I’ve decided to write a post about dragons. Why, you may ask? Well, actually, you very well may not ask that at all, because, frankly, you probably know the answer. Because dragons are fantastic. Quite literally, actually. Creatures of legends and myth, you’ve got power, you’ve got fire, you’ve got wings. They’re guarding treasure, they’re fighting heroes, being smarter than you are. And of course, that’s all depending on the culture you’re talking about. That’s another great thing about them! They exist in the myths and traditions of so many peoples all over the world. The two traditions that are best-known are the European dragon and the Chinese dragon.
In many Asian cultures, dragons were, and in some cultures, still are, held in reverence and considered to have spiritual significance. Often, Chinese dragons are portrayed as large snakes, but often with four legs (or more … whatever, no judgement here) and not to much with the wings, as European dragons often are. Chinese dragons also generally have wisdom going for them, and some traditions place dragons at the beginning of human speech, claiming that it was actually dragons who taught humans how to speak.
European dragons have those wings going for them, usually bat-like, usually coming out of their backs. A lot of them are considered to hoard treasure, but that conception is not necessarily as ancient as the idea of the dragon itself, and is generally understood to be more of a medieval addition. Fun fact: a dragon-like creature with only two legs is called a wyvern. There also exists a sea-wyvern, which is the same as a regular wyvern, except is has a fish tail instead of the barbed tail you’d usually associate with your run of the mill, regular land-dragon.
That said, land dragons aren’t necessarily run of the mill, as many dragons in antiquity were actually just huge serpents. It’s more a Middle Ages conception that dragons are legged creatures. Regardless of how many legs they have, dragons tend to get slain. That’s just kind of what happens. They’re often associated with the Devil when it comes to Christian narratives, and otherwise they tend to terrorize towns or people, or guard treasure or something else the hero wants. Dragon’s blood is considered to have different qualities depending on the tradition you’re looking at. Sometimes, as in Beowulf, it’s acidic, sometimes, as in German legend, dragon’s blood is quite an excellent substance, and can make whatever you soak it in invincible. That’s a pretty good deal.
There’s just so much intrigue and history surrounding the dragon, and I love reading about it, and I want to share it with you! Considering I study Medieval things, probably a lot of the dragons I talk about, or, at least the first ones, will be from the medieval era, and from Europe. But I’ll do my very best to move away from that eventually and explore the dragons of the East, promise. So! Sit back and enjoy the mythical ride!