Dragons have appeared in stories for about as long as humans have been telling them. These five books are some of the best examples of dragons in fiction.
1. The Hobbit- J.R.R Tolkien
"There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light. Smaug lay, with wings folded like an immeasurable bat, turned partly on one side, so that the hobbit could see his underparts and his long pale belly crusted with gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his costly bed."
Smaug is always what I picture first when I think of dragons. First published in 1937, Tolkien's classic novel about a hobbit's journey to a mountain inhabited by a fearsome dragon continues to delight modern readers.
2. The Earthsea Cycle- Ursula Le Guin
"One whom the dragons will speak with … that is a dragonlord, or at least that is the center of the matter. It's not a trick of mastering the dragons, as most people think. Dragons have no masters. The question is always the same, with a dragon: will he talk with you or will he eat you? If you can count on his doing the former, and not doing the latter, why then you're a dragonlord."
In part Le Guin's fantastic series is a reaction to earlier imaginings like Tolkien's Middle Earth books. They are fantasy novels set in a world that isn't faux Medieval Europe, and isn't populated almost solely by white people. However, one thing the Earthsea books do have in common with The Hobbit is that they have some serious dragons. Le Guin's dragons are ancient and wise, and speak the language of true magic, but they also might eat you.
3. How to Train Your Dragon- Cressida Cowell
"Thank you for nothing, you stupid reptile."
This is the tale of how Hiccup Horrendous III became the legendary dragon whisperer. Now made into two movies and a TV series, the books are a lot of fun, especially the audio book version read by David Tennant.
4. The Reluctant Dragon- Kenneth Grahame
"You see all the other fellows were so active and earnest and all that sort of thing- always rampaging, and skirmishing, and scouring the desert sands, and pacing the margin of the sea, and chasing knights all over the place, and devouring damsels, and going on generally- whereas I liked to get my meals regular and then to prop my back against a bit of rock and snooze a bit, and wake up and think of things going on and how they kept going on just the same, you know!"
This delightful children's book, by the author of The Wind in the Willows, is the story of a shepherd boy who befriends the dragon who lives in the hills near his home. The dragon doesn't want to eat anyone, just to be left alone to write poetry, so when St George is sent to kill him, the boy tries to come up with a plan to save his scaly friend.
5.Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett
"Noble dragons don't have friends. The nearest they can get to the idea is an enemy who is still alive."
In the city of Ankh Morpork, Draco nobilis (large dragons, as opposed to the tiny swamp dragons kept as pets) have long been presumed extinct. When one suddenly turns up, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, it is crowned king. It is up to the Night Watch to get rid of the scaly despot and save the city before it's too late. Guards! Guards! is the 8th of the Discworld novels, but it's one of the funniest, and would still make sense if you started with this one. It's also the first of the series about the Ankh Morpork city watch, and introduces the characters you will come to love.