3D map


Friday, November 20, 2009


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Carved imperial dragon in Beijing
Dragons are legendary creatures, typically with serpentine or otherwise reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of worldwide cultures.
The two most familiar interpretations of dragons are European dragons, derived from various European folk traditions, and the unrelated Oriental dragons, such as the Chinese dragon (lóng 龍 or 龙). The English word "dragon" derives from Greek δράκων (drákōn), "dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake", which probably comes from the verb δρακεῖν (drakeîn) "to see clearly".



An illustration of a dragon.
Dragons are usually shown in modern times with a body like a huge lizard, or a snake with two pairs of lizard-type legs, and able to emit fire from their mouths. The European dragon has bat-type wings growing from its back. A dragon-like creature with no front legs is known as a wyvern. Following discovery of how pterosaurs walked on the ground, some dragons have been portrayed without front legs and using the wings as front legs pterosaur-fashion when on the ground, as in the movie Reign of Fire.
Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label. Some dragons are said to breathe fire or to be poisonous. They are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing typically scaly or feathered bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as having especially large eyes or watching treasure very diligently, a feature that is the origin of the word dragon (Greek drakeîn meaning "to see clearly").[1] Some myths portray them with a row of dorsal spines. European dragons are more often winged, while Oriental versions of the dragon resemble large snakes. Dragons can have a variable number of legs: none, two, four, or more when it comes to early European literature. Also, some dragons in Greek literature were known to have millions of legs at a time.[citation needed] Modern depictions of dragons tend to be larger than their original representations, which were often smaller than humans, but grew in the myths and tales of man over the years.[citation needed]
Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom—often said to be wiser than humans—and longevity. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, and are often associated with wells, rain, and rivers. In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech.
The term dragoon, for infantry that moved around on horseback yet still fought as foot soldiers, is derived from their early firearm, the "dragon", a wide-bore musket that spat flame when it fired, and was thus named for the mythical creature.

Greek mythology

In Ancient Greece the first mention of a "dragon" is derived from the Iliad where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and a three-headed dragon emblem on his breast plate.[2]; however, the Greek word used (δράκων drákōn, genitive δράκοντοϛ drákontos) could also mean "snake". δράκων drákōn is a form of the aorist participle active of Greek δέρκομαι dérkomai = "I see", derkeîn = "to see", and originally likely meant "that which sees", or "that which flashes or gleams" (perhaps referring to reflective scales). This is the origin of the word "dragon". (See also Hesiod's Theogony, 322.)
In 217 A.D., Philostratus discussed dragons (δράκων, drákōn) in India in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (II,17 and III,6-8). The Loeb Classical Library translation (by F.C. Conybeare) mentions (III,7) that “In most respects the tusks resemble the largest swine’s, but they are slighter in build and twisted, and have a point as unabraded as sharks’ teeth.”
According to Aelian's On Animals, Ethiopia was inhabited by a species of dragon that hunted elephants. It could grow to a length of 180 feet and had a lifespan rivaling that of the most enduring of animals.[3]


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


Chinese dragons (simplified Chinese: traditional Chinese: pinyin: lóng), and Oriental dragons generally, can take on human form and are usually seen as benevolent, whereas European dragons are usually malevolent though there are exceptions (one exception being Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon of Wales). Malevolent dragons also occur in the mythology of Persia (see Azhi Dahaka) and Russia, among other places.
Dragons are particularly popular in China and the five-clawed dragon was a symbol of the Chinese emperors, with the phoenix or fenghuang the symbol of the Chinese empress. Dragon costumes manipulated by several people are a common sight at Chinese festivals.


Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. Gould writes (1896:248)[4], the Japanese dragon is "invariably figured as possessing three claws".


