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Protector of the Wild
Realm: The North
Featured In:
Pete’s Dragon (2016)
Voiced By: John Kassir

Of the many dragons I have seen in more recent media, this modern incarnation of the Disney Dragon Elliott is one of the most distinctive firstly because he is a dragon true and true. That is to say that he is not a dragon whose body structure is based on wyverns, a… subspecies I suppose is the best word to describe them, of dragon whom are still quadruped with their wings serving as their forelimbs.

In most cases, this was a common choice as to make a dragon more scientifically probable as the concept of a creature with three pairs of limbs is too impossible to imagine save for Smaug whom was designed as such to make it easier for him to gesture with his “hands” closer to his face.

While it was a design choice to make Elliott appear more approachable to a child by making him… cuddlier for lack of a better word, I do commend the people at Disney Studios in making him still every bit the wild creature that one would expect a dragon to be. Case in point, in the below picture one can note that Elliott has a scar on his face and one his teeth is badly chipped too. Even Elliott’s wings show tiny bits of wear and tear, with one wing in particular looking like something and tried to take a bite out of him at one point.

Elliott also demonstrates a degree of natural instinct in that he is shown to be gazing northward on cloudless nights. We learn later in the film, and through a rather nice song no less, that dragons such as Elliott hail from the north where “the three rivers meet,” where “the wild constellations shine one, two, and three,” and where “the mountains meet the sea.”

… Admittedly, I have no idea as to where such a place could be but Elliott apparently does, however deeply buried it might be for his constant stargazing at the North Star.

Much like his traditionally animated incarnation, Elliott is able to turn himself “invisible” insomuch that he can camouflage with a frightening degree. Like, literally, it takes him all of two or three seconds to completely blend in to such a degree that the only way to really note his presence is when the environment around him reacts to his presence, i.e. tree limbs moving with no wind or birds sitting on nothing but air.

Yet, what makes Elliott a truly remarkable specimen of dragonkind is that he is not only covered from head to tail in fur but is also, quite likely a mammal instead of a reptile. I say this because what few parts of him that aren’t covered in fur, those being his lips, pads of his feet, and nostrils are made of flesh. Reptiles, from lizards to snakes, don’t have lips and even the more sensitive parts of their anatomy, i.e. their nostrils, are still covered in scales.

In point of fact, Elliott demonstrates a lot of common traits found in most species of dogs and bears, particularly in how, and Pete, sometimes howl to express their joy. Heck, there’s even a moment in the film where Elliott’s tail attracts his attention and he proceeds to chase it, much to my own bemusement. As to his bear like qualities, though not in the film proper, the prequel book Pete’s Dragon: The Lost Years speaks of how Elliott becomes more lethargic during winter to a point where he can sleep for several days at a time though he doesn’t appear to sink into a full blown hibernation.

However, despite his canine and ursine traits, there is a distinctive degree of sapience in Elliott that puts him only marginally below the human average and even then only for his inability to speak and write. Some examples of this in the film include when Elliott grabs a log to take back to his cave and though he gets stuck between two trees, Elliott quickly figures out that he needs to tilt the log between the trees.

An untrained animal, especially a wild one such as Elliott, could not possess that degree of problem solving so readily. In most circumstances, an animal would try to walk between the trees with the log more than once before resorting to more violent methods such as forcing the log through, knocking the trees down, or giving up entirely.

Another example of Elliott’s intelligence is when the lumberyard workers arrive at his home and one of them makes the mistake of touching Pete’s book, ticking Elliott off enough for him to reveal himself to them and scare them off. Rather than being satisfied that they were leaving his territory, Elliott pursues them. I initially thought that this was because he wanted to ensure that the threat to his home was taken care of but it soon became evident that Elliott had another reason to follow them.

He used the lumberjacks to track down and locate Pete.

How would he know to do that you might ask? Well, one lumberjack in particular had been the one responsible in accidentally knocking out Pete and likely got the boy’s scent on him, which Elliott notices promptly before sneezing on said man. That is a degree of ingenuity that, while not unheard of, is indescribably rare in most animals and is most commonly noted in some spectacular specimens of canines.

Yet, the most telling detail of Elliott’s intelligence occurs during the climatic moment in the film wherein Elliott, well and truly fed up with the people chasing him and his boy, leaps atop a bridge and sets it aflame. The only reason that he stops is because Pete yells at him to and that he needs the two people that Elliott’s fire is putting in danger. Elliott not only stops instantly, calming down with a speed that most humans are severely lacking, but recognizes the danger below and attempts to rescue the people he had put in harm’s way.

While there are some doubts of animals of any species being capable of holding a grudge, it has been shown that those animals of a higher cognitive ability, such as elephants, are capable of remembering and recognizing those whom have hurt them. In those cases, it often results in the animal going berserk and attacking that person and any one foolish enough to get in the way.

Even after he saves the two adults and the lumberyard workers are right there across the destroyed bridge, Elliott has no further animosity towards them and just wants to go home with Pete, which he does so much to his initial elation until Pete points out that while Elliott can camouflage, he can’t and so is a constant risk to Elliott. Rather than outright abandoning the boy or ignoring this fact, Elliott drags over Pete’s book, his claw pointing at the illustration of a family hugging each other.

That right there is the most telling moment. Elliott sees, recognizes, and understands what that illustration represents. He may not be as intelligent as his traditionally animated counterpart but he is only lacking by a minute amount.