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dragons from a magic realism perspective

asher marquering

servant of a battle oath
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Jun 13, 2006
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hey guys long long long long time

I'm surprised I remembered my password here actually, so you've probably all guessed I've started writing again, well more like started redefining my world a bit more seriously and have come a cross a "within world" conflict

I love the idea of a dragon, or rather a fire breathing carnivourous, fear inducing, naturally weaponised, naturally armoured, obstacle on a battle field but from a biological/evolutionary point of view it just doesn't make sense, which I've come to believe is most important with world building

essentially the concept of a creature that has an elemental breath, as a means of attack/defense, (i.e. a fire/flame breath/spit, much easier than a cryogenic breath from a real world biological/evolutionary point of view), would actually only make sense if said creature was sessile

allow me to explain:
a creature lower down on the food chain would evolve some form of defence: irritants/poisons, muscles for stamina or speed, horns/claws, clubbed/spiked tail and/or herd behaviour
an apex predator would evolve some form of offensive and counter offensive: teeth and claws probably number 1 then poison immunity, muscles to match their prey, exceptional hunting ability or ferociousness or pack behaviour
a powerful "weapon" like an elemental breath essentially closes the need for any of the above, closes the need for even movement

hence an elemental breath could actually only evolve in a creature that was sessile, its quite foreign from "accepted" concept of creatures breathing fire in the mainstream but makes the most sense biologically or evolution

your thought?
 

Ihe

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Not necessarily. I would think the ability to move is much more essential for survival than the ability to spit powerful attacks (re-positioning for defensive / offensive purposes, escaping, relocation to expand territory, acquire resources, or migrate to better living conditions, for mating, etc). If it's up to evolution, movement would always be prioritized over a powerful unidirectional attack IMO. Also, movement and a strong offensive aren't mutually exclusive. They can improve their effect exponentially as far as survival and attacking strategies go. Truly complex animals are never sessile for a reason (unless you want to make dragons into plants instead of beasts--I don't know how that would go though). If the dragon is a beast--carnivorous I assume--it'll need to move in order to hunt.

As far as "fantastical realism" goes, I would look at the size issue more. A truly devastating attack like firebreath, for example, wouldn't need such a huge body to go along with it (I'm talking about the more traditional fantasy dragons, ofc). Size is a deterrent in itself, just as elemental breath is. Winged flight would also be nigh impossible. The expenditure of effort and energy to move / hunt on land would be very high, and the amount of food needed to satiate such large bodies would also be impractical.

Sure, all of this can be explained away with "they're magical beasts", in which case they can feed off mana, use magic to boost their speed and strength, reinforce their wings, make themselves lighter, etc. But if you want to make a more non-magical dragon that at least partially follows natural adaptation mechanics, I would look at size first of all. If the dragon is as big as a building, I'm sure it won't need to develop firebreath for protection, and viceversa, in order to survive. It wouldn't be able to use wings either. Then again, if there are other mega-beasts out there to threaten even a dragon, then the arms-race often seen in "evolve-or-die" scenarios between competing populations could lead to them developing further weapons (what if there was a competing oganism immune to firebreath? Or too fast to be hit by it? etc). It all depends on the environment you place around it. Obviously this would only apply if the dragon can achieve elemental breath in a "natural" way, like in certain movies and books, where the fire-breathing is a chemical reaction, or the dragons need to ingest certain things in order to do it. If the elemental breath is magical in nature, then there is no point to my ramblings.

Lastly, movement is a more basic adaptation than firebreathing, I believe. Before getting to firebreathing, the population would've tried to evolve movement first, no? It is a more versatile ability to have. Firebreathing sounds like a "last resort" evolutionary trick to me. The dragon would already possess the power to move by the time it evolved into a firebreather. Maybe there are early living conditions that could invert this order in the "evolutionary hierarchy of adaptations"? Others with a more academic take on this subject should chime in on this, at this point; I have a vague feeling I'm talking outta my ass now. :LOL:
 
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Cory Swanson

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I think you need to consider the absolute impracticality of megafauna being able to keep a foothold with humans around. It’s not been successful to date.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I think you mean realistic magic rather than magic realism, since one of the advantages of magical realism is that things are not logically explained or rationalized. The author drops something wondrous into an otherwise realistic and mundane setting and then explores how the characters react to it. It's more about the characters—about the human condition—than about how the magic works.

But as for your dragon, asher, it seems to me is that first the dragons must have evolved to not self-incinerate due to such internal combustion, long before the ability to generate fire evolved. For if it had not been so, the first dragon to be born with the ability to breathe fire would have died an early and grisly death. So the first thing to do if you want your dragons to obey natural laws, is to figure out how that would have been an advantageous mutation to pass on even before they became fire-breathing dragons.
 

