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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & 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.
  • 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.
  • Pokémon: Axew, a small Dragon-type, serves as Iris' primary Mon in the Best Wishes anime, and can often be seen in her hair or hanging from her shoulder.
  • Saiyuki: in dragon form, Jeep is this size, and is usually to be found perching on Hakkai's shoulder.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Arrowsmith: In a World... governed by magic, soldiers bond with small "dragonets" by means of a rare mystical metal. This bond allows the soldiers to fly with their dragonets perched on their arms like hunting falcons.
  • 'Lone Wolf: In The Skull of Agarash'', Captain Khadro, pirate ruler of the Lakuri Isles, has a small winged reptile looking like a tiny dragon as Pirate Parrot. It is in fact a Liganim, the shapeshifting Familiar of a Nadziran, the Black Wizard currently possessing Khadro.
  • Wizards of Mickey: Donald Duck's companion, Fafnir, is an infant dragon the size of a small dog, still fat from reaching the size and intellect of his adult conspecifics.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Yuri the "lizard" is an odd little extraterrestrial creature that looks like a wingless dragon and perches on his owner's shoulder even in battle. He also knows a few little tricks, and Diana uses him in a Disappearing Box trick and substitutes him for a rabbit when she wants to Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat.
  • X-Men: Kitty Pryde has a roughly cat-sized, purple alien dragon companion named Lockheed. He also regards Kitty as his pet.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • The Palaververse: The Fire Queen, normally the largest dragon currently alive, is turned into this by Discord in order to fit in the magical cage along with all the other world leaders.

    Films — Animation 
  • Brave Story: 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.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Terrible Terror dragons are tiny, easily domesticated, and ferociously dangerous when riled.
  • Mulan: Mushu is a rare example of a shoulder-sized Eastern dragon. Disney 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]
  • Sintel features the main character's pet dragon, Scales.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • "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.
  • The Cardinals Blades by Pierre Pevel features dragonnets, which are exotic pets favoured by the rich and powerful.
  • Chaos Seeds: Richter summons a Familiar in the form of a cat-sized dragonling that he names Alma. Her favorite perch is his shoulder.
  • Circle of Magic: In 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.
  • Discworld: Swamp dragons 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.
  • Dragaera has 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.
  • ''Dragon Ey PI": Vern'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.
  • Dragonriders of Pern has fire-lizards, hawk-sized, six-limbed pseudo-reptiles that 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 genetically engineered them for greater size, intellect, and psychic ability to produce full-sized dragons.
  • Earthsea: 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.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Hagrid hatches a dragon from an egg and plans 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.
    • 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 places the miniature dragon on his bedside table, where it curls up, snorting smoke from its nostrils.
  • Humanx Commonwealth: Flinx has a companion resembling a miniature dragon. It's a sci-fi setting, so Pip is an alien (a minidrag, specifically) 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.
  • A Memoir By Lady Trent: Sparklings, diminutive six-legged relative of dragons, aren't much bigger than a songbird and used to be considered a type of insect that only so happened to resemble true dragons.
  • Nightside: In one of the novels, two Chinese sorcerers briefly appear at Strangefellows, overseeing a fight between their tiny dragon companions. 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.
  • Red Wizard, by Nancy Springer, has a Shoulder-Sized Dragon named Mulberry. In this case, they don't seem to be a naturally occurring species; Mulberry was accidentally called into existence by an inexperienced wizard.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Dany has three, of the hatchling variety. They grow out of shoulder-dragon size-range pretty quickly.
  • Tortall Universe: Skysong, aka Kitten, is 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys hatches three baby dragons in the first season finale who are small enough that one can perch this way. 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.
  • Merlin (2008): Aithusa in season 4. She's a baby then and quite a bit larger after the time jump between seasons 4 and 5.
  • In Primeval, Abby's pet Coelurosauravus, Rex, is basically the prehistoric reptile version of a shoulder dragon.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Among the varieties of "true" dragons, only the smallest breeds - Black, Brass, Copper and White - have Tiny-sized wyrmlings that could conceivably perch on a Medium-sized person's shoulder. Few willingly would. Gold and Red Dragon wyrmlings, meanwhile, hatch at Medium-size, so a Halfling or Gnome character could ride on them.
    • Dragonets are a genus of small dragon offshoots, some species of which make for good animal companions or Familiars. Pseudodragons are cat-sized, telepathic creatures known for riding on their companion's head, while Faerie Dragons have butterfly wings and a permanent mischievous grin. Both are Good-aligned, but Pseudodragons tend to be Spoiled Brats and Faerie Dragons are tricksters by nature, so they occasionally act out.
  • GURPS: GURPS Dragons and GURPS Fantasy Bestiary give game stats for and a description of shoulder dragons, referred to as "petty drakes". The books opine that their occurrence is a side-effect of dragons becoming increasingly common and familiar in media, leading to them eventually being shorn of size and aggressiveness to serve as pets and companions. The statted version can breathe a small but hot jet of fire, and can use its foreclaws as hands. Some live in the wild in small family groups, but they are often caught and tamed as companions and Familiars.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Most dragons, when newly hatched, are small enough to perch on a human's shoulder, but quickly grow much larger than that.
    • Several species of lesser dragons remain around the size of a cat for their entire lives, including pseudodragons, which largely resemble tiny versions of true dragons with stinger-tipped tails; their somewhat stronger house drake relatives; butterfly-winged fairie dragons; the insectoid pyraustas; sneaky and thieving shadow drakes; calligraphy wyrms, which resemble miniature versions of Eastern dragons; and pseudowyverns. All of these creatures can be taken as Familiars by spellcasters.
    • Pest drakes are the result of a failed attempt at breeding a new type of diminutive dragon familiars. The resulting creatures are about a foot from nose to tail-tip and never weigh more than two pounds or so. They're unsuitable as familiars, but are often kept as alternatives to messenger pigeons and as racing animals. They also form immense, squabbling flocks in cities, much the same way as feral pigeons do.
  • 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.
  • World Tree RPG: The Zi Ri resembles bird-winged dragons not much larger than a hawk.

