Cage Match 2012: Round 2: Napoleon (on a dragon) versus Iorek Byrnison


The Contestants


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Click to view original image source

Napoleon Bonaparte (on a dragon)
Emperor of the French (on a dragon)
Age: Late 30s, early 40s (don’t know how old the dragon is)
Race: Human (and, you know, his dragon)
Weapons / Artifacts: Saber; pistol; dragon
It’s Napoleon…on a dragon

Iorek Byrnison
King of Svalbard
Age: Unknown
Race: Panserbjorne (armored polar bear)
Weapons / Artifacts: Teeth and claws
He’s armored polar bear—use your imagination

The Breakdown


  • He’s on a dragon
  • Brilliant military strategist

  • Larger, faster, and vastly more intelligent than an ordinary polar bear
  • Completely clad in impenetrable “sky-iron armor”
  • Has almost supernatural blacksmithing skills

  • Often has to fight one-handed, since the other is usually inside his jacket

  • A little too fond of alcohol (has yet to discover the joy and camaraderie of Coke)


How we think the fight will go

The strangest thing in Unbound Worlds Stadium that day was not the colossal polar bear, armored like a tank in sheets of gleaming gold; nor was it the dragon, so dazzling a sight it shimmered with a faint haze of unreality. It was not even the dragon’s rider, who was, quite improbably, the Emperor of France himself.

No, it was the peculiar, excitable little old man, accompanied by a camera crew, who had wandered into the middle of the fight, and was offering a cheerful running commentary on the proceedings in a wholly delightful British accent.

“This is David Attenborough for BBC Wildlife,” he said, “And we are about to witness one of the rarest and most extraordinary sights on the planet: a battle between two of nature’s most magnificent creatures: a polar bear…and a dragon.”

Napoleon halted his dragon’s charge in mid-air long enough to utter a rather self-important, “Ah hem.”

At this, Attenborough said wonderingly, “This particular dragon seems to have formed a symbiotic relationship…with a slow loris. Or perhaps a three-toed sloth?”

But the little old man’s musings were cut off by Napoleon as he screamed, in his reedy, unnerving voice, “Vive la France! Vive Josephine! Vive Jerry Lewis!”

“Ah, the chilling war cry of the pygmy marmoset!” Attenborough cried with childlike excitement.

Napoleon spurred his dragon on, and the creature dove towards the waiting polar bear. So massive was the dragon it cast the entire stadium in shadow as it flew overhead.

“It appears that the polar bear, Earth’s largest carnivore, has finally met his match. In the wild, even the most fearsome predator can become prey.” The bear himself—who spoke excellent English and was quite capable of understanding what was being said about him, unlike the documentarian’s usual subjects—did not seem to partake of the commentator’s doubts; he stood absolutely firm as the dragon barreled toward him at awesome speed.

The bear, too, moved with surprising quickness and as soon as the dragon approached, the bear leapt and caught the dragon’s neck in its massive jaws. The dragon crashed to the ground with a thud that made the entire stadium shudder.

“But can the bear’s claws and teeth penetrate the dragon’s scales? He seems increasingly desperate…It’s now or never! He must avoid the dragon’s snapping jaws, his terrible claws…”

The dragon’s head snapped to the side and its entire serpentine length writhed. This worked Attenborough into a fever pitch. “And as the dastardly hyena must succumb to the mighty lion, the hapless mountain goat to the elusive snow leopard, the adorably obese pika to the bizarre Tibetan fox, so must the dragon fall to the polar bear…But what’s this?

For Napoleon had not been crushed by the dragon’s fall—indeed, he was on his feet, with his sabre drawn, and an impossibly French sneer curling his lips.

“The battle is not over yet!” Attenborough said breathlessly. “The swordsmanship skills of the colobus monkey are legendary.”

Napoleon danced forward with the sabre and rapped it several times against the bear’s helmet, screeching “En garde!” The bear roared in reply and the sheer force of it knocked the little man backwards. The bear stalked menacingly towards the fallen man. Attenborough continued to warm to his subject. “The bushbaby is not the natural prey of the polar bear. But as the ice sheets melt and his territory disappears, the increasingly desperate polar bear must take his meals where he can find them.”

Just then, a tall, funereal man with a gloomy aspect, and a camera crew of his own, emerged from the shadows. It was Werner Herzog. He had also been filming the proceedings, and when he offered his own commentary, it was in a sinister German accent. Every so often, the sound of the bear’s jaws crushing Napleon’s bones could be heard. “Napoleon has learned the same lesson as did Timothy Treadwell,” Herzog said. “The common character of Nature is not Harmony…” Crunch. “It is Chaos.” Crunch. “Hostility.” Crunch. “And Murder.” Crunch.

Predicted Winner: Iorek Byrnison


Check out the previous match!

Check out the next match!

Check out the Bracket

Napoleon (on a dragon) is a character from the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik; orek Brynison is a character from the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

Napoleon image courtesy of Del Rey Books. Iorek image courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers

Don’t forget–we’re always looking for fans’ depictions of these characters. Check out the details here

Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”


  • Meg

    The write-up brings up a good point. Iorek doesn’t have to kill the dragon; he just has to kill Napoleon. >3

    Also: David Attenborough. I’m dying. The only thing better would’ve been Steve Irwin (RIP).

