Dragon Lit for Young People

My first year of teaching is officially over, and I can turn my focus back to my writing (and blogging!) for the summer. In honor of the kids that I won’t see until fall, I’m going to be taking a look at a handful of dragon-related books that were written for children and young adults.

As I have started to read these books over the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing some things that I never noticed when I used to read this genre as a twelve-year-old–namely, the stereotypical characters and plot devices that show up in children’s fantasy.  Is it bad for authors to use them? Probably not–there’s a reason they’re popular enough to reuse. Do they get old fast when I read these fantasy books as a twenty-something? Absolutely. As I present five of these dragon books to you, I will make a list of the top three stereotypes that show up in each book along with the top three unique points. There are a lot of dragon books out there as well as a lot of stereotypes, so you’ll probably see this theme pop up again later this summer with new titles.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the stereotypes that show up in the children’s fantasy genre:

  • the orphaned nobody who winds up marrying royalty after saving the kingdom
  • the young person with a special gift or a unique bond to dragons
  • the main character who has a bond to the villain that they knew nothing about
  • the mentor who dies
  • the journey to self-discovery or self-acceptance
  • the superior wisdom of a twelve-year-old above dozens of mature adults
  • the youth’s single mistake that makes everything appear lost and hopeless until they learn their lesson–and then, somehow, the situation comes back under control
  • the dragon who needs the help of a young human despite being far older, stronger, and wiser than the youth

The list goes on and on, and my longer list keeps growing. I’d love to hear what stereotypes you would add to this list. Which ones bother you the most? Which ones have you seen repeated in the  most books?

Check back again on Wednesday for my thoughts on the book that got me going on this topic: Dragon Slippers.

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Categories: Children's, Fantasy Literature | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Dragon Lit for Young People

  1. I enjoy your list, and I think I’ve mentioned a few of these myself in the past. Especially “the superior wisdom of a twelve-year-old above dozens of mature adults” and “the dragon who needs the help of a young human despite being far older, stronger, and wiser than the youth.” Although, in the case of the latter, the writer sometimes ameliorates this by making it a BABY dragon, therefore innately helpless.

    One I might also add is “dragons who are only there as pets/vehicles and have no personality or motives of their own.”

    • Baby dragons are a point in their own right–“monsters” in children’s books are often toned down to tiny, controllable versions that the children can either prove aren’t evil or train to be special.
      Good point about the pets/vehicles! While a case could be made for animal-like dragons, I’ve always been fascinated with the varieties of sentient beings they’ve been described as.

  2. There are quite a few steroetypes in fairy stories as well. I suppose they are there to teach timeless lessons. At least some of them are.

    • That’s exactly what I’m exploring with this series–which of those stereotypes are serving purposes, and which are getting off easy with the telling of the story? The line isn’t always easy to see.

  3. Pingback: Interlude: the Hobbit movies | Dragon Crossing

  4. Pingback: Dragons for Young People, Part Three: Eon | Dragon Crossing

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