Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Not gonna lie, Raya and the Last Dragon looks like a pretty awesome movie. What can I say? I’m a sucker for eastern art, combat, music, food, and legends, and what creatures are more legendary in the East than dragons? They’re even equally prominent in the West. Many Christians do associate these fiery reptilians to Satan; mainly because the Bible drew comparisons between them. However, let’s not forget that dragons weren’t just symbolic or pure myth. Scriptures, combined with physical evidence, do affirm that dragons were indeed real, magnificent animals. Which means, they were a part of God’s marvelous creation too! Just goes to show that trace a fairytale back far enough, you’ll find even the most outlandish folklore originated from something that existed. I know! Sounds crazy, but it’s awesome! I may even cover the topic more specifically another time. (Comment below if you want me to make that article!)
Now, to be fair, our mythologies likely over-exaggerated the characteristics of real dragons, yet to me, the sheer fact that God made dragons at all is still very thrilling. I love dragons, and if the overabundant fictionalization of these mighty beasts are anything to go by, the general public loves them too. Big ones, little ones, scaly ones, furry ones, flyers, swimmers, fire-breathers, ice-breathers; you name ‘em. They all embody enchantment, mystery, and power like no other creature. So, to celebrate these denizens of unquestionable might, here is a list of some of my favorite fictional dragons. For this list, I’ll also be including characters who can turn into dragons and keeping to only one per franchise.
(*Please note that even though Sisu from Raya and the Last Dragon is shaping up to be another worthy candidate for me, she won’t be listed since I haven’t seen the movie yet.*)
(Presented artwork by: Redbubble, ellador, Littlewordsart, sugarpoultry, CrayonBot, and Kazuhiro Oya)
5. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)
Hold your questions. No, I’m not condoning wickedness. I’m well aware she’s the self-proclaimed ‘Mistress of all Evil’. In fact, if the Devil could have a wife, I imagine someone like her would be it, but I don’t solely like characters based on their morals. I also like them based on how well they perform their story role, and Maleficent, as an antagonist, is the perfect blend of elegance and villainy. She’s loud and demanding yet maintains this collected grace in her bearing. She won’t outright kill people. She’d rather aim for their misery. Then she’ll roast them in dragon form if they’re worth the trouble, and that’s what I find the most interesting about her. This dark faerie is not a literal dragon most of the time, yet her persona screams ‘dragon’ 24/7. She’s unfazed by most obstacles because very little threatens her. Even her amazing ‘human’ design coupled with her regal personality drips with the prestige yet ominous presence attributed to dragons. Maleficent regards everyone like bugs she can squish anytime she pleases. The main reason she doesn’t is because it’s less fun to her. Mistress of all Evil? Indeed she is. (And turning her into a good-guy completely misses the point of her character, Disney!)
4. Jake Long (American Dragon: Jake Long)
My childhood nostalgia demanded I include Jake Long. When I was in middle school, there were three Disney tv shows I loved most: Buzz Lightyear of Star Command; Kim Possible; and American Dragon: Jake Long. The idea of a modern boy who’s secretly a dragon and learning to become the next ultimate protecter of mythical creatures captivated me as a kid. I used to run around the yard and pretend I too could turn into a dragon. I’d fight awesome battles, saving griffons and unicorns. It was such fun. Even today as an adult, I still find the show’s set up creatively appealing. A society of heroic dragons tasked with guarding and preserving other mythological entities instead of being isolated, greedy death machines is a pretty refreshing take. As for Jake Long himself, sure, he’s the typical cocky pre-teen from most kid’s shows, but he remained a good, well-meaning protagonist. He made frequent mistakes. He’s irresponsible. Still, he learns from his faults and grows. He’s just like any kid his age, and back when the show aired, I was that age too. I may not have been a dragon like Jake Long, but he and I were both American kids learning how to handle our inherent strengths one step at a time.
3. Smaug (The Hobbit)
When you think of classic dragons, Smaug’s picture might pop in first. This Fell Wyrm literally fills the textbook definition of a European dragon to a ‘T’. He’s got it all: the bat-wings; the serpentine neck; the sharp-pronged scales; the insatiable need to hoard gold. Just listen to Smaug boast about himself, and you’d get the picture. Even his creator, Tolkien, based him off the dragon from Beowulf - one of the oldest poetic fantasies known. So what separates Smaug from other classic dragons? To me, it’s his sophisticated intelligence. Most prior fantasy dragons acted like animals. Not Smaug. In book and movie versions, he’s a wily smooth talker and likes breaking you personally before breaking you literally. Not even cautiously clever Bilbo could riddle his way around his perceptiveness. There’s very little you can do to challenge Smaug. Which is what makes his death oh so satisfying. Just like Maleficent, Smaug embodies evil’s pride in its own power - both to its benefit and detriment. Evil can destroy almost anything, and wicked people know it. However, they know it too well. Thus, they can’t comprehend failure as a possibility. Therein lies evil’s greatest weakness. It’s easily blindsided by God through the tiniest things. Smaug, similar to Satan, may have been Middle Earth’s chiefest of calamities, but his own pride spells his kind’s doom. For the second he’s dead thereby passes the last great dragon of Middle Earth.
2. Mushu (Mulan)
Mushu is the most unimpressive of the dragons on this list. He’s not ‘intimidating’ or ‘awe-inspiring’ as he claims to be. He’s tiny, can’t fly, and isn’t wise. In fact, he showcases neither the malevolence nor benevolence characteristic to dragons. Mushu is a puckish schemer, and on top of that, quite selfish. However, his initial plan to turn Mulan into a war hero just to win personal respect changes and himself along with it. Now, it’s not like he never cared about Mulan. He works hard to support her in his charming if harebrained way, but he was still risking her life for a job promotion. However, his wisest moment came when he did what no normal dragon does. He admitted his faults. Not only that, he confessed all of it to Mulan. It’s one thing to realize you’ve done wrong. It’s another to admit it to the very person you wronged. It stings like few things can. Still, even after Mushu confesses and his selfish dreams are dashed, he doesn’t say ‘sorry’ and leaves. He stays and seeks to make things right by her. Mushu started the movie bearing vices associated with dragons (pride and greed), yet he ends it amplifying one of their best virtues: firm loyalty.
1. Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon series)
I’m gonna come right out and say it. Toothless is awesome! He’s neither anthropomorphic nor does he speak, but that doesn’t matter. Because he’s gosh-darn Toothless! I could GUSH about this Night Fury all day! To start, Toothless has such a lovable personality. He’s suspicious. He’s kind. He’s sarcastic. He’s curious. He’s fierce. He’s forgiving. He’s playfully adorable yet still unquestionably lives up to his ‘offspring of lightning and death’ title. Then there’s his undying friendship with the viking, Hiccup. This dragon would go through hell and high water for who once was his enemy and gladly assists him in building peaceful relations between viking and dragon-kind. Best of all, it’s his noble influence that helps shape Hiccup into becoming the man he needed to be. All of these things cultivates into what makes Toothless the absolute best fictional dragon to me. For he embodies all the aspirational qualities people associated to dragons for centuries: strong leadership, nature’s might, and benevolent mystery. As a Christian, I pray I can bear the soul of a dragon in pursuit and service to my Lord, Jesus, and I can’t wait for the new heaven and earth where real dragons might one day return.