Among various fantasy-geek communities, dragons seem a prevalent source of admiration.
Of course, dragons are awesome.
But why? What has kept them from turning out as, say, vampires did?
I cannot speak for everyone, but I feel that they possess a combination of remarkable traits:
- They often embody elements (usually fire), and the four Classical elements continue to play a role in both fantasy and reality. Some dragons also spit venom or work magic.
- They combine several animalistic features that fascinate humans: flight, scales, horns, a spaded tail, barbels, feathers, fur... (Not all dragons possess all of these aspects, obviously. I am aware of wyverns, drakes, wyrms, knuckers, etc.)
- They are at once distant and nearly human. Whether they have humanlike greed and malevolence (like Smaug) or empathize with human emotions (like Saphira), I find that anything so physically different from us that still thinks like us is something our minds find intriguing.
- They represent flight--literally as well as of the human imagination. Discounting planes and the like, humans cannot fly, and we love to imagine the "what if...?" scenarios of being able to do so.
I'm sure I missed several things, and some fascinations are simply difficult to justify, but these are my two cents at the moment.
Of course, dragons are hugely diverse in literature, cinema, and folklore, as I mentioned, but they will likely always hold a special place in my heart. Perhaps a plug of Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Ash "LeopardDancer" DeKirk's book, Dragonlore, is in order here. It contains a wealth of information about mythological dragons, from Pa snakes to the Stoorworm to Chinese Lung dragons to the Tarasque, and beyond.
May the stars watch over all of you!