Category Archives: Dragons

The Ninja and the Dragon

We have my six-year-old son to thank for the fact that this is a whole diorama and not just a model dragon.

You see, as I was in the process of building it, he asked what I was making. Having just assembled that red and gold curve that forms the sinuous belly of the beast, and not having built the Ninjago Ninja of Fire his own dragon in a while, I replied “a fire dragon”.

However, as I built I found myself radically altering the orientation of that curved section from what I had expected, so that the dragon was to be posed standing upright. Upright is not a good orientation for a dragon that’s expected to support a rider, so I of course didn’t build it to seat one.

I finished the dragon model and showed it to my son. “I meed to change it a little,” he says, takes it out of my hands and removes a small piece of the back so that Kai can sit on it.

Not what I had in mind, son. Great thinking, but I don’t think this dragon’s supposed to have a rider.

After he went off to do something else I undid his well-meaning modification and thought about it. “Well, maybe it can’t seat a rider, but there’s no reason I can’t include Kai in the scene,” I mused, and posed the Fire Ninja on a rocklike element facing the dragon.

The composition, almost accidental as it was, struck me as a good one with great potential. “I can work with this,” I thought.

Now, normally any background scenery I build is something of an afterthought. Just enough to give the impression of some surroundings against the underside of a chessboard that I use as a photography backdrop. I’ve only really tumbled to the potential of scenery to add dimension and emphasis to a model fairly recently, and I rarely think initially in terms of a whole scene. In that sense I still build like a kid or a TFOL, I suppose. AFOL techniques, but all the focus is on the vehicle or creature. The household’s LEGO brick collection is such that it’s difficult to put together a really good SNOTwork base in a reasonable colour palette without rainbow inclusions, so my instinct is normally to go with the limited background option.

But in this case, I knew I had to do better. This had too much potential to skimp on.

Tan is both a good colour that works as landscape and a colour we have a halfway decent selection of 1xwhatever bricks in. It also goes well with a variety of other colours like dark tan, grey and brown to add just enough visual interest to be engaging without detracting from the diorama’s main focus, the encounter between the ninja and the dragon.

Add a small temple or shrine, because Eastern dragons guard temples the way Western ones guard treasure, and some foliage because my skills need work, and there it is.

What struck me most and triggered the whole diorama idea was the ambiguity of the composition. Is the dragon an adversary barring the ninja’s way to the temple, or a wise counsel instructing the ninja, or something else entirely? Is that even Kai, or is it just a generic ninja who likes to trim his mask with red? All of this is possible.

There’s a story here, and for once I’m deliberately not telling it. It would ruin the diorama to tie down its meaning.

If Only Construction Equipment Was Like This…

I’m not sure where the inspiration for this came from. Kind of a conceptual hybrid between LEGO’s City Construction subtheme and my own Classic Space elemental dragon, it’s effectively part bulldozer and part mythological creature.

With a wyvern bodyplan like the Green NRG Dragon set, this thing uses the feet from that one and builds up from there.

Yellow is quite an unusual colour for dragons, but for a constructodragon there’s really no other choice as a primary colour. The black lower parts also echo a lot of real and LEGO construction equipment, so that works too.

The thin neck seems to work surprisingly well on this model. Normally I’d be grousing about wanting it to be more muscular, but somehow the scrawny, almost cockatrice-like look seems apt, especially with the support-strut wings and the relatively small head.

The grabber-claw tail isn’t as fully articulated as I’d normally accept in a dragon tail, but for a constructodragon it really seemed like the only acceptable solution.

The caterpillar treads around the wing mounts were an afterthought, but I think a good one. It makes the whole thing much more constructiony and in keeping with the theme. They necessitated a fairly extensive rebuild of the upper body to make them work, and the body is now much higher and bulkier, but that also works as a constructodragon. And remarkably, it doesn’t make the neck look unreasonable.

Is this the start of a whole series of weird-themed dragons? Perhaps. Policedragon? Pirate dragon? Race car dragon? Underwater exploration dragon? Only time can tell…

Elemental Dragon of Classic Space

The completed Space Dragon

The completed Space Dragon

Dragon? Spaceship?

