Appreciate a Dragon Day was January 16th. Even if you missed this most joyous of holidays, it’s probably okay to appreciate a dragon at any time of the year. Fortunately, the Wells Library has some books featuring dragons to help you get in the spirit of the holiday.
One of the most famous dragons in Western literature is Smaug, the gold-hoarding dragon from The Hobbit: or, There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Smaug has recently become more popular with the release of The Hobbit movie trilogy, in which he is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The Hobbit is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings. It features some of the same characters and sets in motion key plot points. If The Lord of the Rings seems too long or dense to deal with in the midst of a busy semester, don’t worry–the book version of The Hobbit is a much lighter and easier read.
Another short and light book featuring dragons is The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. The first half of the books shows Aerin, the main character, training herself to slay dragons. Her kingdom contains small dragons the size of dogs, which, while they sound adorable, are actually quite destructive and dangerous. Aerin practices on these pint-sized dragons to prepare herself to face a much larger version named Maur. Her battle with Maur is fast-paced and incredibly suspenseful. The dragon battles alone make the book worth the read.
One of the most classic dragons in Western Literature is the dragon from Beowulf. Many years after defeating the demon Grendel and Grendel’s mother, Beowulf must defend his kingdom’s people from a very angry dragon.
Beowulf is the oldest known epic poem in the Old English language. Unfortunately, Old English is a much different language than modern English, so you will likely need to read the poem in translation. The IU Libraries have several translations (like the ones here or here). If that still doesn’t sound like fun, Beowulf has been adapted into not one, but two graphic novels that are kept in the Education Library at IU. In addition to creatively telling Beowulf’s epic story in comic form, they have some gorgeous artwork.
If you are just looking for some general knowledge on dragons instead of a book featuring them as characters, Bloomington’s libraries can get you that information. There are several non-fiction books about dragons in IU’s collections. Dragons, Their History and Symbolism and Dragons and Dragon Lore both give a fairly short overview of how stories about dragons were created and evolved in human myths. Perhaps the most intriguing book about dragons that IU has is Dragons and Unicorns: A Natural History. This book in the folklore collection reads like a serious zoological textbook. You may choose to believe that this is evidence of dragons’ existence.
Finally, Game of Thrones, the first book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, is currently the most high-profile book featuring dragons. Dragons play a major role in the events of the series– fifth book is even called A Dance with Dragons. Additionally, dragons figure heavily in the turbulent history of the Game of Thrones world that characters frequently refer to. Dragons were often used in battles and to hold power over entire kingdoms.
These are just some of the books in IU’s collections that can help you to fully appreciate a dragon, even if you did miss the “official” holiday. If you would like more books featuring dragons, you can look at this list of dragons in literature, or you can ask for assistance from any of the librarians in Wells Library in person or over chat.
– Michayla Sullivan