Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Harbingers of Death - Wise creatures from the Ancient past: Dragons!

 Hey readers so today after what I consider a great successful ending to my comic Fame at a Price I wanna talk to you about a creature that has captured our imagination and put fear in our hearts since the earliest ages of the world - Dragons!

 No creature that I can think of more resonates with fantasy than the dragon revered over by civilizations for it's power, intellect, and ability to appear to as a protector of mankind or the bringer of it's destruction. Let's begin with where exactly did the history of these magnificent creatures begins.

  There really isn't a exact recorded date when Dragons came into the minds of men although one can speculate that it was in the minds of Proto-European and Asian people who like the Greeks attributed the natural world to great creatures of terrible power. Now the word Dragon itself however comes mainstream in the 13th century Europe-France and it meant "Lizard, Serpent, Sea Serpent" also from Greek Drakon earlier accounts state it from the root word drekesthai meaning "one who has a deadly glance". Dragon have various other names for themselves but also for subspecies such as Wyrm, drake, serpent, wyvern, and lindworm.

 The earliest meaning one can almost say with the deadly glance that Dragons might have had similar powers to the Basilisk however that might mean the Basilisk became a separate being as time passed but if you look at the basilisk it has many traits of a wyvern or lindworm which are subspecies of dragons although the basilisk has no wings.

  In every culture they are revered and feared as powerful beings. Asian culture has a less negative view of the creatures dragons in Asian cultures are often seen as ancient primordial forces of nature and the universe. For Asian cultures the dragon is also seen as a wise being often depicted in myths as giving humans wisdom and even in some cultures the dragons taught humans to speak. They are also identified with Longevity some dragons having lived for thousands of years. They also always seem to possess magical powers but in Asian culture it's mostly associated with water/mist or even poison unlike European depiction of dragons breathing fire.

Even the very appearance of the creatures differ again one looks to European and Asia. Asian dragons seem to represent the earliest accounts of dragons in appearance often being large serpentine like creatures that aren't winged like the European dragons also said to possess only frontal limbs if any at all. European dragons however are almost always depicted with wings and 2-4 limbs with dark scaly or feathered hide. Both have been described with the aforementioned hide of scales or feathers with the exception of the Asian variant scales being like those of a fish.

Throughout history various cultures have had their take on the dragon here are some of the most popular.

Greek: Often depicted as serpentine creatures as famous example of a dragon or dragon-like creature is the Lernaean Hydra which had several heads possess a poisonous breath/bite it was killed by Hercules as his second of this twelve labors it was said to guard the waters to the entrance of the underworld it was an offspring of Typhon and Echidna who in mythology would give birth to all the worlds monsters.

Chinese: These dragons are almost exclusively seen as benevolent and a symbol of royalty as is the case of the 5 claw dragon which was a symbol for Chinese emperors. These dragons were also considered guardians, spirits, and forces of nature. They were also said to have immense longevity and take on human form.

Christian/Jewish: What? dragons? Yes although that's not how many of us particularly see them now in these ancient religions dragons were present in the form of Leviathan which means twisted or coiled was a terrible being that rose out of the ocean along Behemoth a land dragon at the end of days. Leviathan in demonology is also one of the seven princes of hell and it's gate keeper of Hell's entrance stories says that Leviathan's mouth was the entrance and was called Hellmouth.

Dragons in Popular Culture:

Most of us identify with dragons through it's modern use let's see some of them.

  J.R.R Tolkien the "father of modern fantasy" had dragons in his epics the most famous being Smaug who was a dragon that hoarded the treasure of Thorin's kin and laid waste to Dale and inhabited the Lonely mountain. He was killed by Bard the Bowman. Another famous dragon from Tolkien's legendarium was Glaurung who was have said to sired the rest of the dragon race or Uruloki which are wingless fire breathing dragons. He is the main antagonist in the Children of Hurin defeating the Noldorin Elves and it's allies he was stabbed twice once by the Dwarven king Azaghal and last by Turin Turambar which killed Glaurung.

 Harry Potter has it's share of dragons as well possessing 10 different breeds which are prominently encountered in the Goblet of Fire. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine also ride a half blind dragon being pursued by goblins and death eaters after they broke into Gringotts Bank to recover a Horcrux from Bellatrix's vault.

  Wizard 101 Dragons are prominent part of the fire school and it was the Dragon Titan that destroyed Dragonspyre. Drake army is also prominent enemies in DS as many of you wizards already know. They were also allies to the citizens of Dragonspyre as "Drake riders" in fact without the help of a Drake the player would have never been able to reach Malistaire. The fire dragon spell is inspired by modern/European depiction of dragons not to mention it's just a kick butt spell. Also Death wizards have an encounter with the drakes if only their bones but it also allows you to see the bone anatomy of our fire breathing friends.

 Pokemon the dragons of the Pokemon universe are indeed a mix of all cultures and myths. representing awesome power and legendary skill. In the games Dragon type Pokemon are considered the overall best type as it's only weakness is Dragon type while having many resistances and the only type that resist dragon moves is the Steel type. Notable dragons are Dragonite which has intellect that matches humans and flies above the world's oceans looking for humans lost at sea. Another is the super ancient dragon and Trio master Rayquaza  which is master of earth's atmosphere and the only Pokemon to be able to quell the other super ancient Pokemon Kyogre who controls the seas and oceans and Groudon who controls/creates landmasses after a climatic battle.

  Another popular culture dragon is Deathwing from the recently released World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Deathwing has believed to be dead was was actually regaining his strength in Deepholm and makes a return to Azeroth he is a Black Wyrm and was given control over the earth and it's deep places but was driven crazy by the old gods.

 Although I doubt I've done these superb creatures justice I think this overview was decent and it shows why many people including those at Kings Isle have chosen these creatures for their universes. Nothing is comparable to dragons how they are awe-inspiring yet terrible. Let's hope for a future with more of these creatures cause they are the things of fantasy and imagination which we all love. Like my friend Lance of the Indigo League in Pokemon says "...You know that dragons are mythical Pokémon! They’re hard to catch and raise, but their powers are superior! They’re virtually indestructible!..."  Lets hope they remain this way for all time superior,mythical, and indestructible in our minds.

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger


  1. Interesting post, Alric. Really well set up - you should do more of this myth stuff with different creatures, maybe the Seraph. They're definitely present in Christianity, Judaism, and [maybe] Islam. And myths. I don't know. Rock on! Well done!

  2. Thanks Dustin will consider it and yes I am well aware of the Seraph in different cultures it is quite a interesting creature within the hierarchy of angels.

  3. lol Can't forget Deathwing. Hmm, do a post about this on Efreet, clears up the in-game confusion. (Which seems to have died down, but still...) Not to mention it appears in many Islamic and Arabian cultures (not just Islam the religion).