Here There be Dragons
In the world of fabulous creatures, the dragon is unique. No other beastie has appeared in such a rich variety of forms nor in so many places. Are they mythical, allegorical, or did they really exist?
Dragons appear in the traditions of many different cultures, possibly the oldest critters in the mythological menagerie..
Often portrayed as the first creature to roam the universe just after the Creation, the dragon is the frontier between our world and beyond!
In Europe, dragons are traditionally portrayed as ferocious brutes representing the evils fought by human beings, but in Asia, they are generally friendly creatures who ensure good luck and wealth.
Meet a dragon in Europe and end up scorched
Meet a dragon in Asia and go home with a gift!
Are Dragons a Force of Nature?
Or something else?
Ancient dragons, diverse in form and behaviour, appear from Western Europe across China and over the opposite side of the globe to America.
Did dragons once represent a frightening forces of nature?
Or are they real living beings, hiding still in deep wilderness or places where people can not, or dare not, venture.
Are Dragons an Extinct Species?
A real creature, not mythical
Or perhaps dragons weren't mythical or symbolic at all. Are dragons an extinct species? These mystical creatures can sometimes be found today in watery haunts of the Southern hemisphere.
The Celtic Saints were especially skilled at banishing and destroying water monsters and dragons, and perhaps the imagery is symbolic of the early struggle between Christianity and the older religions.
The best known water monster is the one banished by Columba in the great lake at Ness in 565 CE.
There is definitely something uncanny about Loch Ness, and it's been suggested that the area is a 'window area' for strange phenomena. What does this mean? Dragon lines, ley lines, ancient gods, aliens? Your guess is as good as mine.
Are Dragons really Comets? - It's an interesting suggestion
Kukulkan along northern stairway of El Castillo, Chichen Itza
Dragons were depicted as serpents with a head and a long body, and with wings to fly through the sky. Likewise, comets have a head and a long body and appear to fly through the sky.
The Feathered Serpent
The chief Mayan god was Kukulkan meaning "feathered serpent" and a feathered serpent is a perfect description of a comet. El Castillo in Chichen Itza served as a temple to Kukulkan. During the spring and autumn equinoxes the shadow cast by the angle of the sun and edges of the nine steps of the pyramid combined with the northern stairway and the stone serpent head carvings create the illusion of a massive serpent descending the pyramid.
In Aztec mythology the feathered serpent was Quetzalcoatl, the inventor of the calendar and of books, the protector of goldsmiths and other craftsmen. Quetzalcoatl was also identified with the planet Venus and, as the morning and evening star, he was the symbol of death and resurrection.
Middle Eastern Dragons
The Dragons of Babylon and Egypt
In Babylonian mythology, there was neither land nor living things, there were only two elements call Apsu and Tiamat.
Apsu was male, the spirit of fresh water and the void in which the world existed.
Tiamat was female, and a dragon, the spirit of salt water and of primeval chaos.
In Egypt there was a constant battle between the serpent dragon, Apep and the sun god Ra.
Each day, as Ra travels along the Nile with an escort of other gods, Apep attempts to obstruct the passage of the solar barge but is normally defeated and killed by Set. (Apep momentarily triumphs during an eclipse).
The Sumerian legends are filled with the dragon, Kur, committing some great wrong against the gods and one of the deities appearing to vanquish him.
The Western Dragon - The most familiar Dragon
The typical Western dragon is a large, scaly creature resembling a dinosaur or a large lizard, living in a cave in wild remote mountains, or hidden away in the deep forests guarding a cache of gold and devouring fair maidens.
This dragon is often little more than a tool, a minor accessory whose main function is to set off the bravery of a gallant knight. The dragon-slayer acquires honour, fame and wealth from the dragon's hoard. He then marries the king's daughter.
Who is slaying this dragon?
I'm sure everyone knows the story of George, a Roman soldier based in Syria in about the year 300.
George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches and many are the tales are told of him.
One of these tales involves a dragon.
This image of St George and the Dragon by Gustave Moreau is common enough but the man on the horse slaying a beastie was originally Bellerophon.
Bellerophon was the sometime hero who hunted down the Chimera. You can meet him in The Real Story of Pegasus, the Winged Horse. Was the Chimera a Dragon?
Dragons of Britain
Dragons are common in British legend, we see them most noticeably with St George and in King Arthur.
Arthur's father was Uther Pendragon literally "chief dragon", the prophecy of the young Merlin to Vortigern involved dragons and both Tristan and Lancelot are dragon slayers.
