Dragons have fascinated cultures around the world for centuries, and though there are lulls in their popularity here and there, in recent decades there seems to be another rise for the legendary mythical creature in pop culture.
The origins of the dragon are highly debated and every scholar seems to have their own theory. It seems the only agreed upon fact is that in Europe, China, the Americas, and even Australia had a version that came about independently from each other.
More popular theories consist of the myths stemming from actual animals such as crocodiles/alligators, lizards, snakes, whales, and even fossils from found dinosaur bones.
Of course there are other theories such as dragons actually existing at some point in history, that they were just a manifestation of humans fears for different predators, or that unknown entities in the sea or unexplored lands had terrifying creatures lurking beneath.
No matter where they truly came from, there is no denying the impact of dragons around the world, and how awesome they are in whatever story they show up in.
All that being said, due to the popularity of dragons, there is a plethora of lore and dozens of different dragon types. It would take days to explore all of them, hence the “beginners guide.” Like other animals such as dogs or cats, depending on what region we’re talking about, what fantasy universe, or even what time period, we’ll have different types of dragons.
Before diving into the world of fiction, taking a look at what we have in the real world as far as dragons go is important because of the influence it has on everything else.
One of the big players would be the Chinese Dragon. More of a serpent-like creature with four legs- it is a highly revered figure in Asian culture. This dragon is one of the few that is actually good; being associated with luck and prosperity vs. the many Western influences of terrifying dark creatures. The Chinese Dragon is one of the Chinese zodiac signs, is used in celebrations, and has been a mascot of many people for generations.
Another dragon in the world today would be the red dragon that is found on the Welsh flag; or Baner Cymru. This is the official flag of Wales, and has been since 1959; though it has been widely used in Welsh culture for centuries. No one is entirely sure where the Red Dragon came from, but there are many stories claiming to be true; some of them connecting with other legendary characters such as King Arthur and Merlin.
Whether some of these are real or not, this lead the path to some of the folklore we have today, and boy do we have a whole lot of dragons.
Some of the earlier versions of dragons would stem from European influences depicting dragons as monsters, brave knights trying to save princesses, and ultimately the humans overcoming the beasts. Sound familiar?
Not all dragons have to be evil though. Some of them are good; namely Falkor from The Neverending Story, Mushu (except for maybe dishonoring cows), Dragon Tales, and the dragon from Merlin.
This is probably the friendliest version of a dragon in the fictional Camelot/King Arthur depiction we’ll ever see. Thank you John Hurt.
There are so many other versions of dragons that fall between the lines, much like humans themselves. Many dragons are intelligent, can communicate, and have some sort of moral code. Some of these may start out as villains, but end up turning the tables at some point making the stories even better.
A personal favorite being Toothless, from the How to Train Your Dragon series.
In line with making stories more captivating, sometimes the use of dragons, whether they’re good or bad, make the entire thing awesome.
Humanity has always been fascinated by these creatures, and it certainly hasn’t stopped. Especially now that we’re more technologically advanced, we can create different types of dragons, different stories, and new ways of interacting with them. From books to movies to TV shows to video games, dragons will continue to be a part of our culture for a long time.