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This article is about the legendary creature. For other uses, see .

Not to be confused with .

A dragon is a large, -like that appears in the of many cultures around the world. Beliefs about dragons vary drastically by region, but since the have often been depicted as winged, horned, , and capable of . are usually depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence.

The earliest attested dragons resemble giant snakes. Dragon-like creatures are first described in the mythologies of the and appear in and literature. Stories about slaying giant serpents occur throughout nearly all and Near Eastern mythologies. Famous prototypical dragons include the of , in , in the , the in the , , , , and the in , , , and in , and from .

The popular western image of a dragon as winged, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire is an invention of the based on a conflation of earlier dragons from different traditions. In western cultures, dragons are portrayed as monsters to be tamed or overcome, usually by or , as in the popular legend of . They are often said to have ravenous appetites and to live in caves, where they hoard treasure. These dragons appear frequently in western literature, including and by , the series by , and by .

The word "dragon" has also come to be applied to the Chinese lung (龍, long), which are associated with good fortune and are thought to have power over rain. Dragons and their associations with rain are the source of the Chinese customs of and . Many deities and demigods have dragons as their personal mounts or companions. Dragons were also identified with the , who, during later Chinese imperial history, was the only one permitted to have dragons on his house, clothing, or personal articles.

Contents

Etymology

The word dragon entered the in the early 13th century from dragon, which in turn comes from : draconem (nominative draco) meaning "huge serpent, dragon", from : δράκων, drakon (genitive drakontos, δράκοντος) "serpent, giant seafish". The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpent, not necessarily mythological.

Sources of inspiration for dragon myths

Dragon-like creatures appear in virtually all cultures around the globe. Nonetheless, scholars dispute where the idea of a dragon originates from and a wide variety of theories have been proposed. In his book (2000), suggests a hypothesis that humans, just like , have inherited instinctive reactions to snakes, , and . He cites a study which found that approximately 390 people in a thousand are afraid of snakes and notes that fear of snakes is especially prominent in children, even in areas where snakes are rare. The earliest attested dragons all resemble snakes or bear snakelike attributes. Jones therefore concludes that the reason why dragons appear in nearly all cultures is because of humans' innate fear of snakes and other animals that were major predators of humans' primate ancestors. Dragons are usually said to reside in "dank caves, deep pools, wild mountain reaches, sea bottoms, haunted forests", all places which would have been fraught with danger for early human ancestors.

In her book The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times (2000), argues that some stories of dragons may have been inspired by ancient discoveries of fossils belonging to and other prehistoric animals. She argues that the dragon lore of northern India may have been inspired by "observations of oversized, extraordinary bones in the fossilbeds of the below the " and that ancient Greek artistic depictions of the may have been influenced by fossils of , an extinct species of giraffe whose fossils are common in the Mediterranean region. In China, a region where fossils of large prehistoric animals are common, these remains are frequently identified as "dragon bones" and are commonly used in Chinese . Mayor, however, is careful to point out that not all stories of dragons and giants are inspired by fossils and notes that Scandinavia has many stories of dragons and sea monsters, but has long "been considered barren of large fossils." In one of her later books, she states that "Many dragon images around the world were based on folk knowledge or exaggerations of living reptiles, such as , , , , or, in California, ."

Middle East

Ancient Near East

Mesopotamia

The is a serpentine, dragon-like monster from with the body and neck of a snake, the forelegs of a lion, and the hind-legs of a bird. Here it is shown as it appears in the from the city of .

Ancient peoples across the believed in creatures similar to what modern people call "dragons". These ancient peoples were unaware of the existence of or similar creatures in the distant past. References to dragons of both benevolent and malevolent characters occur throughout ancient literature. In , great kings are often compared to the , a gigantic, serpentine monster. A dragon-like creature with the foreparts of a lion and the hind-legs, tail, and wings of a bird appears in from the (c. 2334 – 2154 BC) until the (626 BC–539 BC). The dragon is usually shown with its mouth open. It may have been known as the (ūmu) nā’iru, which means "roaring weather beast", and may have been associated with the god (Hadad). A slightly different lion-dragon with two horns and the tail of a scorpion appears in art from the (911 BC–609 BC). A relief probably commissioned by shows the gods , , and Adad standing on its back.

Another dragon-like creature with horns, the body and neck of a snake, the forelegs of a lion, and the hind-legs of a bird appears in Mesopotamian art from the Akkadian Period until the (323 BC–31 BC). This creature, known in as the , meaning "furious serpent", was used as a symbol for particular deities and also as a general protective emblem. It seems to have originally been the attendant of the Underworld god , but later became the attendant to the storm-god , as well as, later, Ninazu's son , the Babylonian , the scribal god , and the Assyrian national god Ashur.