Yes.

100_5634

Combining my two favourite things to build into a single MOC, this is my “Elemental Dragon of Classic Space”. Apparently I have access to enough blue now to pull this sort of thing off.

We’ve seen “Elemental Dragons” of all manner of “elements”; I myself have built an Elemental Dragon of Steampunkery. LEGO likes elemental powers, and their list of elements is fairly extensive, with only tenuous connection to the various classical lists. I figure I’m on safe ground.

100_5635

Whether it’s a spaceship shaped like a dragon or a dragon with spaceship-like features, I think any Sir Benny would be pleased with the result. It probably doesn’t breathe fire, but it might breathe plasma. By the same token, it doesn’t have any obvious laser cannons (possibly those stubs under the wings?), but a plasmatic breath weapon is almost as good.

100_5640

100_5629

I tried out two different versions of the legs. The first, directly above, here, was a more draconic version, definitely dragon legs rather than anything else, and rather begged the question of how the creature/vessel’s propulsion worked.  It also had a couple of other tweaks, particularly the placement of the horns.

100_5637

Then I decided that combination leg/thrusters was the way to go, abandoning the claws and slightly strange back feet for a quartet of engines. The resulting legs are a bit stubbier, and part of me is unsure about completely giving up on the claws, but it works better for being a spaceship and it’s still recogniseably a dragon.

100_5638

Besides, as the Elemental Dragon of Classic Space, it should have Classic Space features.

The wings are regrettably studded, but I used all of my available grey tiles to alleviate the problem and this was the best compromise I could manage between wings of an appropriate size and shape and total unwieldiness of weight. I’d have preferred a smoother finish, but you do what you can.

100_5639

Likewise, a red or white astronaut would have looked better, but according to some suit classification schemes the green suits are mech drivers, so that does sort of fit. And I still have yet to purchase Classic Space astronauts in those colours, so I’m stuck with green for the moment.

100_5627

Rahrr!

Rahrr!

Here Be Dragons

Following on from my Elemental Dragon of Earth and White Dragon builds, I decided to have another go at a proper Eastern-style dragon. My friend Luke Skytrekker is right; there really aren’t many of them out there. But there’s another one now, because I built it.

100_5572

Red is a good colour for a Chinese-style dragon, because it has cultural associations of prosperity and good fortune. Also, unlike blue or yellow or some other colours, I have the bricks to put something like this together in a reasonable colour scheme.

100_5575

This dragon is not as big and bulky as my white dragon Aghtajal, but the slimmer, serpentine form is much more appropriate to a proper Eastern dragon. He’s also considerably smaller than my first Asian Dragon MOC, but since that one was quite a rainbow warrior (and I loathe building rainbow warriors) I’m ok with that.

100_5574

Unlike most of my dragons, this one has no place for a rider. People don’t tend to put riders and saddles on an Asiatic dragon in the way they do on a European one; somehow it’s less common. Fantasists don’t tend to use Eastern dragons as much, and it’s really that genre than pushes the whole dragon-rider thing.

Anyway, this dragon has no rider.

100_5573

If I remember right, the three toes make it a Japanese dragon rather than a Chinese dragon, though it might be four toes and five toes. I remember the Chinese dragon has an extra toe relative to the Japanese, but not the precise number. Red would have been nice for the toes, but I don’t have any finger elements in that colour. I couldn’t even do them all in black, and one foot and a toe would look silly.

100_5577

I also took the opportunity to make up a Flaming Pearl for the dragon to hold. If I recall correctly, the Pearl is a sort of cosmic thunderbolt or lightning weapon of dragons, associated with their aspect as lords of the sky and weather.

100_5571

I had to break up my Cole’s Earth Dragon MOC to build this, but that’s ok. The best MOC is always the next one! And we have enough bricks in the household to keep this, my White Dragon, Jay’s Elemental Dragon and a Lloyd mech made mostly out of Green NRG Dragon all built at the same time! Coolness!

