Breath of the Wild is known for breaking the regular Zelda formula with its gameplay and story; but what’s different about its dragons?
The land of Hyrule is home to many monsters and creatures; the three most mysterious being the dragons Dinraal, Naydra, and Farosh. While dragons aren’t new to the series, first-time Zelda players might be surprised to discover them.
The dragons serve the Springs of Power, Wisdom, and Courage respectively. We know they have links to the Golden Goddesses, as they serve the Springs to them and bear part of their namesakes; Dinraal from Din, Naydra from Nayru, and Farosh from Farore.
The dragons themselves are described as ancient beings, and despite their size and length, the people of Hyrule seem to have trouble spotting them, suggesting only those who have been blessed in some way are able to actually encounter the dragons.
The hidden Shrines at the three Springs all require parts of each dragon to be revealed; ‘parts’ being claws, fang shards, and horn shards.
These parts must be offered up to the Goddess statue beforehand, implying that Hylia is using the dragons’ existence and the challenge that comes with harvesting their parts as a sort of pre-Trial exercise, perhaps to ensure that the Hero is the one undergoing the task to reach the hidden Shrine or to make sure the Hero is actually strong enough to do so.
Naydra is unique, in that this dragon is initially corrupted with Malice. As the dragon that represents the Spring of Wisdom, Naydra’s corruptions mirrors Zelda’s ongoing battle with Calamity Ganon in Hyrule Castle; both end with Link destroying the Malice. Apart from being connected to unlocking new Shrines and being farmed for valuable resources, these dragons don’t have as much interactivity as other dragons from previous Zelda titles. In Skyward Sword, there were the dragons Faron, Eldin, and Layaru- each protected their own province on the Surface World.
If Dinraal, Farosh, and Naydra are also protectors, why wouldn’t they be defending Hyrule from Malice? It is possible that the Malice is simply overpowering them, as it was capable of corrupting Naydra, but even in the final battle against Dark Beast Ganon, they don’t show up to offer support. I feel like having Dinraal’s fire breath would really be useful here…
Other dragons tend to be the more talkative type- take Valoo from Wind Waker, or Volga from Hyrule Warriors. While one is certainly more humanoid than the other, Valoo is still capable of speech and actively helps Link on his quest. Volga is much more aggressive but just as intelligent. There are of course the many dragon and dragon-esque bosses littered throughout the series. While I wouldn’t say the dragons in Breath of the Wild were bosses, they are definitely a challenge to harvest from if you don’t expect them to start spewing flames at you. The updrafts are basically an invitation to see if you can ride them (sadly, you can’t), and getting too close to the head when unprepared is risky at best.
That leaves us with regular draconic enemies, though calling Snap Dragon a dragon seems wrong. And now we’re back at the beginning. Why are Din, Farosh, and Naydra so different in comparison to these other dragons?
In short, these new dragons are just that. Cool, wild dragons that imbue elements of the Goddesses without feeling the need to reign destruction or lend a hand. Whether or not they have the capacity to understand what’s going on around them doesn’t really matter- Breath of the Wild takes place in a Hyrule that has become wilder, and its dragons reflect that.