Dragon: 1. Archaic: a huge serpent 2. :a mythical animal usually represented as a monstrous winged and scaly serpent or saurian with a crested head and enormous claws 3: a violent, combative, or very strict person 4. capitalized: DRACO 5. :something or someone formidable or baneful. –Merriam-Webster, 2019 07 13
Kaiju is a Japanese word meaning “strange creature”. In English, it has come to mean “monster” or “giant monster”, referring to creatures of a large size seen in movies from Asia. –Simple English Wikipedia, 2019 07 13
Tor recently had a Dragon Week, and asked on Twitter, “Which is the deadlier dragon?” The choices were Smaug (dragon from The Hobbit; voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie) or Godzilla (a spitting lizard boi from the 1954 eponymous film).
And, Twitter (predictably) lost its mind, arguing that Godzilla was not a dragon.
Words do count, people. Godzilla has atomic breath, and destroyed a lot of innocent people while on a rampage. Smaug has fire breath, invaded a dwarf kingdom, and sits on a hoard of stolen treasure.
The two creatures fulfill different literary niches, but they are both born from war. Godzilla was an ancient dinosaur awakened by underwater hydrogen bomb testing, according to Wikipedia. Yeah, he’s going to take down a city, but people can sympathize with this monster, because 1950s Japan remembered exactly what it felt like to have their nation bombed. Godzilla’s wrath is rather righteous. I think many people in 1950s Japan were also relieved to have the war finished; the enemy became their savior in a way during the war. And even though Godzilla is destroyed by the end of the first film, the characters worry that continued nuclear testing will result in more Godzilla-like creatures awakening. People feel some responsibility for awakening Godzilla in the first place.
Smaug, on the other hand, is only centuries-old, and is a sentient being, capable of being flattered and negotiating. His greed is what makes him dangerous, and his cunning only compounds the problem. He is not nuanced in his evil – he’s not the fault of the dwarves that he drives from their homeland; he’s an infliction and an invader. There’s not a lot of sympathy for Smaug, who is a thief and a murderer . . . and worse yet, knows EXACTLY what he’s doing to other sentient creatures.
Godzilla is killed by a super-weapon, whose creator also dies (to keep the weapon out of the hands of war-like men).
Smaug is killed by an archer who has information about Smaug’s “Achilles heel” – a small patch of his belly not covered in scales.
So, define “dragon”. Perhaps @AirheadedAviatR had it best as “Big boi lizard who spits” At any rate, Tor declared that Godzilla had the most votes, and I’m inclined to think that Godzilla was the deadliest. Killing a greedy invader is a very old story. But killing an enraged monster of our own making is a story for now.
That said, the kaiju story I am waiting for is The Mutant Boars of Fukushima. But I’m afraid I’m going to write the damn thing myself.