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However, in Ancient China, dragons were considered spiritual, wise, a creature that could bring harmony. The legend of the dragon in China is a very old one, with the earliest representation being a 1.

Dragons |

The idea of what a dragon was is remarkably consistent in Chinese culture — the appearance of a Chinese dragon is almost unchanged across thousands of years. Independent to Europe and Asia, the civilisations of Ancient South and Central America had numerous snake-like creatures similar to a dragon. The earliest depiction of the feathered serpent comes from the Olmec people of Mexico c. By the first century BC, the Aztecs were worshipping Quetzalcoatl, the god of wind, air, and learning, and the Maya also worshipped a serpent who was often seen as the embodiment of the sky itself.

As the medieval period advanced, the worship of a feathered serpent deity spread across most of Mesoamerica. The Incans 13 th — 16 th centuries had the mythological Amaru, a double-headed serpent that dwells underground, often depicted with bird-like features such as wings, feet, and heads. The Amaru had similar spiritual qualities to the Chinese dragon, as it was believed that it could transgress the boundaries between the human world and the spiritual world. The importance of the feathered serpent of Quetzalcoatl is exemplified by the Great pyramid of Cholula in Mexico which was dedicated to him.

It is the largest pyramid known to exist in the world today, measuring by metres, and standing 55 metres above the surrounding countryside. Quetzalcoatl in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis 16th century. The Incan Amaru, depicted on a drinking vessel. Meanwhile, in medieval Europe, ideas of the legend of the dragon had spread to a variety of cultures.

Science World: Mythical Creatures Revealed

However, as with the Ancient Greek legends, the lindworm was not a friendly creature. Eventually, Thora is saved by the young man Ragnar, who goes on to marry her. The legend of the dragon was sometimes used to explain something otherwise unknown to people in the medieval period. For example, in the skull of an Ice Age woolly rhinoceros was discovered in Klagenfurt, Austria, and it was believed to be the skull of a dragon.

In , the skull was used as a model for a lindworm fountain in the city. The discovery of the skull fit well with the history of the town — the previous century, it was believed that a dragon was responsible for the flooding of the river that was threatening travellers, and a duke offered a reward for anyone who could catch it. The dragon was successfully killed by some local young men.

The Lindworm fountain in Klagenfurt.

In England, Geoffrey of Monmouth most famous for creating the legend of King Arthur who was writing in the 12 th century also popularised the legend of the dragon. In one such story, the wizard Merlin is brought in by the leader Vortigern who is attempting to build a tower to defend against the Anglo-Saxons, but the tower keeps sinking into the ground. Merlin has a vision and tells Vortigern that underneath the tower was a pool with two sleeping dragons, one white, and one red.

Vortigern orders the pool to be drained, and this causes the two dragons to begin fighting. Even today, the Welsh flag features the large red dragon. The battle of the red and white dragon, from a 15th century manuscript of Historia Regum Britanniae. Of course, one of the most famous legends of a dragon in Western Europe today is the story of Saint George and the Dragon.

Where do dragons come from? The psychology of myth, popularity, and obsession

The earliest stories date to the sixth century AD, and the most famous version tells of a dragon that kept pillaging the sheep of a town in Libya. It eventually ate a young shepherd, so the townspeople were forced to leave two sheep as a sacrifice every morning for the dragon. Eventually, there were no sheep left, and the people began to offer their children. However, Saint George arrived and subdued the dragon by making the sign of the cross, and led the captured dragon into the town.

He promised to kill it if the town converted to Christianity, which they did, and in some versions he then marries the princess. In early depictions of western dragons — including images of George and the Dragon — the dragon is often a very small, serpentine creature.

However, the earliest recognisable image of the modern, western dragon of today, comes from a manuscript dating to c. The dragon is longer and thinner than many modern dragons, but it clearly has wings, 4 legs, scales, and is breathing fire. It is no surprise that in medieval legends, the dragons are always the evil adversary; greedy, gluttonous, and murderous, an enemy for the hero to beat.


When we look back to the depiction of Satan as a dragon in the Bible, it is not difficult to see why the Christian West followed this narrative. It is therefore perhaps surprising to see the prevalence of dragons and their two-legged relatives, the wyvern in medieval heraldry. The heraldic wyvern was used as symbols for overthrowing Satan and his demonic forces. As the early modern era progressed, the popularity of dragons continued. Oh, and one that can jump three feet, full of venom and terrifying. Thanks for all of these brand new fears, Japan.

They have razor-sharp metal feathers that they can launch right at you.

The Evolution of the Dragon

Also poisonous poo. Selkies are seal people who, by removing their seal skin, can turn into two-legged people and walk on land. Usually, some dick steals the seal skin and forces a female selkie into a relationship.

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  7. Plus, the ability to be on land or sea by choice opens up different storytelling possibilities. If you have to have a giant beast that everyone fears, why not go with a sphinx? Less fighting means fewer battles and CGI bills. This Angolan monster is literally two-faced: it has both a human face and one of a hyena.

    Discover the science behind some legendary creatures

    There are a couple of ways that a cockatrice can kill in mythology; the one I like best is the one with the deadly breath. Although, they often have the deadly glance thing that the basilisk also has. Also, the various ways to defeat a cockatrice are full of story possibilities: the comedy version of chasing one with a crowing rooster, the allegorical one about judging animals where the only immune beast is a weasel, and one with mirrors. The A. Katharine Trendacosta. Filed to: superlist Filed to: superlist superlist fantasy animals dragons.