Imagine a medieval society in which dragons are domesticated for military use. When they are young and still able to fly, they're ridden into combat. Very few make it to an old age, but those who do are unable to fly because of their size and they are discarded, put to other lesser uses.

The knights riding them have to be svelte. The attacks resemble acrobatics more than combat: the dragons have to strike fast and retreat before their wings get transpierced with arrows.

It follows that the great warriors of that time are short and thin, wear no armor but a thin boiled leather attire. Horse-mounted lesser nobility are seen as grotesque in their heavy armor.

Would that setting be enough to influence the standards of manhood into a different path from the rough-type-warrior one we know? What about other standards of aesthetics? Would the build of castles, churches, ships... also change (even though a thick castle would still be more efficient in protecting its people)?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Are you suggesting that maritime and fortification architecture are dictated by "standards of manliness"? Manliness doesn't keep your ship from foundering or your walls from collapsing, and architects knew that. $\endgroup$
    – Mike L.
    Apr 16, 2015 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeL. Well I'm asking if it could be. In our history, it so happened that the strength of a massive build was both an advantage for warriors and fortifications. But what if it isn't the case for warriors anymore? $\endgroup$
    – Sheraff
    Apr 16, 2015 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ Have fighter pilots in a hundred years influenced images of manliness or how a wall stands up to brute force? They tend to be smaller, esp back in biplane days. $\endgroup$
    – Zither13
    Apr 18, 2015 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Zither13 no but there isn't the same social status associated with being a high ranked military as there used to be $\endgroup$
    – Sheraff
    Apr 18, 2015 at 11:30

3 Answers 3


Well, I'm seeing something different here.

Dragons must be raised, taken care of, and controlled by the thinner and shorter riders that you have. You must have, so, someone that is, at the same time:

  • Not heavily muscled.
  • Shorter than the regular male, on average.
  • Lighter than the muscle-bound regular warrior-type.
  • Apt to take on nurturing roles, taking care of the dragon-babies since they hatch and nurture them to become fierce warriors.

You need no bulky male. You need some dragon-riding girls!

What I see is a world with far more equality between the sexes. While on non-dragon riding countries the major advantage of the troops is the raw muscle power of the regular army man, the dragon-riding people would experience something new - the people best suited to ride those giant beasts are actually women.

This won't change architecture much, but it will probably put the ladies on a more important scenario - depending on how long this dragon-riding thing is going on, your would could even be a matriarchy, ruled by the ones that can handle the most powerful weapons of war.

I don't see any of this changing the aesthetics of anything, however. Architecture is (mostly) gender-neutral, and if it would change to something different, it would be something more dragon-themed to reflect the iconic beasts of this people.

What is "manly" wouldn't change. What would change is how important being "manly" is to this people. Probably they wouldn't see "being manly" as something even related to gender, anymore. Since there are guys and girls on the army, the standard gender roles are throw by the window and people just stop caring what you do anymore. This is more-or-less what's happening on the world today - with the help of technology, we are each year less dependent on the natural raw power of the males and females, once trapped on less muscle-intense jobs, are now basically everywhere, even in the army. The reflect of this is that people are more and more less concerned to fit stereotypes and more concerned in being happy.

So, the way to go is equality between sexes, if not a bit of favouritism to females.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Awesome answer :-) Unfortunately I'm out of upvotes for the next 2 hours $\endgroup$
    – Sheraff
    Apr 16, 2015 at 21:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ While I agree that women would be excellent dragon fighters, I tend to think that "sex equality" would never be reached at the time. The first factor would be religion; the main reason women in power was an alien sight in most of the world in medieval times is heavily linked to religion. The second point is more of an assumption. If women has the role of power, why would the society be equal or "favor them a bit"? Why wouldn't it go full matriarchy? I don't get the logic behind that. Great post nonetheless! $\endgroup$
    – Docteur
    Apr 17, 2015 at 0:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well, it becomes a process of natural selection. If there is no benefit in males being large and muscular (as has been the case in our own history), then they aren't necessarily the ones who will be the first choice for a woman to mate with. If the smaller, slimmer males are the ones who are the "fighters" and are therefore the more dominant of the males within their society, you may find that the physical differences between the sexes becomes less and less, to a point of being almost androgynous; smaller, lithe men and women. I'm no geneticist, this also is simply my projection :) $\endgroup$
    – Jane S
    Apr 17, 2015 at 2:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I disagree with the sex equality thing. As long as the setting requires women to spend most of their lives raising children due to poor technology and knowledge of childbearing/rearing (there are some other excellent questions on this topic so I won't go into that here), I still think males would have more power. Unless, like, your humans laid eggs or something. $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    Apr 17, 2015 at 11:28
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Pyritie Not on a medieval setting. It was really common to noble ladies to not breastfeed or raise their child at all, delegating that job to wet nurses. We are not talking about commoner warriors, we are talking about knights, so, there is indeed some nobility involved. It is not the case of a stone-age civilization, as the other questions. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Apr 17, 2015 at 12:27