Scholars disagree regarding the appearance of , the Babylonian goddess personifying primeval chaos slain by Marduk in the Babylonian creation epic . She was traditionally regarded by scholars as having had the form of a giant serpent, but several scholars have pointed out that this shape "cannot be imputed to Tiamat with certainty" and she seems at have at least sometimes been regarded as anthropomorphic. Nonetheless, in some texts, she seems to be described with horns, a tail, and a hide that no weapon can penetrate, all features which suggest she was conceived as some form of dragoness.

Egypt

Illustration from an ancient Egyptian papyrus manuscript showing the god spearing the serpent as he attacks the of

In , is a giant serpent who resides in the , the Egyptian Underworld. The Bremner-Rhind papyrus, written in around 310 BC, preserves an account of a much older Egyptian tradition that the setting of the sun is caused by descending to the Duat to battle Apep. In some accounts, Apep is as long as the height of eight men with a head made of . Thunderstorms and earthquakes were thought to be caused by Apep's roar and were thought to be the result of Apep attacking Ra during the daytime. In some myths, Apep is slain by the god . is another giant serpent who guards the Duat and aided Ra in his battle against Apep. Nehebkau was so massive in some stories that the entire earth was believed to rest atop his coils. Denwen is a giant serpent mentioned in the whose body was made of fire and who ignited a conflagration that nearly destroyed all the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. He was ultimately defeated by the , victory which affirmed the Pharaoh's divine right to rule.

The was a well-known Egyptian symbol of a serpent swallowing its own tail. The precursor to the ouroboros was the "Many-Faced", a serpent with five heads, who, according to the , the oldest surviving , was said to coil around the corpse of the sun god Ra protectively. The earliest surviving depiction of a "true" ouroboros comes from the gilded shrines in of . In the early centuries AD, the ouroboros was adopted as a symbol by Christians and chapter 136 of the , an early Gnostic text, describes "a great dragon whose tail is in its mouth". In medieval alchemy, the ouroboros became a typical western dragon with wings, legs, and a tail. A famous image of the dragon gnawing on its tail from the eleventh-century was copied in numerous works on alchemy.

Levant

In the , the sea-dragon is described as "the twisting serpent/ the powerful one with seven heads." In KTU 1.5 I 2–3, Lōtanu is slain by the storm-god , but, in KTU 1.3 III 41–42, he is instead slain by the virgin warrior goddess . In the , , , the sea-dragon , whose name is a of Lōtanu, is slain by , the national god of the kingdoms of and , as part of the creation of the world. In , Yahweh's destruction of Leviathan is foretold as part of Yahweh's impending overhaul of the universal order:

Original Hebrew text () English translation

א בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יִפְקֹד יְהוָה בְּחַרְבּוֹ הַקָּשָׁה וְהַגְּדוֹלָה וְהַחֲזָקָה, עַל לִוְיָתָן נָחָשׁ
בָּרִחַ, וְעַל לִוְיָתָן, נָחָשׁ עֲקַלָּתוֹן; וְהָרַג אֶת-הַתַּנִּין, אֲשֶׁר בַּיָּם. {ס}

On that day Yahweh shall punish
with his sharp, great, and strong sword,
Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent;
He will slay the dragon that is in the sea.

contains a detailed description of the Leviathan, who is described as being so powerful that only Yahweh can overcome it. states that the Leviathan exhales fire and smoke, making its identification as a mythical dragon clearly apparent. In some parts of the Old Testament, the Leviathan is historicized as a symbol for the nations that stand against Yahweh. Rahab, a synonym for "Leviathan", is used in several Biblical passages in reference to . declares: "For Egypt's help is worthless and empty, therefore I have called her 'the silenced '." Similarly, reads: "I reckon Rahab and Babylon as those that know me..." In and , the of Egypt is described as a "dragon" (tannîn). In the story of from the apocryphal , the prophet sees a dragon being worshipped by the Babylonians. Daniel makes "cakes of pitch, fat, and hair"; the dragon eats them and bursts open (Daniel 14:23–30).

Occident

Proto-Indo-European

Further information: , , , and

The story of a hero slaying a giant serpent occurs in nearly every . In most stories, the hero is some kind of . In nearly every iteration of the story, the serpent is either multi-headed or "multiple" in some other way. Furthermore, in nearly every story, the serpent is always somehow associated with water. has proposed that a Proto-Indo-European dragon-slaying myth can be reconstructed as follows: First, the sky gods give cattle to a man named Tritos ("the third"), who is so named because he is the third man on earth, but a three-headed serpent named Ngwhi steals them.Tritos pursues the serpent and is accompanied by Hanér, whose name means "man". Together, the two heroes slay the serpent and rescue the cattle.

