Why dragons?

a page from the author’s childhood notebooks, c. 2005. Text reads: “Well,” she said, “of course I believe.” “Why?” I asked. “Why? There’s proof all around us! How do you think the best artists get the color for their paint? Crushed dragon scales. How do you think I–” she stopped, mid-sentence. “You what? I asked. All she did was wink. The silver dragon flashed before my eyes. Then I knew.

I have been following dragon lore my entire life. Even as a child, I found myself captivated by their graceful beauty, their iridescent scales, and their frightening power. More pragmatically, I suppose it could have been my young love of the PBS children’s series Dragon Tales that ignited this attention. Regardless of its beginning, my enthusiasm allowed a number of fearsome, scaly beasts to live alongside me: in the gritty, fantasy novels I penned on bumpy school buses, in the blue-lined margins of my medieval lit notebooks, and now, in the nervously typed-out pages for my doctoral dissertation. Despite my own continuous fixation on dragons, I was surprised when many of my students showed interest in them as well. You could argue that their appearance in popular culture, such as in the bloody HBO series Game of Thrones (based on George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga) or the adorable DreamWorks films How to Train Your Dragon (based on the series of the same name by Cressida Cowell) reinvigorated a long-forgotten excitement for dragons, but I would argue that these works, in fact, capitalize on a preexisting and far-from-dormant interest. My students, like me, were nourished with diverse stories boasting giant dragons, from Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. They pledge their allegiance to the House Targaryen with laptop stickers and buckle their seatbelts to face the dragon in Universal Studios’ thrill ride Escape from Gringotts. Our love of dragons hasn’t faded; it has simply retreated to the place where all childhood fantasy waits patiently, like Beowulf’s own dragon, to be awakened once again.  

The truth is this: we love dragons. They excite and terrify us, and through firey breath and beating wings, they demand our attention. It is here, at that precise moment of demand, that I begin this online journey to document my research with these awe-inspiring beasts. Join me for the marvels, the wonders, and the truly terrifying.