherein a bunch of black dragons burned down the nursery of the My Little Ponies until tonight, when I tried to find a record of it…. did I dream the whole thing?) and also encouraged me to read my first full-length novel a couple years later (my parents didn’t see any reason to screen my reading choices, haha…) You could say dragons are the reason I’m a bookworm, but it’s pretty obvious to see why.

Twenty some-odd years later, they’re still kicking butt.

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DRAGONS!

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Dragon destroys all.

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This image brought to you by Angelfire. And sparkly gifs.

As a creature that traveled the globe long before Erik the Red and his Viking cohorts, dragons can be found in the mythologies of all far corners of the world, ranging from the five-toed celestial dragon of China, to the Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs. They’ve been feathered, scaled, winged or terrestrial, four-legged and no-legged; been fire-breathers or masters of ice and water; they come in every color under the sun and even in glass (looking at you, Irene Radford <3) and also in every size (who could forgetΒ The Discovery of Dragons by Graeme Base?) The important thing to remember is that they have no better. They are king of all beasts, real or imagined.

For that very reason, I always had a hard time getting into books where the dragons were subservient to man. It just never made sense to me (see Sword & Chain). When I started writing fantasy, I went on a self-imposed strike of dragon books, because I didn’t want any authors to influence me. Really silly, in hindsight, and I missed out on a huge amount of really awesome books, but I felt like I would be a horrible little thief if I borrowed anything from authors that really amazed me. I think a lot of authors feel this way… that they shouldn’t read in their genre, or read books similar to their own. Mostly for the same reasons. You know what I say, now that I’m a little wiser? Don’t! Don’t cut yourself off from stories you would enjoy. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. And besides, once you realize all of your favorite authors have ripped off another author in some way (Doyle “ripped off” Poe, for example), you’ll come to realize it’s a common practice. Maybe not quite a “compliment”, as some will phrase it, but part of the game that is art.

What dragons books have you enjoyed, if any?

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Tomorrow: E is for Editing!

60 thoughts on “D is for Dragons

  1. Sisyphus47 says:

    They are in our minds since childhood, and, perhaps our memories of them go back further in time, when they were roaming the Earth? πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thanks so much, Priyanka! I still need to try and reread Eragon. I couldn’t get into it as a teenager (the beginning was too slow for me).

      Like

  2. Joni says:

    I liked the Eragon book I read years and years ago, but the movie was just a flop… My brother is always breaking out in Skyrim’s song with dragon-tongue lyrics. I shake my head at his silly enthusiasm, but I would totally see THAT movie. ^^

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    • CompGeekDavid says:

      I loved the Eragon books as well, and found that they went in a really interesting direction by taking what would traditionally be a trilogy and filling out four books instead. As opposed to movie series that are taking three and making four… And I avoided seeing the movie, so I am still clear in liking this!

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      • Alex Hurst says:

        Hahah, I didn’t go see the movie either…. It looked lame. πŸ˜› As I said higher up, I’m going to have to try and reread Eragon.

        Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      My GF is OBSESSED with Skyrim. I think she’s on her 5th run through of the game? πŸ˜› She can never bring herself to kill the dragon in that one quest though. Won’t do it. And I’m glad she doesn’t. Haha. Besides for that dragon (Parthanax), Ciscero is the only character I like in that game… it’s just a little too dark for me otherwise. πŸ˜›

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  3. S dot Love says:

    I have yet to read a dragon book but the mystical aspect of dragons have always intrigued me. When I was younger, I thought of dragons as fire breathing monsters who were nothing but pure evil. Over time, though, I’ve come to realize that there are two sides to every coin. Dragons can be good just like humans can be evil.

    I went to see How to Train Your Dragon with my best friend. Cutest movie ever. I even teared up a bit at the end. Dragons are awesome πŸ™‚

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      If you want a recommendation (easy YA reads), I can’t recommend Yolen’s “Dragon’s Blood” series HIGHLY enough. I just reread them last year and still love them.

      Yes… I was really surprised by how much I like How to Train Your Dragon (I may have to read those books too, even though I try not to read middle-grade books anymore) and I can’t wait for the sequel! ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Awww, Puff! I loved that movie, and the song… haha. I couldn’t get enough of his little expressions. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for reminding me of that little bit of nostalgia.

