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Myths and Legends: Journeys Through Time

Dragons

dragon



“She stops at the edge of the forest, standing as deep within the cover provided by the foliage as she dares to. Squinting slightly against the bright midday sun, she slowly scans the sky, starting at the horizon and sweeping her eyes back and forth until she sees the green leaves. Satisfied for a moment that it’s safe to step out in the open, the young maiden pulls her cloak more tightly around her shoulders and steps beyond the tree line. Suddenly as if waiting for her to appear in view, a huge winged shadow passes over her. The maiden stops in her steps, eying the tree line but knowing she won’t make it in time. Sighing softly she does her best to quell her fear as the owner of the shadow makes a loop back towards her. The sunlight glints off of it’s body making it almost impossible to look at. As the figure nears closer to her the maiden sighs with relief upon catching sight of it’s rich, warm bronze color. Although uncommon, there are stories of bronze dragons having approached people in their natural for. They usually like to take on the form of a harmless, unnoticeable creature and observe humans unhindered. As dragon lands the young maiden holds her ground taking the opportunity to study this magnificent creature. She admires the wings, which stretch out to a span of about thirty-five feet. She also notes that it’s scales are a deep bronze color, just barely showing a hint of the yellow green tint that bronze dragons are born with. Moving slowly as to not provoke an attack,  she makes her way towards the dragon, a little elated at her first dragon sighting and the chance of talking to it…”

Dragons…the mythological creature that most people would love to have as a pet, get the

chance to meet, discover it’s treasure trove or be the brave knight who slays the fearsome

monster so that they may rescue the pretty maiden. So…what are dragons exactly? When you

think of a dragon, do you think of a long, snake like body with four claws, powerful wings

horns, spikes, frills and feathers perhaps? Such dragons likes these are most commonly found

in Oriental mythology, Chinese dragons being the most well known for their snake like

bodies, powerful claws and horns or colorful frills. Chinese dragons are most often regarded

symbols of authority, rulers of water, believed to have control over weather and as symbols

of strength and power.  Certain dragons such as the 5,4, and 3 clawed dragons being assigned

to the Emperor of China, Zhuzho or fedual lord, and Daifu or high officials in government

respectively. The Chinese dragon is also seen as the male side of the yin and yang aspect

of Chinese culture. In Japanese mythology, the dragon is depicted much the same way

as those of Chinese myth, the only differences being that Japanese dragons have three claws

instead of up to five, and are more commonly associated with bodies of water or anything to

do with water.  On the other hand if the image of a strong body, long tail, razor sharp claws,

long neck, large powerful wings, a snake like tongue and the ability to breathe fire come to

mind, then you’re looking at a European dragon. If Oriental dragons are representations of

benevolence, weather, rulers of water, symbols of authority, then European dragons are at

the other end of the spectrum. European or ‘Western’ dragons as they’re known are most

often cast as an evil or malevolent creature. Also..instead of being creatures of water, they

are considered creatures of earth, despite their having wings, they are believed to live in

caves or underground lairs.  Western dragons are the most recognized dragon and most

widely represented dragon. Everything from movies such as Disney’s Sleeping Beauty,

in which the evil sorceress Maleficent turns into a dragon at the end, to television

shows depicting them as real true creatures. In Greek mythology, one of the giants the last

borne of the Titan Gaia, Typhos is shown to be a dragon. Or a dragon like creature. It is he

who is responsible along with his wife Echidna for creatures such as Cerebus, the Hydra,

Sphinx and Nemean Lion. Also due to his battle with Zues and subsequent imprisonment

under Mount Edna, Typhos is believed to be the cause of all volcanic eruptions. Dragons

go so far as to even be part of a popular table top role paying game known as none other

than Dungeons and Dragons. Dungeons and Dragons was created in the 1970s by Gary Gygax

and Dave Ameson. The first publication of the game was in 1974 and over 30 years later it’s

still going strong. In many of the monster manuals, dragons are one of the most fearsome and

hardest creatures an adventurer comes across. DnD as it’s called goes so far as to give dragons

alignments, evil, good or neutral and describe different dragons such as metallic dragons,

which are good, gem dragons which are good but can cause trouble and chromatic dragons

which are just plain evil. DnD also goes so far as to describe each dragon’s habitat, diet,

fighting style, and any powers they gain as they age. As with everything in life, the time

of dragons did come to an end. Saint George is credited with killing the last dragon, a dragon

named Ascalon in what is now known as Ashkelon, Israel. In killing Ascalon, Saint George

rescued a princess and saved a town from having to continually sacrifice their sheep or their

maidens. There are many more myths and legends out there about dragons but as with fairies

to tell them all would take a very long time. Perhaps if you’re lucky enough you might just

catch the attention of one and learn from them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhon

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Chinese-titles (for translation of Chinese titles)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_dragon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual Game Accessory published by Tactical Studios Rule Inc. in 1993.