There’s a game my brother Ian likes to play: he flips through some old role-playing book of monsters, randomly puts his finger on one of the creatures, and then invents a totally new being based only on the existing monster’s appearance and name.
That’s fun. Let’s try it. Flipping through my Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition Monster Manual II, I come to the Faerie Dragon, a grinning little reptile who unlike other dragons has butterfly instead of bat wings. The normal D&D version is a precocious little pixy who bobs along some sylvan forest, playing magical pranks on any mortals who stumble through and breathing out a fog that knocks people into a euphoric stupor. Certainly that’s one way to interpret a dragon of the fay world, but right now I’d prefer to go a little darker.
Depending upon how you interpret the term, giants can be classified as fairies: they’re nonhuman beings, often with supernatural powers, who inhabit lands away from human civilization. And if so, then the greatest “fairy” dragon was Fafnir from Norse mythology, a giant who murdered his family for their treasure and then turned himself into a huge dragon to be better guard it. In some versions of the story, his transformation was on purpose, but in others it was that the treasure’s curse twisted his own greed and made him into a monster against his will.
So what if that’s a fairy dragon? An ancient fairy lord, some elf king or giant chief or satyr elder whose power, greed, and wickedness become so great that he degenerates into a ravenous monster. He still keeps court in his castle, but now his subjects have to contend with an impatient monster who will swallow them whole if displeased and who desires more and more: more food, more gold, more playthings.
Fafnir breathed fire, but for our fairy dragon, let’s pick something a little more unusual. Fairy powers are frequently illusions, so perhaps the fairy dragon breathes out a gas that causes hallucinations that dance before a person’s eyes so that they believe themselves to be beset by monsters and cannot tell friend from foe. A sadistic trickster, the fairy dragon giggles in glee as its enemies murder each other, each believing themselves to be defeating one of the dragon’s slaves.
The fairy dragon maintains all its power from before its transfiguration: the elf king’s magic, the giant chief’s strength, and as well is a master shape-shifter. It can change its size, become different creatures, even take on the fey form it had before it became a monster. Subtle and manipulative, the dragon often uses its shape-shifting to infiltrate groups, spreading discord and dividing its enemies. However, taking on such forms requires a lot of focus. The moment the monster’s concentration slips, such as when it loses its temper, it becomes a raging dragon again.
The fairy dragon looks more or less the same as how D&D depicted it, except much bigger. Its smile, while originally gentle, is now mocking and sardonic, while its butterfly wings create a hypnotic whirring as it flies through the sky. People look up and can’t take their gaze off the wings’ patterns as the creature descends upon them.
Beware of fairies who become dragons….