The Dragons are viewed as mythical creatures, typically depicted as gigantic, flying and powerful serpents or other reptiles with magical, spiritual or supernatural qualities. Most dragons are either European dragons, derived from various, European folk traditions, or unrelated, Oriental dragons, derived from the Chinese dragon (lóng).
Like most other mythological creatures, dragons are perceived in different ways by different cultures around the world. Dragons are sometimes said to be able to breathe and spit fire or poison as well as many other elements. They are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing, typically, feathered or scaly bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as having large, yellow or red eyes, a feature that is the origin of the word for "dragon" in many cultures. They are sometimes portrayed with a row of dorsal spines, keeled scales, or leathery, bat-like wings. Winged dragons are usually portrayed only in European dragons while Oriental versions of the dragon resemble large snakes. Dragons can have a variable number of legs: none, two, four, or more when it comes to early European literature. Modern depictions of dragons tend to be larger than their original representations, which were often smaller than humans. Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label. Dragons are often held to have major, spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many East Asian cultures, dragons were, and in some cultures, still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom—often said to be wiser than humans—and longevity. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power or powers, and are often associated with wells, rain, and rivers. In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech.
The word "dragon" derives from Greek δράκων (drakōn), "a serpent of huge size, a python, a dragon" and that from the verb δέρκομαι (derkomai) "to see clearly". The related term dragoon, for infantry that move around by horse yet still fight as foot soldiers, is derived from their early firearm, the "dragon", a wide-bore musket that spat flame when it fired, and was thus named for the mythical creature. The uncommon name Daegon, usually used in ancient writing also means dragon.
European and Oriental Dragons
European dragons from Catalonia (Catalan Dragons), are depicted as serpent-like creatures, with two or four legs. Female Catalan dragons are named víbria. Their breath is poisonous, said to be capable to rot anything or anyone it touches. In French legend, dragons are referred to as dragoons. In Italian legend, more exactly in Sardinian myth, a dragon named Scultone is mentioned.
This dragon had the power to kill humans with his gaze, is said it was immortal, resided in rural, undeveloped land or country areas. Wyverns are dragon-headed creatures with two legs mentioned and used as logos in english culture and medieval times.
Chinese dragons are more snake-like than the European breed, and are generally portrayed as being benevolent beings. Though there are exceptions in both cases. Such dragons are also depicted in varying shapes, colors, and sizes, with some similar to the fairies of other cultures. Japanese dragons are very similar to Chinese dragons, but have 3 claws instead of four. Usually are depicted as being benevolent and golden in color. These types of dragon are usually perceived as signs of good luck in Chinese culture.
Norse MythologyIn Norse mythology, Lindworms were serpent-like dragons with either two or no legs.The World Serpent, Jörmungandr is depicted as a giant snake with attributes of a dragon. The poem Völuspá states the being Níðhöggr is a dragon. Another being described as a dragon is Fáfnir from the Poetic Edda, which was a lindworm. Dragon heads adorned Viking longboats in order to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies on raids.
Ares has two dragon sons who guard his sacred forests.
Hindu MythIn Hindu mythology, draconic serpents, known as Nagas are prominent and are usually equated with cobras. They are usually neutral beings but are more often portrayed as benevolent rather than malevolent.
Other Mythologies and Cultures
Indonesian-Malay MythIn Indonesian and Malay culture, the dragons are referred to as Naga or Nogo, and are often depicted as giant serpent-like creatures. The Indian and Indonesian dragons (Naga), are considered divine and benevolent in nature.
Vietnamese dragons (Vietnamese: rồng or long) are symbolic and very important creatures in the folklore and mythology of Vietnam. The Vietnamese people are descended from a dragon and a fairy according to their ancient myth of creation. Vietnamese believe the dragons brings rain, which is essential for agriculture. It represents the emperor, the prosperity and power of the nation. Like the Chinese dragon, the Vietnamese dragon is the symbol of yang.
Citizens use Chinese dragon disguises in various of their celebrations, mainly when celebrating new year's eve or the dragon year. There is even a fighting style named and based after the Chinese Dragon. The Dragon style (Southern Dragon Style) is an imitative-style that was developed based on the imagined characteristics of the Chinese Dragon. The history of Dragon style has been transmitted orally rather than by text or graphically, therefore it is hard to tell where it truly originated. Temples in Taiwan have dragon heads in their roofs, placed there to act as guardians (much like the gargoyles in medieval European architecture).
The Japanese and Chinese depictions of a dragon are very similar. The Japanese version of the dragon is used in the Golden Dragon Parade and Festival.
Various countries in Europe use dragons as logos and symbols in their flags such as Wales' flag which sports a red four-legged dragon. Also, just as in China, the dragons are used as theme in the fabrication of boats for annual boat contests in various European countries, the first ever European dragon boat competition was organized in Great Britain.
Dragons are widely mentioned throughout history and popular culture, such instances includes the naming of a large, crocodile-like creature known as the Komodo Dragon. The Komodo Dragon is suspect of possibly being the last species of reptilians dinosaurs.
Dragons are said to breathe different things, like fire, poison or ice. They tend to be pretty big and therefore strong, and generally have sharp claws, horns and/or teeth. They usually have wings however they are always fast and agile fliers. They can have varieties of different powers. Such can include the power of speech.
In Popular Culture
Dragons have been present in literature for thousands of years and even up to today's era. English literature has brought significant change in the world's culture with novels such as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit which featured, Smaug, a large dragon as one of its antagonists.
- A gigantic and powerful European dragon named Smaug appears as the main antagonist of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.
- Indonesian dragons appear in Monsterology: The Complete Book of Fabulous Beasts.