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Dragon

Basic Knowledge-

Dragons are legendary creatures, typically with serpentine or otherwise reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of worldwide cultures.

The two most familiar interpretations of dragons are European dragons, derived from various European folk traditions, and the unrelated Oriental dragons, such as the Chinese dragon (lóng ? or ?). The English word "dragon" derives from Greek d????? (drákon), "dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake", which probably comes from the verb d?a?e?? (drakeîn) "to see clearly".
Dragons are usually shown in modern times with a body like a huge lizard, or a snake with two pairs of lizard-type legs, and able to emit fire from their mouths. The European dragon has bat-type wings growing from its back. A dragon-like creature with no front legs is known as a wyvern. Following discovery of how pterosaurs walked on the ground, some dragons have been portrayed without front legs and using the wings as front legs pterosaur-fashion when on the ground, as in the movie Reign of Fire.

Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label. Some dragons are said to breathe fire or to be poisonous. They are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing typically scaly or feathered bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as having especially large eyes or watching treasure very diligently, a feature that is the origin of the word dragon (Greek drakeîn meaning "to see clearly").[1] Some myths portray them with a row of dorsal spines. European dragons are more often winged, while Oriental versions of the dragon resemble large snakes. Dragons can have a variable number of legs: none, two, four, or more when it comes to early European literature. Also, some dragons in Greek literature were known to have millions of legs at a time.[citation needed] Modern depictions of dragons tend to be larger than their original representations, which were often smaller than humans, but grew in the myths and tales of man over the years.[citation needed]

Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom—often said to be wiser than humans—and longevity. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, and are often associated with wells, rain, and rivers. In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech.

The term dragoon, for infantry that moved around on horseback yet still fought as foot soldiers, is derived from their early firearm, the "dragon", a wide-bore musket that spat flame when it fired, and was thus named for the mythical creature.

Origin and etymology-

Further information: Chaoskampf
The word dragon derives from Greek d?a??, via Latin draco. It is attested in Middle English from the 13th century, in the context of medieval bestiaries and legends.

The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpent, not necessarily mythological, and this usage was also current in English up to the 18th century. Today the great komodo lizard “Varanus komodoensis” is also known in English as the Komodo dragon. The King James Bible uses the words "serpent", "dragon" and "Devil" in a fairly interchangeable manner.

The association of the serpent with a monstrous opponent overcome by a heroic deity has its roots in the mythology of the Ancient Near East, including Canaanite (Hebrew, Ugaritic), Hittite and Mesopotamian. The Chaoskampf motif entered Greek mythology and ultimately Christian mythology, although the serpent motif may already be part of prehistoric Indo-European mythology as well, based on comparative evidence of Indic and Germanic material.

The "European dragon" (and its Near Eastern and Indic cognates) myth has quite different characteristics and origins from those of the Chinese dragon

Dinosaur and mammalian fossils were occasionally mistaken for the bones of dragons and other mythological creature; for example, a discovery in 300 BC in Wucheng, Sichuan, China, was labeled as such by Chang Qu.[2] Adrienne Mayor has written on the subject of fossils as the inspiration for myths in her book The First Fossil Hunters, and in an entry in the Encyclopedia of Geology she wrote: "Fossil remains generated a variety of geomyths speculating on the creatures’ identity and cause of their destruction. Many ancient cultures, from China and India to Greece, America, and Australia, told tales of dragons, monsters, and giant heroes to account for fossils of animals they had never seen alive."[3]

By region-

Greek mythology:

Main article: Dragons in Greek mythology
In Ancient Greece the first mention of a "dragon" is derived from the Iliad where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and a three-headed dragon emblem on his breast plate.[4]; however, the Greek word used (d????? drákon, genitive d?????t?? drákontos) could also mean "snake". d????? drákon is a form of the aorist participle active of Greek d????µa? dérkomai = "I see", derkeîn = "to see", and originally likely meant "that which sees", or "that which flashes or gleams" (perhaps referring to reflective scales). This is the origin of the word "dragon". (See also Hesiod's Theogony, 322.)

In 217 A.D., Philostratus discussed dragons (d?????, drákon) in India in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (II,17 and III,6-8). The Loeb Classical Library translation (by F.C. Conybeare) mentions (III,7) that “In most respects the tusks resemble the largest swine’s, but they are slighter in build and twisted, and have a point as unabraded as sharks’ teeth.”

According to Aelian's On Animals, Ethiopia was inhabited by a species of dragon that hunted elephants. It could grow to a length of 180 feet and had a lifespan rivaling that of the most enduring of animals.[5]

European:

Main articles: European dragon and Saint George and the Dragon
European dragons exist in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. Despite having wings, the dragon is generally depicted as having an underground lair or cave, making it an ancient creature of the earth element.

Chinese:

Main article: Chinese dragon
Chinese dragons (simplified Chinese: ?; traditional Chinese: ?; pinyin: lóng), and Oriental dragons generally, can take on human form and are usually seen as benevolent, whereas European dragons are usually malevolent though there are exceptions (one exception being Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon of Wales). Malevolent dragons also occur in the mythology of Persia (see Azhi Dahaka) and Russia, among other places.

Dragons are particularly popular in China and the five-clawed dragon was a symbol of the Chinese emperors, with the phoenix or fenghuang the symbol of the Chinese empress. Dragon costumes manipulated by several people are a common sight at Chinese festivals.

Japanese:

Main article: Japanese dragon
Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. Gould writes (1896:248)[6], the Japanese dragon is "invariably figured as possessing three claws".

Vedic:

In the early Vedic religion, Vritra (Sanskrit: ????? (Devanagari) or V?tra (IAST)) "the enveloper", was an Asura and also a "naga" (serpent) or possibly dragon-like creature, the personification of drought and enemy of Indra. Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi ("snake"), and he is said to have had three heads.

Persian:

Aži Dahaka is the source of the modern Persian word azhdaha or ezhdeha ????? (Middle Persian azdahag) meaning "dragon", often used of a dragon depicted upon a banner of war. The Persians believed that the baby of a dragon will be the same color as the mother's eyes. In Middle Persian he is called Dahag or Bevar-Asp, the latter meaning "[he who has] 10,000 horses." Several other dragons and dragon-like creatures, all of them malevolent, are mentioned in Zoroastrian scripture.

Semitic:

In Jewish religious texts, the first mention of a dragon-like creature is in the Biblical works of Job (26:13), and Isaiah (27:1) where it is called Nachash Bare'ach, or a "Pole Serpent".[7] This is identified in the Midrash Rabba to Genesis 1:21 as Leviathan from the word Taninim (??????) "and God created the great sea-monsters."[8] In modern Hebrew the word Taninim is used for Crocodiles - however, this is a 20th Century usage unconnected with the original Biblical meaning.

In Jewish astronomy this is also identified with the North Pole, the star Thuban which, around 4,500 years ago, was the star in the Draco constellation's "tail".[7] However this can also have been either the celestial pole or the ecliptic pole. The ancient observers noted that Draco was at the top of the celestial pole, giving the appearance that stars were "hanging" from it, and in Hebrew it is referred to as Teli, from talah (???) - to hang.[9] Hebrew writers from Arabic-speaking locations identified the Teli as Al Jaz'har, which is a Persian word for a "knot" or a "node" because of the intersection of the inclination of the orbit of a planet from the elliptic that forms two such nodes. In modern astronomy these are called the ascending node and the descending node, but in medieval astronomy they were referred to as "dragon's head" and "dragon's tail".

Rahab, as described in Psalms 89:9-10 and Isaiah 51:9-10, also has "dragon-like" characteristics.[original research?]

Modern depictions-

In the early 20th Century sculpture of the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland, inspired by Medieval art, dragons are a frequent theme - as symbol of sin but also as a nature force, fighting against man.

There are numerous examples of dragons in modern literature, especially the fantasy genre.

In the 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, the major antagonist is a dragon named Smaug. Smaug hoards a great treasure but is ultimately shot down with an arrow by an archer who was told about a soft patch in Smaug's underbelly armor. Other dragons appearing in Tolkien's works include Glaurung, the ""father of dragons" created by Morgoth, along with Ancalagon the Black and Scatha. Also, in Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham, a dragon named Chrysophylax Dives is encountered.

Dragonriders of Pern is an extensive fantasy/science fiction series of novels and short stories primarily written by Anne McCaffrey. Since 2004, McCaffrey's son Todd McCaffrey has also published Pern novels, both in collaboration with Anne and on his own. The Pernese use intelligent firebreathing dragons who have a telepathic bond with their riders, formed by mental impressions which the dragons receive when they hatch from their eggs.

Some modern pseudo-biological accounts of dragons give them the generic name Draco, although the generic name Draco is used in real-world biology for a genus of small gliding agamid lizard.

Cartography-

There is a widespread belief that earlier cartographers used the Latin phrase hic sunt dracones, i.e., "the dragons are here", or "there are dragons here", to denote dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of the infrequent medieval practice of putting sea serpents and other mythological creatures in blank areas of maps. However the only known use of this phrase is in the Latin form "HC SVNT DRACONES" on the Lenox Globe (ca. 1503-07) ".