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Mythical Creatures - Dragon (Western)

Updated on May 10, 2014

Note: This is an extremely basic article (I'm only covering Western dragons). Dragons are very complex and come in hundreds of different types. If you want me to write more in depth about any dragon breed, let me know in the comments :)

Western Dragon

When you think of a dragon, chances are that you think of a Western Dragon. Also called European or Medieval dragons, they were generally considered to be brutal, greedy, and cruel. They were often portrayed battling knights or laying on heaps of treasure.

Source

Combat

Dragon

The typical dragon fought with fire, their claws, and sometimes even their tails. They commonly had a body like a huge red lizard with bat wings, and they breathed fire. Their most commonly used weapon was fire, and many images showed them soaring over a village, eradicating it with its fire.

Knight

Humans had very few weapons against dragons. Many stories about dragon fights include a brave knight stabbing a dragon with his sword, but this would have been somewhat unrealistic. It's more likely that they would have been fought with ranged weapons such as spears, bows, and nets. The nets would be most effective when the dragon was in the air, because its wings would have become tangled in it, causing it to fall to the earth.

Types of Dragons

As with phoenixes, different regions of Europe had different dragons. Some examples include modern (fire-breathing), Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, Iberian, and Italian.

Smaug
Smaug | Source

Modern

This is the most basic form of dragon. It is a winged, huge, red, fire-breathing lizard that commonly appears in media today. It commonly sets up its underground lair near a village to raid for sheep and treasure. One example of it in media today is Smaug from the Hobbit.

Níðhöggr
Níðhöggr | Source

Germanic Europe

Unlike dragons from many other regions, there are several species in Germanic Europe and all of them have names. These are a few of the most famous ones:

(Credit for the above list goes to Wikipedia)

The Welsh flag
The Welsh flag | Source

Celtic Europe

The red dragon is most commonly associated with Wales, possibly due to the Arthurian legend where Myrddin has a vision of the red dragon. Because of this, the legendary house of Pendragon and Celtic Britain have become associated with the Welsh dragon standard because of this.

3-Headed Dragon
3-Headed Dragon | Source

Slavic Europe

Slavic dragons have very different attitudes towards human In many legends, they represent brother and sister. While the sister represents violent weather and hates mankind, and she is in a violent battle with her brother, who is trying to protect the humans and their crops. The female is often taken to represent water, while the male has a firey personality. Dragons are portrayed as 3-headed, evil winged creatures with snake's bodies.

Source

Iberian Peninsula

The Culebre is a giant winged serpent that typically lives in a cave and guards its treasure, and keeps xanas (nymph-like beings). They are immortal, but still subject to aging. One legend talks about a Pena Irel mountain that could mesmerize people with its glance, so a young man used a shiny shield to reflect its glance back onto itself. When the dragon mesmerized itself, he could kill it easily.

St. Georgea and the dragon
St. Georgea and the dragon | Source

Italy

Many Italian legends, such as the one about Saint George, involve saints slaying dragons. Saints like Saint Mercurialis supposedly killed dragons, so they are most often portrayed slaying them. 'The Golden Legend' tells the story of Saint Margaret the Virgin, who was swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon and escaped when the cross that she was wearing irritated the dragon's innards. This is another example that was very similar to the many legends about Popes and other saints slaying and driving dragons away from their towns.

Dragons are extremely complex creatures. They come in many different forms and there are legends about them all over the world, from China to the Aztecs. Because of this I was only able to cover one group of dragons. Which dragon or group of dragons would you like me to cover next?

Which dragon should I cover next?

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    • LastRaven profile image
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      LastRaven 3 years ago

      Thanks for your comment! I've done some more research about the origin of dragons, which you can read here: https://hubpages.com/education/Mythical-Creatures-...

    • lone77star profile image

      Rod Martin Jr 3 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Fascinating subject. I have long wondered about the possibility of some truth behind these creatures.

      Tolkein made a big deal out of the fact that dragon's scales were extremely tough material. Others have, too. I'm wondering where this notion comes from.

      Reading the dragon myths of the Eastern Mediterranean yields some possible insights. We have the myths of Cadmus, Cecrops, Medea and Jason, and the Egyptian merchant prince. The details in these myths are consistent with a flying craft with a crew and captain on board. The notion of dragons with wings may well have been added after dragons disappeared. For if a snake were to fly, people who never saw one would suspect it could only fly because of wings -- or, as the Mesoamericans described it, "feathered." The word "dragon" comes from "drakon" which simply means "snake" in Greek -- not feathered or winged.

      What makes this even more interesting is the fact that many of these myths seem to originate in that dark period before history began, between the end of Atlantis and before Egypt's first dynasty. Colchis (where a golden dragon guarded the Golden Fleece) may even be related to the children of Atlantis. The toughness of the scales came to mind when I researched Atlantis and found Plato describing a strange metal called "orichalcum." Some have thought this might be copper, but I suspect it may have been the substance of dragon scales and far tougher. Looking at the properties of copper, I discovered that its melting point is almost exactly the same as that of uranium! Imagine a uranium-copper alloy -- heavy, dense, tough and likely golden in color.

      So, could the real dragon have been a product of prehistoric technology now lost? And could the "fire" of the dragon have been merely a pulsed laser crystal shooting out of its mouth? We may never know for certain.