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Dragons as Allegory

by Simon Lipscomb


In "real" mythology, dragons are more than just big lizards with bad breath - they are representative of, well, many things really but in Western mythology they are our dark side, the Id or the Shadow, to borrow terms from Freud and Jung. The tale of St. George and the Dragon, for example, has been called a Christian allegory for triumph over the Devil (the Dragon in this case). This tale is probably a re-working of Scandinavian dragon-slaying tales, where the hero vs. dragon motif appears the most. The dragon usually represents desolation, and the slaying of the dragon returns fertility and wealth to the kingdom (these same tales are probably used as sources by Tolkien).

Of course, in Eastern mythology, especially Chinese, dragons appear as wise sages and heavenly bureaucrats. They are the great powers that drive the universe at the behest of the celestial Emperor, and are merely forces rather than necessarily good or evil. As a rule they tend towards benevolence, however.

Dragonlance, having arisen from AD&D, sometimes suffers from reducing the dragons to mere game statistics rather than implacable forces of nature or the psyche. To redress this balance, I have assigned each color of dragon a trait that it represents. This in turn dictates the way that the dragon will behave. The dragons have no choice in this - they don't have the trait, they are the trait. It would be impossible for a chromatic dragon to repent its evil ways, because it would then cease to be what it was.

The suggested traits are inspired by the behavior of examples of each dragon type presented in the adventure modules, the original trilogy of books and the Dragonlance Adventures hard-back book.

  • White - Hunger/Greed. As the least intelligent of the chromatic dragons I gave white dragons the most primordial of urges. Whites are the most likely to horde treasure, or to attack creatures just to eat them. They are insatiable in both desires.
  • Black - Deceit. As creatures of Shadow, Black dragons exist to obscure the truth. They lie almost all the time. They live in darkness and shadow, and are masters of stealth. The only Black dragon in the novels, Onyx, lives in a hidden city and her job is to hide the revelations of the Disks of Mishakal, hence the assignment of this trait.
  • Green - Terror. Cyan Bloodbane was assigned to whisper nightmares into the ear of Lorac Caladon. Greens like to work behind the scenes, breaking the morale of their enemies with psychological tricks rather than by open confrontation. Note that the remit of Black and Green dragons overlaps, and I have vacillated between which to assign to which. I finally settled on this ordering of things.
  • Blue - Rage. Blues are creatures of storm and as such they are tempestuous and quarrelsome. Blues make the best front-line troops because they are always spoiling for a fight. It is not unlikely that they would go berserk in a frenzy of teeth and lightning.
  • Red - Arrogance. As the most powerful of all dragons, reds believe that they have nothing to fear from any other creature. They think that they are superior to all else, and other living beings should only exist at their behest. This makes them good as front line troops, but they are poor at taking orders from the human element of the Dragonarmies.

The metallic dragons are also personifications of personality traits, but higher and more noble ones than the chromatic dragons. One problem with the metallic dragons is that they can "fall from grace", mainly by over-expressing their particular trait.

  • Brass - Courage. Brass dragons represent the ability to keep going in the face of adversity. Their mere presence can give hope to allied troops. However, their nature can sometimes make them rash and foolhardy.
  • Bronze - Thought. Bronze dragons prize intelligence above all else. They love knowledge, and are more likely to have a library than a treasure horde. This can make them rather cold and rational, however.
  • Copper - Humor. Copper dragons can find humor in even the darkest situations. Their spirits are never dampened and they are full of joy. This can make them irreverent or sarcastic, and also prone to practical jokes.
  • Silver - Love. Silver dragons are the most compassionate of all dragon-kind. At least two examples have famously fallen in love with mortals, to tragic effect. They are also the least war-like. The flip-side is that sometimes Silvers can become too smothering with their love - they seek to protect their mortal charges and take away their freedom.
  • Gold - Wisdom. Rather than the fact-based knowledge of the Coppers, Gold dragons prize intuitive learning, meditation and inner understanding. Because their knowledge is often esoteric and difficult, they can become aloof and impatient with mortals.

Since draconians are formed from metallic dragons, it makes sense to give them personality traits that are the opposites or perversions of the equivalent metallic trait.

  • Baaz. Coming from courageous Brass, Baaz draconians are cowards, leading them to bullying behavior.
  • Bozak. The intelligent nature of Bronze dragons gives this species superior magical abilities, but makes them utterly emotionless and calculating. If a hundred of its fellows must die for a Bozak's plan to work, then so be it.
  • Kapak. The good-natured humor of Copper dragons is twisted into a sadistic delight for malicious pranks and torture. These are the draconians most likely to be found pulling the legs of insects (or kender) one by one.
  • Sivak. I'm not sure about these, whether the Silver dragon's love is twisted into lust or hate. Perhaps both, or perhaps there are two types of Sivak. Certainly, if the sexless draconians were driven by a desire to mate with anything, the frustration of not being able to might then cause them to hate and destroy.
  • Aurak. I think the effect on auraks would be subtle. They have the wisdom and knowledge of the Gold dragons, and are fully able to understand the differences between right and wrong (unlike the lower forms of draconians, who behave the way they do because it is their nature). However, Auraks make a careful and rational decision to harm and hinder.

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