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Western Dragon Mythology

Updated on October 22, 2011

What Is A Dragon?

What are dragons? Do they actually exist or they just another sample drawn out of a human imagination? For centuries these creatures have influenced the human culture. From the early Mayan and the Chinese culture to the western culture of the medieval times, all have something or the other to say about dragons. Each culture has its own set of beliefs and concepts about these dragons. But what are they? 

Generally, a dragon is described as a large serpent like creature with scaly wings and a strong long tail and a large jaw bearing sharp deadly teeth. Its body is usually covered in scales and it is recognized by its ability to spit fire. In many of the old legendary and even modern time stories, a dragon is presented as a mystical creature that can speak and has great magical powers. 

Although it has wings, it prefers not to fly much and lives in a secluded cave usually guarding a treasure or defending a land. Today that’s the general concept of a dragon, a symbol of magic and mystery, but when we look into different mythologies, each culture has its own story to tell.

In many of the cultures it is described as a highly intelligent and a wise creature, in some it is a symbol of good luck, while in some it is an evil creature whose intention is to destroy the mankind.

Whatever the description given, the existence of dragons has been haunting the mankind for ages. Over the times it has created quite an impact on many of the cultures, greatly influencing the lives of humans throughout the history. Even today, a dragon is taken as a magical creature in many of the movies, games and contemporary fiction.

Western (European) Dragon Mythology

Unlike the Chinese dragons which are considered as a symbol of good luck, a dragon in western mythology is considered an evil entity.

The English word dragon is usually said to be derived from the Greek word drakes meaning a serpent. However the true origin of the word still carries an ambiguity. If we summarize all the European legends regarding the dragons, a dragon in the western mythology is a symbol of greed and hunger.

Following are a few legends regarding dragons in the western mythology:

Dragons In Greek Mythology

In the Greek mythology Draco the dragon is an extremely dangerous creature known to highly evil and greedy.

The Greek mythology tells the story of Draco guarding a sacred spring. Draco killed the men of Cadmus who were sent to obtain water from the spring. Later it was killed by Cadmus who went out to avenge the killings of his men by the Draco.

Various Types Of Dragons

Dragons In Roman Mythology

The Roman dragon was pretty derived from the Greek mythology and was linked to the Greek legend in some ways, however later the Romans carried forward the myth and made their own legends regarding this mystical creature.

In the roman mythology a dragon is described as a large snake like creature with a large silver jaws and body covered with colored silk. The Romans named it as Ladon. The roman legend tells the story of ladon guarding the tree bearing golden apples which belonged to the daughters of Atlas

Hercules was sent to destroy the dragon and pluck the apples. He later discovered that he himself could not pluck the apple but only atlas could.

So Hercules killed the dragon with an arrow making away for atlas to pluck the golden apples.

It is believed that the Ladon entered the Roman Empire after the Parthian and Dacian wars of Trajan in the east and is said to have originated from Persia.

The Germanic Mythology Of Dragons

The dragons have quite an importance in the Germanic culture. Following are the famous dragons of the Germanic mythology:

  • The Nidhogg: In the Germanic mythology this large serpent like creature is believed to gnaw at the roots of yggdrasil. It was believed that this sea serpent surrounded the land of mortal men, miogoro.

  • The Beowulf Dragon: The dragon of the Beowulf legend is well described in the poem Beowulf. This evil dragon guarded a treasure and was killed by the legendary hero.
  • Fafnir: This dragon was initially a man who turned into dragon due to his greed. Fanfir was killed by siggrud.
  • Jormungand: In the Germanic and the Norse mythology this dragon is more like an enormous cobra, so gigantic that it can encircle the entire earth’s disc.

The Western Dragons

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