Dragons Prefer Princesses
Cimorene left in disgust and went out to the castle garden. She was very discouraged. It looked as if she were going to marry the prince of Sathem-by-the-Mountains whether she wanted to or not.
"I'd rather be eaten by a dragon," she muttered.
"That can be arranged," said a voice from beside her left slipper.
This is one of the older tropes. Everyone knows how the typical Dragon myth goes. Either a dragon steals a princess or a princess is given to that dragon as an offering. Where the story goes from there is not always so clear, but the beginning is where the trope lies.
For some reason, dragons just have an attraction to princesses. Maybe royal blood tastes better. Maybe virgins taste better.
Maybe they want someone to talk to. Maybe it's just a status symbol (Everything's Better with Princesses
even applies to a Dragon Hoard
). Whatever the reason, they tend to show up in each other's company.
This trope is often a setup for the Standard Hero Reward
to whoever saves the princess.
Related to Save the Princess
, Damsel in Distress
, I Have You Now, My Pretty
, occasionally to Virgin Sacrifice
- In a story featuring the Duckverse, there was a school play that would be about a Princess who was captured by a dragon. Several accidents with the scenery forced the students to rewrite the story so that a whirlwind carried the Princess to the dragon's lair.
- In The Brothers Grimm's "The Two Brothers", one brother wins a princess by rescuing her from the dragon. (She is the last of a long line of maidens sacrificed, a common element in this story.)
- In The Three Dogs, the hero also fights a dragon and saves a princess.
- In The Three Princes and their Beasts, the oldest prince kills the dragon and saves a princess.
- In The Nine Pea-Hens and the Golden Apples, the prince rescues a princess from a dragon. When it chases after them, their horses talk, and the dragon's horse is persuaded to throw and kill it.
- In The Merchant, a merchant's son saves the princess.
- In The Little Bull-Calf, a boy runs away from his wicked stepfather with the calf, because his father gave it to him, and with its advice succeeds in killing the dragon.
- In The Flower Queen's Daughter, a prince enters the service of a three-headed female dragon with the intent of rescuing the princess that she is holding captive. Unlike most fairy tale examples of this trope, the hero does not kill any dragons. Instead, he flees with her on horseback and returns her to her mother the Flower Queen, who helps repel the dragon.
- Hilariously subverted in Rescue, where the knight has to save the dragoness from the princess she's holding captive... and this somehow winds up with them being grandparents of Discord.
- Dragonslayer (1981). A kingdom chooses which virginal young woman will be sacrificed to a dragon by drawing lots. When Princess Elspeth learns that the King has made sure her name is never included in the lottery, she rigs it so that her name is chosen, and voluntarily goes to the dragon. Unfortunately she pays the price for her honesty and is eaten by the dragon's babies.
- Shrek has the major quest involve Princess Fiona locked up in a tower that is guarded by a dragon. Donkey falls in love with said dragon and has children. Similarly, Shrek and Fiona become a couple.
- Played with in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. While dragons do traditionally kidnap princesses, Cimorene fled to the dragons in Dealing with Dragons to escape traditional life as a princess and forge her own path. Most of the princesses are in fact captives and rather silly.
- As the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms books are based on Traditional myths and fairy tales, most evil dragons find themselves forced to capture a maiden, preferably a princess, at some point. Forms a major plotpoint in the second book, One Good Knight, which is 1/3 the myth of Andromeda, 1/3 George and the Dragon, although the dragon didn't actually have much choice in the matter, being under a compulsion at the time. and 1/3 trying very hard NOT to have the endings of either of those legends happen.
- The Dragon Hoard has a Story Within a Story about a princess who is kidnapped by a dragon. She inadvertently wins her freedom when she tries to mollify it by spinning straw into gold; it turns out the dragon is allergic to gold, and it lets her go before she can do any more damage.
- Inverted in The Paper Bag Princess. A dragon carries off Prince Ronald, and Princess Elizabeth sets out to rescue him.
