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Dragons in Literature

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Dragons have a rich and diverse history in literature, appearing in various forms and cultures throughout the world. They appear so extensively in Asian literature, mythology, and folklore, I have a separate post about Asian dragons here.

Since my genre is middle-grade fiction, it's worth mentioning the very popular "How to train your dragon" series. 

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Here's a brief overview of the history of dragons in western literature:

1. In Ancient Mythology the concept of dragons can be traced back to civilizations such as Mesopotamia and Egypt. Dragons were often depicted as powerful and malevolent creatures associated with chaos and destruction in these early mythologies.


2. In Classical Literature dragons are also featured prominently. In Greek mythology, the story of Jason and the Argonauts included a quest to obtain the Golden Fleece which was guarded by a dragon named Ladon. In Greek mythology, the dragon Python was slain by the god Apollo. In Norse mythology, the hero Sigurd (aka Siegfried) defeated the dragon Fafnir.


3. In Medieval European Literature dragons became a popular theme, particularly in the context of chivalric romances and legends. One of the most famous examples is the epic poem "Beowulf," in which the hero battles a dragon. Dragons were often depicted as greedy creatures guarding treasure-filled lairs, with knights or heroes undertaking quests to defeat them.

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4. In the Arthurian Legends dragons played a significant role. The most famous tale involves the knight Sir George or Saint George slaying a dragon to rescue a princess. This motif of the dragon-slaying hero is a recurring theme in later literature.


5. In Fairy Tales dragons appear often in folk and fairy tales from different cultures. They are often portrayed as fearsome beasts that needed to be overcome by the hero or heroine.


6. In Fantasy Literature, unsurprisingly, dragons experienced a resurgence in the 20th century. Influential works such as J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" featured dragons like Smaug, which captured the imaginations of readers. Dragons also appeared in other fantasy series like Ursula K. Le Guin's "Earthsea" novels and George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series (popularized by the TV shows "Game of Thrones" and “House of Dragons”).


7. In Contemporary Literature dragons continue to be popular in a wide range of genres, including high fantasy, urban fantasy, and young adult fiction, often taking on various forms and characteristics depending on the author's interpretation.

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Throughout history, literary dragons have evolved and taken on different meanings, representing themes such as power, danger, heroism, and the triumph of good over evil. Their longtime presence in literature demonstrates their enduring appeal and fascination in the human imagination.

Read a book! Have an adventure!

M. C. Gladd

For more information, click on dragons.

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