Having always loved the fantasy genre of film and television, my heart has always belonged to dragons. Evil ones, good ones, and rogue agents with no such allegiances. I caught the film Dragonslayer (1981) the other day on Amazon Prime Instant Video and it really brought up a bucket from the well of memory. I mean, how awesome are these creatures? Total and complete bad asses. No one wants to mess with them.
This led me to host a contest for Best Dragons from my childhood experience:
Maleficent from from Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)
While technically not a dragon (at least most of the time), this was probably one of the scariest cartoon draconians I remember. Mostly, I was afraid of her because I had never heard such foul language uttered in a Disney movie until I saw Sleeping Beauty. Case in point: “Now shall you deal with me, O Prince, and all the powers of Hell!” Who cast such a potty mouth? Anyway, Maleficent was actually an evil fairy godmother with the ability to change into a dragon, and ultimately, the world’s most famous anti-cupid with her desperate attempts to keep Princess Aurora and Prince Philip apart. And all because she never got an Evite to Aurora’s baptism. Jeez, petty much? I think a more effective punishment on the kingdom would’ve been a curse on all the chamber pots.
Vermithrax Pejorative from Dragonslayer (1981)
She was 400 years old, slept in a lake of fire, and her kids were slaughtered by a bumbling magician’s apprentice – so the chip on her shoulder may be justified. Apparently, she accepted two virgins per year from the local kingdom to leave crops and villages alone, so she doesn’t seem to be completely unreasonable at the negotiation table. She has the added benefit of a weird but pretty cool name: Vermithrax Pejorative which in Latin translates to “The Wyrm of Thrace that makes things Worse.” She was also nominated for an Academy Award (ok, well the special effects were), and she has some wicked bat-like wings. Who needs aerial drone strikes when you got Miss Pejorative on your side?
Granamyr from the He-Man & The Masters of the Universe television series (1983)
Not as famous as some other dragons, but pretty damn powerful and the oldest of the Dragons of Darksmoke on the planet of Eternia. Granamyr had a bigger ego than Kanye West, but perhaps rightfully so, as even the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull admitted being afraid of his wrath. When He-Man asked where to find him, the Sorceress was like, “Bitch, I ain’t telling you! I don’t need those dragons puttin’ my castle on blast. Go look it up in the library.” (paraphrased but true – just go watch the He-Man episode, “The Dragon’s Gift”). Granamyr was a double threat: not just a fearsome dragon but a sorcerer as well. Unlike most dragons, however, he had a hint of compassion for human beings. He places a high value on loyalty, keeping your word, and courage. In short, the Big G was a very honorable reptile.
Tiamat from the Dungeons & Dragons television series (1983)
Ok, this hardcore Dragon Queen wasn’t scared of anybody. She also had five heads and each one shot some nasty-ass projectile vomit – fire, lightning, poisonous gas, freezing ice, and acid. A tad bit of talent overkill, to say the least. Like Granamyr, Tiamat had magical abilities and was able to teleport at will. She lived in an outer space graveyard, and conspired to help some teenage kids commit murder (see D&D episode 20, “The Dragon’s Graveyard”). She had a scary ass voice too – somewhere between a hiss and a vocodered Cher singing “Do you believe in life after love?” Good thing she was a dragon, for a career in telemarketing was not to be.
Falkor from The Neverending Story (1984)
This dragon is an honorable mention. I found him to lack a certain edge that I like my dragons to possess. Plus, he looks as if he belongs on dog food packaging. Still, the term luck dragon became part of my vernacular after seeing this film, and he does bring a certain sense of optimism and cheer to a fantasy role usually reserved for terrifying monsters. In this case, Falkor broke some new ground and delivered something unexpected to my childhood view of what a dragon should be. Still, you have to wonder if he had to get any rabies shots or if his contract required payment in Milk Bones.