Skip to Content

Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Listed: Dragons in Western Literature

Many fantasy and mythological stories include dragons in some sort – both in Western and Eastern cultures. It’s not often that there are shared mythological creatures, though dragons are quite different depending on where you are, what you’re reading, and what sort of influences the author had while writing about dragons. The European dragons are typically more lizard-like and are generally seen as being more evil than the Eastern dragons, which are more snake-like and are seen to be benevolent.

Living in a Western culture, it’s no surprise that a lot of the fantasy I read has a very European type of dragon in them. I think one of the main draws to these types of dragons for me is because it typically means great adventure – the courageous and errant knight going off to battle a dragon in order to save the princess, in order to win great amount treasure (as dragons tend to hoard all things sparkly and shiny and gold), or in order to win great renown. There is danger, but as the Western dragons are evil, you know that the person taking on the dragon will win out – it’s good versus evil, after all, and good usually always wins in fiction.

Below I’ve listed my favourite books with dragons in them. While most of them are the traditional European dragon, there are a few (The Neverending Story and The Ice Dragon) where the dragon isn’t evil as expected – expecially in The Neverending Story, where the dragon is a luckdragon, and much more like an Asian-inspired dragon.

  1. J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit. Originally Published 1937.
  2. C.S. Lewis’s The Dawn Treader. Originally Published 1950.
  3. Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story. Originally Published 1979.
  4. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Fourth book in the Harry Potter series. Originally Published 2000.
  5. Obert Skye’s Pillage. Originally Published 2008.
  6. Beowulf. Written at some point between the 8th and 11th century.
  7. George R. R. Martin’s The Ice Dragon. Originally Published 1980.
  8. Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess. Originally Published 1980.
  9. Jennifer Fallon’s Hythrun Chronicles. First book in series is Medalon. Originally Published 2004.
  10. Shanna Swendson’s Damsel Under Stress. Third book in the Enchanted, Inc series. Originally Published 2007.

Sadly, I haven’t read too many stories with the Eastern-sort of dragons in them – unless you include various manga titles. I have seen many subbed Asian movies (which I positively love) and a bunch of anime, but not too many novels. Can anyone recommend any good ones?

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:17 am October 5, 2009.
Category: Listed

  • Lana

    I really enjoyed Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye by Alison Goodman. It’s a YA fantasy set in an Asian-esque society. Very interesting, and very much in the vein of Alanna: the First Adventure (sadly, no dragons there).

  • kiirstin

    I am loving the inclusion of The Paper Bag Princess. That’s probably my favourite Robert Munsch story. I’m very fond of Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons, to recommend another good-not-evil dragon tale. And for a scary evil dragon, how about Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown? But I am also blanking on Eastern-inspired dragons (apparently must read Eon).

  • Lisa

    Have you read the Temeraire series by Naomi Novak? Most of the dragons are Western but the main dragon is a Chinese dragon. It’s an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars.

  • Court

    Lana – oooh, that sounds fun. I’ll def. keep my eyes open for it.

    kiirstin – It’s totally one of my favourite Robert Munsch stories too! And thanks for the recs, I’ll have to check them out.

    Lisa – no, I haven’t! And you totally said that magic words there: “Napoleonic Wars.” Obviously, it was meant to be read by me. ;)

  • Lisa

    Court, I keep expecting Horatio Hornblower to appear in the series ;)

  • Andrew

    Are you serious? No Dragonlance books? None out of one of the best selling novels of all time? With the exception of the #1 and #9 spots, this is a very poorly put together list. Do you readings a bit more please. Thank You

  • Court

    Andrew – wow, you’re kinda really rude. Please realize that these are my favourites and if I did not include the dragonlance books it’s because I didn’t enjoy them, and that this list is all strictly personal opinion. Thank you.