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Geek Out!: An old friend (or foe) in 'How to Train Your Dragon'

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup!” - slithery twist on a "Lord of the Rings" quotation

Through the years, we’ve come to know dragons as both friend and foe in literature and movies.

From Smaug, the riddle-spouting dragon who terrorized Lake Town in "The Hobbit," to Elliott, the overgrown, grinning dragon in “Pete’s Dragon" - and now Toothless, the lead dragon in "How to Train Your Dragon," the animated, 3-D movie released Friday - we love to geek out over our dragons.

We collect miniatures of them, play games with "dragon" in the name, read books about dragons and even have an entire convention with dragon in the name [Atlanta's DragonCon].

Fearsome, but often misunderstood, dragons always have played an important role in geek culture, working their way into our collective psyche. So, how do the dragons of today stack up to dragons of the past?

Let’s examine a few of the “top dragons.”

Draco in “Dragonheart” only wants to be left alone and not forced to become part of the evil boy-king’s life, literally. It turns out that the smooth-talking, last remaining dragon isn’t so bad after all.

In "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," Eustace Scrubb, a boy-turned-dragon, becomes a good guy [dragon] instead of the bully he was when he was human.

The dragons in the Harry Potter series are probably the fiercest of the modern dragons - the Chinese Firebolt, the Hungarian Horntail and the Norwegian Ridgeback. They are bred for fighting with very few redeeming qualities. [The obvious exception, of course, being Norbert, the dragon that Hagrid hatched from an egg.]

There is Saphira, the main dragon in the Inheritance cycle ["Eragon," "Eldest" and "Brisingr"] a kindly, loyal dragon that will fight to the death to keep her rider safe.

The newest dragon on the scene is Toothless from “How To Train Your Dragon”.

He’s feared by the Vikings until a young boy manages to show them that not only is Toothless a good dragon, but that all the others are as well.

The nice thing about seeing a movie on opening day, early in the morning, is that you get the theater all to yourself. In this case that was a good thing, since I found myself gasping and laughing out loud at the antics of the dragons in “How To Train Your Dragon”. Toothless has definitely become a top dragon on my list.

The dragons of today may be getting slightly cute and cuddly. But I’m still hiding all the bottles of ketchup just to be safe.

What do you think? Who are your favorite dragons of the past and today?