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Our Dragons Are Different / Myths & Religion

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  • As basically stated on the main page, and to make things quick and easy, any large or dangerous reptilian creature will be called a dragon by folklorists. Entire books have been written on the subject.
  • In Abrahamic mythology, the Seraphim are occasionally described as serpent or dragon-like, when not being six winged Humanoid Abominations.
  • The Bible:
    • One interpretation of the Serpent in Eden before he was forced to crawl on his belly. What would you call a walking, talking snake that's at least as intelligent as humans?
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    • Several Old Testament books casually mentioned dragons as if they were a real animal. This may be a "Blind Idiot" Translation however, as the Hebrew word used is tannin which can apparently also mean crocodiles and is very similar to Tanim meaning Jackals.
    • The books of Job, Psalms, and Isaiah describe the Leviathan, a creature covered in air-tight sword/spear/arrow-proof scales, wielding fire breath, and with the ability to snap iron like it was straw. These same books also refer to the Rahab (or the Rehab, depending on the translation), which is a fugitive dragon from the sea.
    • Satan is described as a red dragon with seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns in the Biblical Book of Revelation. His tail knocks a third of the stars out of the sky, and he spews a river from one of his mouths. It's unknown whether this is his true form or not though.
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  • The apocryphal book of "Bel and the Dragon" about Daniel tells a story in which he killed a dragon (by making it swallow a ball of pitch, tallow, and other flammable substances) who was worshiped as an idol by the Babylonians, who in turn punished him by famously throwing him into a den of lions. Cryptozoologists and creationists have drawn parallels between the dragon with the Mushussu/Sirrush found on Babylonians reliefs, as well as the alleged Living Dinosaurs of the Congo.
  • The dragon killed by St. George in the popular medieval legend is an amphibious creature that lives in a lake and exudes a poisonous breath, with a healthy appetite for lifestock and humans.
  • The story of Saint Margaret and the dragon is usually dated to the same time as the more popular St. George legend; she's usually differentiated from the other canonized Margarets as "Saint Margaret the Virgin". She was swallowed whole by Satan in the form of a dragon and walked out alive. She's not quite as well known today, but at one point, there were nearly 300 churches dedicated to her in England alone, and the cult of Saint Margaret was quite widespread at the time the trope was probably first being forged.
  • Beowulf:
    • Beowulf kills a dragon and then dies of its venom, awoken after a servant steals a cup from its treasure hoard.
    • There's much confusion over whether Grendel and/or his mother are dragons, ogres, demons, monstrous humans, Angelina Jolie or something else entirely. The oldest recorded version names them "children of Cain" and mentions that the sword Beowulf uses to kill Grendel's mother was forged by giants who were related to them. So dragons no, ogres/trolls probably. The lost original was before the Christians came. Parallelisms between Beowulf and the Grettir's Saga strongly suggest that Grendel & his Mom are trolls.
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Níðhöggr chews on the roots of Yggdrasill and devour human corpses (not living humans though). It is also one of the few beings that will survive Ragnarök.
    • Fáfnir was a man (or giant or dwarf, depending on the source) who turned himself into an ormr, a mighty serpent or dragon that was either just wingless or entirely limbless, so that he could better guard an enormous pile of treasure. Sigurðr killed him by stabbing him to the heart through his belly, and narrowly avoided being killed by poisonous blood. Sigurðr also gained the ability to understand the language of the birds by tasting blood from the dragon's heart.— Different from most other dragons of old literature, Fáfnir was an intelligent being who could (and did) talk, not a mere beast. Thus, Fáfnir is probably the Trope Maker for intelligent, talking dragons — particularly via Richard Wagner's Siegfried, where the story is retold rather faithfully, and J. R. R. Tolkien, whose dragons Glaurung and Smaug are obviously inspired by Fáfnir. What is usually not copied is that Fáfnir could not breathe fire, only poison.
    • In the battle of Ragnarök Thor will die of the poisonous breath of Jörmungandr the World-Serpent, but only after he succeeds in slaying Jörmungandr.
  • The medieval German epic Nibelungenlied contains an alternate version of the same legend: The hero Siegfried (the German Sigurd) kills a (purely bestial, not sapient) dragon who guards a massive treasure. When he notices that the dragon's blood makes his skin as hard as horn where it touches him, he bathes in the blood, gaining nigh-invulnerability.
