Dragons Essay

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What’s the first thing people think when they hear the word “dragon?” Most Americans and Europeans probably envision a huge scaly green beast, one that sits on a hoard of golden treasures and breathes fire. Asians are more likely to think of a benevolent snake-like creature, one that controls rains and rivers. And some people will think of the dragons in movies, or in books, which come in innumerable shapes, sizes, and dispositions. Practically every culture on Earth has dragons of some kind. The broadest way of categorizing dragons is into Western and Eastern dragons, though some of the dragons in the media have distinct characteristics as well. And then, of course, is the ultimate question: did they exist?

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Probably the best-known “book dragons” are those in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. Pernese dragons are large, ranging from 20 to 45 meters in length, depending on color. Greens and golds are the smallest and largest, respectively, and female. Browns, blues, and bronzes are male. All but the gold queens chew firestone in order to fight Thread, a dangerous parasitic menace that falls periodically from the sky. The dragons are Western in form, but their eyes are multi-faceted and change color depending on the dragon’s mood. They are telepathic, and “Impress” immediately after hatching, bonding telepathically with a human. Humans thus chosen are called dragonriders, and the bond lasts until one of the pair dies. Pernese dragons have the unique ability to take themselves and their riders “between” one place and another almost instantaneously. Highly intelligent, Pernese dragons inspire awe in all who see them (McCaffrey, 274-6).

Dragons in the media are usually based on Western dragons. Draco, for example, is a perfect example of a Western dragon: four legs, two leathery wings, breathes fire, covered in scales. His attitude, however, is more like that of an Eastern dragon: once the misunderstandings are resolved, he is determined to be helpful (Dragonheart). Elliot from Pete’s Dragon also is Western in appearance, though a far cry from the fierce killers of most legends. He, too, has a more benevolent attitude. By contrast, Mushu, Mulan’s

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