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"[The dragon] is driven to hunt out
hoards underground, to guard heathen gold
through age-long vigils, though to little avail."
Beowulf (v. 2275-77)
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In some settings, dragons tend to guard hoards of treasure — typically by lying on top of it.

This trope is especially ingrained in Germanic Mythology — in fact it is hard to find a dragon in ancient Anglo-Saxon, German or Norse legends that doesn't guard gold. Curiously, there is no consensus as to why dragons do this. Justifications in-story for why a dragon sits on a hoard, including backstories of how hoard and dragon came together, vary considerably.

In some ways, hoard-guarding dragons are no different from other treasure guardians: They make sure it isn't too easy for the hero to get at a desired MacGuffin, and a heap of treasure in itself provides a convincing motivation for a hero to engage in an exciting monster-fight.

Dragons have a peculiarity, though, in that they are especially attached to gold: dragon-hoards almost always contain at least a substantial share of gold. Whatever the reasons, on average dragons show noticeably less interest in other treasures, like silver or even jewels.

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People have also long noticed — see that Beowulf quote — that dragons have no apparent use for treasure: they cannot spend, wear or process it. More often than not, they don't do anything beyond brood over or sleep on their treasure. Dragons, it was concluded, must be pathologically avaricious and stingy — kind of like a species of compulsive hoarders with a Money Fetish. In fact, up to the 17th century, dragons were considered the emblematic representation of Greed.

One possible explanation of the origin of this trope comes from the old hypothesis about dragon legends being inspired by dinosaur fossils. Miners who were digging for gold would sometimes find dinosaur bones buried nearby, hence the association between the two. This is also believed to be the reason griffons are also sometimes associated with treasure, as they're supposedly inspired by ceratopsians, being quadrupeds with beaks. The serpentile nature of many dragons also connects them with snakes. Given the fact that many snakes live in caves, and precious minerals are most often found underground, the snake/dragon = gold connection may result from simple gilt by association.

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A theory supported by linguistic scholars is that this trope predates Greek and Vedic mythology and has roots going all the way back to Proto-Indo-European mythology where monsters — especially dragons and serpents — would steal and hoard valuable treasure, such as cattle and women, especially high-ranking ones. The money-hoarding dragon would then have been a natural evolution of this concept as money and other valuables became an increasingly important sign of wealth.

Beyond that, individual settings may come up with any number of justifications for this behavior. These can range from piques of an individual dragon's whim, to the hoard serving as a very long life's worth of trophies and mementos, to the dragon actually having practical use for the stuff, to it serving as an elaborate mating or power display by symbolizing the dragon's personal success and might.

The association of dragons with greed, combined with their preference for gold, makes that dragon hoards coincide with a certain regularity with outbreaks of Gold Fever.

Treasure-hoarding dragons, once common, became increasingly forgotten in the age of Chivalric Romance: For a Knight in Shining Armor, fighting for so mundane a reward as treasure was no longer deemed noble enough. Hence gold-hoarding dragons were largely superseded by the princess-stealing ones, until the trope was revived by Fantasy literature, especially through the influence of The Hobbit.

In more realistic settings where dragons don't exist, large reptiles may sometimes be encountered guarding treasures. Parody versions will involve dragons hoarding something other than treasure.

May involve a Treasure Room. This trope is to Pooled Funds as a waterbed is to a swimming pool (depending on the size and age of the dragon, it may be the other way around). See also Thieving Magpie, for another creature obsessed with hoarding shiny and/or precious things, and Lazy Dragon, for dragons that don't seem to do anything beyond sleep on their hoards.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Record of Lodoss War, being based on Dungeons & Dragons, has several dragons with hoards with the most prominent example being the gigantic, ancient dragon named Shooting Star.
  • Little Witch Academia (2017) has Fafnir, a dragon who has chosen to adopt to modern times by becoming an online stock broker and a Loan Shark.
  • In Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Fafnir is the only major dragon character portrayed as having hoarding tendencies. After moving to Japan, this is mostly channeled into otaku merchandise and grinding items in MMORPGs, though one chapter of Kanna's Daily Life reveals he has a cache of classic arcade machines in an abandoned building.

    Card Games 
  • Havok and Hijinks: You play as a young dragon, freshly kicked out of the lair for eyeing Ma and Pa's own treasure, who's roaming the land in order to amass their own pile of shiny stuff and valuables and competing with other dragons trying to do the same.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a handful of dragons based on this trope, including Covetous Dragon (which must be sacrificed if you control no artifact cards), Hoarding Dragon, Hellkite Tyrant (which allows you to a) take control of all artifacts your opponent controls when you attack, and b) win the game when you control twenty or more artifacts), and Hoard-Smelter Dragon. There's also the artifact card Dragon's Hoard.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has a card called Dragon Treasure that buffs dragons.

    Comic Books 
  • Loki: Agent of Asgard: Old! Loki engineers the creation of one as part of a complicated plan (time travel and narrative causality were involved). After getting themself and young Odin into debt, they steal a hoard of gold from a shape-shifter, who places a truth-curse on the gold with his dying breath. The man who ends up with the gold has his inner greed brought out by the curse, and ends up sleeping on it until the curse physically turns him into a dragon. This is a reference to the Norse myth of Fafnir — see below.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: The oldest and biggest dragon in the world, who spawned the rest of his race, has been sleeping for thousands of years Beneath the Earth on top of a huge pile of gold.

    Comic Strips 
  • A Knights of the Dinner Table strip in Dragon has Weird Pete run a game where the PCs go up against a Thwack-Iron Dragon only to discover it had invested its hoard.

