The Dragon by Ray Bradbury

In The Dragon by Ray Bradbury we have the theme of desolation, fear and identity. Taken from his The Golden Apples of the Sun and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Bradbury may be exploring the theme of desolation. The setting is desolate with very little light. The only light is coming from the fire that the two men are sitting by and one of the men asks the other not to stoke the fire so that they will not be seen by the dragon. It may also be important that the night is as dark, as Bradbury could be using the night as a metaphor for fear. The second man in particular is very much afraid.

This is noticeable by his desire to abandon their quest to kill the dragon. He does not wish to be in the position he finds himself in and the fact that the light is by the fire is dimmed by the first man suggests, symbolically, that the second man remains not only in the dark but more importantly remains afraid. In fact the second man is frozen. Something that is noticeable by his inability to put on his armour when instructed to do so by the first man. Though he does eventually manage to do so.

There may be further symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that the dragon kills everything in sight shows not only that the dragon is cruel but it is also merciless. Hence the second man’s fear. He knows that things can very quickly take on a level of danger that he is uncomfortable with. The desolate landscape also is a precursor to the danger that both men face. No birds have flown or lived in the area for a long time. The birds being fully aware of the dangers that the dragon brings. Likewise the horses are shaking because they too are aware of the danger of the situation they find themselves in.

The end of the story is interesting as Bradbury appears to be exploring the theme of identity. Rather than killing the dragon the two men have killed a knight. However they are not keen to find out exactly what they have done. Which is an interesting twist as it is possible that Bradbury is suggesting that the fear that grows within both men has not lessened. They remain afraid of the dragon (and their actions) till the end of the story. Never really knowing if they have slayed the dragon. Which may be the point that Bradbury is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that in life, particularly when one is afraid, a person’s actions might not always deliver the required results. If a knight has been killed then both men are responsible for murder. A charge that two men who are already afraid might not wish to face.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Dragon by Ray Bradbury." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 11 Feb. 2022. Web.


  • I read more on this and there is a twist or theme on time – medieval vs. stream engine or train – which represents historical the progress wrought by the industrial revolution. But what more on this?

  • Theme needs to be a complete sentence.

    Desolation, fear, and identity are not themes, they are concepts.

    Theme needs to be a complete sentence.

  • This is a fantasy story with (as Jill says) a twist on time.
    The knights really are medieval knights, the train (and its engineers) are also real.

    The time twist conundrum: is the locale where the knights and train engineers encounter each other a pocket of time from 800 years ago situated in the 20th C, or is it a pocket of 20th C time that for a brief instant is situated in the 13th C.

    It isn’t about “Desolation Fear or Identity.”
    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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