- In Guards! Guards! it's mentioned that noble dragons prefer to eat females of noble blood because they taste better. (On the other hand, this being a Discworld book, there has to be a little bit of parody. There's no actual princesses in Ankh-Morpork; the closest is its richest woman, Lady Sybil. And people who want to offer Lady Sybil to a dragon are not going to have an easy time of it.
- In John Moore's Slay and Rescue, dragons capturing princesses is such a common problem that Prince Charming has rescues down to a fine art, even though he's still too young (and too polite) to ask any of the princesses for the reward he'd really like.
- In Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, one figure on the clock is a princess, a dragon's prisoner — no sign of the knight yet.
- In Backyard Dragon by Betsy Sterman, the generally nice dragon Wyrdryn admits that he does occasionally eat princesses. When the protagonist introduces him to his female friend he makes a point of saying that she is not a princess.
- A subversion in Dragon In Distress: The dragon doesn't want a princess, it's Princess Florinara Tansimasa Qasilava Delagordune who wants the dragon.
- In Zog by Julia Donaldson, kidnapping princesses is an essential part of dragon education. The dragon of the title, who has failed everything so far and been bandaged up by a Rebellious Princess who wants to be a doctor, becomes her flying ambulance instead.
- In Gene Wolfe's Wizard Knight, the dragon Grengarm from Muspel is offered the life of Princess Morgaine by the Aelf from Aelfrice. As per normal Gene Wolfe, the trope's form is utilized but nothing about the circumstances is normal. The dragon has a reason for wanting the princess (access to Mythgarthr), the offerers have a real reason for offering her (favour from their god), and Sir Able has a reason for trying to rescue her (to keep the sword his love has promised him). Morgaine is a very unconventional princess, not in the least virginal or needing protection, and Able is really a boy and not interested in Morgaine.
Myths and Legends
- There's a Brodignabian Bards song that asks the question of why dragons kidnap maidens... it turns out yes, they do taste better.
- In Jonathan Coulton's "The Princess Who Saved Herself", the princess responds by tying the dragon's tail to a tree and giving him a good talking to.
- In Greek myth Andromeda was nearly fed to the sea dragon Cetus to punish her mother. Luckily Perseus happened to be passing by.
- Also in Greek myth, the king of Troy cheated Apollo and Poseidon out of their payment for creating the walls of Troy. They sent a sea dragon to plague him until he sacrificed his daughter Hesione to it, except that Heracles happened by. Alas for the king, he then tried to cheat Heracles, and Heracles sacked Troy for it.
- In the popular medieval legend of Saint George and the Dragon, there is a town the inhabitants of which appease a dragon living in a nearby lake by giving it their sons and daughters as food. Saint George, a soldier/knight, comes by just in time to rescue the king's daughter by defeating the dragon.
- This is generally the original story in the myths. The dragon wants a Virgin Sacrifice; the king feeds him most of the country's population until realising he's run out of them and the only one left is his daughter, which is when the hero gets hired to fix the problem. The myths just generally forget about all the other eaten girls because they weren't noble, so they don't count.
- Japanese Mythology: Replace dragon with mountain-tall eight-headed mead-drinking hydra and you get the story of Orochi.
- The pinball machine Medieval Madness has a ramp devoted to saving various damsels from dragons. The quality of the princesses vary.
- In The Dark Eye, the more powerful dragons occasionally do this. However, they're typically after entertainment, not food, and prefer nobility because they tend to be better conversationalists.
- There's at least one Dungeons & Dragons supplement that mentions a dragon who, using her natural shapeshifting, would disguise herself as a maiden. Either as a trap or to be "rescued" by a knight.
- Of the five varieties of evil dragons in the game, red dragons are the species most likely to kidnap maidens; like most dragons, they can eat anything, but they claim that female humans and young elves taste best.
- Possibly inspired by Fridge Logic or the legend of Melusine.
- In Potatoes and Dragons, the King keeps calling for knights to kill the dragon that lives near the palace, for fear it might kidnap his daughter; unbeknownst to him, the princess has befriended the dragon and is actively thwarting each attempt on its life.
- Gender Flip in Jane and the Dragon, in which the Dragon kidnapped Prince Cuthbert because he believed the prince could translate the runes on his cave wall.