    Fan Works 
  • The World of the Creatures has the Doctor, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Peter Jackson, and encounter one of these in Chapter 9. Fortunately for them, the dragon is asleep... for the moment...
  • Beneath Your Feet What Treasures: Spike has a secret hoard, the centerpiece of which is the gem that Rarity gave him back in season 1.
  • Child of the Storm: In the sequel, the Elder Wyrm is implied to have had one, with some gold having become inlaid on his scales, and have been snoozing on it for the last millennium. However, it's not discussed, and even if he had, the fact that he promptly transformed his cave into a newborn volcano suggests that it wouldn't have survived. Instead, almost in an inversion of the trope, the real hoard is created afterwards by Doctor Strange, who uses the Philosopher's Stone as a tool to transform the magma within the volcano, and much of the lava chamber below, into a mixture of mithril and vibranium. Cue mass drooling.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Dungeons' treasuries serve as this for Dungeon-Keeper-employed dragons.
  • Harry is a Dragon, and That's Okay: Harry's already created his own hoard early in the story after reading about dragons having them; this is noted to be odd behavior, as the setting's actual dragons do not gather hoards. However as Harry is a bookworm (and a literal bookwyrm, as named by Charlie Weasley) he instead has a hoard of books and Hogwarts letters which he likes to sleep on. After encountering his vault and canon fortune he is also compelled by instinct to lie on it and burrow within it.
  • The Butcher Bird: An allegorical version. One character, Six, refers to the other members of the Nightmare Pirates by titles that reflect their personalities and roles in the crew. He calls Kaneki Dragon, and thinks of those Kaneki cares about as this trope.

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek: Dragon sleeps on-top of a mountain of treasure. She doesn't seem that bothered by the collection of treasure in the sequels, though.
  • The Hobbit: The animated movie shows Smaug sleeping on his treasure as if it were a bed.
  • In The Flight of Dragons, dragons nest on top of gold because they find it comfortable to sleep on, and it won't catch fire.
  • Moana features a variation with Giant Enemy Crab Tamatoa. Instead of lying on his hoard, Tamatoa puts it on top of his shell to make himself (as his Villain Song puts it) "shiny". It actually serves a purpose for him; the gleam attracts fish, who fall into his lair for him to eat. The treasure includes Maui's magic fishhook (not because it's shiny, but as retribution for Maui taking one of his legs), which is why he and Moana go down to his lair to retrieve it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Jungle Book (1994): The treasure vault in the monkey's lost city is inhabited by a huge python which attacks anyone who tries to take from the treasure.
  • Reign of Fire: When the young Quinn first stumbles into where the dragon is hibernating, the walls are covered by pyrite... or possibly gold. We don't get long enough to look at it before all the burning and the death starts.
  • Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real claims that dragons are naturally attracted to shiny objects and may collect hoards of such items, more or less valuable, to allure potential mates.
  • The Hobbit: As first seen in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the dragon Smaug is sleeping inside his mountain of gold. Smaug is also able to detect that the invisible Bilbo is wearing "something golden" (the Ring), which suggests he can sense (maybe smell) gold.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone mentions that the vaults of Gringotts Wizarding Bank are guarded by trained dragons. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron and Hermione have to pass such a guard dragon when breaking into the LeStrange vault to steal the golden Cup of Helga Hufflepuff.
  • Mythica: The party fight and kill a dragon guarding a hoard, but are unable to rob the hoard. However, dragon teeth are worth 150 gold each, so not all is lost.

