Published on Jan 6, 2020

Dragon Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

A dragon is a large, serpentine legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures around the world. Beliefs about dragons vary drastically by region, but dragons in western cultures since the High Middle Ages have often been depicted as winged, horned, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire. Dragons in eastern cultures are usually depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence.

The popular western image of a dragon as winged, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire is an invention of the High Middle Ages, based on a conflation of earlier dragons from different traditions, and of inaccurate scribal drawings of snakes. In western cultures, dragons are portrayed as monsters to be tamed or overcome, usually by saints or culture heroes, as in the popular legend of Saint George and the Dragon. They are often said to have ravenous appetites and to live in caves, where they hoard treasure. These dragons appear frequently in western fantasy literature, including The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.

Western Dragons typically are thought of as evil, fire-breathing beasts. Their reputation as evil may have been influenced by the demonization from the Church, and their fire-spewing capability.


As promised, your eight easy ways to remember the Western Dragon:

1. Both Chinese Dragons and Western dragons usually live in water, especially oceans and rivers. Apep and Tiamat are two examples of water dwellers. Some also are thought to spew water, like the French dragon Gargouille, and the Devil Dragon from the Book of Revelations.

2. There is a theory that dragons evolved into fire-breathing abilities due to a large internal bladder, or sac, filled with methane. The Dragon had a metal-type “flint” in its throat, and when it belched in self-defense was able to ignite the methane and ‘breathe fire’.

3. Dragons have the ability to fly because their wings are huge and capable of providing lift. Their frames are not composed of solid bones, but are hollow and cartilaginous; light, like plastic.

4. Like the Eastern, or Chinese Dragons, Western Dragons also have the reputation of wisdom. Ancient Greek stories tell us that Pythonesses learned from Dragons.

5. The common theme of a Western Dragon’s diet is either animals like sheep and goats, and also young maidens (virgins). Perseus and Andromeda include this in their Greek Mythologies, and Hercules saved a maiden from a Dragon. St. George (from Europe) also tells of maiden sacrifices from Europe.

6. Dragons make great guardians. Ladon guarded the Golden apples at Hesperides,and Tiamat’s Dragon guarded sacred tablets. It was a dragon that guarded the golden fleece from Jason, and the Golden Apples at Hesperides were protected by Ladon. So your dragon figurines perched on a castle or your dragon holding a ball are likely Western Dragons.

7. Not only were Dragons considered guardians, but actual greedy hoarders. There are mythical stories of greedy men who were turned into Western Dragons.

8. In appearance, Western Dragons have a long neck and tail, horned heads, scales like body armor, forked tongues, and varying colors. Their feet are clawed.

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