Paranormal Romance: Demons & Dragons
Updated: Mar 21
When you think of dragons what comes to mind? The story of St. George? Maybe the Chinese New Year or the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter? Perhaps you think of shapeshifters in a paranormal romance book.
Our fascination with magical creatures of myth is an ancient and global one. With our love of all things demon and dragons going back millennia, is it any wonder paranormal romance authors love to draw on mythology to make these creatures the shapeshifting heroes or heroines of their stories?
Folklore around the world pass down stories about dragons. Some legends tell of snarling, poison-spewing serpents that terrorize, others embody European medieval characteristics of wings and fire, the dragons presented as demonic monsters battling valiant kings.
But whatever the country, era, or dragon, they all capture the human imagination.
But when and from where was the first Dragon story?
The earliest surviving written dragon story was recorded in an Ancient Indian text dated around 1500 BCE. This story tells of a great dragon called Vrta, a dragon that had to be killed by the god Indra in order to release water from heaven and allow it to fall to earth.
Britain has its own ancient story: Beowulf, written in Old English in the 11th century (but recorded when it was probably already a few hundred years old, perhaps originating in the 8th century). This story tells of a treasure guarding dragon who is killed by Beowulf, although the hero dies from his poisoned wounds.
Dragon stories can be found predominantly within British, European and Asian folklore.
Dragons are mythical, so where did the ideas come from and did people really believe in them?
Given the ancient nature of many of the stories, it is worth remembering how different the world was from continent to continent and century to century. Remember, even in the nineteenth century, Victorians would buy shrunken heads and the tusks of narwhales sold as the horns of unicorns.
With travel, communication and technology vastly different, people would be dependent on stories told by others to gain their knowledge of the wider world. If a person knew of a friend of a friend who said they had seen such a creature, that may well have been proof enough. Just because you hadn’t seen an elephant, for example, it didn’t mean it wasn’t real… why should a dragon be different?
To read more about the surprising history of dragons visit Dragons and their Origins - English Heritage Blog (english-heritage.org.uk)
As for the origins of dragon stories, there are a number of theories put forward:
Discovering dinosaur fossils - and believing they were the bones of dragons – people made stories up about the creature the bones had belonged to. Just as modern society makes up stories about the dinosaurs they belonged to, think Jurassic Park.
Embellishment of existing animals – stories may have taken existing animals and amplified their characteristics, the Nile crocodile, for example, or the Australian Goanna lizard.
Whale bones – at first this might sound a bit out there, but think of the size of these bones and the awe they might inspire from a people who found them washed up on the shore.
The human imagination - anthropologist David E. Jones argues that human beings are programmed to fear large predators, just as other animals are. The stories of dragons are so widespread that it is possible human fears of predators have become mixed in with folklore to create the pervading myth of the dragon.
How was the paranormal romance dragon shapeshifter born?
The mythological shapeshifter isn’t just the realm of paranormal romance novels. The concept of human to animal shapeshifting dates back millennia. Images depicting shapeshifting can be found in some of our earliest surviving cave paintings at Les Trois Frères, in France, and the idea of shapeshifting can be found in the oldest forms of totemism and shamanism.
Examples of shapeshifting, or therianthropy if we give it its technical term, can be found in literature dating back to ancient Mesopotamia and Greek texts all the way through to Disney’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
Whether shifting into werewolf, vampire, demon or dragon, shapeshifting stories include supernatural elements to allow their characters to physically transform and the creatures are often villainous, dangerous and torment those they encounter.
To read more about werewolves have a look at my blog Fated Mates & Werewolf-Shifters | Beth Linton.
But, overtime, the story of the terrifying dragon that needed to be slain has become romanticised. In literature and film, the dragon gradually became the misunderstood beast, unjustly villainised by pitchfork wielding communities... and somewhere along the line, the romanticised dragon shifted into the romantic dragon-shifter.
Why do paranormal romance authors love creating alpha heroes that are dragon-shifters?
Perhaps one of the reasons a dragon-shifter makes such a great hero in a romance novel is because he inspires wonder. Dragons are both monstrous and noble; dragons are powerful, dangerous and magical. With the ability to fly, and possessing other magical qualities, they are beautiful but while strong and alpha, they have become the underdog… or should that be under dragon?
In stories from around the globe, modern interpretation presents dragons as the victims of men and society. As romance readers love a strong leading man who needs the help of a good woman to find redemption and happiness, a dragon-shifter makes the perfect romantic lead.
Think about it: The alpha male in a paranormal romance book is strong, powerful and has a level of conflict that needs to be resolved with the help of the heroine. Add to this the fact that an alpha male is, well, alpha and you soon realize you don’t get more alpha than a fire breathing dragon. The magical characteristics of dragons have made these creatures the staple of fantasy novels for years, so add in the ability to shapeshift into a man and you have the perfect hero. What could be more Byronic in character and tone?
To read more about alpha heroes in paranormal romance read: Paranormal Romance Books & the Alpha Male | Beth Linton
As a paranormal romance author, I have yet to write a story about a dragon-shifter but I suspect it is only a matter of time. After all, I not only love to read paranormal romance novels but I live close to the border of England and Wales and am surrounded by dragons.
On the English side there is the story of St. George, the patron soldier-saint of England that bravely killed the dragon before he could devour the king’s daughter. His image, name and crest are displayed everywhere.
On the Welsh side, the red dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) literally flies – on our flag. While the flag only officially came into being in 1959, the red dragon has been a symbol of Wales since approximately 655 AD and has come to represent fierce national pride. The red dragon also links to the legend of Merlin from King Arthur’s Court, a legend that embodies all things chivalrous, brave and romantic.
Given my love of literature and mythology, plus add in where I live, then it’s no wonder that dragons have become a rather tempting alpha shapeshifter for this author of paranormal romance.
To find out about my novels click here and visit my books page where you can find the blurb for the first five books in the romance series.