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  4. megzone says:

    My earliest memory of dragons is “dragons and dungeons” πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€
    mystical interesting creatures them! and How to train your dragon is an absolutely delightful movie πŸ˜€

    lovely post Alex! πŸ™‚

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  5. Mars says:

    Hi Alex,

    I’ve chosen Dragons too, another fan here.

    Currently I can see many books that contain Dragons, but I guess the most Dragon orientated on the bookshelf are all the Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern series.

    Good luck with the rest of the alphabet!

    Mars
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I just went and visited–your beads are so awesome!! Thanks for stopping by! And yes, I really need to get on that Pern series…

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  6. paws4puzzles says:

    I love dragons – my favorite dragon book is probably Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider – some wonderful characters in that book.
    I enjoyed the first two Paolini books (Eragon and Eldest), but after that I felt he got to unnecessarily graphic for my taste and I agree with the first commenter that the movie was a complete dud.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      I’d never heard of that book before, thank you! I’ve added it to my wishlist. πŸ™‚ I’m also glad I’m not the only one who gets turned off by unnecessary graphic tendencies. Thanks for the comment!

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  7. whalenalexandra1990 says:

    I absolutely adore the series Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffery! I read every single book of hers I could find as a teenager, many of them multiple times! And I saw Dragonheart when I was a kid as well, more times then I can count, and would still watch it today. You are right, it is a movie that totally stood the test of time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I *almost* watched it again after this went live, because I was feeling nostalgic, but it was already midnight, and I was beat, haha. Thanks for stopping by! πŸ™‚

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  8. Alex J. Cavanaugh says:

    Hooked on dragons since Dungeons and Dragons.
    And saw your comment on the review of CassaFire. My publisher’s illustrator did all three of my books, but I don’t know what else he’s done outside of my publisher’s books.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      I’ll have to ask my friend who the illustrator was. πŸ™‚ Thanks for popping over here for a look… I know you’re super busy this month!

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I didn’t know she’d written on writing~! I’m going to have to find that book. Thanks so much for informing me, Linda!

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  9. tdharveyauthor says:

    I recently read a book about dragons that could take human form. It was not my bag, but interesting idea.
    My first novel is filled with dragons. I really enjoyed writing about them and inventing their names and civilisation. Great fun!

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I have a character like that…. Haven’t written him into anything permanent yet… but yes, creating dragon culture is always fun. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by, T.D.

      Like

  10. Andrew says:

    I honestly hated Dragonheart. I had been so excited to see it; I mean, Sean Connery as a dragon! How could it be more awesome? But the movie was a huge dragon cliche and the end was so predictable… anyway, hated that movie.

    The Hobbit was probably my first dragon experience. Or,maybe, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, although that probably doesn’t count. In high school, there were the Pern books and Dragonlance and, well, anything else I could get my hands on.

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Well, we all have our own tastes. πŸ˜› It’s also perspective. For me, Dragonheart was the first thing I saw, so Eragon looked like a rip-off, and so on.

      I’ve never read Pern or Dragonlance. Pern because, I don’t know why… I liked the art, but the concept didn’t strike curiosity in me, and Dragonlance, because I was conditioned to avoid anything that looked remotely like Sword & Sorcery as a little girl (probably because my dad didn’t want me reading books that feature rape of women, which seems to be a common occurrence of books in that genre).

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      • Andrew says:

        I don’t remember there being any rape type stuff in Dragonlance. I just let my kid read them, so I hope not, anyway.
        Pern is interesting, not what you’d probably expect. Except, really, only read the original trilogy; after that, they were kind of the same thing over and over.

        Eragon wasn’t any good, either.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      Earthsea is another series I really need to pick up! Luckily they were a part of my gf’s book collection, so I have them on hand.

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I couldn’t get through the first half hour…. it was so bad, not just for budgetting, but also, it was just slapstick, and had none of the charm of the first movie. Thanks for the comment, Patricia!

      Like

  11. Sabrina A. Fish says:

    My first taste of Dragons came from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I remember reading the first one and thinking…Yes! Then I plowed through the rest. One of my favorite series featuring dragons is G. A. Aiken’s Paranormal Romance series that begins with Dragon Actually. That series had me rolling a few times and totally destroyed with grief once.

