Dragons! Just that name is insanely cool. The name dragon conjures images of huge beasts, filling the air with their mighty roars as they rain fire upon castles, do battle with knights, or kidnapping princesses. Dragons have filled our collective imaginations for a long time and their continued popularity means we’ll see many more iterations of these grand beasts continue to pop up. Below, we count down 5 of the best dragons to grace fantasy literature, from the big to the bigger.
1. SMAUG: ‘THE HOBBIT’
One of the most famous dragons in literature and one who had a profound impact on dragon depictions going forward, Smaug from ‘The Hobbit‘ is a magnificent creation. A wicked creature, Smaug invaded the dwarven kingdom of Erebor, driving the native dwarves out and taking the mountain for himself. He resides in the stronghold for many years, until the events of the novel, where thirteen dwarves, Bilbo Baggins, and Gandalf venture to the mountain to plunder his treasure. Unfortunately, Bilbo’s stealing is noticed and enraged, Smaug emerges from his lair to attack the nearby village of Laketown. While laying siege to it, he is shot down by a man called Bard, who pierces his one weak point: a small patch in his jewel encrusted underbelly. Smaug is slain, allowing the dwarves to claim the treasure, but Smaug’s legacy lives on, both in the further novels of the Middle-Earth universe and in real life. As a fun fact, Smaug’s wealth is estimated to be 62 billion according to Forbes, making him the wealthiest fictional characters of all time.
2. HUNGARIAN HORNTAIL: ‘HARRY POTTER’
Dragons play a minor but memorable role in the Harry Potter universe. For the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament in The Goblet of Fire the chosen students must steal a golden egg from a dragon’s nest. Harry goes up against the Hungarian Horntail, unfortunately for him as the Horntails are incredibly aggressive and ferocious. Harry, however, manages to outmaneuver the beast by calling in his trusty broomstick and snatches the egg from the creature’s nest. The dragon sequence was greatly expanded for the film adaptation, where the Horntail breaks loose and chases Harry across Hogwarts. In either case, the Horntail certainly made its mark as a memorable obstacle and beast.
3. THE DRAGON: ‘BEOWULF’
The final act of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf chronicles the titular character’s battle with a dragon. The dragon is awakened when a slave steals a jeweled cup from its lair and it begins terrorizing the countryside. Beowulf, now old, takes up arms nonetheless to fight the monster. Scaling to its lair, Beowulf’s men abandon him at the sight of the dragon, leaving only Beowulf’s companion Wiglaf with their master. Beowulf receives a mortal wound during the epic battle, but Wiglaf impales the dragon through the belly, weakening it, and Beowulf finishes it off by slicing off its head. The dragon receives no characterization but is a memorable role both killing Beowulf and being the earliest recorded instance of a dragons layer in English literature.
4. DROGON, VISERION, RHAEGAL: ‘A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE’
Dragons play a pivotal role in the Song of Ice and Fire universe, being almost akin to weapons of mass destruction. Raised by the Targaryens, dragons possess enough power to raise entire cities to the ground and House Targaryen used them to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. But when the House was overthrown, all the dragons were killed. However, Daenyrus Targaryen receives three petrified dragon eggs as a gift much later on, which she manages to hatch into three living dragons. Naming them Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegel, the dragons could grow into weapons Daenyrus could use to fulfill her destiny: to conquer the Seven Kingdoms as her ancestors once did. But it won’t be easy, as numerous people want the dragons for themselves and as they grow, the dragons are increasingly difficult to control.
5. FALKOR: ‘THE NEVERENDING STORY’
Falkor is a friendly luck dragon and friend to The Neverending Story’s protagonists, Atreyu and Bastian. He resembles a Chinese dragon crossed with a dog, being furry and elongated, a contrast to most other depictions of dragons throughout literature. True to his name, Falkor has incredible luck in everything he does, such as when he locates Atreyu in the midst of a raging storm against all odds. He provides assistance to the protagonists in the book, carrying them across the vast landscapes of Fantasia and offering them wisdom where he can. Falkor is lovable, much like a big dog, and becomes a beloved companion to readers and the fictional universe alike.