Here Be Dragons


According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, and I am a huge fan of dragons. They’re just very cool, and I find it fascinating and mysterious that almost every culture in the world has a dragon or dragon-esque creature in their legends, mythologies, and hagiography. I wonder if they came about in response to dinosaurs…

Funnily enough, I just finished reading The Book of Dragons, an anthology of short stories all about dragons by some of my favourite authors, and so I thought I’d combine those two coincidences into a fun, dragon-themed post! (You can read my response to this book on my own site, if you like!)

Before we get into the media recommendations, you might be wondering what’s with the title. I’d always thought ‘here be dragons’ was a phrase used by ancient mapmakers to mark unknown regions of the world. Apparently, this isn’t quite true! According to a National Geographic article, “apart from an inscription on a single, 16th-century globe, this claim is unfounded.” However, “mapmakers would often place monsters and other imagined creatures to marked unexplored areas” which might be why ‘here be dragons’ can often be found in fictional maps.

Alrighty, on to the recs! Reminder that many of these are available as e-books or audiobooks on Hoopla or Libby!


The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien


Featuring one of my favourite dragons as a main antagonist, The Hobbit’s Smaug is an archetypal depiction of dragons as most people know them. He is an enormous, gluttonous, wrathful, cunning creature that like riddles and is quite vain, but in-universe, he’s actually a lesser dragon.

The real big bad dragons of Tolkien’s universe would be The Silmarillion’s Ancalagon the Black—who was large enough that his death throes destroyed three mountains—or Glaurung the Golden, who caused huge devastation both environmentally and psychologically before he was finally killed in the tragic The Tale of the Children of Hurin. (Both these reads are much more elaborate and adult in tone and content than The Hobbit.)


House of the Dragon

A prequel to Game of Thrones, which was itself an adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s book series, House of the Dragon is all about the trials, tribulations, dastardly deeds, and eventual decline of House Targaryen (Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestors), 200 years before her birth and eventual role as ‘mother of dragons’. And in this time, dragons are not functionally extinct. In this universe, the dragons are much more beastial, and are more like if you tried to tame a lion…who had wings, could breathe fire, and was as big as a building. Theoretically possible, extremely risky, generally inadvisable.


Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

This book series is all about dragons as well as civil war, elves, destiny, and complicated family dynamics (à la Game of Thrones, but for young adult readers instead)! It starts with Eragon, our protagonist, and how he meets Saphira and eventually becomes a famed dragonrider and warrior. It’s been a while since I’ve read this series, but I remember loving it at the time. The movie did not do it justice, but it was still enjoyable (to me) nonetheless. In Paolini’s world, the dragons are sympathetic, noble creatures of deep intelligence with a psychic/emotional bond with their riders.


Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

This is a series of nine alternate history fantasy novels set in the Regency period, following the adventures of Captain William Laurence and his dragon Temeraire, and reimagines the events of the Napoleonic Wars if there were “an air force of dragons, manned by crews of aviators.” Temeraire is an enchantingly intelligent dragon, a fully-fledged character in his own right, and I love him. (Fun fact: I actually discovered this series through Pride and Prejudice fanfiction, which crossed over with the Temeraire series!)


Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland

This incredibly popular children’s series (which is also available as graphic novels) features dragons as the main characters, rather than as companions (or antagonists) to humans! The seven dragon tribes have been at war for generations, locked in an endless battle over an ancient, lost treasure. A secret movement called the Talons of Peace is determined to bring an end to the fighting, with the help of a prophecy—a foretelling that calls for great sacrifice. Five dragonets are collected to fulfill the prophecy, raised in a hidden cave and enlisted, against their will, to end the terrible war. But not every dragonet wants a destiny. And when the select five escape their underground captors to look for their original homes, what has been unleashed on the dragon world may be far more than the revolutionary planners intended…


The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

This may have been my first ever introduction to dragons? It’s certainly my earliest memory of dragons, and my earliest memory of Munsch! The Paper Bag Princess is thus, a classic, marrying two common tropes (princess vs. dragon) in a fun twist! It also may have sparked my love for unconventional princesses…

If you also love this book, be sure to celebrate its 40th anniversary at VPL on Paper Bag Princess Day!


How To Train Your Dragon

This beloved movie series features a wide variety of dragons. Though they don’t speak, they’re clever and rather more like companion-pets than any of the other dragons listed in this post! I love this series both for Toothless and his relationship with Hiccup, and for the absolutely gorgeous soundtrack.

Did you know it’s based on a book series? How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell is all about how Viking Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III became an accidental expert on dragons (who, in the books, speak their own language, which Hiccup learns).

The movies are very different from the books; so different as to be practically unrelated, besides the shared names! Usually, the books are better than film adaptations, but in this case, both the book and movies series are a delight in their own separate and unique ways.

That’s all for this dragon post, but I did want to leave you with some honourable mentions: Mushu from Mulan, Haku of Spirited Away, Pete’s Dragon, the Dragon from Shrek, and Raya and the Last Dragon! Not to mention more metaphorical dragons, such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Red Dragon from the Hannibal Lecter series, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon!

Happy new draconic year everyone!

About Sumayyah

Sumayyah is an Information Assistant at the Vaughan Public Libraries. She's also a bookworm and author, constantly dreaming up a multitude of different stories and wrestling with finishing them.  |  Meet the team