Ancient Greece and Rome

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The ancient Greek word usually translated as "dragon" (δράκων drákōn, δράκοντοϛ drákontos) could also mean "snake", but it usually refers to a kind of giant serpent that either possesses supernatural characteristics or is otherwise controlled by some supernatural power. The first mention of a "dragon" in occurs in the , in which is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and an emblem of a three-headed dragon on his breast plate. In lines 820–880 of the , a Greek poem written in the seventh century BC by the poet , the Greek god battles the monster , who has one hundred serpent heads that breath fire and speak all kinds of frightening animal noises. Zeus scorches all of Typhon's heads with his lightning bolts and then hurls Typhon into . In the , the god uses his to slay the serpent , who has been causing death and pestilence in the area around . Apollo then sets up his shrine there.

Attic red-figure kylix painting from c. 480–470 BC showing Athena observing as the dragon disgorges the hero

Hesiod also mentions that the hero slew the , a multiple-headed serpent which dwelt in the swamps of . The name "Hydra" means "water snake" in Greek. According to the of Pseudo-Apollodorus, the slaying of the Hydra was the second of the . Accounts disagree on which weapon Heracles used to slay the Hydra, but, by the end of the sixth century BC, it was agreed that the clubbed or severed heads needed to be to prevent them from growing back. Heracles was aided in this task by his nephew . During the battle, a giant crab crawled out of the marsh and pinched Heracles's foot, but he crushed it under his heel. placed the crab in the sky as the constellation . One of the Hydra's heads was immortal, so Heracles buried it under a heavy rock after cutting it off. For his Eleventh Labor, Heracles must procure a from the tree in the , which is guarded by an enormous serpent that never sleeps, which Pseudo-Apollodorus calls "". In earlier depictions, Ladon is often shown with many heads; the mythographer describes him as having one hundred heads, a description which is repeated by Pseudo-Apollodorus. In Pseudo-Apollodorus's account, Ladon is immortal, but and both describe Heracles as killing him, although neither of them specifies how. The mythographer is the first to state that Heracles slew him using his famous club., in his epic poem the , describes Ladon as having been shot full of poisoned arrows dipped in the blood of the Hydra.

In 's Fourth Pythian Ode, of tells the hero that the he is seeking is in a guarded by a dragon, "which surpassed in breadth and length a fifty-oared ship". Jason slays the dragon and makes off with the Golden Fleece together with his co-conspirator, Aeëtes's daughter, . The earliest artistic representation of this story is an Attic red-figure dated to c. 480–470 BC, showing a bedraggled Jason being disgorged from the dragon's open mouth as the Golden Fleece hangs in a tree behind him and , the goddess of wisdom, stands watch. A fragment from Pherecydes of Leros states that Jason killed the dragon, but fragments from the Naupactica and from Herodorus state that he merely stole the Fleece and escaped. In Euripides's , Medea boasts that she killed the Colchian dragon herself. In the most famous retelling of the story from Apollonius of Rhodes's Argonautica, Medea drugs the dragon to sleep, allowing Jason to steal the Fleece. Greek vase paintings show her feeding the dragon the sleeping drug in a liquid form from a phialē, or shallow cup.

red-figure kylix-krater (c. 350–340 BC) showing Cadmus fighting the dragon of

In the of , , a prince, was instructed by Apollo to follow a heifer and found a city wherever it laid down. Cadmus and his men followed the heifer and, when it laid down, Cadmus ordered his men to find a spring so he could sacrifice the heifer to Athena. His men found a spring, but it was guarded by a dragon, which had been placed there by the god , and the dragon killed them. Cadmus killed the dragon in revenge, either by smashing its head with a rock or using his sword. Following the advice of Athena, Cadmus tore out the dragon's teeth and planted them in the earth. An army of giant warriors (known as , which means "sown men") grew from the teeth like plants. Cadmus hurled stones into their midst, causing them to kill each other until only five were left. To make restitution for having killed Ares's dragon, Cadmus was forced to serve Ares as a slave for eight years. At the end of this period, Cadmus married , the daughter of Ares and . Cadmus and Harmonia moved to , where they ruled as king and queen, before eventually being transformed into dragons themselves.

