The Flight of Dragons (book)

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The Flight of Dragons
Author Peter Dickinson
Illustrator Wayne Anderson
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Dragons
Publisher Pierrot Publishing Ltd, UK - 1979
Paper Tiger, UK - 1998
Overlook Press, United States - 1998
Publication date
August 2, 1979
Pages 142

The Flight of Dragons is a 1979 speculative natural history book written by Peter Dickinson and illustrated by Wayne Anderson.


Dickinson proposes that dragons once existed, citing the diverse cultures who all share stories of a mythical flying creature with fantastic properties and abilities. Dickinson proposes to approach the problem from an evolutionary standpoint. He does not argue that everything legends tell us about dragons is true. Instead, he argues that primitive man created those myths to explain more realistic features, which all evolved around a single ability designed to help the dragon survive: flight.

According to Dickinson's hypothesis, dragons evolved from dinosaurs that were hyper-modified to allow powered flight despite being very large. To this end, they actually evolved into organic "zeppelins" filled with hydrogen gas; hydrochloric acid would dissolve large amounts of rapid-growing bone, releasing massive amounts of hydrogen as well as corrosive waste materials. The dragon's ribs, no longer needed to support the thorax (which was now heavily modified, and supported by its own gas pressure and a light but sturdy 'honeycomb' of bone) had become wing-like structures, allowing powered flight.

The hypothesis also explains the fire-breathing: hydrogen is very flammable, and the dragon would release it regularly since its body constantly produced it. Its environment would become quite acidic due to the waste products of the chemical reaction, another element frequently mentioned in dragon legends; and after a dragon's death there would be very few remains, explaining the lack of fossil evidence.


Main article: The Flight of Dragons

In 1982, Rankin/Bass Productions released an acclaimed made-for-TV animated film The Flight of Dragons, aspects of which were based on Dickinson's novel. For example, the character design in the film bears a resemblance to the illustrations in the book, and its lead character takes his name from the author, Peter Dickinson. However, it derives most elements of its storyline from the novel The Dragon and the George.