Viking raiders in dragon- headed ships spread the story of Nithhogr, the reptilian creature gnawing at the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. They knew how the Midgard serpent lay in the waters that circled the world, biting his own tail.
Celtic dragons are also associated with water and many are pictured as sea serpents with their tails in their mouths.
Y Ddraig Goch
The Welsh Dragon
The Red Dragon appears on the national flag of Wales (the flag itself is also called "Y Ddraig Goch").
The oldest recorded use of the dragon to symbolise Wales is from the Historia Brittonum, written around 820, but it is popularly supposed to have been the battle standard of King Arthur and other ancient Celtic leaders.
In Welsh mythology, after a long battle which is witnessed by a puzzled King Vortigern, a red dragon defeats a white dragon.
Merlin explains to Vortigern that the red dragon symbolises the Welsh, and the white dragon symbolises the Saxons - thus foretelling the ultimate defeat of the English by the Welsh.
The Eastern Dragon
You have to count the Dragon's claws
But there's no mistaking the Oriental dragon.
They rarely breathe fire, they call forth great floods instead. They tend to be wise and benevolent, but must be treated with respect as an Eastern dragon has one flaw, his immense vanity. He can cause dreadful natural disasters when offended.
To identify the origin of an Oriental dragon, look at its claws
If it has five claws per foot it probably comes from China. Three claws means Japan, and four claws means Korea.
Chinese legends tells us that dragons originated in China and lost toes as they spread further afield. That's why didn't migrate too far as they would have no toes left.
On the other hand, the Japanese tell us that dragons originated in Japan and grew toes as they travelled. If they travelled too far then they would end up with too many toes!
A Dragon in Australia?
Is the Bunyip a dragon?
In Australia the Bunyip lurked in rivers, lakes, swamps, and billabongs - former parts of rivers left behind when the course was altered.
Bunyips were malevolent towards human beings and caused nocturnal terror by uttering horrible roaring cries and jumping out of water holes to devour unwary animals and people.
In the Dreamtime these water creatures were involved in the great deluge. Some hunters caught and imprisoned a small bunyip, making its mother so angry she flooded the land until it covered everything. Those who managed to escape were turned into black swans.
Dragons of Hawaii - Two Dragons still guard Hawaii
Hawaii Dragon Boat Festival
Dragons are among the ghost-gods of the ancient Hawaiians. Known as mo-o and kupuas, they lived in pools or lakes and could appear as animals or human beings according to their wish. (Kupuas have a strange double body, say the Hawaiians).
Their ancestor was Mo-o inanea, The Self-reliant Dragon, and she figures prominently in the Hawaiian legends.
There were many dragons around Hawaii, like the two who lived in the Wailuku River near Hilo. They were called "the moving boards" and made a bridge across the river. Sometimes they accepted offerings and permitted a safe passage, and sometimes they tipped the passengers into the water and drowned them.
Two dragon-women still guard the precipice at the end of Nuuanu Valley above Honolulu today.
Dragons of Aoteora
The Taniwha is still in New Zealand
In the ocean and inland waters of New Zealand, hiding in deep pools, rivers, lakes and dark caves, is the mysterious Taniwha.
Although supernatural, in the Maori world view they are part of the natural environment. Taniwha have been described as fabulous monsters living in deep water and often referred to as dragons - many taniwha looked like reptiles, had wings and ate people.
Long relegated to the realms of folklore, these dragons have appeared in recent years as environmental guardians of sites threatened by bulldozer-oriented development.
In 2002, 550km north east of Wellington, a new highway was stopped by a taniwha who objected to the massive roadworks. Freak accidents and unfortunate deaths plagued the scheme until, on advice from the local Ngati Naho people, Transit New Zealand moved the route to higher ground.
Dragons can be seen today in old traditions and idiomatic phrases. In English we overcome our fears by 'Slaying the Dragon' and the Chinese speak of 'Love of Dragons,' which means professed love of what one really fears.
A Chinese fable tells us why.
A certain Lord Ye loved dragons deeply. He had dragons everywhere and he was thinking about dragons all the time. His love of dragons moved a real dragon, so the dragon came to visit him one day. When Ye saw the real dragon, he was literally frightened to death.
The Secret Life of Trolls
The truth about Trolls is ugly. Yes, ugly. For Trolls are ugly, malicious creatures who will never be anything but the enemies of mortals. These fearsome, baleful and evil minded creatures are from the mythology of the wild northern lands, fiendish giants...