  • The god Quetzalcoatl of Aztec Mythology is sometimes called a dragon, specifically a Feathered Serpent. Most modern designs show a snake with wings and '80s Hair, while older depictions show him as a wingless serpent covered in feathers.
  • The Nagas of Hindu Mythology (and many other parts of Asia) are sometimes called dragons, although they're more like serpent deities. Nonetheless, a few scholars have drawn parallels to Chinese Dragons in how they are depicted (associated with water and weather, supernaturally powerful but fickle, long snake-like bodies, etc.), which does lead some credence to the claim.
    • Worth noting that as Buddhism brought the Naga to China and Japan, the Naga and local dragons began to merge. The Garuda, historical enemy to the Naga, became the enemy of dragons as well, the Dragon-Horse in Journey to the West ascends into a Naga, etc.
  • Native American Mythology does not technically have "dragons" per se, but they do have very dragon-like creatures, albeit far weirder than most:
    • The Unhcegila, which looks like a giant horned snake with seven glowing spots. If you look at it, you and your entire family will die right there on the spot. But, if you manage to kill it, it gives you its crystalline heart, which will grant you your heart's desire. But it will also try and make you resurrect Uncegila, and the whole "give you your hearts desire thing" will make your life meaningless.
    • The Piasa (meaning "bird that devours men") from Illinois legend is often called a dragon, though it more resembles a manticore.
    • Giant reptilian water monsters (often collectively called "Horned Serpents") are a recurrent element of Native American legends across the continental United States, usually being depicted as the mortal enemies of the Thunderbirds. Some folklorists believe they were based on the fossilized remains of dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and ancient marine reptiles.
  • Philippine Mythology:
    • The bakunawa is a sea serpent with a mouth as big as a lake (in the Philippines, the biggest one is Laguna de Bay, 911.7 square kilometers, or approximately five times the size of Brooklyn), a blood-red tongue, the whiskers and gills of a catfish, and two pairs of wings: one large and gray as ash, another small and further down its body. The bakunawa is the guardian of the spirit world, but has the unfortunate vice of attempting to swallow the moon causing eclipses.
    • A recently rediscovered Filipino dragon-type is no other than crocodiles. The closest thing to a pan-Filipino mythos is that crocodiles—especially the gigantic saltwater crocodiles roaming the islands—were routinely seen as 1) powerful Nature Spirits or outright Physical Gods (naturally attuned to water), 2) the Reincarnation of tribal ancestors, and obviously, 3) dragons, to the point where the Tagalog word for crocodile (buwaya) was frequently used as a synonym for "dragon" in old texts. A Tagalog myth states that a huge magical crocodile/dragon literally called the Buwaya acts as a Psychopomp, by ferrying recently-deceased souls to the afterlife. In a strange blend of Eastern and Western dragon-types, some tribes believed that crocodiles could Level Up INTO dragons... by means of Human Sacrifice, since they needed a human soul.
  • The Mordiford Wyvern was killed by a convict named Carston in exchange for his freedom. Carston hid inside a barrel coated with spikes, and when the dragon tried to eat him, it ended up impaling itself. However, its blood trickled in and poisoned Carston to death.
    • Note that there are at least four folk tales, very similar to this, from around the British Isles. For example, the Sockburn Wyrm (or Wyvern) was slain by John Conyers, who wore a set of spiky armour so that the Wyrm impaled itself while it was trying to crush him to death, and Conyers then hacked it to pieces with his falchion. The falchion with which he supposedly killed the Wyrm is still in the Durham Cathedral Treasury.
    • Then there's the Laidly Worm, where the princess is the dragon; the Lambton Worm, which grew from a creature no larger than your thumb and which laid a curse upon nine generations of its slayer's family; and the Linton Worm, whose death throes created the "Wormington".
  • In Welsh Mythology, the god Dewi takes the form of a giant dragon: the western variety of course.
    • Welsh dragons come in both red and white varieties, the red being a more traditional western dragon and the white possessing no legs. It is thought that Y Draig Goch, the red dragon, was symbolic of the indigenous Britons, while the white represented the Anglo-Saxons.
    • Rather than livestock or princesses, Welsh dragons are extremely fond of mead, and a dragon's cries are said to cause natural disasters, widespread death of animals and plants, and miscarriages in women.
    • Interestingly, although the Celtic mythologies of Gaelic and Brythonic peoples frequently overlapped, there are no known instances of dragons in the Irish/Scottish legendarium.