In the fifth century BC, the Greek historian reported in Book IV of his that western Libya was inhabited by monstrous serpents and, in Book III, he states that was home to many small, winged serpents, which came in a variety of colors and enjoyed the trees that produced . Herodotus remarks that the serpent's wings were like those of bats and that, unlike vipers, which are found in every land, winged serpents are only found in Arabia. The second-century BC Greek astronomer (c. 190 BC – c. 120 BC) listed the constellation ("the dragon") as one of forty-six constellations. Hipparchus described the constellation as containing fifteen stars, but the later astronomer (c. 100 – c. 170 AD) increased this number to thirty-one in his .

Ancient Greek mosaic from , , depicting a or sea-dragon

In the , Revelation 12:3, written by , describes a vision of a with seven heads, ten horns, seven crowns, and a massive tail, an image which is clearly inspired by the vision of the in the and the described in various Old Testament passages. The Great Red Dragon knocks "a third of the sun... a third of the moon, and a third of the stars" out the sky and pursues the . declares: ". Michael and his angels fought against Dragon. Dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in Heaven. Dragon the Great was thrown down, that ancient serpent who is called Devil and Satan, the one deceiving the whole inhabited World – he was thrown down to earth and his angels were thrown down with him." Then a voice booms down from Heaven heralding the defeat of "the Accuser" (ho Kantegor).

In 217 AD, discussed dragons (δράκων, drákōn) in India in The Life of (II,17 and III,6–8). The translation (by F.C. Conybeare) mentions (III,7) that "In most respects the tusks resemble the largest swine's, but they are slighter in build and twisted, and have a point as unabraded as sharks' teeth." According to a collection of books by called On Animals, was inhabited by a species of dragon that hunted elephants and could grow to a length of 180 feet (55 m) with a lifespan rivaling that of the most enduring of animals.

Germanic mythology

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In the poem in the , the dragon is described as gnawing on the roots of , the world tree. In , is a giant serpent that encircles the entire realm of in the sea around it. According to the from the , written by the thirteenth-century Icelandic mythographer , , the Norse god of thunder, once went out on a boat with the giant Hymnir to the outer sea and fished for Jörmungandr using an ox-head as bait. Thor caught the serpent and, after pulling its head out of the water, smashed it with his hammer . Snorri states that the blow was not fatal: "and men say that he struck its head off on the sea bed. But I think the truth to tell you is that the Miðgarð Serpent still lives and lies in the surrounding sea."

Towards the end of the epic poem , a slave steals a cup from the hoard of , causing the dragon to wake up and go on a rampage of destruction across the countryside. The insists on confronting the dragon alone, even though he is of advanced age, but , the youngest of the twelve warriors Beowulf has brought with him, insists on accompanying his king into the battle. Beowulf's sword shatters during the fight and he is mortally wounded, but Wiglaf comes to his rescue and helps him slay the dragon. Beowulf dies and tells Wiglaf that the dragon's treasure must be buried rather than shared with the cowardly warriors who did not come to the aid of their king.

In the Old Norse , the hero catches the dragon by digging a pit between the cave where he lives and the spring where he drinks his water and kills him by stabbing him in the underside. At the advice of , Sigurd drains Fafnir's blood and drinks it, which gives him the ability to understand the , who he hears talking about how his mentor is plotting to betray him so that he can keep all of Fafnir's treasure for himself. The motif of a hero trying to sneak past a sleeping dragon and steal some of its treasure is common throughout many sagas. The fourteenth-century Flóres saga konungs ok sona hans describes a hero who is actively concerned not to wake a sleeping dragon while sneaking past it. In the , the protagonist attempts to steal treasure from several sleeping dragons, but accidentally wakes them up.

Medieval western Europe

Main articles: , , , , , and

The modern, western image of a dragon developed in during the through the combination of the snakelike dragons of classical Graeco-Roman literature, references to Near Eastern European dragons preserved in the Bible, and western European folk traditions. The period between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries represents the height of European interest in dragons as living creatures. The twelfth-century monk recounts a famous legend in his in which the child prophet witnesses the Romano-Celtic warlord attempt to build a tower on to keep safe from the , but the tower keeps being swallowed into the ground. Merlin informs Vortigern that, underneath the foundation he has built, is a pool with two dragons sleeping in it. Vortigern orders for the pool to be drained, exposing a and a , who immediately begin fighting. Merlin delivers a prophecy that the white dragon will triumph over the red, symbolizing England's conquest of Wales, but declares that the red dragon will eventually return and defeat the white one. This story remained popular throughout the fifteenth century.