    Literature 
  • In the Beast Fable "The Fox and the Dragon" by Phaedrus (c. 50 AD), a fox discovers a dragon guarding a gold hoard in an underground cavern. When the fox wonders why anyone would waste his life in this way, the dragon admits there is no point to his behaviour other than that it is what Jupiter and the Fates have assigned to him. The moral then draws an explicit parallel between human avarice and miserliness and the pointless gold-hoarding of the dragon.
  • The Saga of the Jomsvikings speculates that a sea-serpent seen in Hjorunga Bay at the Norwegian coast is the ghost of the Jomsviking Bui, guarding the two chests of gold he took with him to his watery grave.
  • The Saga of Halfdan Eysteinsson tells how the viking Valr and his two sons, fleeing from enemies and carrying two chests of gold, jump down into a Cave Behind The Waterfall where they "laid themselves on the gold and became flying-dragons." In The Saga of Gold-Thorir, Gold-Thorir and his companions enter the cave and kill the very same dragons to loot the treasure. When, many years later, Gold-Thorir disappears without a trace, it is suggested that he himself has turned into a dragon to guard his riches in some secret hiding-place.
  • In The Saga of Yngvar the Traveller, Yngvar and his crew encounter treasure-hoarding dragons twice during their voyage up a great river in Asia:
    • The voyagers get sight of a hill shining like gold in the distance. In the night, a watchman goes to explore the hill and discovers it is entirely covered by sleeping serpents. He sees a gold ring between the serpents (hinting that there may be more treasure underneath the snakes) and fishes it out with his spear. This wakes up a small snake which then wakes up all the other serpents and finally the largest, a flying dragon called Jakulus. Jakulus pursues the watchman and destroys two of Yngvar's ships before returning to his lair.
    • Reaching the source of the great river, the voyagers discover a huge dragon "and much gold lying under it." When the dragon crawls to the river to drink, the voyagers loot the gold, which is "as hot as if it had just been melted in a forge". Shortly after, the voyagers meet a demon who explains the spot where the dragon guards the hoard was the tomb of a very rich king named Siggeus, who also had three daughters who were so greedy two of them killed themselves just because they were jealous of their sisters' wealth. Later, "dragons ate the king’s cadaver and the bodies of his daughters" but also "some believe they’ve turned into dragons."
  • In the chapter "The King's Ankus" from Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, a maharajah's forgotten treasure vault in a lost city is guarded by an unusually large and abnormally old cobra. It is later revealed that his venom has dried up from old age. When Mowgli discovers that men will kill for the treasure, he tells the cobra to train a replacement.
  • In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien:
    • Tolkien's Legendarium:
      • The Hobbit: Smaug destroyed the Kingdoms of Lonely Mountain and Dale to rob the kings' treasures. He heaped them up in a vault where he spends most of his time just sleeping on it. This habit also has the advantage that the coins and gems grow into his sticky, glowing hot skin, thus providing him with additional armor. Despite the hoard's fantastical size, after guarding it for decades Smaug knows it so well that he immediately detects the loss of a single cup that Bilbo stole while Smaug was asleep.
      • The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin: After Glaurung has destroyed the city of Nargothrond, he sweeps all the gold together into a heap and lies down on it to rest for a while.
      • In The Lord of the Rings, Éowyn mentions that her ancestor Fram killed "Scatha the Worm" and thus won a hoard which the dragon had robbed from dwarves. The dwarves showed up shortly afterward and tried to claim the hoard for themselves as it was originally their gold. Fram claimed that since he killed the dragon, it was his gold. This caused conflict.
      • In keeping with Tolkein's recurring theme of Evil Tainted the Place, once a dragon claimed and slept on a hoard it would typically become "cursed". At best, this could cause some serious Gold Fever. At worst, it may have played a role in the destruction of two kingdoms.
    • Farmer Giles of Ham has the dragon Chrysophylax Dives ("Gold-watcher the Rich"), whose cave contains fantastical riches of all sorts. How the got all that stuff is never explained, nor does anyone ever ask.
    • In "The Hoard", a ballad from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a dragon kills a dwarf to appropriate the latter's hoard. Later the dragon faces the same treatment through a human warrior.
    • The band Glass Hammer had two entire albums of Middle-Earth based songs. One of them, "The Ballad of Balin Longbeard", featured an elderly dwarven warrior trying to kill a dragon of proportionally equivalent age to raid the hoard. Balin was able to kill the dragon because it was too old to fight effectively, but was himself too old to get out of the way when the dragon's corpse landed on him.
  • In the works of C. S. Lewis:
    • ''The Pilgrim's Regress': "The Northern dragon is so greedy that his anxiety for his gold hardly lets him sleep".
    • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace stumbles upon a dragon's hoard while the dragon is absent. He gets greedy, falls asleep on top of it, and is transformed into a dragon himself.
  • Earthsea: Dragons are obsessed with hoarding jewelry... at least at first.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane series, dragons love gold because dragon magic resonates with it to produce a narcotic-like effect that dragons easily become addicted to. Some dragons manage to break this addiction, however.
  • Dragonology explains that dragons hoard treasure to use as armor for their soft underbelly. It also states that certain species are capable of learning to concept of value and add collector's items like rare books to their hoard out of avarice.
  • In Guards! Guards!, the dragon that takes over the palace of Ankh-Morpork demands all the gold for its hoard. Since Ankh-Morpork is a Vestigial Empire of gilded treasures and heavily diluted coinage, there's a lot of ugliness before the dragon is satisfied. Well, somewhat satisfied: "A three-legged lizard wouldn't hoard this lot!"
  • In the J.W. Wells & Co. series, dragons often appear in the vaults of banks, which is why companies like J.W. Wells find it useful and lucrative to keep a "pest control specialist" in their employ.
  • In the Myth Adventures novels, Gleep explains that dragons hoard gold because it's so soft and corrosion-proof that it's ideal for baby dragons to teethe on. Dragons with offspring collect it for their young, and grown-up dragons keep it as a sentimental reminder of childhood.
  • In Heir Apparent, the protagonist needs to sneak into a dragon's lair to steal its treasure.
  • In Age of Fire, dragons hoard because they need metal to make scales.
  • In The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, the dragon Gyld is old and tired and mostly content to live in Sybel's menagerie, but occasionally longs for his old hoard, which ends up causing some trouble.
  • John Gardner's Grendel features a dragon who hoards gold, and advises Grendel that the only point of life is to "find a pile of gold and sit on it."
  • A quest for a fabled Dragon Hoard (inspired by the Golden Fleece, and likewise a case of the dragon being hired to guard a royal treasure) provides the main plot in The Dragon Hoard by Tanith Lee. The trope is also parodied in a story-within-the-story that includes a dragon who can't hoard gold because he's allergic to it.
