Creatures of Fantasy: Dragons

Dragons play a huge part in fantasy culture today. There are books written about dragons and games that are based on the power of dragons. These mythical creatures go back through time and across cultures as part of the stories and legends that built up the mythology for most of the world. There are two basic histories of dragons. The Western dragon legends originate mainly from Europe and the Eastern dragon legends originate primary from China.

What Is a Dragon?

Traditionally, a dragon is a large reptile or serpent. The dragon may or may not have wings. The earliest stories of dragons describe them as a serpent without legs, but later stories describe them with two to four legs. Some dragons breathe fire, while others are poisonous. Some scientists believe that the discovery of dinosaur bones in ancient cultures may have led to the stories about dragons.

Dragons in Different Cultures

There are dragon stories in almost every culture, even though the two prominent stories are based on European and Chinese dragons. You can find references to dragons in the Bible, and in Indian and African cultures as well. In the Western tradition, dragons are looked at as something dangerous that needs to be slain. The Eastern tradition looks at dragons as more of a protector and something to be honored. The dragons can be found in stories and depicted in art throughout history.

European Dragons

European dragons were looked at as something to be feared. Most of the legends are about knights slaying the dragon and protecting people. The dragons can generally fly and breathe fire in the Western tradition. Many of the stories that you find in American culture are based on the European tradition of slaying dragons.

Asian Dragons

Traditionally, the Asian dragons are more revered and admired in the Eastern culture. Dragons are prevalent in the cultural traditions with dragon water boat races, the dragon parades and the year of the dragon. Often Chinese dragons are associated with water, and may act as a protector of a lake or river system. Traditionally Chinese people strove to be recognized or called a dragon, as it was a symbol of the emperor, but this decreased with the introduction of the negative connotations connected with the Western dragons.

Legends and Stories of Dragons

Today there are many stories and legends about dragons. They are still the subjects of a wide variety of fantasy books for both children and adults. Additionally, you can find entire video games based around dragons. There are the hero stories with the knight slaying the dragon in Western culture or myths that explain things like thunder in Eastern culture. Since the dragon is such a magnificent and powerful creature, they continue to inspire new stories and legends to be passed down through the generations.