MS Harley 3244, a medieval bestiary dated to around 1260 AD, contains the oldest recognizable image of a fully modern, western dragon.

The oldest recognizable image of a fully modern, western dragon appears in a hand-painted illustration from the bestiary MS Harley 3244, which was produced in around 1260 AD. The dragon in the illustration has two sets of wings and its tail is longer than most modern depictions of dragons, but it clearly displays many of the same distinctive features. Dragons are generally depicted as living in rivers or having an underground lair or cave. They are envisioned as greedy and gluttonous, with voracious appetites. They are often identified with Satan, due to the references to Satan as a "dragon" in the Book of Revelation. The thirteenth-century , written in Latin, records the story of , a virgin martyr who, after being tortured for her faith in the and thrown back into her cell, is said to have been confronted by a monstrous dragon, but she made the and the dragon vanished. In some versions of the story, she is actually swallowed by the dragon alive and, after making the sign of the cross in the dragon's stomach, emerges unharmed.

The legend of may be referenced as early as the sixth century AD, but the earliest artistic representations of it come from the eleventh century and the first full account of it comes from an eleventh century text. The most famous version of the story from the Golden Legend holds that a dragon kept pillaging the sheep of the town of Silene in . After it ate a young shepherd, the people were forced to placate it by leaving two sheep as sacrificial offerings every morning beside the lake where the dragon lived. Eventually, the dragon ate all of the sheep and the people were forced to start offering it their own children. One day, the king's own daughter came up in the lottery and, despite the king's pleas for her life, she was dressed as a bride and chained to a rock beside the lake to be eaten. Then, Saint George arrived and saw the princess. When the dragon arrived to eat her, he stabbed it with his lance and subdued it by making the sign of the cross and tying the princess's around its neck. Saint George and the princess led the now-docile dragon into the town and George promised to kill it if the townspeople would convert to Christianity. All the townspeople converted and Saint George killed the dragon with his sword. In some versions, Saint George marries the princess, but, in others, he continues wandering.

are carved stone figures sometimes resembling dragons that originally served as waterspouts on buildings. Precursors to the medieval gargoyle can be found on and , but, over the course of the Middle Ages, many fantastic stories were invented to explain them. One medieval French legend holds that, in ancient times, a fearsome dragon known as had been causing floods and sinking ships on the river , so the people of the town of would offer the dragon a once each year to appease its hunger. Then, in around 600 AD, a priest named promised that, if the people would build a church, he would rid them of the dragon. Romanus slew the dragon and its severed head was mounted on the walls of the city as the first gargoyle.

Dragons are prominent in medieval . was famously said have had two gold dragons crowned with red standing back-to-back on his royal . Originally, heraldic dragons could have any number of legs, but, by the late Middle Ages, due to the widespread proliferation of bestiaries, heraldry began to distinguish between a "dragon" (which could only have exactly four legs) and a "" (which could only have exactly two). In myths, wyverns are associated with viciousness, envy, and pestilence, but, in heraldry, they are used as symbols for overthrowing the tyranny of Satan and his demonic forces. Late medieval heraldry also distinguished a dragon-like creature known as a "". A cockatrice is supposedly born when a serpent hatches an egg that has been laid on a dunghill by a rooster and it is so venomous that its breath and its gaze are both lethal to any living creature, except for a weasel, which is the cockatrice's mortal enemy. A is a serpent with the head of a dragon at the end of its tail that is born when a toad hatches an egg that has been laid in a by a nine-year-old cockatrice. Like the cockatrice, its glare is said to be deadly.

Eastern Europe

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In , the words "zmey", "zmiy" or "zmaj" are used to describe dragons. These words are masculine forms of the Slavic word for "snake", which are normally feminine (like Russian zmeya). In , there is a similar figure, derived from the Slavic dragon and named . Exclusively in Polish and Belarusian folklore, as well as in the other Slavic folklores, a dragon is also called (variously) смок, цмок, or smok. In South Slavic folklores, the same thing is also called lamya (ламя, ламjа, lamja). Although quite similar to other , Slavic dragons have their peculiarities.

In and , is a dragon with three heads, each one bearing twin goat-like horns. He is said to have breathed fire and smelled of . It was believed that were caused by Gorynych temporarily swallowing the sun. According to one legend, Gorynych's uncle was the evil sorcerer Nemal Chelovek, who abducted the daughter of the and imprisoned her in his castle in the . Many knights tried to free her, but all of them were killed by Gorynych's fire. Then a palace guard in named overheard two crows talking about the princess. He went to the tsar, who gave him a magic sword, and snuck into the castle. When Chelovek attacked Ivan in the form of a giant, the sword flew from Ivan's hand unbidden and killed him. Then the sword cut off all three of Gorynych's heads at once. Ivan brought the princess back to the tsar, who declared Ivan a nobleman and allowed him to marry the princess.