The Secret Life of Leprechauns
There is much nonsense spoken of leprechauns, some mistaken, some misguided and some deliberately misleading. Many are the tales of intoxication, wild revelry and, I'm sorry to say, malicious damage to livestock. But this is all tittle tattle, when di...
The Secret Life of Ghouls
Ghouls are not just any ordinary old cannibalistic, flesh- eating or creepy monsters. If you thought so, you would be wrong. You're probably confusing Ghouls with other types of the Undead, usually the mindless varieties of vampires and zombies who po...
What do you think? Were there once Dragons?
Did Dragons once exist?
Whisper a Message for the Dragon - if you dare - Enter the lair .....
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on October 01, 2014:
Interesting idea. Dragons are comets, misidentified.
AlleyCatLane on April 22, 2014:
Dragons are fascinating. Did you see the tiny dragon found in Indonesia? Really cool!
Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on April 22, 2014:
Who knew! What a fun collection of information. Enjoyed reading more about the dragons!
mariacarbonara on August 12, 2013:
Personally I suspect that the dragon stories arose from people finding large fossil bones in ancient times. With no knowledge of dinosaurs and such they would have though that these had come from living creatures.
EMangl on August 18, 2012:
here a photo of the "Lindwurm" in Klagenfurt, Carinthia / Austria
MelanieMurphyMyer on June 06, 2012:
Quite enjoyable! I will be visiting your other Secret lenses as well. I love this stuff. :)
Laura Brown from Ontario, Canada on March 31, 2012:
Thanks for a great post.
flicker lm on March 14, 2012:
Another fascinating lens from your collection. A very enjoyable read. Thanks!
Edutopia on February 15, 2012:
A great lens.. Dragons seem to have a special appeal to our psyche and you show that this is true pretty much globally.
VigilantChef LM on February 14, 2012:
Number 100 and son of the last dragon slayer!
RonnieV74 on January 07, 2012:
Nice lens. Dragons are awesome !
anonymous on September 20, 2011:
I love anything to do with dragons. I love the mystique and majesty of them. I would like to believe that they are really 'gentle giants' but stories often depict them as evil, destructive devils. I enjoyed this lens very much. The magic of dragons is something that I think people will always enjoy.
BestRatedStuff on September 18, 2011:
Well put out information, learned a great deal about this mythical creature. Amazing the difference in the temperament of the eastern dragons vs the western dragons. Food for thought, any idea why this is so?
CruiseReady from East Central Florida on September 13, 2011:
I liked the part about the toes!
Shari O'Leary from Minnesota on September 12, 2011:
Thank you for the education! A lot of this stuff I didn't know.
pcgamehardware on September 11, 2011:
Fantastic lens Susanna,
Thanks for sharing this great info about Dragons as a lot of this I didn't know.
anonymous on August 26, 2011:
I'd rather use a speaker and a mike! Dragons were once real and possibly are today too! :)
WhiteOak50 on August 13, 2011:
After finally catching up with the Angel School Bus, I am fluttering around Fairy Folklore-ville to drop off some Blessings. Just wanted you to know I am here because your page caught my attention. Leaving you with a *Blessing* for doing such a great job on this page.
yayas on August 09, 2011:
I love the way you opened your lens, " ...dragons can be beaten." I knew I loved fairy-tales for some good reason, but I could not have told you why. We all need to win against the dragons once in a while, don't we? Super cool lens. Thanks for sharing.
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on August 05, 2011:
You wouldn't catch me whispering to a dragon, LOL. Great lens!
Missmerfaery444 on July 27, 2011:
Especially fascinated by dragons at the moment, more so than usual, so back to read, bookmark and bless this wonderful lens! Featured on SquidAngel Pagan Blessings
VoodooRULEs on July 16, 2011:
Here there be Dragons... I remember having a book from about 20 years ago that started off with that line! It was a thick black book and I loved it. I can't remember the title at the moment, but thanks to this lens, I'm off to research and find it. Thank you! This lens was a wonderful adventure!
Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on July 09, 2011:
Dragons are amazing creatures but if you look at them in heraldry, you can see our perception of dragons changed a lot. Through centuries they lost most of their heads and most of their powers, especially wisdom. But I think they are coming back. We need them to improve ourself, do not we?
Bambi Watson on February 16, 2011:
Since I was born in the year of the Dragon, I've always been fascinated by them ~ Blessed >*
anonymous on February 15, 2011:
What can I say but excellent, beautiful, wonderful and such great fun!
ChrisDay LM on February 14, 2011:
Another great lens and well worthy of the Purple Star.
RinchenChodron on February 10, 2011:
I had never heard of the Hawaiian version. Well done.
KokoTravel on December 29, 2010:
Excellent lens about dragons... thanks!
scar4 on November 05, 2010:
I'm supposed to study hard and learn more about dragon, your lens is a good start for my trip. Thank you.
anonymous on October 26, 2010:
You are one of the very best at creating lens. This is very very good.
Lisa from Rhode Island on September 29, 2010:
your lenses are beautiful I love this one I am going to lens roll to my dragon lens thank you for creating such a wonderful lens
tandemonimom lm on September 14, 2010:
Fascinating dragon stories from around the world!
Missmerfaery444 on September 11, 2010:
I love your lenses! They are always so well written, beautifully presented and utterly engrossing. This is one of my favourites!
JJNW from USA on September 10, 2010:
I see why your earned a purple star for this awesome lens! COOL!
Christene-S on September 06, 2010:
Blessed by a SquidAngel :)
Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on September 05, 2010:
Coming from England (and St George and all that) you have to be interested in Dragons! This is a great lens and gets a Squid Angel Blessing today! :)
norma-holt on April 18, 2010:
Great lens on a fascinating subject. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust
eclecticeducati1 on February 15, 2010:
Well thought out lens you have here! You obviously worked hard on it! I really enjoyed reading it. Blessed by an Angel.
sugeng lm on January 23, 2010:
Interestingly, my childhood name when translated to English means Heavenly Dragon. People used to tease me that in Chinese context, dragon is supposed to be an ocean creature. Dragon is a very dear creature in Chinese mythology. We have been told stories that revered the dragon since young.
Patricia on November 05, 2009:
I don't know if dragons existed but they just always seemed cool to me.
anonymous on October 03, 2009:
I've always been in love with dragon mythology and fantasy lore. -:)
Bellezza-Decor from Canada on August 31, 2009:
Very information lens and the pictures are wonderful too - 5* and lensrolled!
anonymous on August 26, 2009:
Hi Susanna, I found you while I was investigating dragons on squidoo! Great pics! I enjoyed my visit.
Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on August 18, 2009:
Love dragons! Wonderful lens.
Paul Hassing on April 13, 2009:
What a tremendous resource! Heaps of pics I've never seen before. Definitely a 5-star effort if ever I saw one! Best regards, P. :)
drifter0658 lm on April 08, 2009:
The point that dragons are tools was a good one.
Not too long ago, I saw a picture of a Cambodian temple that had what were obviously stegosauruses carved in the pillars. Amazing because the only other animals that decorated those pillars were animals that we know exist today.
But, I saw something else in those pictures. Something that was apparently overlooked by the finders of the temple. All of the decorative carvings of animals were 'protected' by a worm dragon.
grannysage on April 03, 2009:
Dragons are truly amazing creatures. Both to be respected and held in awe. Are they real? Perhaps, in some other dimension where we can sometimes peek through to see them. Wonderful lens.
monarch13 on March 13, 2009:
I adore Dragons! I just created a new lens on Chinese Dragons. 5 stars and rolled.
The Goblins Den on January 22, 2009:
I like this page. The photos you found really add to it.
WhitU4ever on December 21, 2008:
My daughter loves dragons! We taught her left from right by nicknaming her hands Lefty Dragon and Rightey Dragon. She likes to pretend she is one when we go to the park, growling and blowing fire at other children as she plays. Lovely lens!
dahlia369 on December 17, 2008:
Lensrolling you to my Ljubljana lens! :)
dahlia369 on December 17, 2008:
In my lens-reviewing today I left your lens for last, as a special treat. And a treat it was, indeed! Thank you for choosing Ljubljana Dragon as a representative of European ones, that was an additional surprise for me.
The Hawaiian dragon looks so cute that I would adopt one... :)
Looking forward to see more of your lenses on mythical and historical creatures.
Allan R. Wallace from Wherever Human Rights Reign on December 12, 2008:
There is an atavistic allure to dragons that must reach deeper than mythology since it is so pervasive ... Ah, yeah, I like dragons too.
ChristiannaGarrett-Martin on December 10, 2008:
Brilliant Lens and pictures! I love all this fantasy. Will you do Mermaids next? They are my very favourites :)
The Party Animal from Partytown USA on December 10, 2008:
I love Dragons - my husband has nice on on his back - a Tattoo of course. 5 Stars for a great lens
Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on December 08, 2008:
I've always been a complete sucker for stories about dragons. It's amazing how universal the legends featuring them are so I think they must be based on reality even if they have been exaggerated and embroidered over the millenia. Great lens.