Mouse

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I think there was a... it was either a TV series or a book... which was about whether or not dragons could've actually existed. Think it was a TV series actually. Someone else might remember the name of it for you.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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The two stomachs containing different substances, flammable when mixed, seems like a good idea for a dragon. But they'd still need cast iron throats and mouths or they'd kill themselves like the beetles sometimes do. I'd wonder how a species could exist which dies of its own defense mechanism, but of course it's not so different from honeybees (though the beetles seem to have a better chance at survival than the bees do). Stinging and dying doesn't seem like much of a survival mechanism for a species, but maybe it works for bees as a way for defending the nest, rather than the individual. Could be the same with dragons, if they lived in communities that were potentially in danger from even larger predators.

Although it one wants dragons that are more durable, there still needs to be a way they don't kill themselves when releasing fire.
 

scarpelius

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@Teresa Edgerton Combustion does not need to take place inside the dragon mouth/nostrils. They can spit the substances separately and they will ignite outside. Or they can spit a substance which will ignite in contact with the oxygen in the air.
As for the fire resistant body parts, only the tip of the head should be like this and is very easy to protect it. Just dragon scales (which are know for their hardness :p ) and highly vascularized tissue under those scales it will prevent any burns. Iron/steel or any metals will be a bad idea to use/develop because metals are good heat conductors and some, like iron, can melt.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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When I said cast iron I meant it metaphorically. It's an expression used in the western US. (Perhaps not elsewhere?) For instance, people who can eat great quantities of spicy foods and not suffer indigestion are said to have cast iron stomachs. People who are not easily upset by traumatic events are said to have cast iron nerves. And so forth. It just means something that is strong enough to resist things that would ordinarily cause discomfort or harm.
 

tinkerdan

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x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
Using your own of sessile theory.

Imagine that there is a sessile creature that works symbiotically with dragons. They are small and they inhabit the dragons intestinal tract. This creature produces huge volumes of methane. Methane is a lifting gas with which this extra methane could account for why such a hefty creature as a dragon has the ability to fly. The volume of gas necessary for that might be rather large and, since it ignitable all the dragon would need is something to spark a flame when it belches the gas(I'll let someone else figure that out). However release of gas would affect its buoyancy, so belching might be more useful in regulating the gas to optimal performance and the ignition of the gas might be more secondary.
Over-use of gas could cause the dragon to be land bound for a period.
Also consider that methane is ignitable in specific percentage with oxygen and is related to pressure.
Ingesting something that could kill the symbiont would cause the dragon to be land bound.
 

scarpelius

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Using your own of sessile theory.

Imagine that there is a sessile creature that works symbiotically with dragons. They are small and they inhabit the dragons intestinal tract. This creature produces huge volumes of methane. Methane is a lifting gas with which this extra methane could account for why such a hefty creature as a dragon has the ability to fly. The volume of gas necessary for that might be rather large and, since it ignitable all the dragon would need is something to spark a flame when it belches the gas(I'll let someone else figure that out). However release of gas would affect its buoyancy, so belching might be more useful in regulating the gas to optimal performance and the ignition of the gas might be more secondary.
Over-use of gas could cause the dragon to be land bound for a period.
Also consider that methane is ignitable in specific percentage with oxygen and is related to pressure.
Ingesting something that could kill the symbiont would cause the dragon to be land bound.
Your theory has a weak point. The gases in the intestinal tract are usually release through rectum. I've yet to see a dragon shooting fire from his ass :))
 

tinkerdan

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That's not the only way to release gas. And I'm not sure anyone has gotten close enough to dragons to find out if they have an....

And who said this was theory.

The amount of gas necessary to allow a dragon to fly can't be contained in its intestines and is excreted to a second set of lungs that then are exhausted through the mouth.
 
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Plucky Novice

Eat sleep write repeat
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Interesting thread. I'm trying to replace the dragon in my story but replacing hundreds of years of folklore backed up by thousands of cool stories is not easy.

Btw
Stinging and dying doesn't seem like much of a survival mechanism for a species, but maybe it works for bees as a way for defending the nest, rather than the individual
I think the bees only die when they sting something with rough skin like us as the stinger gets stuck and tears off. I'm pretty sure they're fine when they sting usual nest predators.

Also just a thought but nature is full of impractical evolutions that are used solely to get mates. A dragon's characteristics may have nothing to do with hunting or defence and everything to do with what dragons find attractive.
 

Ihe

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What a thing, firebreathing considered biological vanity. Reminds me of a comedian who said that a lot of our technological advancement started as a bunch of nerds in their mum's basement just trying to attract mates. Oh, the things we do for love...:LOL::LOL:
 
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