  • In The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming, one of the suggested methods for dealing with a dragon is pretending you're the IRS come to audit its hoard. "Even dragons don't mess with the IRS. It's suicide."
  • In Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw (an Anthony Trollope pastiche With Dragons!), dragons have a natural instinct to sleep on piles of hoarded gold. Unfortunately, one cannot do this and invest one's gold in the stock market at the same time.
  • Parodied in Grunts! by Mary Gentle: A troop of Orcs is ordered to steal powerful artifacts from a dragon hoard. It turns out the dragon was not interested in treasure, but a collector of weapons and militaria.
  • In the Harry Potter series:
    • Justified: As mentioned by Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the goblins who run Gringotts bank use trained dragons to guard the high-security vaults. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron and Hermione have to get past a guard dragon when breaking into the LeStrange vault to steal one of Voldemort's horcruxes, the golden Cup of Helga Hufflepuff. The dragons are non-sapient and presumably do not care about gold themselves.
    • The second task in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire involved the champions having to get a golden egg from a dragon. Again, the dragons didn't actually care about the gold — each golden egg was in a clutch of real ones.
  • In (some of) the works of Diana Wynne Jones (suspected in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, confirmed in Dark Lord of Derkholm), dragons hoard gold because they have to: they sleep in nests of treasure to absorb nutrients from it.
  • In Seraphina Dragons hoarded treasure until the treaty and Ardmagar Comonot reforms. Interestingly, the new generation of dragons still hoard in a way, collecting books and sitting on them.
  • In Sekhmet, Dragons are mentioned to have hoards though this range from the traditional gold and gems to more unconventional things like spoons.
  • In Everworld, the only thing dragons seem to care about is money; Merlin has a few who work for him, and at least one argues about fees during their mission. The series' best example is Nidhoggr, who is huge even by dragon standards and has a hoard to match. Yet, when the protagonists meet him, he's besides himself with misery and fury that some of it (namely, four magical items previously belonging to the Celtic gods) were stolen by leprechauns.
    It was insane, of course. This dragon, this brachiosaurus of a creature, was sitting in and on enough wealth to buy France. And yet, the monstrous thing was crying, weeping swimming pools of tears.
The heroes are allowed to leave his cave in exchange for getting the treasure back. To ensure their loyalty, Niddhoggr replaces their hearts with rubies... except Senna, who would need a diamond, and he wasn't about to pay that much.
  • In Rachel Griffin, Sigfried Smith, a preteen dragon-slayer, inherited its hoard... and sleeps on it.
  • The Dragon's Ring series portrays dragons as having a psychological addiction to gold, as their hoards are not only a preeminent status symbol but magically revitalize their powers when in physical contact. The novels show that this can be taken advantage of when fighting them, such as offering them a cursed gold coin which they will be unable to resist.
  • Aleksandra, a dragon, is collecting for her hoard in A Fantasy Attraction.
  • In "The Tasks of Tantalon", one of the Fighting Fantasy books, one of the tasks is to steal the gold of the Brimstone Dragon.
  • In Dragon Slippers, dragons have hoards of things like shoes, glass windows, and live animals.
  • The dragon in Blue Moon Rising collected a vast hoard of butterflies, carefully preserved and pinned in display-cases. When asked why not gold, he merely says that butterflies are just as pretty.
  • Dragon Queen: The Dragon Queen has a hoard, according to the old man.
  • In the first book of Young Wizards, Nita and Kit visit with a very old fireworm, also called a dragon. It was protecting its own collection of jewels, gold, and trash, but was extremely anxious as it was losing its memory and couldn't be sure if it lost anything. It was therefore extremely suspicious at seeing anyone, fearing they would steal from it.
  • In the speculative zoology book The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson, dragons are essentially a mess of volatile chemistry, with the fire-breathing being a side-effect of producing hydrogen so they can fly. Their nests are made of gold because gold is unlikely to react to any of the gasses they produce.
  • In the InCryptid series, gold is somehow necessary for maintaining draconic health. The cryptozoologists aren't sure why, and generations of hunters killing the dragons to steal the gold and remove the threat of bus-sized creatures that breathe fire from their neighborhoods until they were nearly extinct didn't help.
  • The Sleeping Beauty: One of the Engagement Challenge tests is for the princes to find some way of sneaking a mildly-cursed item into a dragon's hoard without harming the dragon. The dragon agreed to this because 1) all the items are gold, 2) he's immune to all the curses, and 3) a reputation for having a cursed hoard should cut down on treasure hunters bothering him.
  • In the Temeraire series, dragons have an intrinsic love of all that is shiny and are easily bribed by it. When the protagonists are traveling through central Asia with a pack of feral dragons, the ferals exchange stories about a group of dragons fighting and arguing over a hoard of treasure. The Chinese dragons love gold, but they'd rather have it tucked in a safe bank account. The Russian heavyweight dragons steal anything they can find and hoard it, and threaten to kill anyone that so much as approaches their hoard. Mildly spoofed in the last book, when dragons turn out to have a natural head for numbers as long as the numbers describe amounts of wealth and not abstract quantities.
  • A dragon's former hoard is the goal of the quest in Below. Unusually for this trope the dragon is long dead, having been dispatched decades ago by a wizard who claimed the treasure for himself. Now that the wizard himself has passed on, his fortune sits in the underground ruins where he found it, making it prohibitively dangerous to reach.
  • In Restaurant to Another World, the Red Queen is a dragon whose hoard happens to include a magical portal leading to a restaurant in Japan. Therefore, she considers the restaurant one of her treasures and she is very protective of the restaurant and its staff.
  • The Gotrek & Felix novel Dragonslayer has several Slayers on a quest to slay an ancient dragon who'd dented their airship. Its hoard is a close secondary motivation for the Dwarves, after revenge. The hoard is lost when a rocket accidentally ignites a Powder Trail and triggers a cave-in, but that is only a temporary setback for a race of miners.
  • In I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Laika mentions it's a racial trait among the dragons to hoard gold, which is why it only take her a few hours for her to collect the money to pay Azusa back for destroying the latter's house.
  • In Dragon and Damsel, Azrael keeps piles of gold, silver, and gems in his castle, mostly hidden in his Treasure Room or underneath his bed. He also seems to be attracted to anything shiny, and has a small collection of items that are pretty or shiny, but not worth much.
  • The Heartstrikers:
    • Dragons are rich practically by definition; they're greedy and immortal, it's inevitable. Bethesda the Heartstriker, Julius's mother, is infamous for her giant bed of gold coins. For almost a thousand years Bethesda kept all her treasure in one place because she's vain and likes looking at it, but shortly before the start of the series her more pragmatic children convinced her to spread out some of her less valuable treasures for safety. Of course, "less valuable" in this case includes priceless unique magical artifacts such as the cursed sword Tyrfing.