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


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


In Jewish religious texts, the first mention of a dragon-like creature is in the Biblical works of Job (26:13), and Isaiah (27:1) where it is called Nachash Bare'ach, or a "Pole Serpent".[5] This is identified in the Midrash Rabba to Genesis 1:21 as Leviathan from the word Taninim (תנינים) "and God created the great sea-monsters."[6] In modern Hebrew the word Taninim is used for Crocodiles - however, this is a 20th Century usage unconnected with the original Biblical meaning.[citation needed]
In Jewish astronomy this is also identified with the North Pole, the star Thuban which, around 4,500 years ago, was the star in the Draco constellation's "tail".[5] However this can also have been either the celestial pole or the ecliptic pole. The ancient observers noted that Draco was at the top of the celestial pole, giving the appearance that stars were "hanging" from it, and in Hebrew it is referred to as Teli, from talah (תלה) - to hang.[7] Hebrew writers from Arabic-speaking locations identified the Teli as Al Jaz'har, which is a Persian word for a "knot" or a "node" because of the intersection of the inclination of the orbit of a planet from the elliptic that forms two such nodes. In modern astronomy these are called the ascending node and the descending node, but in medieval astronomy they were referred to as "dragon's head" and "dragon's tail".[8]
Rahab, as described in Psalms 89:9-10 and Isaiah 51:9-10, also has "dragon-like" characteristics.[original research?]

Modern depictions

In the early 20th Century sculpture of the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland, inspired by Medieval art, dragons are a frequent theme - as symbol of sin but also as a nature force, fighting against man.
There are numerous examples of dragons in modern literature, especially the fantasy genre.
In the 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, the major antagonist is a dragon named Smaug. Smaug hoards a great treasure but is ultimately shot down with an arrow by an archer who was told about a soft patch in Smaug's underbelly armor. Other dragons appearing in Tolkien's works include Glaurung, the ""father of dragons" created by Morgoth, along with Ancalagon the Black and Scatha. Also, in Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham, a dragon named Chrysophylax Dives is encountered.
Dragonriders of Pern is an extensive fantasy/science fiction series of novels and short stories primarily written by Anne McCaffrey. Since 2004, McCaffrey's son Todd McCaffrey has also published Pern novels, both in collaboration with Anne and on his own. The Pernese use intelligent firebreathing dragons who have a telepathic bond with their riders, formed by mental impressions the dragons receive at the time they hatch from their eggs.
Some modern pseudo-biological accounts of dragons give them the generic name Draco, although the generic name Draco is used in real-world biology for a genus of small gliding agamid lizard.

Speculation on the origin of dragon myths

In his 1982 book, The Encyclopedia of Monsters, Daniel Cohen traced the word draco to ancient Latin. To the Romans this word referred to any giant snake, such as a python from India or Africa. This usage was enshrined by the naturalist Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, wherein he based his description upon travellers' tales and thus exaggerated the size of these snakes. Pliny's work became a standard reference for centuries to follow.
The dragon myth was further established by the King James Bible, which uses the words "serpent", "dragon" and "Devil" in a fairly interchangeable manner. Including dragons in the Holy Bible cemented their existence as widely-accepted fact, but it also laid the groundwork for the dragon as a supernatural monster rather than merely an oversized snake. Cohen suggests that the dragon's other distinguishing attributes, ". . . the legs, the wings, the ability to breath fire . . . seem to have been added bit by bit over the centuries by people who thought that a simple snake, no matter how large, was not a sufficient symbol of pure evil."
Cohen takes care to note that the western dragon myth and the oriental lung or lóng have quite different characteristics and origins, and these did not become conflated together under the "dragon" name until relatively recent times. Likewise, he dismissed any connection between dinosaurs and dragons as a modern contrivance, although acknowledging that fossilized bones of various extinct animals may have helped foster the oriental dragon myth.
Carl Sagan hypothesized in his 1977 book The Dragons of Eden that the myth of dragons arose from the innate fear of reptiles that we share with other mammals, a remnant of the time when mammals lived with dinosaurs.
Dinosaur and mammalian fossils were occasionally mistaken for the bones of dragons and other mythological creature; for example, a discovery in 300 B.C. in Wucheng, Sichuan, China, was labeled as such by Chang Qu.[9] Adrienne Mayor has written on the subject of fossils as the inspiration for myths in her book The First Fossil Hunters, and in an entry in the Encyclopedia of Geology she wrote: "Fossil remains generated a variety of geomyths speculating on the creatures’ identity and cause of their destruction. Many ancient cultures, from China and India to Greece, America, and Australia, told tales of dragons, monsters, and giant heroes to account for fossils of animals they had never seen alive."[10]