      • ... Except the Hydra-like water dragons of the Celtic Dragon Myth, reconstructed by J. F. Campbell from Highland folk tales.
      • And the firedrake shot down by St Gilbert.
  • Greek myth has Jason slaying a dragon who never sleeps to claim the Golden Fleece. And the good ol' Lernaean Hydra too.
    • Cadmus killed a dragon guarding a spring at the site he was to found Thebes. Sowing half its teeth on the ground caused them to sprout into fully armed men, who promptly fought and mostly killed each other when Cadmus threw a rock at them. Jason used the other half of the teeth to do exactly the same thing as his second task to gain the golden fleece.
    • The Ladon was a similar monster encountered by Hercules when he went to get the Golden Apples of the Hesperides for one of his labours, except it also had one hundred venomous heads. In at least one version, it was so badass that apparently even Hercules couldn't beat it, though in others Hercules did kill it with a bow and arrows.
    • The Python was a gargantuan serpent sent by Hera to kill the mother of Apollo and Artemis.
    • Cetus was a huge sea dragon sent by Poseidon to kill the princess Andromeda in retribution for her mother, the queen Cassiopeia, boasting her daughter to be more beautiful than Poseidon's wife Amphitrite (until Perseus turned it to stone using Medusa's head). Interestingly, it was said to have appeared in Joppa, the same region where medieval European legends said St. George slew the dragon, leading some to suggest a connection between St. George's dragon and Cetus.
    • The Chimera is sometimes described as a "proto dragon" by mythologists. While her only draconic traits are her fiery breath and having a reptile included in one of the three animals that made her up, the tale seems to have had a rather large influence on later European dragon slaying myths.
    • Drakainas were a frequent monster archetype in Greek myth—the word means "she-dragon" or "female dragon" and for a while that's exactly how they were depicted; however, later accounts depicted drakainas as humanoid monsters with serpent-like qualities, sometimes to the point of being Cute Monster Girls. Given what the name means, this may have also been a form of Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism. Monsters of this variety included the Mother of a Thousand Young Echidna (who, incidentally, was also the mother of the aforementioned Hydra, Chimera, Ladon and dragon guarding the Golden Fleece), Scylla (a multi-headed sea monster), Kampe (the Eldritch Abomination that guarded the Cyclopes and Hekatoncheires after Kronos imprisoned them in Tartarus) and an unnamed drakaina who seduced Heracles. In some myths, Python was one of these as well.
  • The Dragon of Brno. A legend tells of a dragon that terrorized the countryside, until a butcher killed it by offering it an ox-skin sack filled with burnt lime. It's been stuffed and hung at the entrance of the town hall, where it can be seen until this day. (It's a crocodile.)
  • Armenian dragons, called vishaps, are numerous in Armenian mythology, from pagan times even through post-Christian times. Vishaps could control the weather and had poisonous blood, which would make any sword dipped in it fatal to the touch. They tended to live on mountains, most notably Mt. Ararat and Mt. Aragats. They're also known to shape-shift into humans in some myths. Vahagn, an Armenian god who was akin to the Armenian version of Hercules, was known as the "dragon reaper", and slayed dragons.
  • Guaraní mythology has a handful of draconic beings:
    • Mboi Tatá or Boitatá - a creature that protects the wilderness qualifies, being described as a giant snake-like being with large brilliant eyes who either breathes fire or is made of fire. Other common traits associated with it are flight, power of transformation and intelligence. This creature has folkloric descendants on the region (Paraguay and parts of Argentina and Brazil) even among Christians.
    • Teju Jagua, the first cursed son of Tau and Kerana's Unholy Matrimony, is described as a gigantic, reptilian being with the hability to expel fire from its eyes. He is often said to have either seven dog heads or one large canine head which limit his movement. He was also said to collect and guard over hidden treasures. Despite his fearsome appeareance, he was the most docile out of the seven major monsters, and preferred eating fruits and honey.
    • Mboi Tui, who had the body of a snake and the head of a parrot, was a swamp-dwelling monstrosity with a terrifying screech which could instill horror and dread in those who heard it.
    • Moñai, a serpent whose horns allow him to hypnotize his victims and a taste for birds, was the most European dragon-like of the bunch. He's legless, wingless and cannot breathe fire, but was a greedy beast who usually raided villages in search of riches to steal and collect in his cave. He also seemed to enjoy human women, as the beautiful Porâsý offered herself in matrimony to the beast with the intent of killing him. This ultimately lead to the demise of Moñai and his brothers when his cave was burned down with them inside, including Porâsý herself.
