Dragons in Harry Potter Books

Tina L. Hanlon, Ph. D.
Ferrum College

See also:
Background Resources
Chapter Books and Novels
Dragons in Picture Books
Dragons in Folktale and Literature Collections
Dragons in Poems
Dragons Home and Links

Colbert, David. The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter: A Treasury of Myths, Legends, and Fascinating Facts. Berkley Pub Group, 2002. The short section on dragons contains some interesting background on traditions about dragons, but the book does not contain much analysis of dragons or other elements within the Harry Potter books.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. (Book 1). New York: Scholastic, 1998. Chapter 14, "Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback," focuses on Hagrid's attempt to raise a dragon from an egg, followed by the secret activities of Harry and his friends when they try to keep Hagrid from getting into trouble by sending the growing dragon out of the country.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (Book 4). New York: Scholastic, 2000. One of the tests in an international competition at Hogwarts requires each student to get past a different kind of dragon and grab a golden egg. Harry faces a fierce black Hungarian Horntail.  Hagrid's indiscretion and love of dragons again provide comedy in this suspenseful episode.

Rowling, J. K. Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Published (for charity) to look like a slim textbook written by Newt Scamander and owned by Harry Potter, with comic marginalia by Harry and his friends, and a foreword by Albus Dumbledore. Scamander, retired expert in magizoology, is a graduate of Hogwarts who worked in the Beast Division of the Ministry of Magic, Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.  

Scamander's Introduction describes his worldwide travel and research for this book, commissioned in 1918 by Obscurus Books of Diagon Alley and now in its 52nd edition.  He also summarizes the struggles for centuries to define and classify intelligent, responsible "beings" and "beasts" that need to be legally controlled.  He describes how Muggles of earlier centuries often mistook magical beasts for other creatures and developed hysterical fears of beasts and wizards, prompting a 1692 Confederation of Wizards to rule that 27 species of creatures would be "hidden from Muggles so as to create the illusion that they had never existed outside the imagination" (xv-xvi). By 1750, all magical beasts, beings, and spirits were to be concealed from Muggles.  Unlike unicorns and merpeople, "dragons will seek any opportunity to set forth in search of prey beyond the reservation borders" (xix). Bans on breeding and various kinds of charms help keep Muggles from seeing or remembering most magical beasts that are otherwise hard to conceal. These efforts are necessary, even with beasts that "are savage and untameable" in order "to ensure that future generations of witches and wizards enjoy their strange beauty and powers as we have been privileged to do"(xx-xxi).  

Among the 75 beasts described in this edition, dragons have the longest section, with details on ten individual breeds from different parts of the world.  The M.O.M. (Ministry of Magic) Classification is "XXXXX:  Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate."  Harry's marginalia adds "or anything Hagrid likes" to this definition.

Rudd, David.  "J. K. Rowling's Latest 'Harry Potter' Works." The Five Owls, vol. 15, no. 5, Summer 2001:  107. Rudd reviews the books Fantastic Beasts and Quidditch Through the Ages.

Schafer, Elizabeth D.  Exploring Harry Potter.  Beacham’s Sourcebooks for Teaching Young Adult Fiction. Osprey, FL:  Beacham, 2000. Background material and teaching guides for the first three books in the Harry Potter series, including a section “Magical Animals and Creatures.”  See Norbert in the index for comments on the dragon in Book 1, and teaching guide for chap. 14 in Book 1. “The dragon Norbert is Harry’s alter ego, acting toward his foster parent like Harry wishes he could act toward the Dursleys, literally biting the hand that feeds him. Norbert is sent to safety in a crate much like toddler Harry was exiled in a bundle of blankets”(p. 68).

Whited, Lana, ed. The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary Phenomenon. Missouri, 2002. Some of the essays in this volume mention dragon episodes briefly. Roni Natov (p. 132) notes the combination of typical mythic images and realistic details in Rowling's description of Norbert in Sorcerer's Stone. Nancy K. Jentsch discusses the relationship between Draco Malfoy's name and dragons (p. 295).

Last update: August 26, 2003
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