    • DFZ: The Great Dragon Yong hoards just as much as any dragon, but he's known for his art collections rather than simple currency. He hoards rare paintings, ancient sculptures, and anything else that is valuable because of the skill and work put into it. His love of art is one of the few things he shares with his human daughter Opal. When Opal's mother comes to visit, she is amused that Opal has her own miniature hoard of interesting and beautiful artifacts, just like Yong. Opal, who is not fond of her father, insists it's a collection, not a hoard.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: Played with in "Dragonfire", which has Mel and the Doctor go hunting for a rumored treasure that supposedly is guarded by a dragon below the surface of the ice planet Svartos. The reality turns out somewhat different.
  • Supernatural. The Winchesters find themselves up against dragons in "Like a Virgin", albeit of a human-shapeshifting variety. As well as kidnapping virgins for their Evil Plan, the dragons also steal any gold on their persons. Dean finds a small pile of gold jewelry in their lair, and gleefully helps himself.
  • Grimm: In one episode, two Dämonfeuer (dragon-like Wesen) collect vast quantities of copper for their homes: one in an abandoned mine, one in an actual house. The electrical conductivity of the copper is suggested to tie in with their fire-breathing abilities.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has Charlie make reference to the trope when asked about animals that humans eat but do not eat humans during a Family Feud type game show. He believes Dragons hoard gold for the purpose of eating it.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology's dragons frequently guard something (usually on command of a god), but there is a broad range of objects guarded. It helps that dragons are often said to never sleep, making them ideal guardians.
    • There are at least two prominent instances of dragons guarding golden MacGuffins:
      • The dragon Ladon was set by Hera to guard the Golden Apples that grow in the Garden of the Hesperides.
      • King Aeëtes of Colchis employed a large serpentine dragon to guard the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts.
    • The dragon Python was set by Gaea to guard the Oracle of Delphi, which it did until slain by Apollo.
    • Kampê was a monster often identified as a drakaina — a female dragon — that had been placed by Kronos as a guardian of Tartarus.
  • In Rome, there was a folk belief that dragons guard buried treasure as a natural instinct, and dragons therefore are referenced as epitomes of avarice:
    • Invoked in Cicero's 13th Philippic Speech (delivered March 43 B.C.), when Cicero says about a henchman of Marc Antony who had appropriated part of Pompey's property that he "clutches the patrimony [of Pompey] like a dragon clutches treasure". The word Cicero uses ("circumplexus") implies that he imagines the dragon literally coiling around his treasure.
    • In "The Fox and the Dragon", a Beast Fable by Phaedrus (c. 50 AD), a fox accidentally burrows into a cave where a dragon is guarding a treasure. The fable ends with An Aesop about greed.
    • When describing a painting that showed a dragon, the Greek writer Philostratus (3rd century AD) claims that dragons are "devoted to gold", and because of this instinct may guard "treasure that lies hidden under the earth".
  • Chinese Mythology: The fucanglong or "hidden treasure dragon" lives underground, guarding both man-made treasure as well as natural deposits of precious stone or metal. They are also held responsible for volcanism.
  • In native Anglo-Saxon belief, dragons are always hoard-guardians. Interestingly, they often nest in barrows, i.e. burial-mounds, rather than in natural caves, with the treasure by implication being that buried with the tomb's interred occupant:
    • The dragon in Beowulf is attracted by gold and makes his home on a treasure hidden in a barrow — because that's how dragons roll. When a runaway slave steals a single goblet from the sleeping dragon's hoard, the dragon upon waking notices the theft and is so furious he breaks forth to devastate Geatland in revenge. In the earlier part of the poem, there is also a reference to another dragon hoard won by the dragonslayer Sigemund [sic] by killing a dragon in a cave.
    • The gnomic poem Maxims II contains the line "a dragon must be in a barrow, oldnote  and proud of treasure"
  • Norse Mythology:
    • The dragon Fafnir (Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, Saga of the Volsungs) was originally a humanoid (the race varies) who killed his own father for a heap of gold, then transformed into a dragon to guard it.
    • "Dragon's bed" (dreka beðr) appears as a "kenning" (poetical paraphrase) meaning "gold" in Old Norse poetry, which Snorri Sturluson in Prose Edda explains as a reference to the myth of Fafnir. Other kennings quoted by Snorri are "lair of Fafnir", "Grafvitnir's pillow" and similar expressions (like Fafnir, Grafvitnir is a mythological dragon).
    • In the Saga Of Ragnar Lothbrok, princess Thora raises a tiny little baby dragon by letting it breed on a gold coin. The dragon grows to an alarming size, in the process hatching a massive pile of gold. One of the rare instances when a Hoarding Dragon is combined with a "save the princess" plot.
    • Book 2 of Gesta Danorum relates how young King Frode, looking desperately for money to pay his troops, hears about a giant venom-breathing snake that occupies a hill-like island on which much treasure is buried. Frode goes there, kills the dragon, digs up the treasure and thus regains his solvency.
    • A rather similar tale is told in book 6 of the same book about King Fridleif, who on a sea-journey is driven to an unknown island where a treasure is hidden in an underground chamber, guarded by a sea-dragon (who is then killed by Fridleif).
  • In East and South Slavic, especially Russian Mythology, dragons (zmeys) are shapeshifting creatures that can alternate between a reptilian and a human(oid) form. Accordingly they will not lie on hoards in a cave, but have palaces in far-away lands where they frequently own great riches. When zmeys demand tribute from humans, they will either demand maidens, or gold.
  • According to an Icelandic folk legend (published by Jón Árnason in Icelandic Folktales and Fairy Tales, 1862), the Lagarfljót Worm, a lake monster that supposedly inhabits Lake Lagarfljót in East Iceland, came into being when a girl put a "heath-snake" (lýngorm) in a box with a gold ring under it, because she had been told this would make the gold multiply. It worked, but the size of the creature increased together with the treasure. The girl freaked out and threw the box with the snake and the gold into the lake. The creature is still in it, grown to an enormous size and guarding an equally huge heap of gold at the lake bottom.
  • The English chronicler Thomas of Walsingham recorded an event that supposedly took place in 1344 on the Welsh border in Herefordshire: a "Saracen doctor" captured a "serpent" with a spell and before he left mentioned that the serpent had a cave full of treasure. Some locals from Hereford set out to dig up the cave and salvage the unguarded hoard. "So they gathered together there for several nights, until the Earl's retainers got wind of the matter; then the Hereford men were arrested and committed to prison. The Earl acquired a considerable treasure from this business." It stands to reason the diggers had found a real treasure (or possibly a tomb with grave goods), and the "serpent" was attached to the story because it seemed logical.

