If I could only pick one reason to read fantasy novels, that reason would be dragons.
Is there anything in fiction cooler than a dragon? I submit that there is not! They fly, they breathe fire, sometimes they even talk! And if you’re like me, you’re convinced that the leviathan discussed in Job 41 was not an alligator… but a DRAGON!
“His snorting throws out flashes of light; his eyes are like the rays of dawn. Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from his nostrils as from a boiling pot over a fire of reeds. His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from his mouth.” Job 41:18-21
(you can read more about my not-at-all-comprehensive Biblically based argument for the existence of real-life dragons HERE)
A lot of things make up a fantasy story, but dragons are the heart and soul of fantasy. Other mythical beasts are cool, but there is something about a dragon that just makes the heart beat a bit more quickly, that inspires awe, that make the spirit soar at the mere possibility. Good or evil, there is something inspirational and immediately adventurous about a story that has dragons.
Some of my favorite quotes about dragons were penned in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien:
“Never laugh at live dragons.”
“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
What is it about dragons? I honestly don’t know.
But I think this other quote by Tolkien might answer the question:
“I should like to save the Shire, if I could – though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them.”
And there it is. Dragons catch our eye. They mesmerize us. They leave us breathless. They shake us out of our routine and our comfort zones. Perhaps, though unpleasant, they may even be good for us. They threaten what we know to be stable and secure, and make us re-evaluate our priorities. They are so much bigger and stronger and cleverer than we… and in the face of their might we are like children looking up at the stars and realizing how insignificant we really are in the face of such a vast universe. And yet, dragons can be defeated, overcome, conquered… some can even be tamed and ridden! And that is where the true glory of dragons in fantasy comes in – because they remind us that our trials and troubles do not have to defeat us, they do not have to define us. Like Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, who encounters the worst dragon of all: himself… we can overcome the dragon before us… and thankfully we who are Christians do not need to face them or defeat them on our own.
Tell me about your favorite fantasy dragon! Do you prefer dragons who are depicted as good or the ones that are thoroughly evil? Why? Why do you think dragons are such powerful additions to fantasy stories?