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Shoulder-Sized Dragon

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Dragons were now in danger of becoming too familiar, even cozy. One sign the dragon was in trouble as a true monster, even threatened with terminal decline, was the appearance of the cute “shoulder dragon” – a creature with all the traditional attributes of dragonkind except size and convincing ferocity.
GURPS Dragons

In folklore, both Eastern and Western dragons are invariably gigantic. In modern fantasy, however, it's common to see miniature draconic creatures as well. These are usually around the size of crows or hawks, but otherwise resemble standard Western dragons. They can almost always fly, but they may or may not be able to breathe fire and/or use other magical abilities, and like their larger cousins, they may or may not be sapient and able to speak. They're mostly harmless and usually rather cute — Reptiles Are Abhorrent almost never applies. Settings that have these critters usually have full-sized dragons as well; occasionally, the Shoulder-Sized Dragons may even just be ordinary dragon hatchlings that have not yet attained their full size. More commonly, though, they're a separate but presumably related species, not unlike the relationship between house cats and big cats. Indeed, they'll often act like cats themselves, even doing things like purring when happy or arching their backs when upset.


Why? Well, when it comes to Badass Adorable Non-Human Sidekicks, it doesn't get much better than a pint-sized version of Smaug. In any work where these creatures exist, one of them will be kept by a major character as a pet, Familiar or Bond Creature. The trope name comes from the fact that they are almost invariably found perching on their human companion's shoulder in the Parrot Pet Position. When sharing a universe with Dragon Riders, these guys can even be depicted as Instant Messenger Pigeons.

As far as we can tell, the Ur-Example of this trope is found in Ursula K. Le Guin's 1968 novel A Wizard of Earthsea, in which tiny "dragon-lizards" that can be tamed as pets appear briefly. The Trope Maker, though, is probably Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey, published three years later, in which the Shoulder-Sized Dragons play a much bigger role.