    Theme Parks 
  • Disney 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.

    Toys 
  • 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 
  • Awakening 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.
  • Call of Duty: Zombies: The Gorod Krovi map has dragons storming Stalingrad, and with some effort you can obtain a dragon egg. This egg eventually hatches, and with the super-powered "Gauntlet of Siegfried" you can carry the baby dragon around as a powerful weapon, capable of flame breath, Ground Pounds, and overall badassery.
  • 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.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy XI: Dragoons 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).
  • Granblue Fantasy: Vyrn's body is just as small as an adult's shoulders, not including those tiny wings.
  • Harry Potter: In the third PC Game, Hermione is able to use a spell called Draconifors to transform a statue into a small dragon that the player can control.
  • Lunar: Baby dragons are the size of housecats. They also look like cats, but with wings. Certain adult dragons are able to shapeshift into the smaller form as well.
  • Mai-HiME: In the 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.
  • Might and Magic: Warlocks have familiars. Rarely, this familiar is a dragon, not hatched until the attuning, which is the case for your Druid characters in VII.
  • Pokémon: While fully evolved Dragon-types are often very large indeed, the base forms such as Gible or Bagon are often only a couple of feet tall. Flapple and Appletun, on the other hand, are fully-evolved Dragon-types and are the smallest fully-evolved ones to date, being only 1' and 1'4'' tall respectively.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and not true dragons, resemble butterfly-winged reptiles that 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.
  • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • Bruno the Bandit: Bruno's sidekick is a microdragon named Fiona. She hates being called "baby dragon".
  • Drowtales: Ashu'athama, the Sharen headmaster at Orthorbbae, has a minature dragon he wears like a scarf.
  • 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 and taking a few levels in wizard, Kin has acquired a shoulder dragon named Parchment, who's apparently some kind of paper golem, as a familiar.

    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.
  • Subeta: You can get these for your human/humanoid avatar, particularly during the autumn celebration of "Fireside" that happens in early-mid November.
  • Whateley Universe: Dragonrider, who has a manifested dragon Familiar who can perch on her shoulder, as seen in this picture. Be careful, however, as 'Pern' is a Sizeshifter, with a maximum length of over 30 feet (10 meters), and absolutely devoted to her mistress. Lindsey can also manifest less permanent dragons, but Pern tends to get jealous when she does.

    Western Animation 

    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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