    Pinballs 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has the adventurers going up against a fire-breathing dragon and its hoard of gold coins.
  • Full Tilt! Pinball: The "Dragon's Keep" table requires the player to steal the dragon's treasure hoard.

    Podcasts 
  • The Fallen Gods: The party find the remains of one beneath the temple in Xak Tsaroth, and later the hoard itself deeper in.

    Radio 
  • In The BBC's Tolkien parody Hordes of the Things we are told that blue dragons hoard "those woolen foot-garments that men do call socks, stealing one only of every pair". So now you know where they went.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • All dragons have hoards, typically three times as much treasure as other monsters of an equivalent power level. Beyond the sheer avaricious pleasure derived from wallowing in their coins like a pig, keeping a mental tabulation of their hoard's current worth, or maintaining an inventory down to the last copper piece, the Draconomicon sourcebook explains that a dragon's hoard allows it to control the circumstances of its eventual demise. Rather than suddenly succumbing to the weight of centuries in its twilight years, a dragon may consume its hoard and choose to depart the earthly realm peacefully, merge with the physical world and become a guardian spirit of one of its kind's nesting sites, or take up the Dragon Ascendant Prestige Class and begin their first steps on the road to becoming divinity. Dragons also derive status from the size of their hoards, and bored wyrms may take up the (ludicrously complex) game of xorvintaal and compete for each others' treasure with the help of mortal "chess pieces".
    • The Draconomicon also provides examples of atypical dragon hoards. One eccentric bronze dragon maintains a collection of interesting driftwood and seashells from near her coastal home, a golden great wyrm has amassed an enormous library of rare books ("you can't learn anything from gold"), an unfortunate white dragon's hoard is held hostage by the tribe of ice giants enslaving him, while an enterprising blue dragon's greatest treasure is the salt mine he took over.
    • Even dragons with more traditional hoards may provide unique challenges. The sand dragons introduced in the Sandstorm supplement keep their treasures buried beneath the desert — hope your party packed a shovel alongside that 11-foot pole.
    • If a dragon is slain and its hoard looted, it may linger as a ghostly dragon, haunting the mortal plane until its stolen property (or treasure of an equivalent value) is returned to its sacked lair, after which it settles upon the loot one last time and disappears along with it. Yes, dragons love gold so much that they can take it with them.
    • When they know they are dying of natural causes, one of the first things a Dragon does before heading off to the Dragon graveyard is to devour its hoard.
    • Dragon: One issue has for its cover a picture of a dragon's hoard, which contains gold, jewels, and many, many less conventional objects, like a kitchen sink.
  • Pathfinder: Dragons, much like their Dungeons & Dragons counterparts, routinely collect immense treasure hoards.
    • In general, all dragons, regardless of alignment, have a powerful instinct to collect and hoard treasure. This serves as a sort of memory aid for them — dragons keep millennia's worth of memories in order by investing them in objects closely tied with them, usually something valuable or a trophy, and recall and strengthen faded memories by contemplating associated objects. This is one of the reasons for why even good and noble dragons react with unthinking rage at the theft of even a small thing, as to them this is the theft of parts of their own lives.
    • Each true dragon type tends to have a type of treasure it especially favors — silver dragons tend to favor white, silverly or clear items such as silver, white gold, platinum, diamonds and glass items; bronze dragons hoard valuable books and natural objects sculpted by or associated with water, such as oddly-shaped driftwood, seashells and coral; copper dragons, who have pronounced Sweet Tooths and move lairs often, favor easily consumed items like chocolates, wines and cheeses; gold dragons favor gold and copper items alongside artistic works; green dragons also collect immense libraries, alongside green gemstones and ancient coins; white dragons hoard anything that might hold value, but especially covet magic items.
    • Guardian dragons are immensely powerful dragons created by gods to serve as guardians of valuable, powerful and/or dangerous items — in addition to whatever personal treasure the guardian dragon collects on its own accord, of course — in a manner reminiscent of Greco-Roman mythical dragons.
  • Shadowrun:
    • The collective wealth and possessions of the dragon Dunkelzahn basically constitutes a hoard, and his comments indicate that dragons in general tend to accumulate them, whether they want to or not (it's described as a matter of collecting representations of their long memories and pasts); all in all, he possessed more wealth and stuff than some small nations. Dunkelzahn makes the idiosyncratic (and, among his fellows, controversial) decision to compose a will dividing and bequeathing his hoard in the event of his death (a large portion of which goes into funding an entire foundation dedicated solely to the execution of the will).
    • Lofwyr's hoard consists largely of Mega-Corp stock certificates, and as CEO and sole owner of Saeder-Krupp Heavy Industries he's the richest known entity on earth.
  • In Dungeon Quest (original title: Drakborgen), a board game, the goal is to reach a dragon's hoard and steal as much as possible from it. But if you steal so much that you wake up the dragon, you die.
  • Beast: The Primordial: Each monster has an Urge which they must fulfill (or risk going insane from). Several NPCs in the corebook have an Urge to hoard items, the type of which varies between characters (weapons, art, and — yes — jewels). In fact, many monsters (usually of the Ugallu or Anakim families) are explicitly draconic in appearance.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in Brancalonia which has a dragon with gold teeth, bling and a pimp cup.

