As a fantasy author, I naturally find dragons highly, highly relevant to my interests. They were of course highly prevalent in my reading as a child, since I read The Hobbit in my AP English class in sixth grade--and you don't get much more classic a dragon than Smaug, the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities. I can practically recite his lines to Bilbo from memory: Well, thief, I smell you. I feel your air. And how shiver-inducing is his recitation of his prowess: My teeth are swords! My claws, spears! My wings, a hurricane! And my breath, DEATH.
I don't know about you, but yeah, I'm scared. It's official.
And I gotta say, say what you will about the issues with the Hobbit movies, but one of the things I love about them without reservation is the way they brought that scene to life. Benedict Cumberbatch's Smaug was legitimately terrifying, and the way Martin Freeman's Bilbo responded to him was equally brilliant. His expression, his body language, and a certain high thinness to his voice communicated so much oh shit oh shit oh shit this creature is enormous and he is going to eat me and OH SHIT I WISH I WERE BACK IN THE SHIRE.
With a dragon like Smaug starting me off, you can imagine that I had a huge bar to clear for all subsequent dragons that came along in my lifelong love of fantasy. Tolkien gave me a second memorable dragon in Glaurung, the dragon in the story of Turin Turambar. Later, Robin Mckinley stepped up to the plate and gave us Maur, the great black dragon fought by Aerin in The Hero and the Crown. Later still, the genre was blessed by Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, and I can say wholeheartedly that Temeraire and Iskierka are my favorite dragons in any fantasy that's been published in the last fifteen years.
Most of all I need to give a huge shoutout to Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels. I ate those up with spoons. I loved Mnementh and Ramoth and Ruth, and I loved that world enough that I spent years roleplaying and writing fanfic in Pern fan groups. Anyone who knows me from PernMUSH will remember me as the player of F'hlan, bronze Tzornth's rider, and I had ridiculous amounts of fun playing a soft-spoken, shy dragonrider paired with the planet's most verbose and prideful bronze.
My love of dragons even shows up in my musical fandoms as well. Those who know me as a fan of Quebecois music know that Le Vent du Nord is my favorite band in that genre. And one of my very favorite songs of theirs is "Le dragon de Chimay", about a knight who's transformed into a dragon by a vengeful witch.
Now, in the Free Court of Seattle series, a young dragon features prominently in Bone Walker. And over in the Rebels of Adalonia series, there is a desert called Dragonfell. Dragons are no longer a threat in Adalonia in the days of the Anreulag. But there was a time when they were, and the legends of the people remember.
With all of this in mind, I'd now like to share with you one of my oldest surviving short stories, "Riddle of the Golden Dragon", which I wrote in school in 1987. This is set in the early version of the setting that eventually became the Rebels of Adalonia novels, and alert readers may note the mention of the city of Shalridan here. Alert readers will also recognize an echo here of Tolkien's "Riddles of the Dark" chapter of The Hobbit--though at the end of the day, my dragon here is somewhat more beneficient than Smaug.
You can read "Riddle of the Golden Dragon" on my website, and I hope you enjoy this dragon-themed glimpse of my early writing! And I hope you'll tell me about your favorite dragons in the comments!
Angela writes the urban fantasy Free Court of Seattle series as Angela Korra'ti, and the high fantasy Rebels of Adalonia series as Angela Highland. Come say hi to her at angelahighland.com, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.