  • The rainbow serpent from Australian Aboriginal myth is often called a dragon, though it's more of a snake deity much like the Nagas or Quetzalcoatl.
  • Babylonian myth tells the creation story of Marduk and Tiamat. Tiamat is the the dragon of chaos or the dragon of the sea. Marduk overcame Tiamat and her forces and after splitting her body into two parts, made the sky, stars, sun, and moon from one half, and the earth from the other.
  • As mentioned above, in the Canaanite creation myth tells of the storm god, Ba'al, fighting Yamm, the sea, and his cohorts, Tannin, the dragon of the sea, and Loran (or Lothan, also known as the Hebrew Leviathan), the serpent with seven heads.
  • One of the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, The Two Brothers, contains a many-headed dragon, notable in that it is intelligent and speaks to the hero.
  • While calling them "dragons" is more of a result of a naming convention rather than them being the same creatures, Hungarian dragons are very different from both their eastern and western counterparts. They are described as giants with multiple heads. The number of their heads relates to the amount of power they possess as well as several motifs relating to them (the number of towers on their castle, the number of miles distance they can throw their weapons, the number of days it takes for an opponent with equal power to defeat them). They traditionally come in groups of three brothers with three, seven and twelve heads respectively, with the twelve-headed brother being the oldest and most powerful, and undefeatable by conventional means. If there's only one dragon around, it usually has three or seven heads, and takes the role of the twelve-headed dragon as the major antagonist. The naming is most likely result of their Hungarian name (sárkány) denoting two completely different creatures, one being the above described giant-like being, while the other is a storm-demon that usually hides in clouds and often takes the form of a giant flying snake, which most likely resulted in the word being applied to western and eastern dragons as well.
  • There is also Orochi, an eastern dragon with eight heads and a body that spanned the length of a mountain range. It was defeated and slain by the storm god Susano-o after he drugged it into a stupor with milk mixed with sake. The legendary sword Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi, later renamed the Kusanagi, was found embedded in the beast's body.
  • African Living Dinosaurs such as the Mokele-Mbembe have been speculated by some cryptozoologists to have been the inspiration for dragons, as popularized by French cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans in his book Les derniers dragons d'Afrique (The Last Dragons of Africa). Biblical stories of dragons, such as the one of Daniel, as well as the Mushussu have been used as evidence for these claims, with the theory being that the Living Dinosaurs were transported to the Middle East from Africa by merchants or explorers.
  • Mesopotamian reliefs often depict a dragon known as the Mushussu (or Sirrush), a scaly beast with an eagle's hindlimbs, a lion's forelegs, a serpentine head and body, and horns. Famously depicted on the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, there are claims by cryptozoologists (and some creationists) that the Mushussu represents a real animal, due to the fact that very-much real lions and bulls are also on the Ishtar Gate and physical similarities with the Living Dinosaurs reported in Africa.
  • The Jersey Devil is sometimes described as a dragon. It's a vaguely humanoid creature with a snake's tail, a kangaroo's body, a cow's hooves, and a horse's head. It may or may not have fur.
  • Similar creatures in Slavic Mythology are the zmey. The word itself actually derives from the word for "snake", though that doesn't necessarily mean that every zmey was depicted as having no limbs like a snake. The zmey varies in appearance, from looking like a typical dragon (big lizard with claws and wings, breathing fire), to having several heads in addition. The most common features about them are that they're big, strong, intelligent, ancient creatures, capable of speech, performing magic and shapeshifting into humans. They're also usually said to be very rich, sometimes rumored to have castles in the sky, filled with treasure and magical artifacts. Notable is their affinity for beautiful women, who they will abduct, trick or persuade to become their brides.
    • A particularly well-known individual and recurring villain from Russian Mythology and Tales is Zmey Gorynych, the three-headed dragon. Modern defanged depictions tend to make him an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain by making the heads never agree on anything and constantly argue.
    • There is also a separate creature called aždaja, also from Slavic Mythology. It is very different from zmey/zmaj. While Zmey is wise, intelligent and can be benevolent, aždaja is mindless and Always Chaotic Evil.