A popular Polish folk tale is the legend of the , which is first recorded in the of , written between 1190 and 1208. According to Kadłubek, the dragon appeared during the reign of and demanded to be fed a fixed number of cattle every week. If the villagers failed to provide enough cattle, the dragon would eat the same number of villagers as the number of cattle they had failed to provide. Krakus ordered his sons to slay the dragon. Since they could not slay it by hand, they tricked the dragon into eating calfskins filled with burning sulfur. Once the dragon was dead, the younger brother attacked and murdered his older brother and returned home to claim all the glory for himself, telling his father that his brother had died fighting the dragon. The younger brother became king after his father died, but his secret was eventually revealed and he was banished. In the fifteenth century, rewrote the story so that King Krakus himself was the one who slew the dragon. Another version of the story told by instead has the clever shoemaker Skubę come up with the idea for slaying the dragon. Bielski's version is now the most popular.

Orient

15th-century Persian miniature of slaying a dragon

South Asia

Head of the dragon-god depicted on a musical instrument from , India

In the , the oldest of the four , , the Vedic god of storms, battles , a giant serpent who represents drought. Indra kills Vṛtra using his (thunderbolt) and clears the path for rain, which is described in the form of cattle: "You won the cows, hero, you won the ,/You freed the seven streams to flow" (Rigveda 1.32.12). In another Rigvedic legend, the three-headed serpent , the son of , guards a wealth of cows and horses. Indra delivers Viśvarūpa to a god named , who fights and kills him and sets his cattle free. Indra cuts off Viśvarūpa's heads and drives the cattle home for Trita. This same story is alluded to in the , in which the hero , the son of Āthbya, slays the three-headed dragon and takes his two beautiful wives as spoils. Thraētaona's name (meaning "third grandson of the waters") indicates that Aži Dahāka, like Vṛtra, was seen as a blocker of waters and cause of drought.

The (: འབྲུག་), also known as 'Thunder Dragon', is one of the . In the language, is known as Druk Yul "Land of Druk", and Bhutanese leaders are called , "Thunder Dragon Kings". The druk was adopted as an emblem by the , which originated in and later spread to Bhutan.

East Asia

Chinese dragon

Illustration of the dragon from a seventeenth-century edition of the

Main article:

Archaeologist Zhōu Chong-Fa believes that the Chinese word for dragon is an of the sound of thunder or lùhng in .

The (: 龙; : 龍; : lóng) is the highest-ranking animal in the Chinese animal hierarchy. Its origins are vague, but its "ancestors can be found on Neolithic pottery as well as Bronze Age ritual vessels." A number of popular stories deal with the rearing of dragons. The , which was probably written during the , describes a man named Dongfu, a descendant of Yangshu'an, who loved dragons and, because he could understand a dragon's will, he was able to tame them and raise them well. He served Emperor Shun, who gave him the family name Huanlong, meaning "Dragon-Raiser". In another story, , the fourteenth emperor of the , was given a male and a female dragon as a reward for his obedience to the god of heaven, but could not train them, so he hired a dragon-trainer named Liulei, who had learned how to train dragons from Huanlong. One day, the female dragon died unexpectedly, so Liulei secretly chopped her up, cooked her meat, and served it to the king, who loved it so much that he demanded Liulei to serve him the same meal again. Since Liulei had no means of procuring more dragon meat, he fled the palace.

One of the most famous dragon stories is about the Lord Ye Gao, who loved dragons obsessively, even though he had never seen one. He decorated his whole house with dragon motifs and, seeing this display of admiration, a real dragon came and visited Ye Gao, but the lord was so terrified at the sight of the creature that he ran away. In Chinese legend, the culture hero is said to have been crossing the , when he saw the , a Chinese horse-dragon with seven dots on its face, six on its back, eight on its left flank, and nine on its right flank. He was so moved by this apparition that, when he arrived home, he drew a picture of it, including the dots. He later used these dots as letters and invented , which he used to write his book . In another Chinese legend, the physician Ma Shih Huang is said to have healed a sick dragon. Another legend reports that a man once came to the healer Lo Chên-jen, telling him that he was a dragon and that he needed to be healed. After Lo Chên-jen healed the man, a dragon appeared to him and carried him to heaven.

In the , a classic mythography probably compiled mostly during the , various deities and demigods are associated with dragons. One of the most famous Chinese dragons is Ying Long ("Responding Dragon"), who helped the , the Yellow Emperor, defeat the tyrant . The dragon ("Torch Dragon") is a god "who composed the universe with his body." In the Shanhaijing, many mythic heroes are said to have been conceived after their mothers copulated with divine dragons, including Huangdi, , , and . The god and the emperor are both described as being carried by two dragons, as are Huangdi, , , and Roshou in various other texts. According to the , an evil black dragon once caused a destructive deluge, which was ended by the mother goddess by slaying the dragon.

Casting for a Chinese belt-plaque showing the , or "horse-dragon", dating to the first or second century AD

A large number of ethnic myths about dragons are told throughout China. The , compiled in the fifth century BC by , reports a story belonging to the Ailaoyi people, which holds that a woman named Shayi who lived in the region around became pregnant with ten sons after being touched by a tree trunk floating in the water while fishing. She gave birth to the sons and the tree trunk turned into a dragon, who asked to see his sons. The woman showed them to him, but all of them ran away except for the youngest, who the dragon licked on the back and named Jiu Long, meaning "Sitting Back". The sons later elected him king and the descendants of the ten sons became the Ailaoyi people, who dragons on their backs in honor of their ancestor. The of southwest China have a story that a divine dragon created the first humans by breathing on monkeys that came to play in his cave. The have many stories about Short-Tailed Old Li, a black dragon who was born to a poor family in . When his mother saw him for the first time, she fainted and, when his father came home from the field and saw him, he hit him with a spade and cut off part of his tail. Li burst through the ceiling and flew away to the in northeast China, where he became the god of that river. On the anniversary of his mother's death on the Chinese lunar calendar, Old Li returns home, causing it to rain. He is still worshipped as a rain god.

Diagram illustrating the four great Dragon Kings of the

In China, dragons are closely associated with rain and is thought to be caused by a dragon's laziness. Prayers invoking dragons to bring rain are common in Chinese texts. The , attributed to the Han dynasty scholar , proscribes making clay figurines of dragons during a time of drought and having young men and boys pace and dance among the figurines in order to encourage the dragons to bring rain. Texts from the advise hurling the bone of a tiger or dirty objects into the pool where the dragon lives; since dragons cannot stand tigers or dirt, the dragon of the pool will cause heavy rain to drive the object out. Rainmaking rituals invoking dragons are still very common in many Chinese villages, where each village has its own god said to bring rain and many of these gods are dragons. Although stories of the are among the most popular dragon stories in China today, these stories did not begin to emerge until the , when Buddhist stories of the serpent rain-god became popular. began to invent their own dragon kings and eventually such stories developed in every major Chinese religion. According to these stories, every body of water is ruled by dragon king, each with a different power, rank, and ability, so people began establishing temples across the countryside dedicated to these figures.

Head of a dragon from a Chinese performed in in the year 2000

Many traditional Chinese customs revolve around dragons. During various holidays, including the and , villagers will construct an approximately sixteen-foot-long dragon from grass, cloth, bamboo strips, and paper, which they will parade through the city as part of a . The original purpose of this ritual was to bring good weather and a strong harvest, but now it is done mostly only for entertainment. During the festival, several villages, or even a whole province, will hold a , in which people race across a body of water in boats carved to look like dragons, while a large audience watches on the banks. The custom is traditionally said to have originated after the poet committed suicide by drowning himself in the and people raced out in boats hoping to save him, but most historians agree that the custom actually originated much earlier as a ritual to avert ill fortune. Starting during the Han dynasty and continuing until the Qing dynasty, the gradually became closely identified with dragons, and emperors themselves claimed to be the incarnation of a divine dragon. Eventually, dragons were only allowed to appear on clothing, houses, and articles of everyday use belonging to the emperor and any commoner who possessed everyday items bearing the image of the dragon were ordered to be executed. After the last Chinese emperor was overthrown in 1911, this situation changed and now many ordinary Chinese people identify themselves as descendants of dragons.

  • Tang dynasty painting of a attributed to Li Zhaodao

  • Dragon sculpture on top of , Taipei, Taiwan

  • Members of the Chinese Youth Society of performing for Chinese New Year, at , demonstrate a basic "corkscrew" routine

Japanese dragon

Painting of a Japanese dragon by (c. 1730 – 1849)

Main article:

Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. Gould writes (1896:248), the Japanese dragon is "invariably figured as possessing three claws". A story about the tells that, while he was hunting in his own territory of , he fell asleep under a tree and had a dream in which a beautiful woman appeared to him and begged him to save her land from a giant serpent which was defiling it. Mitsunaka agreed to help and the maiden gave him a magnificent horse. When he woke up, the horse was standing before him. He rode it to the temple, where he prayed for eight days. Then he confronted the serpent and slew it with an arrow.

It was believed that dragons could be appeased or with metal. is said to have hurled a famous sword into the sea at to appease the dragon-god of the sea and threw a metal mirror into the sea at Sumiyoshi for the same purpose. Japanese Buddhism has also adapted dragons by subjecting them to ; the Japanese Buddhist deities and are often shown sitting or standing on the back of a dragon. Several Japanese ("immortals") have taken dragons as their mounts. is said to have hurled his staff into a puddle of water, causing a dragon to come forth and let him ride it to heaven. The Handaka is said to have been able to conjure a dragon out of a bowl, which he is often shown playing with on kagamibuta. The is a creature with the head of a dragon, a bushy tail, fish-like scales, and sometimes fire emerging from its armpits. The has the head of a dragon, feathered wings, and the tail and claws of a bird. A white dragon was believed to reside in a pool in and, every fifty years, it would turn into a bird called the Ogonchô, which had a call like the "howling of a wild dog". This event was believed to herald terrible famine. In the Japanese village of Okumura, near , during times of drought, the villagers would make a dragon effigy out of straw, leaves, and and parade it through the village to attract rainfall.

Modern depictions

Dragons and dragon motifs are featured in many works of modern literature, particularly within the genre. As early as the eighteenth century, critical thinkers such as were already asserting that too much literature had been published on dragons: "There are already in books all too many fabulous stories of dragons". In 's classic (1872), one of the inset poems describes the , a kind of dragon. Carroll's illustrator , a famous , humorously showed the Jobberwocky with the , , and of a university lecturer, such as Carroll himself. In works of comedic children's fantasy, dragons often fulfill the role of a magic fairy tale helper. In such works, rather than being frightening as they are traditionally portrayed, dragons are instead represented as harmless, benevolent, and inferior to humans. They are sometimes shown living in contact with humans, or in isolated communities of only dragons. Though popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, "such comic and idyllic stories" began to grow increasingly rare after the 1960s, due to demand for more serious children's literature.

One of the most iconic modern dragons is from 's classic novel . In Tolkien's later novel , the fly on the backs of dragons in pursuit of . Dragons also appear in the bestselling series of children's novels by . Other prominent works depicting dragons include 's , 's , 's series , and 's . Sandra Martina Schwab writes, "With a few exceptions, including McCaffrey's Pern novels and the 2002 film Reign of Fire, dragons seem to fit more into the medievalized setting of fantasy literature than into the more technological world of science fiction. Indeed, they have been called the emblem of fantasy. The hero's fight against the dragon emphasizes and celebrates his masculinity, whereas revisionist fantasies of dragons and dragon-slaying often undermine traditional gender roles. In children's literature the friendly dragon becomes a powerful ally in battling the child's fears." The popular system (D&D) makes heavy use of .

See also

Notes

  1. The Middle East was mostly underwater at the time when dinosaurs existed, so dinosaur fossils are extremely rare., a palaeontologist at in Sweden, states, "To say that finds [of dinosaur fossils in the Middle East] are rare is an understatement. What's been discovered, you could almost fit inside a shoebox."

References

  1. , 1876, p. 196.
  2. , Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus project
  3. Chad Hartsock, Sight and Blindness in Luke-Acts: The Use of Physical Features in Characterization, Brill, Leiden-Boston, 2008, .
  4. Drury, Nevill, The Dictionary of the Esoteric, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2003  , .
  5. . Retrieved 30 December 2016. 
  6. Ørmen, Torfinn (2005). Drager, mellom myte og virkelighet (Dragons: between myth and reality) (in Norwegian) (1st ed.). Oslo: Humanist forlag A/S. p. 252.  . 
  7. (1895). . p. 199.  . 
  8. People's Daily On-line (2001), "Chinese Dragon Originates From Primitive Agriculture: Archaeologist". Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  9. Guan, Caihua. (2001) English-Cantonese Dictionary: Cantonese in Yale Romanization.  .
  10. Welch, Patricia Bjaaland. Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery, Tuttle Publishing, 2008, p. 121
  11. . 1896. . W. H. Allen & Co.
  12. Diderot, Denis. . The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  13. Schwab, Sandra Martina (2005). "Dragons". In . The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders. Vol. 1. Westport, CT: . p. 216.  . 

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External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of at Wiktionary
  • Quotations related to at Wikiquote


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