Subtrope of Our Dragons Are Different, Instant Awesome: Just Add Dragons!, and Cool Pet. See also A Boy and His X and Loyal Animal Companion, as well as Fun Size and Cat-like Dragons.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Axew, a small Dragon-type Pokémon, serves as Iris' primary Mon in the Best Wishes anime, and can often be seen in her hair or hanging from her shoulder.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers introduces to the franchise Friedrich, a baby silver dragon under the care of Caro. While he's in this form most of the time, he could also be unsealed to become a more adult dragon for combat and transport purposes.
  • Saiyuki: in dragon form, Jeep is this size, and is usually to be found perching on Hakkai's shoulder.
  • The manga Dragon Drive has the main character partnered with a pint-sized dragon that looks to be a loser at first, but is revealed to be more useful than he seems.
  • Pina, from Sword Art Online, serves as this to Silica.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • Mushu in Mulan is a rare example of a shoulder-sized Eastern dragon. Justified in that Chinese dragons are said to be able to change size at will. Disney had originally intended for Mushu to be gigantic, but felt he would be terrifying to children, so they scaled him down to make him look friendlier and not as scary. Lampshaded by Mushu himself:
    Mulan: You're, um...
    Mushu: Intimidating? Awe-inspiring?
    Mulan: Tiny.
    Mushu: That's right. I'm travel-size for your convenience. If I was my real size, your cow here would die of fright. [indicating Mulan's horse]
  • The Terrible Terror dragons from How to Train Your Dragon are, despite their name, both tiny and easily domesticated.
  • The short film Sintel features the main character's pet dragon, Scales.
  • In the Brave Story movie, the baby dragon is a small, fluffy creature that's perfectly Head Pet-sized. He fits the "immature version of larger species" subtrope. However, in the book, instead of being the Team Pet, he's a much larger one-off creature who serves an Androcles' Lion purpose.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Dragonriders of Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey have fire-lizards, which are native to the planet Pern and evolved the ability to exhale pyrophoric gas as a natural defense. While they have normal animal-level intelligence, they're weakly telepathic, and their instinct to imprint on whoever feeds them upon hatching makes them natural Bond Creatures. Human colonists re-engineered the fire lizard genome for greater size, intellect, and psychic ability to produce full-sized dragons.
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series, they're called harekki, and Yarrow keeps one as a pet. (In this case, they're smaller than usual, growing no bigger than a human hand; Yarrow's usually coils itself around her wrist.)
  • The Dragaera books have small venomous flying scavengers called jhereg. They're cold-blooded, don't breathe fire, and resemble miniature wyverns rather than standard dragons. While they cannot speak, they are fully sentient, due to genetic tampering in the distant past. The main character in the books keeps a jhereg as a Familiar.
    • Subverted with the giant jhereg seen at Deathgate Falls, a rare variety which are bigger than a person and scare the living crap out of normal-sized jhereg.
    • The series also features full-sized creatures called Dragons that actually look less like dragons than jhereg, as the Dragons are wingless and have tentacle-like feelers.
  • The swamp dragons of the Discworld grow to about two feet in length, are commonly bred by the wealthy as pets, and can be trained to perch on shoulders — Lady Sybil Ramkin breeds shoulder-sitters as a popular fashion accessory. Since swamp dragons tend to react to stress or severe indigestion by spontaneously exploding, however, it's not really a good idea. Even if they don't explode, you still have claw marks on your ball gown and dragon shit down your back. Swamp dragons in general are essentially what happens when a fantastic creature like a dragon needs to conform to the laws of physics.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Dany has three, of the hatchling variety. They grow out of shoulder-dragon size-range pretty quickly.
  • In Tamora Pierce's The Circle Opens quartet, an untrained lightning mage who works as a glassblower accidentally creates a living glass dragon, about an arm's length in size. Tris, one of the main characters, decides to keep it as a pet and names it Chime.