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  12. Sonia Lal says:

    my first dragon book was the Hero and the Crown. I actually considered a whole dragon post, too. I’ve never seen Dragonheart! Or read Jane Yolen’s dragon books. I’ve read her wolf ones though. I like Mercedes Lackey’s dragon books, the Pern books and so many others. Right now there’s a really good series right now called Natural History of Dragons by Maria Brennon that’s really good!

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      I’ll have to check out the Maria Brennon series. Thanks for the suggestion! Definitely read Yolen! It’s YA, but it’s absolutely wonderful.

      Like

  13. Claire says:

    It is interesting how they are in so many cultures. I’m glad to see the dragon having a run of popularity of late. Another writer buddy of mine wrote an awesome dragon shifter romance, which at first struck me as rather odd, shifting between cold and warm blooded beasties, but somehow worked!

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Sounds like an interesting take on it… I wonder if it’s the same book an earlier commenter was talking about. I’m also happy it’s getting a comeback. Next up…. unicorns? Haha.

      Like

  14. Allison Forsythe says:

    Fantastic post! I have added a bunch of books to my “to read” list thanks to this. πŸ˜‰ (Jane Yolen’s “Briar Rose” has been on my list forever, but I’ll definitely add her dragon books now, too!)
    Weird question: Do you feel limited at all when you use dragons in your own work? Not because there’s a limit to what dragons can do (or how you can portray them), but because of so many traditions of dragons and what they’re like? I was debating using dragons in one of my books, but someone actually suggested that I should pick a different creature (partly because they actually thought I might offend some readers by not taking “dragon culture” seriously enough). Ever run into anything like that?

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      Same here, I have so many yummy books to dive into!

      I don’t usually feel restricted. I don’t think anyone would tear you down, either, as long as the rules you set-up in your story make sense. I think for cultures like vampires and werewolves (only using those because that’s the most recent example of new school VS. old school), the friction happens because those species DO have specific laws that define them, and sometimes the changes just feel “convenient”, etc. But, I think with mythical beasts, because they aren’t based on human curse, you can go wild. No one can really say otherwise, especially when it comes to dragons! Write what you want to write. πŸ™‚

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  15. Thomas Weaver says:

    “I think a lot of authors feel this way… that they shouldn’t read in their genre, or read books similar to their own.” I think I wouldn’t trust an author who never read anything in their own genre, for the same reasons I wouldn’t trust someone who said they wanted to be a writer but didn’t like to read.

    The first dragon in fiction that I ever encountered was Smaug, in the animated movie of The Hobbit, which was shown on television when I was 5 (?) years old. I remember trying to tell adults about this awesome and scary creature I saw in a movie, and them looking at me like I was crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I totally agree with you! That’s why I ceased my foolish ways. πŸ˜‰ I have actually met a few authors who say they don’t like to read, or DON’T read, which confounds me to bits. In any case, thanks for the comment! (Sorry this is late! Just getting back to comments now.)

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  16. racheltoalson says:

    Smaug was my first dragon, and then the dragons in the How to Train Your Dragon books (my boys loved the series). I tried reading Eragon and couldn’t get past the writing. I’ll probably try again with the second book, because I like to give authors the benefit of the doubt and believe they’ll improve with time, but it was really, really hard to get through the first book. I’ve got this weird thing where I don’t like to leave books unfinished, so I made myself finish it, but I doubt I would read it again. When your book is 800+ pages long, you better be George R. R. Martin or something. πŸ™‚

    On another note, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series is fantastic…not a whole lot of dragons in the first four books, but some. I’m on the fifth book right now, which is called A Dance with Dragons. I’m just assuming that means more dragons. But even if that’s not so, he is a phenomenal fantasy writer. I feel like I become a better writer every time I open his books!

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      I… have yet to read Game of Thrones. I guess I’m worried it’s one of those series that is never going to be finished, haha. (For the same reasons you mentioned above, I like to be able to finish things).

      I also tried Eragon and couldn’t get through it. But, it’s one of those books I should probably give a second chance.

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  17. Jelly-Side Up says:

    Great post! I love dragons! Have you read “Seraphina”? It’s my favorite dragon book, and I think you’d really like the exploration on the relationship between humans and dragons, as well as identity. The sequel is due out soon! πŸ™‚

    Like

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