2011 may have been a year of werewolves, vampires and zombies, but the reign of the dragon is at hand. Jan. 23 marks the lunar new year, and the beginning of the year of the dragon in the Chinese calendar. The mythical beasts have been breathing fire and battling big-screen knights for decades. They've also appeared in friendlier incarnations, taking care of orphans ("Pete's Dragon") and helping save fantasy worlds from destruction ("The NeverEnding Story"). The winged warriors have waged a popular culture comeback recently, appearing in genre TV shows such as "Game of Thrones," "Merlin" and "Once Upon a Time," not to mention video games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. And one of the most famous dragons in literary history, J. R. R. Tolkien's Smaug from "The Hobbit," is coming to life in Peter Jackson's upcoming films. So in honor of 2012, here's a look at some of the most memorable dragons in pop culture.
Clockwise from left: The Hub / Discovery; HBO; Walt Disney / ABC; and DreamWorks Animation
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