most images of manliness come down to evolutionary pressures, we are trained to see strength and health as mainly because we litterally evolved to be partial to that. I don't think that a few generations of dragon riders will change the entire culture when it's combating evolution.

Strength will be regarded as mainly still, though perhaps not the absurd bulking up of museles at the expense of real strength some do now. However, since the majority of men, and perspective mates, will be non dragon riders they will be the norm with which cultural views of manliness are set upon. I think that this would not remove the current culture of mainlines, at most it would add another body type, that which works for dragon riding, to potential preferred types. Some will like the big bulky men who can plow the fields, some will like the lean agile fighters.

Of course dragon riders will look down on the people on big bulky horses. Every group or faction looks down on the others, the more elite they are considered the more so. It's human nature, look at the rivalry of marines for army for an image of what you may get between dragon and horse mounted carvery.

  • $\begingroup$ I have to disagree here, just look at the fashion models and you'll see that we can quickly educate an entire population to like aesthetically an utterly non healthy physique $\endgroup$
    – Sheraff
    Apr 16, 2015 at 21:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Sheraff two things. that is modern communication is much easier, and thus shaping of cultural expectations is as well. The main problem is that dragon riders are presumably a tiny subset of a military, and the military in term a tiny subset of the average citizens, and military is generally separate from the farmers and the like. The average citizen is not inundated with dragon riders, they are more interested in who is strong enough to do physical labor that is part of their every day life. Evolution and their personal life both focus on the 'standard' body image. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Apr 16, 2015 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ But wasn't lay people's models of the ideal life, the perfect image, the fantasy of the perfect man... shaped by nobility in medieval times? my view might be distorted by the fiction i read/watch... $\endgroup$
    – Sheraff
    Apr 16, 2015 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ Weren't a lot of noblemen overweight, seeing as that was a sign of wealth back then? $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    Apr 17, 2015 at 13:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ most nobles were not fit because, why should they be? they got to live a life of leisure, they didn't have to do physically hard work. They never had the impressive physique of the common man, or anywhere close. I also think your being controled by our reinterpretation of the past. In truth in the real past nobles were a theoretical concepts to the everyman, they new they exited yes, but very little about them. With communication so limited and the focus on just making enough food to provide for yourself you didn't have time to really devote to trying to emulate what they think is cool $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Apr 17, 2015 at 13:06

War will be like modern warfare with planes and tanks. Powerful kingdoms may have an army composed of dozens of dragons. Land units will be only used for occupying cities once they have been attacked by dragons.

Dragon riders look like pilots in the world wars: svelte and without vision problems. The armor is not important as fire will kill them. They may use bows to shoot accurately in the weak parts of enemy dragons or even its rider.

However, medieval war values like honor do not fit with this kind of combat. There is no place for heroes, history will only remember the great strategists. Although some dragon rider may become famous as Manfred von Richthofen did in the first world war.

Main fortifications should be dug in mountains as they offers more protections against air attacks, so becoming bunkers, and avoiding wooden buildings.

  • $\begingroup$ Your answer is odd. It feels like some parts are missing, for example "Manfred von Richthofen did in the first world war, but they" ... ? $\endgroup$
    – Sheraff
    Apr 16, 2015 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, I changed the order of the sentence and I forgot to remove this ;) $\endgroup$
    – pys
    Apr 17, 2015 at 5:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .