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Dragon
Dragon
General Info
Mythology Japanese mythology, Chinese mythology, Norse mythology

A dragon is a mythical creature typically depicted as a gigantic and powerful serpent or other reptile with magical or spiritual 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 mythological creatures, dragons are perceived in different ways by different cultures. Dragons are sometimes said 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 for 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, and are often associated with wells, rain, and rivers. In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech.

Etymology

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

Two of the most familiar dragon Archetypes are European, or Western Dragons, and Chinese, or Oriental dragons. European Dragons are often pictured as gigantic lizards with long necks and wings. In lore these dragons are commonly portrayed as greedy creatures that hoard vast treasures in their dens.

European dragons

European Dragon

A Depiction of an European Dragon

European dragons from Catalunya (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.

Oriental dragons

Chinese Dragon

A Chinese Dragon

Chinese dragons are more snake-like than the European breed, and are generally portrayed as 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 been benevolent and golden in color.

Norse mythology

Lindworm

A lindworm

In Norse mythology, Lindworms were serpent-like dragons with either two or no legs.

The World serpent (Jörmungandr) is depicted as a giant snake with atritbutes 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.

Greek mythology

In Homer's the Illiad, Agammenon is described as having a blue-colored dragon motif on his sword belt and a three-headed dragon emblem on his breastplate.

Egyptian mythology

Apep, also known as Apophis was a divine serpent or giant snake in Egyptian mythology.

Other mythologies and cultures

Indonesian culture

Indonesian dragon

Naga

In Indonesian and Malay culture, the dragons (Draco orientalis indonesiensis) 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.

Indian dragons

Referred as Naga in Indian culture, the dragons are hooded similar to cobras, have no limbs, and have multiple heads depening on their rank. Those Naga with limbs resemble the chinese dragons.

Vietnamese dragon

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 thier 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.

Modern Usage

Chinese culture

Chinese dragon disguise

A chinese dragon disguise

Citizens use chinese dragon disguises in various of their celebrations, mainly when celebrating new year's eve or the dragon year, both in the chinese area of New York and in China.

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 european and american buildings).

Japanese Culture

Japanese golden dragon

The japanese golden dragon at the Golden Dragon Parade and Festival

The japanese and chinese depictions of a dragon are very similar.
European dragon boat

A blue dragon boat

The japanese version of the dragon is used in the Golden Dragon Parade and Festival.

European culture

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.

Legacy

Dragons are widely mentioned throughout history and popular culture, such instances includes the naming of a large cocodrile-like creature known as the Komodo Dragon. The Komodo Dragon is suspect of possibly been the last species of reptilians dinosaurs.

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 a large dragon as one of its antagonists.

Literature

  • Indonesian dragons appear in Monsterology: The Complete Book of Monstrous Creatures.

Television

  • The trading card game hit animated tv series Yu-Gi-Oh! features a plethora of dragons. Among them the Blue Eyes White Dragon, the Red Eyes Black Dragon, the Winged Dragon of Ra and Slifer the Sky Dragon.
  • Dragons and anthropomorphic dragons appears throughout the Dragon Ball franchise.
    • Shen Long, a divine dragon that grants wishes once the seven dragon balls have been reunited appears in Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT and the remasted version of Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Kai. He also appears in the videogames.
    • An evil, red-skinned Shen Ron, appears in Dragon Ball GT.

Video games

  • With the works of Tolkien behind them, the creators of D&D helped pave the way for paper and pen and video games of the new centuries, with the dragon at its forefront.
  • Since dragons often act as milestones in adventures and provide immense hazards, they are one of the most commonly chosen enemies for end game areas and dungeons.
  • In the lore of the Warcraft franchise (created by Blizzard Entertainment), more powerful dragons of the various dragon flights (color coded species) have significant power throughout history and are governing forces in the universe. Although this is true, the existence of weaker creatures exist as well, often on par in terms of strength and survivability with the other fauna of the universe.
  • Superman faces a dragon, similar to an european dragon in the video game Superman Returns.
  • Various dragon variations appear in The Elder Scrolls video game franchise.

Films

  • European dragons appear in the CGI animated film How to Train Your Dragon.
  • In the 1996 live-action film Braveheart, dragons are portrayed as been good beings who often save humans, in contrast with their common violent portrayals in other media.
  • In the 2002 film Reign of Fire, dormant dragons are awakened in the modern world with grave consequences.
  • A compassionate female dragon which is in love with Donkey appears in Shrek, Shrek 2 and Shrek Forever After.

Gallery

Flags

In television

In film

In video games

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