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Dragon Tattoo Designs

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Raye has many body mods, SFSI training, former CFR-D creds, and a decade-long stint as BellaOnline's body art editor under her belt.

dragon backpiece, Folsom Street Fair, 2002

dragon backpiece, Folsom Street Fair, 2002

Why Wear a Dragon?

Some people identify with dragons based on the Asian zodiacs. The Year of the Dragon comes once every 12 years. It is considered a most auspicious year, and more babies are born during dragon years than in any of the other 11 animal years. Dragons are symbolic of good luck, health, strength, and harmony.

The mythologies about dragons are found in both Eastern and Western cultures. In the East, dragons are wise and benevolent creatures, symbolic of elements or natural forces. In Europe, dragons were often part of a curse or blight upon a land, the subject of conquest for knights on a quest. They were often depicted as hoarding jewels or breathing fire against a foe in battle. In modern myth, dragons can also be found as part of science fiction and fantasy stories and images.

Asian Dragon Mythology

In Chinese mythology, the dragon is the symbol of masculine yang energy, often correlated with rivers and rain. The imperial dragon is recognizable by his fifth claw (ordinary dragons have four claws). The five claws, in turn, symbolize the dragon's ability to move in all four directions (north, east, south, west) simultaneously, while still staying connected to the center and being present. In Japanese myth, there are said to be nine different types of dragon, but in Chinese mythology, they only have three types.

Asian-style Dragon Back Piece

An Asian-style dragon backpiece

How to Pick Your Dragon

Dragons offer up so many possibilities design-wise, that's part of why they are so popular. It's not too hard to come up with a dragon that is completely and utterly unique for you. Here are some things to think about before you go talk to your tattoo artist about designing your dragon:

  • Where do you want this dragon? Having an idea for where the tattoo will go can often start to influence the size and scale of the tattoo design.
  • What is the attitude of your dragon? Thinking about what sort of emotion your dragon has or how it's acting can do a lot to suggest what sort of expression it might have on its face and what colors help symbolize the energy behind it. An aggressive, attacking dragon is going to look different than a dragon that is protective or one that represents a specific elemental energy.
  • What says "dragon" to you? For some people, the dragon's head is the main focus, and they don't need to show the entire body. Others might want the tattoo to be wrapping around a limb. Some might need the dragon to be breathing fire, or flying, or chasing the pearl of wisdom.

Dragon Tattoo Design

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Actress Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander from the Swedish movie

Actress Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander from the Swedish movie

Actress Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander from the American movie

Actress Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander from the American movie

Interpreting the Dragon

There are nearly endless ways in which you can interpret what a dragon is and how you'd like to have it tattooed. A great example which shows just how different dragons can be can be seen is when you compare the two movie versions of the dragon tattoo worn by the character of Lisbeth Salander from the book The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo.

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In the story, a general description of a tattoo on Lisbeth's back is given. You get the idea that the dragon is sort of large, sort of fierce, and done in black. And not much else other than a few reactions from some of the other characters which range from fascination to revulsion. In the first picture here, you see the version that was painted on actress Noomi Rapace for the original movie which was made in Sweden. This is a ragingly fierce dragon, clawing and breaking its way out from under the skin of Lisbeth's back.

The second picture shows the tattoo as it appeared on the back of actress Rooney Mara, who played Lisbeth in the US/Hollywood remake of the film. This dragon is much more minimalist and stylized. It's more of a graphic of a dragon and not the living beast that appeared in the European movie version.

A double dragon chest piece

A double dragon chest piece

© 2007 Raye


hanwillingham on October 11, 2011:

Beautiful tattoos.

Abbygu on December 27, 2010:

I love Dragon tattoos particularly, my guy has his up his arm and over his shoulder thanks for the background on them, I have learned more about them, great stuff

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on December 05, 2007:

Glad my timing was good for you, Daoine!

daoine on December 05, 2007:

Stunning. I'm writing about a dragon at the moment, so I'm attracted to all things dragonish.

MrMarmalade from Sydney on December 04, 2007:

Some of them look a bit scary.

I am afraid of my own shadow, I can trip on a matchstick

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