    • A recurring character in her Tortall Universe is Skysong/Kitten, a baby dragon. In centuries she'll grow quite large indeed, but for now she's just an infant, and often perches on her (human) foster parents' shoulders.
  • Kale's minor dragons from the Dragon Keeper Chronicles.
  • The Cardinals Blades by Pierre Pevel features dragonnets, which are exotic pets favoured by the rich and powerful.
  • There's a Shoulder-Sized Dragon named Mulberry in the novel Red Wizard by Nancy Springer. In this case, they don't seem to be a naturally occurring species; Mulberry was accidentally called into existence by an inexperienced wizard.
  • In the Flinx and Pip novels set in Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth setting, the main character has one of these. It's a sci-fi setting so Pip is an alien and can't breathe fire, but she fulfills all other features, being essentially a spitting cobra with hummingbird wings and a psychic link to her master.
  • The Year of Rogue Dragons has Jivex, the fairy dragon. Unlike most examples of this trope, in his own way Jivex is actually pretty badass.
  • Subverted in Karina Fabian's "Dragon Ey, P.I." books by Vern who's not quite shoulder height (being about ten foot tall) because he has been placed under a geas by St. George that he won't return to his proper size and majesty unless he works for the good of other beings.
  • In the de Camp & Pratt short story "The Better Mousetrap", a baby dragon small enough to fit in a coffee can is lent to a man who needs to rid his apartment of mice.
  • In one of the Nightside novels, two Chinese sorcerers briefly appear at Strangefellows, overseeing a fight between their tiny dragon companions. Played with in that it's implied the "sorcerers" are illusions projected by the dragons, who know people would try to capture and tame them if they wandered the city unaccompanied.
  • In Rachel Griffin, Sigfried's familiar Lucky is an Eastern-style dragon, small enough to ride draped around his master's shoulders like a stole. They are repeatedly accosted with requests to pet the dragon.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Tri-Wizard competitors each pull a miniature model of a dragon out of a bag, determining which full-sized dragon they'll each face in the first task. The models, like this world's portraits, are small animated copies of the original. Later, Harry has placed the miniature dragon on his bedside table, where it curls up, snorting smoke from its nostrils. Earlier, Hagrid had hatched a dragon from an egg, and planned to keep it as a pet, seemingly overlooking the fact that a) babies get much larger with age, and b) he lives in a wooden house. Spot the flaw.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Primeval, Abby's pet Coelurosauravus, Rex, is basically the prehistoric reptile version of a shoulder dragon.
  • Aithusa in season 4 of Merlin. She's a baby then and quite a bit larger after the time jump between seasons 4 and 5.
  • Game of Thrones, Season 2. One problem of this trope is averted when Dany is seen wearing an armoured spaulder so one of her baby dragons can comfortably sit on her shoulder. As of Season 3, Drogon is closer to the size of a medium-to-large dog. Later on, he becomes large enough to be ridden.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons (and the related Pathfinder), most varieties of full-sized dragon start out small enough to perch on people. Few actually would. There are, however, two members of the dragon genus (pseudodragons and faerie dragons) who can be talked into becoming companions or even familiars. The partnership can get interesting, however, since pseudodragons tend to be Spoiled Brats and faerie dragons are tricksters by nature, though both are good-aligned by default and thus typically never take things too far.
  • In Blue Rose, there's a species of small dragons called "drakes", usually around twelve inches long and sometimes colloquially described as "pocket dragons". They're one of several intelligent, telepathic species of Bond Creatures. (Interestingly, if full-sized dragons exist in the setting, they're never mentioned.)
  • Warhammer has a number of Dark Elf hero models bearing dragonlike creatures on their shoulders. The High Elf Dragon Lord kit also comes with a tiny dragon of this size for base decoration.
  • Munchkin has this as an accessory.
  • GURPS Dragons has game stats for shoulder dragons.

