Thinking about dragons

ShadowDragon2

I was feeling non-writer creative today, and made this. I like it so I decided to post it. I took the picture last year sometime while out on a trip with friends. The main reason I took the picture was because a while ago near the same spot, I took the family blueberry picking. At the time I had told the kids the place was very near middle earth (which the adamantly refuted because obviously middle-earth is in New Zealand, and we don’t live there). Since this looked like the dead marshes to me at the time, I took the picture to try and convince them I was right. The text says something mundane in a now-defunct version of Petath, the writing system of the Jai people in my book. I think it’s more fun not to know.

How dragons came to be

The following is an excerpt from chapter 10 of the War of Shadows. This is what I would call the ‘flavor text’ that occurs at the beginning of each chapter. It gives history of the world as relevant to the chapter. The voice and style are different than that of the main text of the chapter.



The number of stories concerning the coming of dragons into the world are as many and varied as the people telling them. Before their fall, the Narrím had collected the most comprehensive and compelling records regarding their appearance and history. These have, in large part, been preserved by the Jai. They tell of a volcanic explosion so powerful, it rang the world like a bell. The land was covered in toxic, choking ash, and the skies filled with clouds so black, a proper summer did not come for some years. In the first year after that explosion, many violent, rain-less storms blew up in all corners of the world. With every crack of thunder a dragon came to be. Some of these storms spawned the proud, civilized dragons calling themselves true dragons, and who came to regard themselves as superior to humans. Others brought forth those dragons preferring the life like to that of any other beast of the world, with little interest in language, trade, or culture.

  Being volatile creatures, prone to easy provocation, the first dragon clans fought among themselves. Thus their numbers remained low and confined to the most remote patches of the world. For ages, this was the lot of the dragons, and it suited them in that time. It was not until people arrived and colonized the world that this changed. From the start, humans sought out dragons and slayed them. The dragons condemned these attacks as unjust and cruel, being for the sole purpose of glory. In the face of this onslaught, Rauk Trofocks, gathered as many of the fractured remnants of the original clans as he could into a single clan. As a united group, they were able to take control of wide swaths of land, claiming them for their own, and enslaving whatever people were there and calling it recompense for the unjust treatment at the hands of humans.

  Eventually, the Jai and Narrím people came together and beat the dragons back to a single corner of the northern world, pushing dragons to the very edge of extinction. Once again Rauk Trofocks, came to the rescue of the dragons. A treaty was signed demarking the edges of dragon territory and restricting the taking of any new people as slaves. This treaty held until the end of the Great War of Chaos. When the Narrím attacked the Jai, the dragons openly fought alongside the Narrím. At the end of that war, the dragons, greatly diminished, retreated to their own country.

  People, having forgotten the existence of a treaty, re-colonized lands having been promised to the dragons. Weakened as they were, the dragons had little choice but to cede the encroachment in those times. As the dragons grew in number and strength once again, however, they pushed outward of their core strongholds into those lands designated by the old treaty as belonging to them.

Dragon biology

Fig. A

Figure A.

Instead of focusing on getting those last few chapters of my book done, I’ve been finding anything and everything I can to avoid working on it. Given there’s no deadline, it’s not essential to I finish until I’m ready, and so it doesn’t really matter. That said, I was musing the other day that my blog has the title of On Writing Dragons, and I haven’t ONCE written about dragons. When I started the blog, I decided I would limit the actual discussion of my story to a minimum. With that in mind, I’m not going to talk much about the dragons in my story, at least not until the first book is published (see that -I’m being optimistic today!) Anyhow, I figured now is as good a time as any to broach the subject. Some time ago I saw a blog, not the first and probably not the last, discussing considerations of the biology of magical creatures, like dragons. I’ve supplied a figure (figure A) for discussion on the biology of dragons.

Now, there are a ton of problems with dragons, what do they eat? How do they fly? How do they breathe fire without combusting?

First, consider that the wings are entirely too small to lift a 25 ton animal. The question of how much thrust is needed and the required surface area of the wings is the sort of thing to ask on ‘what if?’ Over at xkcd -Someone should do this, because it would be awesome reading in his next book, which I will buy, even without an answer. I suspect dragons would require jet engines.

It turns out that dragons have some features that make it work out. I’ll draw your attention to the super-light bones and internal organs (Fig. A) Even then, they’ll likely to be too heavy to take off. Good thing their tiny wings are also magical!

What about the fire-breathing? Again, I draw your attention to Fig A. Note the magical internal organs. Somewhere in there is a magical gizzard that makes the fire -probably. These magical organs also provide far more nutrition from any meal than would be ordinary. Thus, a sheep or cow every now and then is satisfactory.

In conclusion, dragons are magical, fictional creatures, well accepted in all varieties of fantasy. Their biology is magical, and irrelevant to the story you’re telling, unless your protagonist is studying dragon biology. Even then, trying to explain it removes the magic from the story, so don’t bother worrying about it.