Top Ten Dragons

With the imminent arrival of How To Train Your Dragon 2 , dragons are once again going to be ruling the skies. Time to take a look at some of the other fire-breathers who’ve left their mark in fantasy…

10) TIAMAT

From: Dungeons and Dragons (1983-85)

Who?: A draconic goddess in the original tabletop game, Tiamat gets something of a downgrade in the kitschy television series. Instead of being the mother of all evil dragons, in the cartoon she’s a five-headed dragon who sometimes helps the heroes – because she hates the big baddie Venger as much as they do.

Does it fly?: She’s got big red wings, so yes.

Does it breathe fire?: Yes. But that’s not the end of it…

Special powers? : She also breathes ice. And electricity. And cold. And poison.

Do we slay it?: We probably ought to – she is chaotic evil, but a common enemy makes her a useful fair-weather friend.

9) SAPHIRA

From: Eragon (2006); The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (2001-2011)

Who?: The last female dragon left on the unpronounceable continent of Alagaësia, Saphira was hatched from an egg found by a farmer boy, Eragon. Their ensuing romp through the land to save an elven princess and find a sapphire is about as high-fantasy cliché as you can get. There’s even a deceased mentor thrown in for good measure. The film only covers the first book’s plot, which expands massively in the rest of the tetralogy.

Does it fly?: Yes. Dragons even refer to themselves as “sons-of-the-wind”.

Does it breathe fire?: Yes. Saphira’s pretty classical like that.

Special powers?: If you’re Eragon, you can hitch a lift. They’ve also got some sort of telepathic link going on.

Do we slay it?: Not unless you’re the evil king Galbatorix, who’s probably just mad because he can never find his name on souvenir mugs.

8) MUSHU

From: Mulan (1998)

Who?: Mushu is one of the ancestral guardians of Mulan’s family in (around 600 CE) China. This pint-sized puffer is tasked with helping Mulan take her father’s place in the Chinese army, and restoring honour to the family. Part mentor and part mascot, Mushu will do anything from cook breakfast to light cannons to make sure his girl comes good.

Does it fly?: Not without some help from fireworks.

Does it breathe fire?: Yes – which comes in handy when Mulan finds herself short of a match.

Special powers: Wise-cracking. Gong banging. Hun slaying.

Do we slay it?: Far from it – Mushu is pretty instrumental in (spoiler alert) saving China.

7) THE TARGARYEN DRAGONS

From: Game of Thrones (2011-present); A Song Of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (1996-present)

Who?: Formerly found all over Essos and Westeros, dragons have long been used in the Game of Thrones universe to fight wars and forge empires. Danaerys’ three dragons are the last ones left in existence – so Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion are quite literally the world’s hottest property.

Do they fly?: You bet.

Do they breathe fire?: Necessarily.

Special powers?: George R. R. Martin’s dragons never stop growing as long as they live. The largest dragon, Balerion the Black Dread, lived to 200 and had a skull the size of a carriage.

Do we slay them?: It depends who you support in Westeros’s bloody civil war. Like all morality in Game of Thrones , it’s not that simple.

6) ALBI THE RACIST DRAGON

From: Flight of the Conchords , Season 1 Episode 7 (2007)

Who?: Albi is a racist dragon. It’s pretty self-explanatory, to be honest. Star of his own six-part musical kids’ show, Albi exists to teach children important lessons about tolerance and dragon biology. He even gets his own guitar theme song out of the deal.

Does it fly?: Not addressed, but we’d guess not. He doesn’t seem to have wings, looking more like a dinosaur.

Does it breathe fire?: Badly enough to disfigure a small Albanian boy.

Special powers?: His tears turn into jellybeans. Come on, that’s a pretty sweet deal.

Do we slay it?: The villagers try to at the start. However, over the course of 2 minutes and 38 seconds Albi renounces his racist ways, and lives happily ever after.

5) ERROL

From: Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett (1989)

Who?: Errol is pretty pathetic. He’s an undersized swamp dragon in Discworld, given to the city of Ankh-Morpok’s Night Watch by dragon breeder Lady Sybil. There’s a much more sinister Noble Dragon swooping around the city, but Errol is the interesting one.

Does it fly?: Unlikely. His wings are the same size as his eyebrows. While this no doubt makes for impressive facial hair, it rather hampers his chances of independent flight.

Does it breathe fire?: Yes, once – and it’s so powerful it launches him into the sky.

Special powers?: He can produce smoke from his ears. Terrifying.

Do we slay it?: The Night Watch decide to keep him as a pet. We don’t kill pets.

4) NORBERT(A)

From: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (1997)

Who?: Hatched from an egg by the affectionate groundskeeper Hagrid and named Norbet, she’s a black Norwegian Ridgeback. Harry Potter and friends manage to get her to Romania to be raised by dragonologist Charlie Weasley, but Hagrid is heartbroken. While there are other dragons throughout the series, Norbert’s the only one with a name – even popping up in the final book in a conversation between Charlie and Hagrid. Turns out she’s a girl: female dragons are always more violent.

Does it fly?: She has wings, but hasn’t learnt how to use them yet.

Does it breathe fire?: Precociously. In the film, she sets Hagrid’s beard on fire 46 seconds after hatching.

Special powers?: Venomous fangs.

Do we slay it?: We think she’s better off in Romania.

3) HAKU

From: Spirited Away (2001)

Who?: Although he’s a dragon, most of the time Haku exists in the form of a young teenage boy. Mainly, he helps the main character Chihiro survive in the strange world she’s been spirited away to. Haku knows the witch in charge of the mysterious bathhouse where Chihiro gets employed, but he’s trying to remember his real name so he can be free.

Does it fly?: Yes, even though he doesn’t have wings.

Does it breathe fire?: No.

Special powers?: Shape-shifting. Some damn fine whiskers. Being (spoiler alert) the embodiment of the Kohaku River.

Do we slay it?: Haku is one of the good guys, even if his human form’s haircut is a crime against style.

2) VERMITHRAX PEJORATIVE

From: Dragonslayer (1981)

Who?: Vermithrax ticks all the boxes for a dragon. Ancient, fierce to the core and costing a quarter of the film’s budget to create, Vermithrax demands twice-yearly virgin sacrifices and generally makes the villagers’ lives a living hell. But she does have a brood of baby dragons to raise, so maybe it’s just maternal instincts.

Does it fly?: The model had a 30-foot wingspan. That’s a lot of lift.

Does it breathe fire?: Obviously.

Special powers?: An impenetrable armoured hide.

Do we slay it?: Well, it would be a total letdown if a film called Dragonslayer didn’t involve any dragonslaying, wouldn’t it? In a fitting finale for such a majestic creature, Vermithrax goes out with a bang: getting blown up by an exploding wizard.

1) SMAUG

From: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (2013); The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein (1937)

Who?: Probably the most famous dragon in fiction, Smaug established what a dragon should be for decades of fantasy fans. One of the first dragons to speak rather than just growl, he pioneered the trope of dragons as intelligent creatures. Huge, vindictive and gloriously evil, Smaug has no qualms with laying waste to cities and claiming kingdoms, ruling through fear and flames.

Does it fly?: In his own words, “my wings [are] a hurricane.”

Does it breathe fire?: The “desolation of Smaug” doesn’t refer to his crushing loneliness.

Special powers?: Homemade gemstone armour. And an incredible treasure stash: the Forbes 15 fiction rich list reckons he’s worth $54.1 billion, beaten only by Scrooge McDuck.

Do we slay it?: That’s the plan – kill the dragon, claim the gold, restore Thorin Oakenshield to his throne. What could possibly go wrong?

V S Wells