The Great Debate: Is Godzilla a Dragon? And What Traits Make a Dragon a Dragon? - Tor/Forge Blog
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The Great Debate: Is Godzilla a Dragon? And What Traits Make a Dragon a Dragon?

The Great Debate: Is Godzilla a Dragon? And What Traits Make a Dragon a Dragon?

Welcome to Dragon Week 2020, a celebration of all things Dragon! 

During last year’s inaugural Dragon Week, we sparked a grand debate by dying on the hill that Godzilla is a Dragon. We’ll be staying on that hill, but we asked some of our authors—IS Godzilla a Dragon? And what traits really make a Dragon a Dragon? Check out their answers here!

Place holder  of - 50Brian Naslund, author of Sorcery of a Queen 

Is Godzilla a Dragon?

My initial instinct was to say no, figuring that aquatic beasts who symbolize nuclear proliferation (and other human vices) really belong in their own category of creature, given all the layers at work. But there are no easy answers here. Ultimately, if Godzilla feels like a dragon, then Godzilla’s a dragon in my book.

What makes a Dragon a Dragon?

I’ve been following the “what makes a dragon?” debate with great interest for the last year. While I was originally tempted to adhere to a more stringent definition of a dragon, I’ve ultimately come to believe that being a dragon isn’t about scales, anatomy, or size. It’s about the level of “dragon-ness” that resides in your heart, on either a permanent or temporary basis.

I, for one, believe that we all have the capacity to be dragons at some point in our lives. I often start each day in the form of a Morning Dragon (i.e. filled with wrath, hunger, and a burning desire to consume both coffee and the bones of my enemies).

Placeholder of  -47Marie Brennan, author of A Natural History of Dragons

Is Godzilla a Dragon?

Excellent question! I feel like he’s not a very *good* dragon — the proportions of his body and his bipedal posture just don’t ring right for me — but reptilian, breathes something dangerous, sure, I can see it if I squint.

What makes a Dragon a Dragon?

I think a generally serpentine body shape is the key starting point for me, and scales more often than not. I like dragons with wings, but obviously not all things we class as dragons have those. And they need to be extraordinary in some fashion; they need to be able to do something ordinary, non-draconic creatures can’t.

Poster Placeholder of - 33Ryan Van Loan, author of The Sin in the Steel

Is Godzilla a Dragon? And what makes a Dragon a Dragon?

Godzilla isn’t a dragon (although I love Godzilla movies! Especially the ones where Godzilla is awoken/discovered and bad things happen). Dragons have wings (vestigial or practical), scales that are not easily penetrable, are capable of producing some sort of stream that is bad news for any who come in contact with it (e.g., fire, ice, poison), and often, but not always are given to hoarding. Essentially, dragons have more in common with avian species while Godzilla to my mind is more reptilian?

Image Place holder  of - 68Kevin J. Anderson, author of Spine of the Dragon

Is Godzilla a Dragon?

The original instigator of the Godzilla argument, Kevin J. Anderson, wrote us a WHOLE ARTICLE arguing about what makes a Dragon a Dragon, and he stands by his stance that Godzilla makes the cut. Check out his Dragon Week 2020 article here, and his deadliest dragons piece from last year here!

Image Placeholder of - 34Jenn Lyons, author of The Ruin of Kings


Really, we’re doing this? Is Godzilla a dragon?

Okay, fine. We’re doing this.

But first, we need to talk about definitions, because like many things, the answer is ‘no.’

And also ‘yes.’

Let me explain:

From a taxonomy perspective, wherein a dragon has a very distinct set of qualities depending on the cultural origins of the mythologies involved, at best his qualifications are deeply suspect. He has no wings. He isn’t serpent-like. He isn’t associated with rivers or lakes. He hoards nothing. (Of all of these, the ‘isn’t serpent-like’ is probably the most damning.) Can the argument be made that he’s reptilian? Sure. Is that enough to qualify him for dragon status?

In my opinion, no.

But that isn’t the only definition of dragon, is it? The problem with definitions come into play when we consider the social, cultural, and mythological reasons why dragons exist. In most of the west, dragons are typically forces of evil, the worst elements of human nature made flesh, the embodiment of our sins. And by many eastern traditions, dragons aren’t evil at all, but rather forces of nature, outside of human control. Dragons make the world a little easier to understand, even if it’s just condensing the world’s anxieties and fears into a more relatable, approachable avatar.

So. What if the ‘sin’ of humanity and the force of nature outside of our ability to control is, in both cases, the splitting of the atom?

Then he very much meets the definition of dragon, doesn’t he? Because from that definition, what he looks like, what form he takes, doesn’t actually matter. What’s important is that he’s a chimeric avatar of our hubris, a stark rebuttal to our beliefs that we can or have any right to meddle with these forces. If we want to play god, we must be prepared to create our own devils. And yet, any defeat of Godzilla is temporary. Slaying this dragon never works, because he is outside of our ability to control. We can only pacify and mitigate or, in later stories, entreat for help.

So there you have it. My definitive answer on whether or not Godzilla is a dragon: kindasortamaybe. From a certain point of view.

One thing that cannot be debated? Much like most more traditional dragons, nobody wants him (or her, depending on your Godzilla movie preferences) visiting their town.

Hope that helps and GO GO GODZILLA.

Kate Elliott, author of Unconquerable Sun

Is Godzilla a Dragon? 

Godzilla is a kaiju. So my answer would be to ask if a dragon is a kaiju.


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