Fantasy writing is supposed to involve creating wonderful new ideas, taking dreams that defy description and bringing them to life. There are no real rules in fantasy: if the author can dream it, they can write about it.
Why then, is the predominant mystical creature found in so many fantasy stories, including mine, a creature that's not new at all? Why do writers and readers continue to flock to dragons? What is it about these creatures that has inspired mankind for thousands of years?
The most common answer given, is that there once were giant winged creatures with razor-sharp teeth. Dinosaur bones littered the continents long before man learned to walk upright. Imagining early man encountering a dinosaur bone, or even a whale bone washed ashore, and it's easy to envision tales of great monsters. Dinosaur skeletons likely inspired stories of both fear and awe. David E Jones, in his book An Instinct for Dragons, actually claims that dragons are an amalgam of genetically inherited fears of predators, which early cultures mophed into a single, terrifying beast.
Dragons exist in the early mythologies of nearly every ancient civilization, from Ancient South America to Ancient Babylon. They are part of a shared human evolutionary pattern, and now part of our shared fanasy enjoyment as well. Many of the most popular fantasy epics, including the Hobbit, the Dragonriders of Pern, Game of Thrones, Inheritence, the Wheel of Time, Harry Potter, and the Narnia books, all use the idea of dragons.
My spin on Dragons was to create a species that was the orignal reapers of souls. In my mind, no species fits better than the ancient idea of Dragons. And yet, Dragons are not villains in my novels. Dragons, as will be discovered in book three, are just as complex as humans, with their own quarrels and issues.
Perhaps dragons are so popular in fantasy because they conjur up the same feelings of terror and awe our ancestors once felt. Perhaps they tie the reader to the distant past in a more concrete way than any other imagined creature could. And let's face it, in the end, dragons are cool.