Thumbnail Image

The Modern Dragon: Contemporary Representations from Tolkein to Present

‘Every century has its dragons.’ I intend to examine depiction of dragons from 1937 onwards to try to determine how we perceive the dragon in the modern world. To this end I will examine dragons in a variety of contemporary media, from film and television, as well as literature. They will include, but not be limited to: Game of Thrones , Eragon , The Hobbit , Dragonflight , Guards! Guards! , and How to Train Your Dragon. Framed by adaptation studies, this thesis analyses the way in which contemporary texts re-interpret and re-imagine the dragon. In so doing, it draws on related theories, in particular human-animal studies, the uncanny, the other, and gender studies, in order to understand the enduring fascination with this mythical creature and the way in which modern authors and directors draw on and depart from both Eastern and Western mythological tradition and folklore. The first section examines the shape of the dragon and how they are depicted, not only in literary text, but also in television, film, and art work. This involves identifying the literary and mythological forebears of these current depictions, as well as what the presentation reveals about contemporary culture. Having identified recent adaptations of the dragon’s physical form, I move to a discussion of the nature of the dragon, in particular its intelligence and morality. Throughout this section, I draw on human-animal studies to analyse the dragon’s familiarity and otherness. Turning to the interrelation between dragons and magic, I look at how dragons are presented as magical beings who at times exhibit magical abilities and at times are themselves the source of magic. As in my discussion of the dragon’s nature, it is the strangeness of the dragon which is apparent here: it is a creature of fantasy, beyond the realm of the rational, belonging to what J.R.R. Tolkein refers to as ‘Of Faërie’. In the fourth chapter, the focus on dragon-slayers and dragon-riders highlights the human impulse to tame and control or destroy this mystical creature. At the same time, I reveal the human belief in their capacity to domesticate the dragon’s essential wildness to be delusive. I conclude with an analysis of the gender ambiguity of the dragon and its particular association with women, foregrounding their mutual marginalisation by society.
Type of thesis
Sheridan, B. D. (2015). The Modern Dragon: Contemporary Representations from Tolkein to Present (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9595
University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.