  • The Mighty

    Another great write-up! Cage Match 2012 is crushing it!

  • Shadow’sBane

    Dragons in Temeraire Don’t have Hard Scales like Inheritance Dragons….their Scales(Skin) is more like Dinosaurs..

    Q: is the Dragon Naepolean is riding a Heavy Weight ,Middle Wright , Light Weight or a Courier Dragon ?

  • D.I. Waisanen

    This is absurd. A polar bear defeating a dragon? An enormous flying beast armed with the Divine Wind?

    What’s to stop Napoleon’s dragon from picking up Iorek by the joints of his armor, flying a mile into the sky, and dropping him? What’s to stop Napoleon from pulling out his pistol and shooting said bear in the eye?

  • Rose

    Yay for the Herzog cameo. This is my favorite write-up yet.
    Granted Iorek may logically be likely to defeat the dragon in single combat, but there IS a slim chance. He could always bring some of the Svalbard flamethrowers… though that wouldn’t be honorable. At least his specialty is to defeat an obviously superior opponent.

  • Grace

    David Attenborough?

    Best. Thing. Ever.

    Iorek smash.

  • Shawn

    @D.I. Waisanen: Does it specify that it’s Lien? No, it doesn’t. And you’re assuming that Iorek would ever allow such tactics. This is the KING OF THE BEARS we’re talking about. Give him a little credit.

  • Renee.S

    Dragon. DUH. The vote button seems to have disappeared for me.

  • Marguerite

    What? This is absurd! Of course Napoloen would win! The only thing to ever defeat him was the weather: the cold and snow of a Russian winter and the mud on the field of Waterloo.

    Given that he has, you know, a large, flying reptile that in the books takes him as far as South America, I think weather conditions aren’t going to matter much. Nor, given the dragon (which I assume is Lien), will the polar bear.

  • TheMightyX

    What this fails to mention is that the dragon, who is Lien, has the Divine Wind. Lien has shown herself to be quite a master of using it, considering she created a TIDAL WAVE with it. For further consideration, the Divine Wind CAN penetrate armor because of the great and terrible sound wave it generates, and it pulverizes the ears, eyes, and brain of the unfortunate victim. Lien could hover (as Celestial dragons can do) far above the bear and pulverize his mind with her Divine Wind and kill him if she so chose. Lien doesn’t strike me as a “get in close and rip them up” kind of girl.

  • D.I. Waisanen


    And how, exactly, is Iorek going to prevent a DRAGON from picking him up from behind and throwing him from a huge height? Is he going to say, “I am the King of the Bears and I order you not to use that fighting tactic against me”? Is Napoleon going to think, “Oh, my, I should not use Lien’s flight abilities, superior size, and other physiological advantages against this bear, because to do so would be terribly unfair”?

    Who says that Iorek gets to write the rule-book for this fight and decide what goes and what doesn’t? What does a dragon care if the particular bear she’s fighting is the King of the Bears? That’s like a human deciding that they won’t step on an ant because it’s the strongest of all ants in the world. So I repeat: How is Iorek going to stop a hundred-foot flying beast that picks him up from behind, out of reach of his claws and teeth, and pulls him into the air before dropping him to his death?

  • Rose

    Exactly how big is the dragon (Lien?) supposed to be? Unless she is about the size of Glaurung from the Silmarillion, I doubt she’d have much luck lifting even a regular polar bear. Sheep yes. Bear no. And Iorek is larger than normal polar bears, wearing armor, and likely to protest being picked up by ripping out the guts of the dragon from underneath.

    Lien would be foolish to try picking him up and dropping him from a height. She’d be eviscerated on the way up.

    I’m not denying though that her magical powers would work, but I haven’t read that book, so I’ve no idea what they do. She might still have difficulty dealing with Iorek’s armor.

  • Boron

    While Jorek is King of the Bears, wears a magical armor and can, has and is surly lots of other things (including an awsome chacter) he is physically still a polar bear, and a such he sure as hell can´t leap. his own weight would prevent him from leaping, let alone his heavy, polar bear sized metal armor. I wont say he can´t win this match, because there is always a way, but not like this.

  • Boron

    @ D.I.Wisanen

    He could prevent getting snatched by the dragon by speed and quicknes. would have made for a intresting fightscene, too. the dragon trying to snatch him from behind two or three times and jorek evading and dealing minor injuries to the dragons legs until the dragons settles for another tactic. But i still think the dragon would win.

  • Samantha

    @Rose – Lien wouldn’t need to lift the bear, she’d blow him away with the previously-mentioned Divine Wind, which is an incredibly powerful breath weapon with massive destructive properties. All she has to do to hurt him is hover above and blow. He couldn’t touch her.

  • D.I. Waisanen


    I don’t know about that; I have a hard time believing that Iorek could reach around with his claws to strike at the legs, let alone the belly, of a dragon that was picking him up from behind. Polar bears don’t have particularly long forelegs compared to their bodies.

