To be honest, I probably was exposed to a lot of dragons that other people will not remember… and some that they will.
Ok, so the first dragon in a story that I really met would have been Smaug. Now that was a great start! He is kinda the archetype of great dragons in fiction… and most modern day fantasy takes pointers from Tolkien when it comes to dragons. Tolkien got most of his ideas for Smaug from the classical work Beowulf, so Smaug is not only an incredibly well designed dragon, he has his roots in a lot of anglo-saxon myth and mystery. So, I fell in love with Smaug from a very young age. Every time I’d read through the Hobbit, the bit I most looked forward to was the conversation between Smaug and Bilbo.
I also spent my earliest years of memory in the little country of Wales in the UK. The flag in Wales is a red dragon on a green field. After moving away from Wales, I sorta started to look back on my time there with rose colored lenses. I mean, I had never moved before that I could remember, so when I moved from Wales to America it made me sort of see Wales as “the better place”. I suppose it was just the fact that I got uprooted at about age five and had to move a world away from the friends I had into a society that was pretty different from that of Great Britain. Anyway, I do hold all these facts in mind when wondering why I love dragons so much, because I always thought that the Red Dragon on the flag of Wales was just about the coolest national symbol ever.
Now, I had many interests when I was young. I liked Sci-Fi and fantasy, and even though I did not own any video games I became a fan of Nintendo. One thing that I have always loved is dinosaurs, and I still do, so I think my love for dinosaurs and reptiles in general fueled my enjoyment of dragons.
I really enjoyed the Dragonology book series when I was eleven, and before that I can remember liking the Disney movie Sleeping Beauty because of the dragon that Malefacent turned into. Probably the Dragonology book series is what affected my view of dragons the most (other than Smaug). The series treated dragons like rare creatures that could be researched and studied, so it was really neat. The books were full of graphite sketches of dragons and all their strange and beautiful forms. Then, funny enough, I also really like a board game called HeroScape (if you want to know the two major sources that affected my system in Dsplash, they are HeroScape and the nintendo game Super Smash Bros. Haha, random fact). That board game had some really neat dragons, including some very nobel ones, so that was kind of a turn for me (up to this point, most dragons I had come into contact with were either ambiguous or downright evil. So, that was probably a good thing).
Oh, and I thought that the Fell Beasts in LotR were very neat. Not dragons, but close enough for my tastes!
After a while my love for dragons kinda phased though. And that isn’t surprising. I only get into one thing at a time really, and from age 12-14 I was a big Star Wars fan. I look back on that pretty unhappily because the movies I liked were not all that high in quality (the prequel trilogy) and the characters I found appealing were all bad guys! And I didn’t like the bad guys for a good reason either! So, after my conversion at age thirteen I really kinda just trashed my collection of Star Wars stuff and decided to move on. That was when I was fourteen. After that, I got back into Dinosaurs… feeling that that would be a better hobbies because at least they were real. Then, BAM, age fifteen came along, and everything changed…
I saw one trailer for HTTYD before going to see it, and I honestly did not think I would like it. The dragons, especially Toothless, looked extremely foreign to me. They didn’t look at all like the very classic dragons from Dragonology, and in my opinion Toothless looked the worst! Now, it must be said I was looking at stock images on Go-Gurt packages and stuff… so it wasn’t a very good representation of him. When I went into the theater, I thought it would be a somewhat decent film, but then Toothless dive bombed the first tower, and immediately I was on the edge of my seat. This was new. It was a dragon with all the mystery and terror of any classical creature, but then it had this extremely fresh design and utterly breath taking attack. My love for his design only deepened when I got to see him pin Hiccup… and then spare him. The music in that scene conveyed everything I’d come to expect of dragons: terror, mystery, power, awe. Toothless had the angsty edginess to him that I had always loved when seeing characters interact with dragons. You never knew whether he was safe or not. Then, haha, Forbidden Friendship happened. I don’t think I breathed during that scene. I was utterly shocked. Toothless remained every bit as cool and mysterious, but he also revealed such an adorable and loving personality and set of expressions that I was totally captured. He was believable too, so when you mixed that with his other traits he became the epitome of dragons for me. I left that theater wanting a Night Fury so badly, and the fact that the movie had been focused completely around dragons and making peace with them allowed me to relate to Hiccup more strongly than I had related with any other character. All my life, most people I talked with disliked snakes, said they were glad dinosaurs were extinct, and said that dragons were satanic (haha, now my dad did enjoy dragon filled stories, so that was nice). I felt pretty alone in my love for reptiles and dragons, and then this film came along! HTTYD changed everything. Sure, I was a dragon fan before, but this made me more than a vague fan of large, winged reptiles. This film had made me fall in love with a set of characters, with an entire world, with a set of principles, and with some utterly gorgeous thematics. I didn’t just become a bigger fan of dragons, I became an complete HTTYD fanboy! Toothless really did just completely turn me on my head. I still love seeing dragons in other media, but I’ve yet to see any of them that compete with Toothless!