The White Dragon

With my son having received the wonderful Ninjago Lloyd’s Green NRG Dragon set for Christmas (and the Jay’s Elemental Dragon set, but it’s the NRG dragon that’s impressively huge), I decided to try for a dragon of my own that would rival it in size.  Time off over Christmas and New Year has been good for building. Stand by for several posts over the next few days and weeks.

100_5553

Choosing white as a prospective Zane’s Ice Dragon, I was disconcerted upon completion of the MOC to discover that Zane was exercising his Ninja stealth skills and currently missing from the minifigures bucket. Oops.

100_5557

So, one of the Castle minifigures. One of my Black Falcons, for nostalgia’s sake, sitting atop a rather nice saddle in dark red.

100_5558

I think this may be one of my best dragons yet. It’s a lot more Western in form than my previous Cole’s dragon, and though the wings are a little sparser than I’d really like, they’d be unmanageable if I made them any bigger and heavier.

100_5555

The dragon’s neck doesn’t articulate quite as much as I’d really like, particularly in the side-to-side direction, but clickstop joints were the only way to give it the needed structural strength. As it is, the head balances precariously on the next-to-last ball-joint.

100_5554

A dragon this cool needs a name, though. I think I’m calling him Aghtajal, a corruption of the Kazakh Turkic words for “white monster”, as well as sounding pleasingly draconic and alien. “White monster” is a little unpleasant for such a noble-looking beast, perhaps, but no-one said dragons – or nobles – were good.  And he’s bigger than pretty-boy Lloyd’s Green NRG Dragon, so take that, Ninjago!

100_5556

Elemental Dragon of Earth

Cole's Elemental Dragon

Cole’s Elemental Dragon

Dragons aren’t seasonal.

Chinese New Year, perhaps, but not Christmas.

Nevertheless, I found myself in dragonbuilding mode, and as my kids are Ninjago fans, the build quickly developed into a Cole’s Elemental Dragon of Earth MOC.

100_5508

It’s obviously a much more Oriental style of dragon than most of the Ninjago dragons; one of my peeves about the theme is the Western nature of its dragons.  Only the awesome Sensei Wu dragon is a really Oriental-style dragon.  Plus possibly the Morro dragon.

This one has wings, which isn’t technically correct for an Oriental dragon, but my 5-year-old is baffled as to how a dragon can fly without wings.  I told him that perhaps they were like some sort of living airship.  Steampunkery for the win.

100_5509

Cole is obviously seated atop the body, which has a pleasing amount of articulation in the three-section design.  He’s holding the Scythe of Quakes, because I’m a traditionalist, even though the Golden Weapons were long since destroyed.  Probably.

100_5512

 

The head is nicely moustachioed, has twin stud shooters for its nostrils, and antlerlike horns that neatly reference the Nine Resemblances of the Dragon.  The neck is thinner than I’d really like, but it works as a neck.  I really must get some of those Bionicle arm/leg shell elements in a colour other than red sometime.  They’re so useful for this sort of bulking-up.

100_5511

Asian Dragon

It seems like even in Ninjago, most LEGO dragons look like the Western breed. The bat-like wings, the muscular body, the fire-breathing, all Western dragon features.

Eastern or Asian dragons are a bit different. More serpentine, usually not winged (but still capable of flight), moustachioed, bearded and antlered.

I decided to see what I could do to construct an Asian-style dragon.

Asian dragon

Asian dragon

This is the result.

I’ve incorporated a lot of colours – for once deliberately – trying for the sort of rainbow effect that might be expected from a creature associated with both fire and water.  (This was also a necessity because of needing the bricks, but if I’d had unlimited bricks in all colours I still would have made it multicoloured).

054

I’d have liked to have used whip pieces for the moustache filaments, but I only have one, and it wasn’t going to work unless I had two. So I used antennas. You Work With What You Have.

Closeup of the head

Closeup of the head

I think I used every single claw piece I possess, in black, white, silver and gold, and I know I used every single clickstop universal joint I have.  I could have done with four more to make it less fragile and difficult to balance. I think it was worth it, though.

Closeup of the tail tip

Closeup of the tail tip

I hope you like him. He was fun to build.

The dragon together with some Ninjago ninjas for scale

The dragon together with some Ninjago ninjas for scale