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18 Famous Dragons

    Dragons are considered mythical in today's world. But history, and Hollywood, show they once ruled.

    Dragons are considered mythical in today’s world. But history, and Hollywood, show they once ruled.

    Hungarian Horntail Dragon at Universal Studios – photo by Craig Adderley

    18 Famous Dragons

    1. During the middle ages, the “The Shaggy Beast”, or La Velue(French), Peluda(Spanish), terrified all life along the River Huisne in northwestern France. It is claimed the mythical dragon could shoot deadly quills from its back.
    2. The earliest (1544) German-language description of the World, the Cosmographia by Sebastian Münster, comes a famous dragon story named Smok Wawelski who lived in a cave on Wawel hill near the Vistula River in Kraków(Cracov), Poland. The legend of the Wawel dragon tells the tale of king Krak and his people who, who after sacrificing one young girl every month to the appetite of the hungry dragon, were finally left with only one young girl—the king’s daughter. The king offered half of his land and the hand of his beautiful daughter in marriage to any knight who could kill the dragon. Many tried and all failed until a young cobbler saved the day after catching and killing a sheep before injecting its body with sulphur. The dragon hastily consumed the sheep laid by the cave and soon sat by the river trying to quell the burning fire within its belly. The dragon couldn’t stop the fire and drank so much water from the river that its stomach eventually exploded killing the beast. The clever cobbler reaped his rewards and lived happily ever after.
    3. AND by Sea: Mesopotamian (Tiamat), Hebrew (Leviathan), Greek (Cetus, Echidna, Hydra, Scylla), and Norse (Jörmungandr) myths all speak of the sea-dragons or sea serpents. However, and interestingly enough, the most widely reported sightings, hundreds if not thousands, come from off the coast of Massachusetts and New York of the famous Gloucester Sea Serpent that was spotted from 1817 and into the 20th century. Many theories speculate the cryptid to be a common snake or even narwhal but without definitive proof it still remains in the realm of the Sea Dragon.
    4. House of the Dragon – Named after the 7th century Christian saint and princess, Osgyth, the village of St. Osyth in the United Kingdom boasts a full closet rich in dreadful skeletons including beheadings, executions, ghosts, pirates, persecution, hangings, and, you guessed it: a famous dragon! According to old documents, the village attacked and a house partially burned by a large dragon on March 9th, 1170.
    5. Speaking of fire: From the Withered Heath beyond the Grey Mountains comes J.R.R. Tolkien’s, Smaug, whose lust for gold and hatred of men leads to a whole world of trouble in the beloved Hobbit adventures.
    6. Discovered in 1928, the Ugarit texts describe a coiled sea dragon named Lotan as “the twisting serpent, the powerful one with seven heads”.
    7. Famously slain dragons by heroes throughout the ages include the famous sea monster, Leviathan. Identified with the deadly sin envy, Christian theologians marked Leviathan as a demonic dragon. Leviathan is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the book of Psalms, the Book of Job, the Book of Isaiah, and the Book of Amos. Leviathan is also mentioned in the Book of Enoch. Many middle ages stories portray dragons as creatures of the Devil and use this description to promote religion and religious belief. The Satanic Bible refers to Leviathan as one of the four crown prices of Hell.
    8. Falkor, the white dog dragon from The Neverending Story is a “luck dragon” and helps Bastian by telling him to remember to “never give up and good luck will find you”. Purportedly, Luckdragons can sleep while flying but will die when completely submerged in water.
    9. So highly regarded in Tibetan and Bhutanese mythology are the Thunder Dragons, or Druk, they are included as a National symbol of Bhutan.
    10. The ancient Greeks believed a great serpent named Python lived in the center of the Earth. The supernatural creature was killed by the god Apollo using poisoned arrows according to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo. Incidently, the greek word for “dragon” (δράκων drákōn, genitive δράκοντοϛ drákontos) can also mean “snake”. Furthermore, the first ever mention of a dragon in greek literature appears in none other than—you guessed it—Homer’s monstrous poem: the Illiad.
    11. Pre-Christian in origin, Saint George and the Dragon, and the famous slaying of the latter by the former, goes back to Cappadocia during the 11th century before spreading to Libya in the 13th century and soon after reaching farther west by way of the Knights of the First Crusade. Funny how a little talk can go such a long way. Anyway, the original story tells of a dragon that was extorting villagers for human sacrifices before the saint comes in and does his thing. Over time, like all good stories, Saint George and the Dragon has picked up religious and political nuances that at the end of the day might upon logical circumspect lead one to conclude it as another example of a famous dragon story depicting the ageless battle between Light and Darkness, like between Ra and Apep, whose popularity reigned supreme during the 25th and 24th centuries before the appearance of Christ.
    12. Real or not, dragons are modern day emblems of fantasy and depicted as both bad and good. Flying strong in the fantasy and sci-fi books of Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, and Christopher Paolini, recent big-screen dragons such as those in the films Reign of Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug have also brought the ancient species to starring roles for fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones series. (Let us never forget Daenerys Targaryen’s obediently vicious Drogon).
    13. As long as we’re highlighting Hollywood dragons, let’s give it up for Elliot of Pete’s Dragon, and Dragon from Shrek, who lightened things up.
    14. In the Western world, the most famous of all dragons is written about in the Bible’s New Testament, Book of Revelations: Revelation 12:9“And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
    15. The Peter, Paul, and Mary song “Puff the Magic Dragon” hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, and for good reason, its story of a boy and his imaginary dragon touched millions of listeners. Controversy came when the song was accused of lyrical references to drug use when in fact the song was really about the hardships of growing older. Nevertheless, Puff became one famous dragon.
    16. Worshipped by Han Chinese people as a rain god, a black dragon named Short-tailed Old Li got part of his tail chopped off by his father upon his fathers first sight of him. His mother had already fainted. Homelife was so bad for the dragon that he flew up through the ceiling and didn’t stop until landing at Black Dragon River in northeast China. Once a year during the Chinese lunar calendar, on the anniversary of his mother’s death, Old Li returns home and makes it rain.
    17. Video gamers will know and appreciate these three famous dragons: Minecraft’s Ender Dragon, the Dracolich of Dungeon’s and Dragons, and Ysera, The Dreamer from Warcraft.
    18. Perhaps the world’s most famous dragon is the Azure Dragon as depicted on the Qing dynasty’s first national flag. This East Asian Chinese dragon symbolizes power, strength, and good luck for those worthy of it. As all Chinese dragons, the Azure Dragon represents control over typhoons, floods, rainfall, and all water in general. Also known as Blue-green Dragon, Green Dragon, or the Blue Dragon, the Azure Dragon is one of the Dragon Gods and included as one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellation representing the East and Spring. Its cultural influence is strong throughout Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The Blue Dragon’s chi being so strong it was made even more famous making it into the action-comedy Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny.