What dragons kept the whole world at bay in ancient times

(ORDO NEWS) — Long before Hollywood films made dragons the embodiment of evil (as in The Lord of the Rings) or in the favorite companions of individual characters (How to Train Your Dragon), people kept and passed on dragon legends.

Chinese dragon in Shanghai. Note the precious pearl in the mouth of the Chinese dragon in Shanghai. Pay attention to the precious pearl in your mouth.

One of the main questions historians are worried about is why dragons, with such a huge variety of languages ​​and cultures that humans have created, not to mention all the different types of landscape and climate that they called home, exist in so many mythologies and are so diverse ? To answer this question, you need to look into history.

Dragon lands

China has the longest continuous tradition of dragon stories dating back over 5,000 years.

In Chinese imagery, dragons symbolize imperial rule and good fortune. Dragons from Chinese legends lived in distant waters, and, as a rule, even being wingless could fly. The important thing is that they brought rain, and hence fertility for the soil. In the 12-year Chinese zodiac, the dragon years are at their most auspicious.

Much of the images of dragons in other Asian countries, notably Japan and Vietnam, are adapted from the same designs influenced by the Chinese a long time ago. But if this continuity can be traced historically, for example, through Zen Buddhism, then dragons in other cultures are more difficult to explain, especially if you ask the question, what connects them all?

In addition to the medieval dragons of Europe, there are also dragon-like mythological monsters in the folklore of the American Indians, as well as the Maya and Aztecs. For example, Quetzalcoatl is known – the feathered serpent god, whose cult roots go back to ancient times.

A thunder dragon on the flag of Bhutan, a small nation in the Himalayas. A thunder dragon on the flag of Bhutan, a small nation in the Himalayas. India and its South Asian neighbors also have ancient dragons. One dragon even appears on the flag of a small Himalayan country – Bhutan. Those who expand on the definition of a dragon a bit may even find it in Inuit legends in the Canadian Arctic regions.

The story of the origin of dragons

Mesopotamian monster fighting stories are the best candidates for the earliest dragon fiction.

In the Babylonian version, a serpentine monster deity named Tiamat came out of the sea to bring everything back to its original state – chaos. The heroic young god Marduk accepts the challenge by killing Tiamat and thus saving the cosmos.

Tiamat was often depicted as a dragon. In Akkadian mythology (the cosmogonic poem “Enuma Elish”), she was a kind of personification of the water element, the embodiment of world chaos.

The ancient Babylonian myth of the creation of Tiamat (left) dates back to at least the 2nd millennium BC The ancient Babylonian myth of the creation of Tiamat (left) dates back to at least the 2nd millennium BC As in other Mesopotamian myths, the Bible contains echoes of this battle … Among the references in the psalms and the book of Job, it is told how the God of Israel defeated Leviathan.

Variations on the history of Tiamat will be found repeatedly in Mediterranean and European traditions. The confrontation between a dragon or similar monster and a heroic savior forms one of the key aspects of Western dragon myths. In many cases, the dragon exists only for the hero to have something to kill.

Greek mythology also includes several battles with snake monsters. Zeus, while fighting the Titans, used his lightning bolts to kill Typhon, the fire-breathing dragon. The Greek myth of Typhon follows an earlier storyline borrowed from neighboring civilizations, including the Hittites.

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The dragon is also found in the myth about Jason and the golden fleece. This precious but heavy piece of outerwear was under the constant guard of the sleepless dragon. Another important character in the myth, Medea, puts a giant snake to sleep. Such Greek myths contain characteristic motifs familiar from the canonical dragon cycle – in this case, the characterization of dragons as jealous guardians of the golden treasure.

The English word Dragon originates from the Greek word δράκων. But the ancient Greeks seemed to use their word to refer to something more like a large snake than a classic dragon.

Therefore, both Russian and foreign experts argue about whether it is worth associating a dragon with a snake, distinguishing them, for example, by the number of paws (a snake usually has 4, and a draokn has 2), although there are many artistic images where the dragon also has 4 paws.

In this 13th century illustration, Saint George kills a dragon that demanded human sacrifice. In this 13th century illustration, Saint George kills a dragon that demanded human sacrifice. However, there is another legend about the dragon, namely, the Miracle of George about the serpent.

In classic legend form, a poisonous dragon terrorizes the Libyan city of Silenus. Saint George goes to the city on his horse and, having learned about the plight of people, agrees to kill the dragon.

Saint George himself was born in Cappadocia, on the territory of modern Turkey, in the third century AD. Tradition says that he was a soldier and refused to practice pagan worship.

The narrative is similarly compiled from various sources. In late antiquity, a popular subject of pre-Christian devotion in the Balkans was the rider on a horse that rose on its hind legs, sometimes trampling the animal.

In this fourth century ancient Egyptian sculpture, the god Horus kills Set, who is in the shape of a crocodile. The setting is very similar to the depictions of the myth of St. George, although it predates the myth by about 800 years. In this ancient Egyptian sculpture of the fourth century, the god Horus kills Set, who is in the shape of a crocodile. The setting is very similar to the depictions of the myth of St. George, although it predates the myth by about 800 years. In the Christian era, these warriors gave way to depictions of saints in the same pose and with the same motives. This change reflects how attitudes toward snakes have changed. No longer associated with life and healing, snakes, through the interpretation of the New Testament, may have become the visual embodiment of evil.

The Crusader Knights spread the legend of Saint George from the eastern Mediterranean to Western Europe, where the story of Saint George took its place as a fulcrum of the medieval imagination.

The origin of the dragon image

In his book Dragon Instinct, anthropologist David E. Jones suggested that over millions of years, natural selection forced human ancestors to depict the dragon as a kind of collective image of danger.

The basis of his theory is that vervet monkeys automatically instinctively reacted to snakes and displayed similar reactions to images of big cats and birds of prey.

Therefore, people with an instinctive aversion to certain dangerous things that can kill you, on average, live longer and produce more offspring. Jones suggested that dragons are a collage of the most important attributes of dangerous predators: the wings of large birds of prey, jaws, claws of large cats and the sinuous bodies of snakes.

In The First Fossil Predators, historian Adrienne Meyer presented examples of folk “paleontology” in ancient texts as an alternative perspective. People began to find dinosaur fossils long before they could understand and correctly interpret their archaeological significance, but that did not stop them from trying to explain their unusual discoveries.

For example, an isolated femur from an extinct European elephant population could spark rumors of giant, human-like creatures. And the fuller skeletons of dinosaurs or the sinuous skull of a prehistoric giraffe could make an ancient traveler imagine the body of a dragon-like animal.

In a sense, dragon myths are ubiquitous. Still, we must not forget that Western and Asian dragons may and are very similar in appearance, but not identical, and their mythical roles tend to be even more different. The functions of Mesopotamian dragons also do not correlate with Asian and European dragons.

Therefore, humanity has inherited a very ramified image of dragons, which has come down to us in all its diversity from different cultures and time periods.

Who became a dragon in myths

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The mythological literature of the whole world affects creatures that resemble huge lizards. Such images are absent only among the peoples of Africa and South America. In most myths, dragons are born from the connection of gods or god and man. They are often evil creatures. But in China, Japan, Korea and India, they embody wisdom and virtue.

The ways of transforming into a dragon differ in the origin of the myth. Five are considered the main ones.

  1. Divine abilities to take on arbitrary shape in the ancient Greek tradition. The god Zeus took the guise of a dragon, appeared to his daughter Persephone, the wife of the god of the kingdom of the dead, Hades. From this connection, the son of Zagreus was born. The god of the seas, Proteus, also took on a dragon form.
  2. The magical abilities of some fairies. In the Middle Ages, when Christianity appeared, legends about fairies capable of taking on the appearance of various creatures appeared on the territory of Europe. The most famous character is Melusine, the daughter of the fairy Pressina, who turned into a dragon after being insulted by her husband.
  3. Consequences of curses. Young girls and boys in European and Slavic myths partially or on certain days took the form of large snakes and similar creatures. They were combined in marriages with mortals in order to continue the family line and give the chosen ones various benefits. When spouses, out of curiosity or jealousy, learned the secrets of their soul mates, they turned into dragons forever and left their home.
  4. Punishment for stinginess. In Scandinavian and ancient Asian myths, the gods turned people into dragons, who devoted their lives to the accumulation of wealth. They were given longevity to guard the treasures, but in the guise of terrible serpents.
  5. Punishment for fornication. In Babylonian and medieval myths, unfaithful wives and girls of easy virtue could turn into lizards during the day, and at night they became succubi.

Many myths indicate that dragons themselves could take any form. In this way, these magical creatures could safely exist in the human world.

Assumption of the origin of dragons

Where the original concept of “dragon” came from is currently unknown, since there is no generally accepted scientific theory, and there is no evidence that would confirm the existence of dragons now or in the past. While the very existence of dragons can be true or false, it is an indisputable fact that dragons are present in myths in so many places that have had no contact with each other. It is assumed that dragons may be some kind of common representation of the creature for people, along with general psychological tendencies among groups of humanity.

Some believe that the dragon may have had a real prototype from which various legends arose. For example, dinosaurs or other archaeosaurs. But there is no evidence to support this hypothesis, only alleged observations studied within the framework of cryptozoology (a targeted search for animals whose existence has not been proven, or is considered impossible in a given area and / or at a given time (for example, the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, etc.) etc.)). According to this hypothesis, there are giant lizards like Megalania, which are descendants of dinosaurs. All of these hypotheses are considered by many to be pseudoscience or myth.

The first dinosaur fossils found were once thought of as “dragon bones.” This discovery, made in 300 BC in the Sichuan province of China, was named Chang Qu. It is unlikely, but there is a chance that it was this discovery that sparked the legends of the flying monsters, or strengthened them.

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Herodotus, often referred to as the “father of history,” visited Judea in 450 BC and wrote that he had heard of caged dragons in neighboring Arabia, near Petra in Jordan. Out of curiosity, he traveled to these places and found many skeletal remains of snakes and collected many reports of flying kites flying from Arabia to Egypt, but being fought off by the Ibis

According to Marco Polo’s journals, as he walked through Anatolia to Persia, he came across real living flying dragons that attacked his personal caravan in the desert. He reported that dragons were very frightening animals that nearly killed him in the attack. Polo did not write this story in the journal right away, but dictated to his cellmate when he was in prison, and at the moment there is a big debate about whether this man could simply invent a dragon to decorate Marco Polo’s story. Polo was also the first Western person to describe the Chinese “dragon bones”. These bones were apparently the fossils described in Chang Qu, or bones of other animals.

There is another hypothesis put forward by supporters of the catastrophe theory. It says that comets and the lines in the sky that they form gave rise to legends about fiery serpents in the sky. In Old English, comets were sometimes called fyrene dracan, or fiery dragons. Volcanic eruptions may have also been responsible for strengthening the belief in dragons, although eruptions in European and Asian countries were rare.

Recently, the Discovery Channel aired Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real. This program examined several of the most likely scientific evidence for dragons.

Dragon classification

Russian dragons

Origin Name Description
Slavic dragons Serpent, serpent, serpent Similar to European dragons, but with many heads. They breathe fire and leave a trail of flame when they fly. In Slavic culture and related to it, dragons symbolize evil. Dragons are often given Türkic names (for example, Zilant), symbolizing the long-standing conflict between Slavs and Türks.
Tatar dragons Zilant It looks like a winged snake. Zilant is a symbol of Kazan. Zilant himself is the Russian personification of the Tatar dragon, that is, the snake.
Siberian dragon Yilbegan Similar to European, Turkic and Slavic dragons
Chuvash dragons Vera Selene Chuvash dragons represent the pre-Islamic mythology of this republic.

European dragons

Origin Name Description
Scandinavian and Germanic dragons Lindworm Also called the “Dragon Snake”, it is a very large, wingless snake with two legs. But Lindworm is actually closer to the winged dragon. Such dragons were believed to eat cattle and symbolize pestilence. On the other hand, seeing Lindworm was considered good luck. The dragon Fafnir, slain by the legendary hero Sigurd, was called Orr (‘worm’) in ancient Norse. He really was a giant snake. He did not fly, and he did not breathe fire. On the other hand, the dragon killed by the English hero Beowulf did fly and breathe fire and was actually a European dragon.
Welsh dragon Y Ddraig Goch The red dragon is a traditional symbol for Wales and can be seen on the Welsh national flag.
Hungarian dragons Sarkanyok Zomok A large swamp snake that regularly kills pigs or sheep. But she can easily be killed by several shepherds who went to hunt for her.
Sarkanykigyo A giant winged snake, which is, in fact, a grown Zomok. Often uses garabonciasok (this is a special kind of magic). Sarkanikigio controls storms and causes bad weather.
Sarkany Dragon in human form. Most of them are giants with many heads. Their strength is in their heads. If they lose their heads, they become weak.
Romanian dragons Balaur Balaur is very similar to the Slavic snake. Very large, and with many heads.
Austrian dragons Cuelebre In Austrian mythology, the Kuelebras are giant winged snakes that live in caves where they guard the treasures and the abducted Hanas (nymphs). They can live for centuries and when they get quite old they start using their wings to fly. Their breath is poisonous and they often kill cattle for food. The Austrian word Kuelebre comes from the Latin colubra, meaning snake.
Basque dragons Herensuge In Basque, it means dragon. According to legend, Saint Michael descended from heaven to kill Herensuzh, but only when God agreed to accompany him. Because Michael was frightened by this creature.
Sagaar One of the gods of Basque mythology, also called Maju, looked like a snake, although it could take other forms.

Asian dragons

Origin Name Description
Indonesian dragon Naga or Nogo Naga is a mythical animal of Vindonesian mythology. The myth about her covers almost all the islands of Indonesia, especially those that were influenced by the Hindu culture. Like its Indian counterpart, the Indonesian naga regards it as something divine in nature. It is benevolent, and is often associated with sacred mountains, forests, or certain parts of the sea. 

In parts of Indonesia, the dragon or Naga is depicted as a giant snake with a golden crown on its forehead. And there is a belief among some Indonesian peoples that Nagas still exist on uncharted mountains, lakes and active volcanoes. In Java and Bali, dragons are portrayed as perfect creatures that the gods sent to the earth to support the good and prosperity of the people. Some of those living there claim to have seen this legendary animal and considered it a good omen. But if the dragons spoke to them, then this is considered a warning of trouble or failure.

Chinese dragon Lung A light creature that has a long, serpentine shape, combined with various characteristics of other animals. Most (but not all) are wingless. The creature has four claws on each leg (five on the imperial emblem). They are the masters of the weather, water, and also a symbol of power. They can carry dragon eggs in their paws, although, according to some sources, they are pearls.
Japanese dragon Rui Similar to Chinese and Korean dragons, but with three claws instead of four. They are benevolent (with some exceptions) and can grant wishes. Rarely found in Japanese mythology.
Vietnamese dragon Longo The bodies of these dragons bend in 12 waves, which symbolize 12 months of the year. They can influence the weather and are responsible for the harvest. There are several horns on the dragon’s back. The head has a long mane and beard. Big eyes, a ridge on the nose, but no horns. The mouth is depicted as large and open, with a long, thin tongue. They always keep a gem in their mouth (a symbol of humanity, nobility and knowledge).
Korean dragon Yong The Heavenly Dragon is essentially the same as the Chinese Lung. Like Lyung, Yong, and other Korean dragons, control water and weather.
Yo (yo) The hornless ocean dragon, sometimes called the sea serpent.
Kyo Dragon living in the mountains.
Indian Dragons Vyalee and Naga There is debate over whether Viali can truly be considered a dragon. It was found in ancient temples where the goddess Parvati was worshiped. Naga is the main dragon of Indian and Hindu mythology. Nagas are magical snakes that live in the water. Their king wears a golden crown on his head. Nagas are associated with Buddha and mainly with the god Vishnu and his incarnations – Dasavataras. When Krishna was still a child, he fought with Naga, who captured the water of the lake.

American dragons

Origin Name Description
Central American Dragon Amphitere A winged deity in the form of a snake. Was supposed to give knowledge to humanity. Sometimes it was also a symbol of death and the beginning of a new life.
Inca dragon Amaru Dragon (sometimes called a snake) in the Inca culture. The last Inca emperor Tapak Amaru had a name that means “Dragon of God”
Brazilian dragon Boi-tata Dragon-like creature (sometimes snake-like) in Brazilian culture.
Chilean dragons Caicaivilu and Tentenvilu Dragons in the form of a snake. Kaikaiwilu was the sea god and Tentenwilu was the land god. Both come from the Chilean island of Chiloe.

African dragons

Origin Name Description
African dragon Amphisbaena Perhaps first appeared in North Africa (and later myths about him moved to Greece). Amphisbene was a two-headed dragon (one head was in front, the other at the end of its tail). The front head held the tail (or neck as the case may be) in the mouth. Those. the dragon created a wheel from its body that allowed it to roll.

Dragon-like creatures

Name Description
Basilisk Basilisk is a descendant of the union of a rooster and a snake. He looks like a lizard, or a snake, and can kill with his look, voice, or touching the victim. Like Medusa, the basilisk can die if it sees itself in the mirror.
Leviathan In Jewish mythology, the leviathan was a large creature with huge teeth. Modern translations represent a leviathan as a crocodile, but in the Bible, a leviathan can breathe out fire, can fly, it cannot be penetrated with a spear or a harpoon, it can crawl along sheer walls, its teeth are very close to each other, it could swallow a person entirely, thus he does not look very much like a crocodile. For a long time, this word has been used to refer to any large sea creature. In modern Hebrew, “leviathan” simply means whale. Leviathan is more like a snake and lives in water.
Winged dragon More like a regular dragon than any of the other creatures listed here. A winged dragon is a winged snake with two or no legs. The winged dragon is often used in heraldry, where it is very different from the four-legged dragon.
Serpent Derived from the Slavic dragon. The serpent takes the form of a man, can fly and breathe fire
Cockatrice A bird-like reptile that is often confused with a basilisk. In Gerald Derrell’s book, they attempt to kill all dragons by stealing their last eggs.
Quetzl A Central American or Mexican creature with both scales and feathers worshiped by the Toltecs and Aztecs.

What are the rituals for turning into a dragon

Magic rituals that help to acquire the appearance of a strong mythical creature are found in different practices. The dragon is a strong symbol with the power of uniting all the elements:

  • he spews out Fire,
  • knows how to fly through the air,
  • manages precipitation and water bodies (Water),
  • wears strong scales (Stone, Earth).

To receive his strength and likeness, a person must have unbroken willpower and perseverance.

The main sign of readiness to receive the dragon’s power is its constant presence in life. If a creature often comes in dreams, its images catch the eye, and personal belongings have its symbols or outlines, then a person can try to turn into a dragon.

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Wiccan tradition

According to the beliefs of the followers of Wicca, any practitioner can become a real dragon. Even if the creature is not his totem, there is an opportunity to use his power and summon it.

To do this, you need to find your place of power. In it, light a candle and mentally turn to the Universe, read a spell to become a dragon:

If it does not work the first time, they try to carry out the ceremony again until the result is obtained. But inviting more than one totem into life is not safe. When there is no longer a need for the dragon’s power, you should let it go. To do this, light a white candle, offer thanks to the World and the totem animal.

Celtic ritual

The ancient Celts believed in a fire lizard living underground. It absorbs solar energy and is itself it in its everyday incarnation.

For a person to become a dragon, you need to wait until the summer solstice. When dusk falls on this day, they come to a hill – a mountain or a hill. They take with them a ritual dagger with a black handle. A large symbol called the Eye of the Dragon is drawn on the ground. A spell is pronounced over him:

They pierce the weapon up to the hilt into the ground in the center of the symbol. The power of the creature will immediately wake up and slip through the dagger to the magician. She can crush, try to overcome and break. You need to mentally resist it, bending it down with willpower. After 5 minutes, the energy will become submissive and ready to fulfill any instructions.

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To bind this creature to oneself and adopt its hypostasis, ritual weapons are kept in the house. They renew the connection with him by repeating the ritual on other days of power.

Old Slavic rite

Prepare for this ritual in advance. A ritual knife is made from a piece of pure metal – iron, bronze or tin. It should resemble a tooth or claw of an ancient raptor. The image of the creature and the first rune of its name are carved on the handle.

Then they go into the forest, find a large aspen stump. All clothing is removed at night. They stick a knife into the tree as deep as possible, holding the handle with both hands. They jump over a stump, trying to do a somersault in the air directly above it. If everything is done correctly, then a person can become a dragon in real life, but only until the morning. Before sunrise, he must repeat the ritual in order to return to human form.

Medieval ritual

The magicians of medieval Europe knew the recipe for how to turn a man into a lizard at home. For this, a special substance called “dragon blood” was used. This is the resin of the dracaena tree cinnabar red.

For the ritual, a special mixture should be prepared. It includes cinnabar salt and a decoction of dracaena leaves. The ingredients are mixed until a liquid slurry.

At night they come to the place with an elevation. Draw a circle and enter it. A bowl with the mixture is placed in front of you. They dip a piece of dragon tree resin into it and read the plot:

Next, they draw a dragon symbol on their palms. A piece of resin is taken and worn on the body for 30 days. To make the transformation successful, drawings of the creature are applied to different parts of the body for a month.

Difficult ways

Some of the recipes for how to become a dragon seem fantastic. They are designed for unusual moments that cannot be predicted with accuracy. A person is allowed to become a dragon in such situations:

  • find the treasure or pearl of the creature;
  • bathe in a witchcraft source that can give the required appearance;
  • drink an elixir based on dragon blood;
  • pass the test by fire and receive a blessing from the dragon himself.

These ways to become a mythical dragon can only be done by true initiates. They rarely reveal their secrets and explain details.

Chinese culture and mythology

In Chinese mythology, the magical animal occupies a dominant position. This essence is the king of folk legends and legends. There were a lot of legends, myths, fairy tales, since he himself is a fantastic creature.

A book entitled “A Journey to the West” gained great popularity among the people. It is written in Chinese and occupies an important place in the country’s literature. The main characters of the book are dragons.

Dragon in Chinese culture means wisdom, life, light. In the old days, the creature was the keeper of jewelry, later it was considered the patron saint of fertility. The appearance of an animal is a joyous omen. Great and brilliant people are born on this day. There is a legend about Confucius: when he was born, two winged mythical beasts descended into his house – the harbingers of a joyful event. There is a belief that the creature is the personification of masculinity, strength, power. And a long time ago, people believed about his connection with girls. If a woman saw an entity in a dream or in the sky above the house, then an outstanding sovereign, an emperor, would be born or appear in her family.

Types of Chinese dragons

In China, there are many types of Chinese dragon moons (more than 100). Each of them has its own role. You can consider the most popular ones.

Red Dragon

The red dragon is the foundation of Chinese culture. He personifies the sky. We can see it on many canvases, holidays in China.

Black dragon

The black dragon is called Xuanlong. An ancient creature that can dive into the depths of magical waters.

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White Dragon

Bailun (as it is also called) is a white creature of virtue.

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Golden Dragon

Gold was the coat of arms of the imperial family of China. The throne of the ruler was called the “Throne of the Dragon”, the face of the emperor – “The Face of the Dragon”. This sign existed on the clothes of the rulers.

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Water dragon

A large number of creatures live in water and are the masters of this element. But their environment is not only water depths – animals have the ability to soar into the sky.

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Green Dragon

Qinglong or the green dragon in the sources of Chinese culture is depicted in bright colors and is associated with spring. He only brings joy to people. This Chinese dragon symbol was used on military banners and was considered a sign of happiness.

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Long-wan

Among other mythological creatures, Lun-wan stands out for its royal size and power. The cult of this animal existed quite firmly in China. In every city, village, village, temples, statues, and other pieces of art were dedicated to him. During floods, droughts, and other natural disasters, his sculpture was put on display and asked for help.

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Dragons and wyverns in the most ancient myths

Creatures similar to winged reptiles, which breathed fire and possessed tremendous strength, have been known to mankind since ancient times. So, similar images existed during the Stone Age. Rock paintings in many countries of the world depict not only scenes from the real life of people, but also fantastic creatures, some of which are very much like dragons. However, these drawings could not allow scientists and researchers to fully restore the picture of ancient beliefs and traditions.

The first written sources to reconstruct the ancient myths about dragons were the hieroglyphic inscriptions of Ancient Egypt and the Sumerian-Babylonian epic. In these legends, a giant reptile acted as an eternal evil, with which heroes or gods fought. So, in Ancient Babylon, the goddess Tiamat possessed the image of a dragon, who was killed by Marduk, her grandson. And in ancient Egypt, the appearance of a huge reptile, striving to devour the Sun, was Apep. He was opposed by the god Ra, who almost always defeated the beast. The exception was the days of solar eclipses, when the monster briefly managed to absorb the star.

In general, in most ancient myths, the image of the dragon is somehow associated with the key principles of the universe. It is almost always in one way or another associated with the Sun and with the cycle of day and night. But the personification of evil in the guise of a large reptile is characteristic exclusively for European civilization and Aramaic culture.

Dragons in Norse mythology

Finally, in the European tradition, the image of the dragon was formed in the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian traditions. Here they also acted as evil creatures who sought to destroy both humanity and the gods. Initially, there were two great dragons in the worldview of the Scandinavians. One of them was called Nidhogg and he was the embodiment of the classic European monster.

Nidhogg is a great serpent, he lives in the depths of Hvergelmir – the source from which the entire universe was created. This beast lives from the beginning of time and gnaws at the roots of the World Tree, seeking to destroy it and plunge the world into primordial chaos. He also has an antagonist – the giant Hrösvelg, sitting on the very top of Yggdrasil. And the enmity between them is manifested in the fact that they constantly sprinkle each other with swear words. These words are conveyed from Nidhogg, lying at the very bottom of the world, to Hrösvelg, located at its top, by a small animal – the Ratatosk squirrel. This feud will last until the end of time and will begin again as soon as the universe is reborn. The Celtic dragon has a similar meaning, which connects the underworld and heaven. However, among the Celts, his figure acted as a protector, not a destroyer.

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Another of the most famous Scandinavian scaly monsters is the World Serpent Jormungand. Unlike most classical European mythical reptiles, Jormungand lives in water, and according to some opinions, it does not have legs and wings, being just a snake, not a dragon. He will also be one of the key figures in the End of the World – Ragnarok.

In addition to these two fundamental dragons, Norse mythology contains references to other such creatures. The most famous of these was Fafnir, spoken of by both the Elder and the Younger of Edda, and also the Welsung Saga. According to legend, earlier Fafnir was a man, and only then he took the form of a terrible beast in order to guard the plundered and stolen gold. It was from the image of Fafnir that the stereotype was formed that dragons sleep on gold and guard it.

Famous dragons of the peoples of the world – Azhi Dahaka, Quetzalcoatl and others

In addition to the Scandinavians, other peoples of the world had their own dragons. These are the mythical creatures Quetzalcoatl – the god of the Aztecs, Wonder Yudo and the Serpent Gorynych from Slavic mythology, as well as Azhi Dahak – an Iranian dragon, to which very much attention is paid to this day. Now more and more scientists are investigating the phenomenon of winged serpents, because these mythical creatures independently appeared in all human cultures.

Quetzalcoatl, called the “feathered serpent”, is one of the main figures of the Aztec pantheon. It was his avatar that the Aztecs of Cortez considered. That is why he managed to conquer the South American peoples with little or no troops. People could not resist the power of the one in which they saw the embodiment of their god.

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A separate article on our site was awarded to the Slavic Miracle Yudo. Some believe that it is a lot akin to the Chinese water dragon. Other researchers still do not think that this beast belongs to dragons, but is a fish or sea monster.

And the name of Azhi Dakhak or Zahhak is still called a huge number of places in Iran and adjacent countries. This beast was in the myths of the Iranian peoples both before the advent of Islam and after. Now he is considered one of the efreet – evil genies who serve Iblis. Like the European fire-breathing monsters, he was constantly sacrificed in the form of maidens and cattle.

The ancient Greeks had their own dragons – the Lernaean Hydra, as well as Scylla and Charybdis. The Japanese dragon Orochi became the most famous of the rivers in the Izumo province. And the water dragon Apalalu from Indian mythology, according to legend, became the first Buddhist among these animals, imbued with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama.

Dragons in Christianity and Judaism

The image of dragons in Christianity has always been akin to the image of Satan. Indeed, it was in the form of the Serpent that the angel Samael seduced Eve, tempting her to taste the fruit of knowledge. Therefore, everything that is associated with reptiles and, even more so, so terrible and large, was associated both in the Jewish religion and in Christianity with devilish intrigues.

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At the same time, chthonic creatures in the Torah and the Old Testament have been known since ancient times. One of these was the beast Leviathan, which some consider to have an image similar to dragons. This beast, unlike Satan, was considered a creation of God, without a pair and a manifestation of his power – no one could defeat Leviathan without the help of the Lord.

In Christianity, the image of giant fire-breathing reptiles was finally blackened by the legends about George the Victorious. According to legend, this saint came to the unfortunate inhabitants of one city. The ruler of this city constantly sacrificed maidens to the serpent. And when the time came to sacrifice the daughter of the king, she met George, who inquired about the cause of her sorrows and promised to defeat the spawn of evil in an honest battle. It was from this myth that all subsequent medieval stories about knights who rescued beautiful maidens from the clutches of monsters arose.

Wyverns and dragons – what’s the difference between them

The word “Wyvern” in Slavic literature first appeared in books about the witcher Andrzej Sapkowski. At the same time, in Western literature, the term “wyvern” has long been called mythical creatures similar to dragons, however, not identical to them. The classic European fire-breathing snake had four legs and wings. They, according to legends, could have remarkable intelligence and cunning.

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Wyverns were generally considered only monsters, wild and dangerous. They had two wings and two legs, as well as, very often, a sharp and poisonous sting on the tail. At the time of the separation of these images, the tradition was already clearly established that dragons were fire-breathing. Wyverns didn’t have that ability.

Nowadays, wyverns can often be found both in cinematography and in other works of mass art. For example, in the domestic film “Dragon”, as well as in “The Hobbit”, alas, not dragons are portrayed, but wyverns. However, this mistake is important exclusively for dragonologists who study the history of these creatures and their impact on human culture.

Good dragons – when did they arise

In the second half of the twentieth century, dragons ceased to be the image of universal evil in Western literature. And by the beginning of the new millennium, they almost always became positive characters. They make films and cartoons about them, write books and create video games.

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But in the Eastern tradition, dragons were never considered exclusively evil creatures. We have a separate article about Chinese dragons. In general, in Asian myths, huge reptiles could sometimes do evil deeds, but they were mostly positive characters. Japan and India also differ in a similar view of these creatures.

Overall, dragons are a huge layer of human culture that cannot be ignored. And given the ubiquity and similarity of the myths about them, it is very likely that they did exist. Maybe – and still?

Four forces

Dragon World: Fire Element

It is not for nothing that we called dragons ancient, not mythological creatures: their image was first imprinted in human culture for a very long time. Even in Sumerian myths, these outlandish creatures are mentioned, who, along with the gods, participate in the creation of the Earth and the Universe. Usually they are opposed to the gods. But why?

Dragon World: Water Element

The key is that the dragon is an artistic development of the image of the snake in all its contradictions. The snake is both wise and insidious at the same time. She personifies underground and underwater chthonic forces – because she always crawls on the ground and knows how to swim.

Dragon World: Earth Element

The dragon is a fire-breathing winged serpent with wings. This is a bold attempt by the ancients to unite in one creature all the power of the four elements – life-giving earth, clean water, merciless flame and fresh wind.

Dragon World: Air Element

In contemporary art, this is reflected in the idea of ​​elemental dragons. In the artistic world of dragons there are “fiery”, “water”, “earthy”, “airy” creations – but you and I know that a real dragon unites everything in itself.

Dragons and knights

Dragons and armor

Another reason for the continued popularity of dragons is their close connection with the culture of the Middle Ages. Can you imagine a real knight who would not break a single spear on a thick scaly hide?

Dragon World: Fantasy

But it all started much earlier – with the same myths about the victory of God over the serpent. Hence the numerous legends about the snake-fighters, the most famous of which is St. George the Victorious.

Medieval dragons in a fantasy world

But these are all matters of bygone days. Medieval dragons came to modern culture through fantasy, arguably the most productive and popular art style of the past half century.

The world of dragons and castles

Now dragons are another bridge to the romantic world of the Middle Ages and magic, the doors to which are opened by books, films and paintings. Defeating the winged serpent is a good challenge for a real hero, and therefore, while the heroes are still in value, dragons will not be left without work either.

Dragons and dreams

Dragon World: Romantic Sadness

Dragons are shrouded in a charm of mystery. Their power, their danger – and at the same time, their loneliness – make them romantically sad. The dragon and the night, the dragon and the moon – these are the favorite themes for the work of many artists who saw in the winged snakes a symbol of the tormented incomprehensibility of the human soul.

Secrets of the world of dragons

Still, the main thing in a dragon is, perhaps, not a formidable fire in its mouth, but powerful wings. These wings make him look like a bird – a symbol of dreams and hope.

Funny dragons of the Land of Fantasy

The flight of the dragon is an allegory of the creative flight of the individual, the realization of his highest desires by him. That is why hitherto unseen dragons appeared in the art of modern times – kind, dreamy creatures, sometimes covered with feathers or even fur.

The world of poetic dragons

Such graceful and poetic creatures awaken imagination, make you raise your head high and look into the sky; and there, in the blue between white clouds, the kindest and most beloved dragon is already flying – a kite!

Animals thought to be dragons

The dragon is a mythical creature typically depicted as a large and strong snake or other reptile endowed with magical or spiritual qualities. Dragons have some abilities typically associated with them in nearly every culture in the world.

The word “dragon” comes from the Greek drakon (genitive; drakontos), which means “snake, sea fish.”
Dragons are usually depicted as snakes or reptiles, hatching from eggs and possessing an extremely large, usually scaly, body. They are often depicted with big eyes. This characteristic is at the root of the word “dragon” in the local dialect in many cultures. Also often (but not always), dragons are depicted with wings and fiery breath. Some dragons have no wings at all, and look more like long snakes. Dragons can have a different number of legs: none, two or four. In modern terms, dragons are very large in size, but some early European descriptions of dragons indicated that they were the size of a bear, and in some cases even smaller, the size of a butterfly.

Although dragons (or dragon-like creatures) are present in legends all over the world, different cultures have represented them in different ways. Chinese dragons and oriental dragons in general are usually benevolent, while European dragons are usually malevolent (there are, of course, exceptions). Malevolent dragons are also found in Persian mythology, and in other cultures.
The Latin word for “dragon”, “draco” (genitive: draconis) actually means snake, emphasizing the common ancient European association of dragons with snakes rather than lizards or dinosaurs as is commonly done today.
In Hindu mythology, Manasa and Vasuki are creatures similar to snakes, or dragons. Indra, the Hindu storm god, killed Vritra, a large snake living on the mountain.

The Vietnamese dragon is a combined image of a crocodile, snake, lizard and bird. Historically, the Vietnamese people lived near rivers and were very much afraid and revered of crocodiles.

In Greek mythology, there are many legends about snakes or dragons, in which, as a rule, a snake or dragon is guarding some kind of treasure. Greek myths are based on an earlier myth from Canaan, in which the Israelite god Yahweh overcame Leviathan. These stories also go back to even more ancient stories about Hitt or Harrian, who had to overcome the dragon Illuniakas living in the sea.

In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the Rainbow Serpent has been a mythological hero in many parts of Australia. The rainbow snake associated with lakes and rivers had to be respected and feared.

Alligator chinese

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Lives in the east of Asia, in the Yangtze River basin in China. The Chinese alligator belongs to small crocodiles, the length does not exceed 2 m (reports of three-meter individuals are found in ancient Chinese literature, but at present there is no confirmation of the existence of especially large individuals). Adult animals can weigh up to 40 kg. Despite their peaceful nature, Chinese alligators are associated with the mythical Chinese dragon, which did not contribute to its preservation.

Frilled lizard

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To the similarity with dragons, she owes her name to a wide, serrated collar around her neck, or a cloak, interrupted only at the back of the head and deeply dissected in the throat. This collar is a thin skin membrane covered with flat scales, noticeably thickened along the free upper lateral edge, where on each side it is supported by two long cartilaginous outgrowths of the hyoid bone. The outgrowths can be tense under the action of a special muscle located in the throat, so that the collar can rise and fall. The frilled lizard is found in the north of Australia and in the south of the island of New Guinea.

Iguana bearded

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This lizard is common in Australia, where it lives in dry woodlands and rocky semi-deserts. These are large lizards, reaching 40-55 cm in length, omnivorous – they can eat fruits, flowers, grass, and various insects, and even some vertebrates (for example, small lizards). In an unfavorable period (during a cold snap or summer heat), they are buried in the sand and fall into suspended animation. The color varies from dark brown and gray to straw yellow or brick-colored. The agama got its name for the leathery outgrowths on the throat sac, which, in case of danger or during the mating season, swell and resemble a beard, in males it can be dark brown or black, in females – beige or pale orange.

Python

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The hieroglyphic python, Python sebae, widespread throughout western and central Africa, has about 80 rows of scales covering the middle of the body. The hieroglyph python hunts large rodents, birds, small antelopes and other animals. Only in rare cases, when a snake has been attacked and wounded by a person, or if a python has just strangled its prey, does it attack a person in self-defense and inflict serious wounds with its sharp teeth. Stories about a python attacking a person in order to eat him are idle fiction or the fruit of unreasonable fear. The hieroglyphic python belongs to the name “idol snake”, because it is she who is worshiped on the Guinean coast in the temples-huts, where the priests keep her. Most researchers consider the length of 7.5 m to be the maximum for a hieroglyphic python. However, K.

Flying dragon

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It is a small, 20-40 cm in size, lizard with “wings”. It lives in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia – Malaysia, Indonesia, South India, the Philippines, Sumatra and Borneo. The membranes of these agamas stretch like a sail, and they can fly over, a small fold on the neck serves as a stabilizer. The Flying Dragon can indeed fly up to 60 meters. In order to jump from branch to branch, these lizards, of which there are 15-16 species, straighten wide leather folds on the sides of the body, supported by long false ribs, and, as on wings, soar up to the neighboring tree. The body of the dragons is monotonous green, but the wings are bright and variegated: from above – emerald, yellowish, purple, red with dark spots, with white specks and even stripes, and below – lemon, blue or spotted. Until the flying dragon opened its wings it is almost invisible, so it is not easy to see it. As a rule, these lizards live high in the crown of a tree, from there they jump down and glide, sometimes changing direction, both vertically and horizontally, to a neighboring tree. Flying dragons feed on small insects, in particular ants.

Komodo lizard

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The largest lizard, whose body length reaches 3 or even more meters, and weighs about 59 kg. The largest accurately measured specimen was a monitor lizard, exhibited in 1937 at the St. Louis Zoo, PA. Missouri, USA. Its length was 3.10 m, and its mass was 166 kg.

Australian dragon, megalania

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It is the largest lizard ever to live. Megalania belonged to the Varanidae family of monitor lizards. This species lived in Australia during the Pleistocene era, starting from 1.6 million years ago and ending about 40 thousand years ago, so it was well known to our ancestor. Megalania preferred to settle in grassy savannas and thin forests, where she hunted mammals, including very large ones, such as diprotodons, various reptiles, birds, etc. Surely, she did not disdain megalania and carrion, like today’s Komodo monitor lizards. The length of megalania varied from about 5 to 7 meters, but 7-meter specimens were rare, and most often these lizards were about 5.5 meters long. With this length, the weight of megalania would be approximately 400 kg. 7-meter giants most likely weighed about 650-700 kg.

Pterosaur

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Pterosaurs, flying dinosaurs lived in the Mesozoic. Their wings were folds of skin stretched between the sides of the body and the very long fourth toe of the forelimbs. The skeleton had a lightweight structure: thin hollow bones, a light skull with an almost reticular structure, the sternum had a keel, like in birds. Jaws extended into a beak could carry teeth (mainly in early forms). Pterosaurs had a fairly well-developed brain (mainly due to the cerebellum, which is responsible for coordinating movements) and sharp vision. The body was covered with a kind of “wool”, which allows us to make assumptions about the warm-bloodedness of pterosaurs.

Deciduous sea dragon, or sea pegasus

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It is a saltwater fish, a relative of the seahorse. The only member of the genus Phycodurus. These creatures live in the waters washing southern and western Australia, usually found in shallow waters, preferring water of moderate temperatures. The deciduous dragon got its name from the branches of the head and body that look like leaves. These processes serve him not for movement, but exclusively for camouflage. The deciduous dragon moves by means of the pectoral fin located on the crest of the neck, as well as the dorsal fin near the tip of the tail. These small fins are almost completely transparent and are very difficult to see, as they sway only once a minute, providing a measured rocking of the dragon on the waves, creating the illusion of floating algae. Like the seahorse, the leafy dragon gets its name from its resemblance to another creature (albeit fabulous). Its size, of course, does not reach the size of a real dragon, but compared to a seahorse, it is a real giant, it grows up to 45 cm. Plankton, algae, floating debris serve as food for a deciduous dragon.

Flying dragons

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The genus of the subfamily of Afro-Arabian agamas (Agaminae) – woody insectivorous lizards – is well known to people. They do not have real wings, but they can plan quite gracefully: their elongated ribs deviate outward, tightly stretching the folds of skin, which transform into a bright panel. Thus, they can cover distances of up to 20 m. Many of these “dragons” live in the jungles of South India and Southeast Asia.

Welsh dragon

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Fossils of this predatory tyrannosaurus cousin were found in Wales in 2014. The age of the find was 201 Ma, which dates back to the early Jurassic period. And apparently, these are the earliest dinosaur remains found in the UK. The predator was named Dracoraptor hanigani, the first part of which means “dragon”. The fact is that the dragon is the national symbol of Wales, depicted on its flag. The red dragon, or I-Draig Goh, is mentioned in the Welsh epic Mabinogion.

Dragon of Komodo Island

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Perhaps the most famous of the modern “dragons” is the giant monitor lizard Varanus komodoensis, which can reach three meters in length and weigh up to 100 kg. The lizard skin is a real armor: it is reinforced with small ossifications, osteoderms. It is believed that the first dragon appeared on the island of Komodo 40 million years ago. At the same time, the aborigines of the Indonesian islands do not consider him a dragon at all, calling him a “land crocodile”, or buyya darat.

Forest lizard

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These colorful creatures with impressive dragon-like spines on their backs were discovered in the northeast of the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru in 2013. They belong to the group of forest lizards, and their bright colors help them hide from predators in tropical thickets.

Dragons in Greece

Didn’t know that dragons were known there too? And how they were! And if you particularly like the sound of the word dragon, you have to thank the ancient Greeks for it.

Of course, the most iconic Greek dragon is Hydra, with all its evil heads. Note that Hydra – and Greek dragons in general – did not fly and were not usually depicted with wings.

By the way, it makes sense to mention the “draconian laws”. This is not just a speech turnover, but the historical name of actually existing legal acts. They were written, of course, not by a scaly monster, but by a man – the first legislator of Greece named Drakont. But they were truly draconian in every sense – extremely strict and harsh.

Early Christians believed dragons to be demons

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For much of early history, dragons were portrayed as godlike creatures: sometimes kind, sometimes strict, but always wise. All this changed with the spread of Christianity in the Middle Ages. As with many “pagan” symbols, dragons were suddenly declared to be relatives of Satan.

Some Christian saints, by the way, acquired their status through the victory over dragons.

Myths of Russia

Our ancestors did not know the word “dragon”. Historians suggest that the image of the Serpent Gorynych is collective. In a sacred sense, he personifies the test that the hero needs to pass (here there is a connection with the initiation rite that the warriors of many archaic peoples underwent).

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People really believed in dragons

The 1260 bestiary depicts a dragon on its pages. Some people definitely considered him a real animal.

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It’s easy to poke fun at this attitude today, but to be honest, there were no drones, DNA testing, and the Mythbusters broadcast back then. People had to believe in what they saw and in what someone told them.

How do dragons breathe fire?

If dragons were real, it’s hard to imagine how they could accomplish such a feat without roasting their own throats.

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There is nothing more fun than creating rational explanations for far-fetched fantasies, so scientists have devised several logical ways that dragons could hypothetically breathe fire. The closest equivalent found in nature is the bombardier beetle, which stores hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide in its belly. When something irritates the beetle, it releases an almost bubbling stream of chemicals. Not fire, but close. Thus, dragons could have two glands in their throats to secrete these chemicals, and when combined, they would burst out of the dragon’s throat.

Dragons are divided into types

If you do not delve into the mythology of fictional universes, you can still count several different types.

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Viserion, Drogon, and Reagal, for example, are all wyverns. These are four-legged lizards, the upper (or front) pair of limbs of which are represented by wings. Medieval bestiaries (however, many modern sources too) classified wyverns not as a subspecies of dragons, but as a separate species. It was believed that they live in the north of Europe, are extremely aggressive and are somehow associated with outbreaks of the plague.

The heraldic dragon has 2 pairs of walking limbs (paws) and 2 wings.

Scandinavian linorms are something in between, but they always have 2 pairs of limbs. The upper one can be represented by both wings and paws. That is, not all linorms can fly. Ancient India had its own species – snake-like, known for hunting elephants. The Russian Serpent has 3 heads, and this, I must say, is a rather rare feature: the vast majority of foreign dragons are single-headed.

Parallels with dragons

  1. Dragons are very strange creatures.
  2. Nobody can find them.
  3. They only seem to exist in old descriptions, accounts and drawings.

If we don’t know our history, are we doomed to repeat it? Unfortunately, in recent years, secular scholars have also classified dragons as myths.

But unlike the dodo, which is simply a specific type of bird, dragons are a large group of reptiles. In addition, we have descriptions, drawings and stories about dragons – not just a few, as is the case with dodos, but in huge numbers from all over the world! And many of these descriptions and stories are very similar to the creatures known by another name: dinosaurs.

Dragons in the Bible

To address this question of the reality of dragons, let’s turn to the Word of the almighty God who knows everything.

In each case in Table 1, the verses use the Hebrew word tannin or its plural form tanninim, which is usually translated as “dragon (s).” In some cases, you may see the translation for “serpent” or “monster”. There is also the word tannim (plural of tan, “jackal”), which sounds quite similar to tannin in Hebrew. Many previous translators also considered these creatures to be dragons. But scholars now speculate that they are separate and that tannin should be translated as jackals.

Dragons in modern culture

If you are planning to make a movie or write a book, be sure to include the dragon in the plot. He can be an antagonist, like Smaug in Tolkien’s world, or an accomplice of central characters, like Gorynych in cartoons about heroes. He may even fall in love with a princess, like Armand in He’s a Dragon, based on the wonderful book by Sergei and Marina Dyachenko, Ritual. The dragon can act as a companion and assistant to the protagonist, helping him change the world for the better, as Toothless did in How to Train Your Dragon.

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It is impossible to list all the characters who have become part of modern popular culture. There are indeed a lot of them, but the topic is unlikely to ever be completely exhausted.

We already have DNA testing, drones and the Mythbusters program. However, seeing another dragon on the screen or reading about it in a book, deep down we really want to believe in its reality – just as our ancestors believed hundreds and thousands of years ago.

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