Dragons in world mythology

Asian dragons
Chinese dragon Lóng (or Loong. Lung2 in Wade-Giles romanization.)
Chinese Dragon Banner.svg
The Chinese dragon, is a mythical Chinese creature that also appears in other Asian cultures, and is sometimes called the Oriental (or Eastern) dragon. Depicted as a long, snake-like creature with four claws, it has long been a potent symbol of auspicious power in Chinese folklore and art.
Indian dragon Nāga A serpentine dragon common to all cultures influenced by Hinduism. They are often hooded like a cobra and may have several heads depending on their rank. They usually have no arms or legs but those with limbs resemble the Chinese dragon.
Indonesian/Malay dragon Naga or Nogo Derived from the Indian nāga, belief in the Indo-Malay dragon spread throughout the entire Malay Peninsula along with Hinduism. The word naga is still the common Malay term for dragons in general.[citation needed] Like its Indian counterpart, the naga is considered divine in nature, benevolent, and often associated with sacred mountains, forests, or certain parts of the sea
Japanese dragon Ryū
Okyo Dragon.jpg
Similar to Chinese dragons, with three claws instead of four. They are usually benevolent, associated with water, and may grant wishes.
Khmer Dragon Neak
Linteau Musée Guimet 25973.jpg
The Khmer dragon, or neak is derived from the Indian nāga. Like its Indian counterpart, the neak is often depicted with cobra like characteristics such as a hood. The number of heads can be as high as nine, the higher the number the higher the rank. Odd-headed dragons are symbolic of male energy while even headed dragons symbolize female energy. Traditionally, a neak is distinguished from the often serpentine Makar and Tao, the former possessing crocodilian traits and the latter possessing feline traits. A dragon princess is the heroine of the creation myth of Cambodia.
Korean dragon Yong (Mireu) A sky dragon, essentially the same as the Chinese lóng. Like the lóng, yong and the other Korean dragons are associated with water and weather. In pure Korean, it is also known as 'mireu'.
Imoogi A hornless ocean dragon, sometimes equated with a sea serpent. Imoogi literally means, "Great Lizard". The legend of the Imoogi says that the sun god gave the Imoogi their power through a human girl, which would be transformed into the Imoogi on her 17th birthday. Legend also said that a dragon-shaped mark would be found on the shoulder of the girl, revealing that she was the Imoogi in human form.
Gyo A mountain dragon. In fact, the Chinese character for this word is also used for the imoogi.
Philippine Dragon Bakunawa The Bakunawa appears as a gigantic serpent that lives in the sea. Ancient natives believed that the Bakunawa caused the moon or the sun to disappear during an eclipse. It is said that during certain times of the year, the Bakunawa arises from the ocean and proceeds to swallow the moon whole. To keep the Bakunawa from completely eating the moon, the natives would go out of their houses with pots and pans in hand and make a noise barrage in order to scare the Bakunawa into spitting out the moon back into the sky. Some say that the Bakunawa is known to kill people by imagining their death and remote in eye contact.
Vietnamese dragon Rồng or Long
(Ly dynasty, Daiviet X)
These dragons' bodies curve lithely, in sine shape, with 12 sections, symbolising 12 months in the year. They are able to change the weather, and are responsible for crops. On the dragon's back are little, uninterrupted, regular fins. The head has a long mane, beard, prominent eyes, crest on nose, but no horns. The jaw is large and opened, with a long, thin tongue; they always keep a châu (gem/jewel) in their mouths (a symbol of humanity, nobility and knowledge).
European dragons
Catalan dragon drac Catalan dragons are serpent-like creatures with two legs (rarely four) and, sometimes, a pair of wings. Their faces can resemble that of other animals, like lions or cattle. They have a burning breath. Their breath is also poisonous, the reason by which dracs are able to rot everything with their stench. A víbria is a female dragon.
French dragons Dragon
Meddragon Liber Floridus Lambert of sint Omaars 1460.jpg
The French representation of dragons spans much of European history, and has even given its name to the dragoons, a type of cavalry.
Sardinian dragon scultone The dragon named "scultone" or "ascultone" was a legend in Sardinia, Italy, for many a millennium. It had the power to kill human beings with its gaze. It was a sort of basilisk, lived in the bush and was immortal.
Scandinavian & Germanic dragons Lindworm