    • To distinguish from snakes, the word "zmey" (masculine) is commonly used to specifically reference the mythological creatures. The word for a Real Life snake is "zmeya" (feminine).
  • Asturian (from Asturias, a region of northern Spain) Mythology has the Cuélebre, dragons that look like a giant winged serpent and that live in caves guarding treasures and keeping Xanas (nymph-like female beings) as prisoners. They're immortal, and as time passes by, bat wings grow on their bodies and their scales become thicker to the point of being impervious to weapons. However, a cuélebre can be killed by giving it bread full of pins or a red-hot stone. When they're old enough, it's said that they depart the land to go to the Mar Cuajada, a paradise beyond the sea.
  • The characteristic shape of the Klagenfurt, Austria dragon's head is based on a partial skull found there in 1335. It's actual owner? A woolly rhinoceros. Cave bears have also constituted a number of supposed medieval dragon skulls, which is also helped by the fact that they are found in, y'know, caves.
  • Putting the Western in Western Dragon, tall tales of the Wild West included a surprising number of noticeably dragon-like monsters to square off against cowboys and sheriff's posse. One of the most famous example is probably the Tombstone monster, reportedly killed by ranchers near Tombstone: a ninety-feet long alligator with featherless wings. These monsters have since then become associated with pterosaurs and became part of the modern thunderbird folklore (very different from the Native American thunderbird folklore).
  • There is a surprisingly large amount of dragon tales in Pennsylvania Dutch folklore with many described as 'fiery serpents'. Connecting back in to similar tales from Norse Mythology, many of them are supposed to be humans (either hated local misers or a pair of lovers), transformed into draconic form after death.
  • The Snallygaster, one of the Fearsome Critters of American Folklore, first described by German immigrants to Maryland. As a ferocious half-bird. half-reptile creature, it certainly sounds like a dragon, but what makes it different is the addition of a beak made of steel, a single eye, and tentacles in its mouth. Sightings of the creature created enough of a buzz that Theodore Roosevelt even considered personally hunting it.
    • Another dragon-like Fearsome Critter is the the Gowrow of Arkansas' Ozark Mountains, which doesn't have wings or breathe fire but it does possess huge tusks like those of an overgrown warthog and a tail that ends in a razor-sharp blade. One was allegedly killed by hunters in 1897 and then sent to the Smithsonian for study, only for the carcass to never reach its destination and be lost.
  • One of the Four Gods, Seiryuu, guardian of the Eastern sky, is a dragon.
  • Japan has its own parallel to the western dragon in the form of the tsuchigumo, a youkai that, like western dragons, is a giant, man-eating monster that kidnaps maidens, terrorizes villages and can only be slain by brave swordsmen. The twist? The tsuchigumo is a Giant Spider.
  • The French Lou Carcolh is an even weirder deviation from the standard dragon myth, in that it's a monstrous half-serpent half-snail monster, with a maw lined with hairy, stretchy tentacles.
    • Christian French folklore provides several other unique-looking dragons like the Tarasque, a six-legged turtle-like monster with a leonine head (the inspiration for the better-known D&D creature); the Gargouille, a serpent that constantly gushed water from its mouth ("gargoyle" and "gargle" are derivative from its name); and the Peluda, a survivor of Noah's Flood with a snake's head, turtle's feet, and a body covered in venomous quills it could hurl at enemies.
  • The Grootslang from African folklore is an enormous monster described as a mix of an elephant and a snake that guards a cave loaded with diamonds. Sounds an awful lot like some kind of dragon, no?
  • Polish legend about a Dragon of the Wawel Hill in Krakow. His lair was in a cave at the foot of Wawel Hill on the bank of the Vistula River (a river that goes through all of Poland). He was defeated by a cobbler named Skuba. Skuba stuffed a lamb with sulphur and set it outside the dragon's cave. The dragon ate it and became so thirsty, that he drank so much of Vistula river that he burst into small pieces. In Krakow there is still a cave of the dragon as well as the statue that breathes fire.
  • The famous Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, claimed that Africa and India were home to huge dragons that specialized in killing elephants by coiling their bodies around the animals and crushing them to death. However, he said that the typical result was that the deceased elephant would collapse on top of the constricting dragon, killing both combatants. It's generally believed these days that Pliny was probably describing a grossly exaggerated version of African and Indian rock pythons (which, while certainly big snakes, are not capable of killing elephants).

Alternative Title(s): Mythology


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