    Even if Iorek could avoid that, he’d still have to deal with a physically larger and stronger opponent that could fly, the Divine Wind, and Napoleon shooting at him if he got close enough to physically attack. Napoleon and Lien could easily just pick him off from the air without taking so much as a scratch.

  • D.I. Waisanen

    I’d also like to point out that adult male polar bears rarely wear more than 1 ton and are about 10 feet/3 meters long on maximum. Iorek would be exceptionally large and wearing heavy armor, but I don’t see a dragon having any difficulty lifting that. Heavyweight dragons like Celestials weigh at least 20-25 tons, are almost as long as the 120 foot/36.5 meter Regal Coppers, and are very good at compensating for great weight and achieving lift due to the lighter-than-air gases in their bodies. A Celestial dragon on average would be at least ten times as long and more than twenty times as massive as the largest polar bear. Even if Iorek in his armor weighed 2 tons (stretching the upper limit), lifting him would be like a physically fit 200 pound man putting on a 20 pound backpack.

    Think about these size and weight differences. This is roughly the size difference between a house cat and a Bengal Tiger, or between a newborn puppy and a wolf.

  • Meggs

    Stuff Napoleon, go polar bear!

    Fan power!


  • Rose

    Ah, so this is just one freaking ginormous dragon, the kind wherein the rider, Napoleon is ruffly the size of the dragon’s pupil, rather than at a reasonable size for dragon riding. In that case, Iorek has no chance.

    (Bearing in mind, the T-rex only got up to about 7 tons, and dragons are likely to need quite a lot more energy than T-rex because of the whole fire thing, unless that’s purely magical, and it’s going to have absolutely ridiculous wings and brittle bones in order to get airborn, even if it’s loaded with helium, which would be silly since it would need someplace to put it away from the firestarting area, since it would soon run out of the gas that way. (If it used Hydrogen instead, it would run the risk of blowing up every time it exhaled.) I don’t think methane, which is usually cited as the source of dragon flame, would compensate all that much for the sheer weight of the beast. And extra ton would weigh down a dragon just as much as a T-rex.)

    But this is Fantasy!! There’s no reason to pay attention to how science works. There can be gigantic dragons, and polar bears can be mobile and devend themselves against gigantic dragons. It will come down to popularity, not logic.
    For the record, as much as I like Iorek Byrnison, I think the idea of Napoleon on a dragon is simply awesome.

  • D.I. Waisanen


    Dragons in the Temeraire series explicitly have bodily compartments of lighter-than-air gases that compensate for great weight, meaning that even if a dragon was fifty tons in mass, they would lift themselves as easily as if they weighed a mere ten tons. When they can ignore that much weight because of the gases in their bodies and achieve lift regardless, and still move that much mass with so much energy, an extra ton will be just about meaningless. Even if lifting a ton or two would somehow prove impossible, there’s still nothing stopping Lien from simply overwhelming Iorek in physical combat or unleashing the Divine Wind from the air.

    There is a very distinct line between including elements that could not exist on Earth as it is in our reality, and completely throwing logic out the window and having everything run on pure nonsense. Huge dragons that require special lighter-than-air gases and have access to some massive energy source are improbable, as are talking polar bears who can smith and wear armor, but establishing them can make for good stories if their rules and limitations are adhered to. However, even fantasy needs to keep internal consistency and some level of logic, so as to actually be a story with plot and conflict.

    I’m all for Iorek fighting Napoleon and Lien as opposed to “Napoleon gave the order to his dragon and she stomped Iorek with one claw” but it has to make sense. Maybe Iorek could win if there is an exceptionally good reason, but him fighting a 25-ton dragon on an even footing and then winning simply doesn’t make any sense at all.

  • Not Telling

    Let’s see, slightly larger than normal polar bear versus little guy with a gun on giant dragon… I vote dragon.

  • Isdera

    I think that iorek can win, and with his armour probably would, but not without injury. a dragon is still a nasty opponent at the best of times. the most ideal form of attack for the dragon is either using fire (if there is such a capabillity of this dragon) or landing on iorek and crushing him. the sky iron isn’t indestructible.

  • kbart10384

    Umm…no. Gigantic dragon whose breath is a sonic weapon vs. armored polar bear? Dragon for the win, every time. Napoleon is just along for the ride.

  • Georgia

    WTH! Iorek doesn’t need to kill the enormous dragon, just the puny little figure on the dragons back – Although I must admit Napolean was a great commander – a fight against a polar bear!? And a smarter, stronger than average bears at that! No way, he’ll lose. Why is Napolean on a dragon in the first place (I’ve never read the book and I’m not planning to)?

  • D.I. Waisanen

    Excellent! I’m very pleased with this outcome, though it was quite a bit closer than I would have thought.

  • Marisa

    And of course our beloved King Iorek will defeat the dragon ^w^
    dragons aren’t all like Inheritance or LoTR dragons, they’re animals, with animalistic thoughts, while panserbjorne are fully intelligent creatures, much like the centaur or sphinx 🙂 and of course what is one exceptionally puny human going to do against the king of the armored bears once his pet is taken down? either die or run away tiny, take your pick XD

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