Here Be Dragons – In Fiction

Here Be Dragons – In Fiction

In this post, we look at dragons in fiction.

Dragons can be benevolent or not. Sometimes dragons talk, but in many stories don’t.

The dragon is a common fantasy fiction element. Here be dragons, and seven great tips for dragon fiction. 

Where Mythical Dragons Come From

Stories about dragons (or dragon like creatures) exist worldwide.

Dragon tales could have evolved from real sightings. Komodo dragons and lizards exist, though dragons add fantasy elements. Characteristics are borrowed from familiar reptiles, including scales and often their behaviour.

Western, Eastern, and other world dragons share things (but there are also differences).

Damballah is a dragon like serpent familiar to Voudou, while the Lotan and Lindworm are from Hebrew and Swedish lore.

For those with childhood asthma, You Can Do It Desmond Dragon by John Dyke might jog a memory or two. 

7 Great Tips For Dragons In Fiction 

  1. Dragons & Species

Dragons, like reptiles, can be different species.

The ‘Harry Potter’ series is a great example. Norwegian Ridgebacks differ from Hungarian Horntails, or from Peruvian Vipertooths.

‘Dragon’ is a general term, like ‘snake’ can mean boa or rattlesnake. 

History and husbandry (keeping and breeding) is a writer’s playground. 

  1. Dragons & Their Nests

Some stories, including The Lord Of The Rings, give dragons nesting habits.

Dragons lay eggs, which they fiercely protect. Young dragons are raised in the nest, and learn with time.

Tolkien’s tales, and others, also gave dragons something to protect. Dragons hoard, or protect gateways and entrances to things. As a useful plot device, dragons can be guardians.

  1. Dragon Riders

Dragons aren’t just angry, fierce reptiles.

A dragon can also be a trusted companion. Companion dragons can be pets, though can also be part of a war.

Use of animals, such as elephants or horses, likely gave rise to the idea.

  1. Dragons As The Enemy 

Beowulf is a classic tale, and it shows the dragon at its meanest: a destructive creature that can set fire to kingdoms.

Dragons can be friends, or enemies. Evil, mean dragons aren’t always the default. 

It depends on what story you are going to tell. 

That is up to you. 

  1. Dragons & Fire

A common draconic trait is breathing fire: it’s something dragons have done since the myth’s origin. It’s something snakes (thankfully) won’t do, though snakes that spit venom might have helped the thought. 

Game Of Thrones uses the threat of fire, as does Beowulf. 

Scientists have actually studied what the theories of breathing fire would be like. 

Another shared dragon trait is flight.

  1. Dragons & Protection

In some tales, dragons hoard things. It can be a useful plot device for writers, and give rise to quests.

A dragon might be trained for it, or might do it themselves. Stories have also used the implication of hidden items under dragon eggs.

If your character doesn’t have a safe, just use a dragon. 

  1. Dragons & Speech 

Can dragons talk? There’s some debate. (No, really.)

Dragons can, in some tales, speak in human tongues. But in others, dragons communicate with one another. Some stories give dragons the power to control people.

Reddit asks both ‘Should dragons talk?‘ and ‘How do dragons speak?’

TimesMojo asks the same of RPG Dungeons & Dragons, an internationally known portrayal of dragons. 

The Last Word 

In this post, Writers Write explored the myth of dragons in fiction.

We hope that it helps to further your fantasy tales.

By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at

If you enjoyed this, read other posts by Alex:

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  2. Dissecting Zombies in Fiction Writing
  3. Dirty Journalism: How Journalists Can Keep Research Legal
  4. How Writers Can Research Settings Remotely
  5. The Use Of Real People As Characters In Fiction
  6. 8 Proofreading Tricks (That Save Valuable Time)
  7. 7 Techniques Of The Faustian Story
  8. Famous Rejection Letters & Their Lessons For Other Writers
  9. 8 Self-Published Books (That Went Big)
  10. The Art Of The Complaint Letter

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Posted on: 2nd November 2022