I suspect dinosaurs are the key to why we love dragons. Aside from the superficial similarities, I think dragons and dinosaurs occupy a similar space in the minds of children. I got this idea from Jurassic Park:
“He finally decided that children liked dinosaurs because these giant creatures personified the uncontrollable force of looming authority. They were symbolic parents. Fascinating and frightening, like parents. And kids loved them, as they loved their parents. Grant also suspected that was why even young children learned the names of dinosaurs…Saying these complicated names was a way of exerting power over the giants, a way of being in control.”
Personally, I’ve always thought dinosaurs were about subverting parents rather than loving them. Dinosaurs are (perceived to be) much bigger than parents, and therefore not subject to parents’ authority. And the names themselves are convoluted and confusing to parents; they represent a secret lore, much like the names of 151 Pokemon or the myriad powers of Ben 10. Dinosaurs can slide out from under the rules and requirements of regular, mundane life. They represent something else entirely. And I think that’s precisely what we love about dragons.
Dragons are (usually) big. They fly. They breathe fire (or other things). They are not subject to parents, bosses, responsibilities, they suffer not the limitations of pocket money, salaries, bills, they don’t have school or jobs or chores. And most importantly, they don’t play by the rules. One minute a dragon is a hulking monster that can’t be harmed by any weapon. The next it’s a slender, fragile wielder of magic. Dragons not only refused to be tamed in stories, but by logic and rules and expectations.
I think that’s what delights children, and it’s what delights adults too.
Why do you think we love dragons so much? Leave a comment and let me know.