    Theatre 
  • In Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung tetralogy (as adapted, with liberties, from Norse Mythology), the giant Fafner kills his hitherto-bro Fasolt for a hoard of gold (The Rhine-Gold) and is later found transformed into a dragon lying on the gold (The Valkyrie), until he is killed by Siegfried (Siegfried).

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Rage Ceal Cyndar has to steal the Orcs gold, thus giving himself a hoard.
  • Loom has a dragon living in a volcano, sitting on a heap of gold. To escape, Bobbin Threadbare has to magically turn the gold into straw, so the dragon will accidentally set it on fire.
  • In Dungeon Assault, you play as a dragon who has to create a labyrinth of guards and traps to protect your hoard while sending out raiders to steal treasure from other players.
  • In Choice of the Dragon, you play as a dragon and one of your objectives is to acquire and protect a pile of treasure.
  • Spyro the Dragon alludes to this trope with the main pickup item being gems.
  • Neverwinter Nights series:
    • In the first game, there were three dragons. All of them had hoards, which you could try to loot (unwise, as the dragons typically noticed right away), or you could do a favor for each dragon and gain a reward.
    • In Neverwinter Nights 2, if you manage to kill the red dragon Tholapsyx you get to loot her hoard.
  • In RuneScape, many dragon lairs are littered with piles of gold. The extremely rare runite rocks are also usually found near dragons, because it is a delicacy to them.
  • Blazing Dragons: All dragons eat gems, which annoys the evil King George no end. However they're not fixated on them, living lives just like normal people.
  • The Cave: The knight has to fetch the gold from the dragon and give it to the princess in order to get her amulet to give to the king to pull the sword from the stone. Things don't go quite as planned...
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • While dragons in Skyrim are not lounging on a bed of Septims, there is usually a well-stocked treasure chest coincidentally sitting near a dragon roost. Also, Paarthurnax claims that the Dragonborn got a few draconic instincts with their dragon soul, including hoarding, hence the Kleptomaniac Hero tendencies.
    • In the series' spin-off Action-Adventure game Redguard, this is Subverted by the dragon Nafaalilargus (a.k.a. Nahfahlaar). He was assigned to guard the treasury beneath the palace of Stros M'Kai, but it was an Imperial treasure hoard, not his own.
  • In Discworld, Rincewind discovers a dragon's hoard. His joy for becoming a rich man is shortlived.
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery
    • There's an underwater hoard guarded by a female water dragon. Trying to pick up an item there will make her warn you, and ignoring her will result in her trying to kill you.
    • Dragons as a rule tend to drop so much stuff it's like they're carrying a hoard with them. Even hatchlings drop around one (near the beginning of the game) or two (near the end) thousand gold, plus, often, some pretty useless item like a pile of rocks. The older the dragon gets, the bigger pile it carries not only gold but of other random stuff, potentially valuable. There's a place right before the end of the main dungeon that's crawling with powerful dragons, and spending a while in there is the most effective way to gain almost any item in the game, since you'll be wading through piles of dropped items as you kill the dragons.
  • Dragon's Crown: The Red Dragon is found in a room filled with all sorts of treasure. Said treasure room is very cramped, making fighting the dragon difficult.
  • In Dragon's Lair, the player's mission is to battle a dragon which also owns a hoard in a treasure room.
  • In Quest for Yrolg, you play as the imp servant of the evil necromancer Yrolg who has a dragon guarding his treasure room.
  • A Dance with Rogues has two dragon hoards that you can plunder.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has a few dragons (most of them optional bosses) that have a lot of treasure to be plundered afterwards. Some of them are actually called "Dragon Hoard".
  • Pokémon: The Dragon-type Gabite is noted in some of its Pokédex entries as habitually collecting jewels and storing them in its lair, though as with almost every entry, it's an Informed Attribute that's never actually seen in action.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Dragons try to collect as much loot as possible during world generation, but in practice they only ended up with a handful of moderately valuable baubles. Everything in their lair will be worth less than random gear you get off one squad of bandits and isn't worth a tenth as much as the dragon itself, which drops up to 25 tonnes of flesh on death, all of which is worth 15 times as much as a normal animal's.
  • In For the King, the "Frost Adventure" quest involves traveling to and climbing Frostbite Peak, in search of the fabulous treasure rumored to be found at its summit. The treasure proves to be real, consisting of thousands of gold coins — and jealously guarded by an enormous dragon that rumor neglected to mention.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic III, the Dungeon Town's strongest units are Dragons. Their creature dwelling, the Dragon Cave, is a typical dragon hoard full of gold (appropriately enough, this is one of the more expensive level 7 unit buildings). Upgrading the Dragon Cave, thus upgrading Red Dragons to the stronger Black Dragons, adds more gold to the hoard.
  • In Gems of War, the dragon Emperina has lost one of these to dwarves. The player is recruited to help recover it (which isn't the side of the equation that protagonists are usually on).
  • Hoard has this as its premise. As a dragon, you have to amass the largest pile of gold you can get your claws on by kidnapping princesses, terrorizing villages, slaying knights and thieves, and occasionally stealing treasure from other dragons.
  • Princess Maker 2:
    • The Young Dragon demands a toll from the Daughter because he wants to start hoarding enough riches for when he's old.
    • The Old Dragon is first seen sitting next to his massive hoard... then he subverts it by claiming that he doesn't collect any riches any longer, since he's centuries old already and doesn't need anyrthing. He'll even give the Daughter some money and a gift if she keeps visiting him!
  • The Drakan games play with this: while dragons don't hoard treasures per se, they are often associated with powerful magic crystals and gems which could awaken them from their slumber while turning the human into a dragon rider. The protagonist Rynn finds and uses one such crystal to awaken the dragon Arokh and perform the Bond ritual which allows them to join forces and embark together on adventure.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Sword Daughter, the treasure hoard of a legendary dragon provides motivation for several of the story's possible villains.