Dragon héraldique.png
(early Vandal)
Lindworms are serpent-like dragons with either two or no legs. In Nordic and Germanic heraldry, the lindworm looks the same as a wyvern. The dragon Fafnir was a lindworm.
English dragons Wyvern Wyverns are common in medieval heraldry. Their usual blazon is statant. Wyverns are normally shown as dragons with two legs and two wings.
Welsh dragons Y Ddraig Goch
Welsh dragon.svg
In Welsh mythology, after a long battle (which the Welsh King Vortigern witnesses) a red dragon defeats a white dragon; Merlin explains to Vortigern that the red dragon symbolizes the Welsh, and the white dragon symbolizes the Saxons — thus foretelling the ultimate defeat of the English by the Welsh. The draig goch appears on the Welsh national flag.
Celtic Dragons (Irish and Scottish) Bheithir In Celtic Mythology Ben Vair in Scotland takes its name from the dragon that used to live in a great hollow in the face of a mountain known as Corrie Lia. The dragon was tricked into walking along a pontoon bridge with hidden spikes.
Hungarian dragons (Sárkányok) zomok A great snake living in a swamp, which regularly kills pigs or sheep. A group of shepherds can easily kill them.
sárkánykígyó A giant winged snake, which is in fact a full-grown zomok. It often serves as flying mount of the garabonciás (a kind of magician). The sárkánykígyó rules over storms and bad weather.
sárkány A dragon in human form. Most of them are giants with multiple heads. Their strength is held in their heads. They become gradually weaker as they lose their heads. In contemporary Hungarian the word sárkány is used to mean all kinds of dragons.
Slavic dragons zmey, zmiy, żmij, змей, or zmaj, or drak, or smok
Dragon Crop.svg
Smok Wawelski from Sebastian Münster's Cosmographie Universalis, 1544
Similar to the conventional European dragon, but multi-headed. They breathe fire and/or leave fiery wakes as they fly. In Slavic and related tradition, dragons symbolize evil. Specific dragons are often given Turkic names (see Zilant, below), symbolizing the long-standing conflict between the Slavs and Turks. However, in Serbian and Bulgarian folklore, dragons are defenders of the crops in their home regions, fighting against a destructive demon Ala, whom they shoot with lightning.[11][12]
Armenian dragon Vishap Related to European dragons
Siberian dragon Yilbegan Related to European Turkic and Slavic dragons
Romanian dragons Balaur Balaur are very similar to the Slavic zmey: very large, with fins and multiple heads.
Chuvash dragons Vere Celen Chuvash dragons represent the pre-Islamic mythology of the same region.
Asturian and Leonese dragons Cuélebre In Asturias and León mythology the Cuélebres are giant winged serpents, which live in caves where they guard treasures and kidnapped xanas. They can live for centuries and, when they grow really old, they use their wings to fly. Their breath is poisonous and they often kill cattle to eat. Leonese language term Cuelebre comes from Latin colŭbra, i.e., snake.
Albanian Dragon Dragua In the Albanian mythology the Draguas have four legs and two bat wings. They have a single horn in their head and they have big ears. They live in the forests and cannot be seen unless they want to be. A Dragua can live up to 100 years and cannot be killed by humans. After the Ottoman invasion, the Draguas became protectors of the highlanders.
Portuguese dragons Coca In Portuguese mythology coca is a female dragon that fights with Saint George. She loses her strength when Saint George cuts off one of her ears.
Greek dragons Drákōn - δράκων
Kadmos dragon Louvre E707.jpg
Cadmus fighting the Ismenian dragon (which guarded the sacred spring of Ares) is a legendary story from the Greek lore dating to before ca. 560–550 B.C. Greek dragons commonly had a role of protecting important objects or places. For example, the Colchian dragon watched the Golden Fleece and the Nemean dragon guarded the sacred groves of Zeus.The name comes from the Greek "drakeîn" meaning "to see clearly".
Tatar dragons Zilant
Flag Kaz.jpg
Really closer to a wyvern or cockatrice, the Zilant is the symbol of Kazan. Zilant itself is a Russian rendering of Tatar yılan, i.e., snake.
Turkish dragons Ejderha or Evren The Turkish dragon secretes flames from its tail, and there is no mention in any legends of its having wings, or even legs. In fact, most Turkish (and later Islamic) sources describe dragons as gigantic snakes.
Lithuanian Dragons Drakonas This dragon is more of a hydra with multiple heads, though sometimes it does appear with one head.


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


Post a Comment