    Theme Parks 
  • Figment, the purple dragon from Journey into Imagination at Epcot. During the original incarnation of the ride, there was even a Dreamfinder face character who made the rounds around the park with a life-sized (as it were) Figment puppet.

  • Folkmanis, a puppet-making company, has two dragon puppets that perch on your shoulders. One is red and the other purple.
  • Similar dragon puppets or plush toys designed to sit on a person's shoulder are often sold as an accessory at Renaissance festivals.
  • Dragon Blaster Skeletor.
  • My Little Pony: In G1 several princesses came with small, young dragons. The dragons have been depicted as either pets or as servants depending on the medium, but they are sentient and can talk. Majesty's dragon Spike is the only one that appears in future generations.

    Video Games 
  • Dragoons in Final Fantasy XI get to summon pet wyverns, which are roughly the size of eagles.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has a trio of cosmetic dragon pets, all of which will perch on your shoulder should you remain still for a time (Unless you're a Lalafell, in which case they'll sit on your head instead).
  • Vyrn in Granblue Fantasy, his body is just as small as an adult's shoulders, not including those tiny wings too.
  • Most unevolved Dragon-type Pokémon are this. While the fully evolved forms are often very large indeed, the base forms such as Gible or Bagon are often only a couple of feet tall.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Players can acquire dragon whelps (that is, hatchlings) as non-combat pets. In addition, NPC dragons in the game come in almost a dozen different shapes and sizes, including whelps almost identical to the pets.
    • Faerie dragons, though technically fey, still qualify somewhat. They're not true dragons, but resemble them to some degree. They also resemble moths and geckos, though their size can range from being as small as your hand to as large as a working-class dog. The larger ones first appeared as units for the Night Elf faction in Warcraft III's Expansion Pack.
    • In one quest, the bronze dragon Chronormu is known to shapeshift into a whelp while in flight.
  • Finn's dragon Steiner from Beyond the Beyond, at first.
  • In the Mai-HiME fan game Mai-HiME: Fuuka Taisen, Kagutsuchi fights side-by-side with Mai as a tiny dragon, only growing to its normal (gigantic) size when she uses certain special attacks.
  • Baby dragons in Lunar are the size of housecats. They also look like cats, but with wings.
  • Warlocks in Might and Magic have familiars. Rarely, this familiar is a dragon, not hatched until the attuning, which is the case for your Druid characters in VII.
  • The Awakening series features a little pocket dragon who takes a liking to Princess Sophia after she feeds the dragon her favorite food and becomes Sophia's loyal pet.
  • The Sims 3 introduces this with the Dragon Valley world, adding an extra dragon color with The Duke of Bows Renaissance Faire. Sims can find or buy dragon eggs which will hatch when interacted with enough and after naming it they can have it sit on their shoulder where it gives a very significant motive bonus and various possible actions depending on the colour; dragons can be red, green or purple normally and armoured black dragons are available if the faire is purchased. They are stated to be hatchlings but don't grow up.
  • In the third Harry Potter PC Game, Hermione is able to use a spell called Draconifors to transform a statue into a small dragon that the player can control.
  • Valkyrie Profile: Every mage einherjar has a familiar during battles, which they can use to attack the enemy while their spells are on cooldown. Most of them have a white dove, but Lezard and Gandar (the only two male sorcerers) have a small dragon floating over their shoulders. They also happen to be unambiguously immoral evil bastards.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Seiryu/Azurda, Rex's Dragon Adopted Grandfather, takes this form after having to use the vast majority of his power to stop himself from dying early in the game. He spends the rest of the story riding as a passenger in Rex's diving helmet. He doesn't change personality wise. He can briefly change back to his full size for short periods, and will one day (in about 300 years by his own estimation) go back to his original size full time.
  • Dragon Project: The mascot for both the Royal Capital Altair and the game itself is Linton, an adorable baby orange dragon who yells the word "Hue!", depending on the context of the story. Linton is also small enough to sit on top of Pamela's head. It's implied that he is Altair himself, as he serves as a mentor for the Hunter.

  • In Drowtales, Ashu'athama, the Sharen headmaster at Orthorbbae, is shown with one.
  • In Wayrift, Zemi is a perfect example of this.
  • Microdragon Fiona, sidekick of Bruno the Bandit. She hates being called "baby dragon".
  • Girl Genius: Whether or not it's actually considered a "dragon" in story a member of the shining coalition can be seen with a creature that very much looks like a dragon perched on their forearm.
  • In Goblins, after (potentially years of) adventuring in the Maze of Many, Kin has acquired a shoulder dragon named Parchment, who's apparently some kind of paper golem.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Cave has a few among its plethora of reptilian wild-life. There are the Night and Day Glories, which are only the size of kittens when full-grown, the Sweetlings, which can ride on a human's shoulders, and several breeds of Pygmy dragons, which are housecat-sized.
  • You can get these for your human/humanoid avatar on the forum site Subeta. Particularly during the autumn celebration of "Fireside," which happens in early-mid November.
  • Whateley Universe: Dragonrider, who has a dragon who can perch on her shoulder, as seen in this picture.

    Western Animation 
  • Every animated incarnation of My Little Pony has featured a baby dragon named Spike, though each has been a distinct character. Generally, he tends to be rather short even compared to the ponies.
  • Dojo Kanojo Cho from Xiaolin Showdown, who can transform from a tiny dragon to a giant one.
  • Pocket Dragons Adventures. Essentially, the adventures of several, sentient palm-sized little lizards. They aren't quite shoulder-sized, but they do literally fit into your pocket!
  • Doc McStuffins has Stuffy, who despite being a toy, qualifies due to his canon size.

    Real Life 
  • Draco, or flying dragons, are the genus of lizards which can glide for several meters through the use of flaps of skin supported by their elongated ribs. The largest of them are the size of 40 cm. Reportedly, they don't make good pets, though.
  • Bearded dragon lizards also fit, being small, draconic-looking lizards that are happy to sit upon their owners' shoulders or heads.
  • The bat-winged dinosaur Yi resembled a pigeon-sized, feathered wyvern.
  • Some small pterosaurs could have fit in this role somewhat, being small winged reptiles that likely would have enjoyed sitting on the elevated positions of people's shoulders.


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