    Webcomics 
  • Debugging Destiny has Ignacia, who does hoard gold. On a far more disturbing note, she also uses her Hypnotic Eyes to hoard Red characters. At the time the story starts, she has hypnotized all but three of the Red characters in the entire setting.
  • In Kill Six Billion Demons the Demiurge Mammon, Grand Dragon and God of the Seven-Part World owns his own bank, whose innermost, impregnable vault contains Mammon's personal hoard. This hoard is rumored to contain a nigh-infinite amount of gold. When Allison and Cio breach the vault they discover that not only is it not that impregnable, but that the most valuable thing kept inside is peace. Generations of would-be treasure hunters and dragon slayers have made their way inside out of gold fever or revenge, only to discover that the inside of the Vault is entirely cut off from the Crapsack World outside. Their descendants live in a self-contained community built atop the piles of gold and treasure, and many have never even set foot outside the vault. Mammon himself doesn't mind all the company, as he's long since gone senile and views them as a Replacement Goldfish for his own, long-dead, family. The inhabitants, in turn, worship and protect Mammon.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, Fahrin has a hoard comprising of swords, jewels, skulls, various Earth technology (including a CRT television and Nintendo Switch), books, food, and other junk, all encircling her bed. If she wasn't a dragon, you'd probably just think she had a hoarding problem.

    Web Original 
  • Iguanamouth, a Tumblr-based artist, has drawn images of esoteric dragon hoards (warning, some NSFW hoards) ranging from the charming "Hoard of Music Boxes" to the odd "Hoard of Spoons" and the extremely inappropriate "Hoard of Sex Toys."
  • In Kalon Le Barbare, a French parodic literature series, it's stated that only male dragons build hoards, to attract females. It's only revealed after the "heroes" spent a whole chapter fighting a dragon that turned out to be female, and thus had no hoard of her own, much to their disappointment.
  • Overly Sarcastic Productions: In Trope Talk: Dragons, Red discusses this trope alongside other traits of dragons in folklore and modern fiction. Treasure-guarding dragons first appear in both Germanic and Greek myth, and although fell from favor in the middle ages — seeking wealth wasn't seen as a properly noble motivation for a knight — they're extremely common in modern fiction. A dragon's motives for hoarding treasure vary based on its characterization and intelligence; animalistic dragons are basically guard dogs, more intelligent ones might have greed and acquisitiveness as a more or less prominent character trait, and explicitly evil dragons tend to have guarding and adding to their hoards as major motivations for their actions. There's also a tendency to have dragons hoard things other than treasure, but gold is still the most common thing for them to obsess over.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1779 are tiny reptiles which feed only on coins and make their nests out of them. They can grow to really big sizes, though...
  • Tlf Travel Alerts: London buses have had to adopt a cashless payment system because of dragons stealing cash payments for their hoards.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Dragons are greedy by nature and will hoard things as an instinctive behavior. They also eat gems, which implies the heaps of jewels they keep around are actually their pantries. Specific episodes with dragon hoards:
    • In "Dragonshy", the mane six are sent on a diplomatic mission to a dragon who's taken up residence near Ponyville. Rarity speaks to the dragon and appeals his ego, a strategy that appears to work — until the dragon realizes she's helping herself to his treasure hoard, and he kicks her out.
    • "Owl's Well That Ends Well" features another full-grown dragon (whose hoard, interestingly enough, consists of gems and only gems, with no metal to be seen) who gets angry at and attacks the baby dragon Spike for eating gems from his hoard.
    • In "Secret of My Excess", it's revealed that hoarding behavior can cause dragons to undergo rapid growth, as a dragon's size increases with the size of its hoard. In the case of Spike, this leads to a nasty feedback loop, as this growth also decreases their mental faculties and makes them hoard more. In this case, Spike's runaway instinct causes his to assemble a haphazard hoard out of whatever junk he happened to land eyes on.
    • In "Dragon Quest", adolescent dragons are shown playing "King of the Hoard", a game which consists of fighting one another over a pile of treasure.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk:
    • Smothering Smokebreaths make their nests by gathering as much metal as possible and then melting it together. This frequently includes precious metal, although they seem to choose based more on shininess than anything else.
    • Armorwings gather any metal they can find and fuse it to their bodies to protect themselves. They hoard a supply in case they need to replace lost pieces.
    • The Sandbuster is a straighter example. In addition to grabbing people who enter its territory, it has amassed a large collection of treasure in its cave.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Claw and Hoarder Special Ricktims Morty", Rick hates Morty's dragon Balthremar until he notices some interesting items in his hoard, including Hi-C Ecto Cooler, which convinces Rick the dragon is cool.

Alternative Title(s): Dragon Gold, Dragons Guard Treasure, Dragons Are Rich, Treasure Guarding Dragon, Hoarding Dragon

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