Portrayed as fierce and terrifying or gentle and kind; myths about dragons have been around for centuries. People across many continents have told stories, wrote poems, painted pictures and sang songs.
*A genus of extremely large, long-lived, winged lizards. the species Draco should not be confused with any of their lesser cousins, including the false dragon, or wyvern (Pseudodraconis) and the drake (Ophidio draconis), or their distant relatives, the winged serpents. True dragons constitute the most advanced race of lizards known, far surpassing other orders in size, intelligence, and lifespan. Habitat, appearance and lifecycle vary widely between the five major species of dragon, which are divided along geographical lines. The five species have therefore been named the European, Near and Middle Eastern, Indian and Oriental.
There are many terms used to refer to dragons, and incorrect terminology is often applied. Wyvern, hydra and firedrake, in fact completely different species, have all been mistakenly used. Common names include: orms, worms, wyrms, serpents, flying-serpents and winged snakes. Specific types of dragon include Peluda (a furred dragon that spits water), Tarasque, Guivre and Gargouille (another water-spouting dragon), one of which nearly destroyed Rouen in 520 AD), which are all from France; and Lindorms or Lyndwyrms in England. Other cultures have thrown up various names, such as the Persian Musshussu and the Irish Peist.
Hypnotic Specter by Greg Staples
Wizards of the Coast feature this classic image in their new
Magic: The Gathering® Tenth Edition card Game!
We in the West are, of course, familiar with the classical form of the common European dragon (Draco magnificens), a four-legged creature with a tough, scaly hide, an eagle's talons, a long sinuous tail and a reptilian snout crowned with a pair of horns. It has bat-like wings which spring from extended rib bones just behind the front legs.
Dragons of the Near Eastern and European variety tend to adopt a terrestrial lifestyle, living high in remote mountainous areas, although there are exceptions: Irish dragons (Draco magnificens goidelis), for example, have an exclusively aquatic habitat. Caverns adopted by Dragons as lairs are marked with a number of telltale signs: the cavern itself will be spacious, often enormous, with a sizeable passage connecting it to the outside world. The mouth of the passage, though probably well hidden, will be scorched and blasted, and bear the imprints of the creature's passing. Scales shed by the dragon, and the bones and carcasses of its prey will litter the floor, but the real give-away will be the dragon's hoard of treasure and gems, glittering in a well-guarded corner.*
From The adventures of Tom Bombadil
There was an old dragon under gray stone;
his red eyes blinked as he lay alone.
His joy was dead and his youth spent,
he was knobbed and wrinkled,
and his limbs bent in the long years to his gold chained;
in his heart's furnace the fire waned.
To his belly's slime gems stuck thick,
silver and gold he would snuff and lick:
he knew the place of the least ring
beneath the shadow of his black wing.
Of thieves he thought on his hard bed,
and dreamed that on their flesh he fed,
their bones-crushed, and their blood drunk:
his ears drooped and his breath sank.
Mail-rings rang. He heard them not.
A voice echoed in his deep grot:
a young warrior with a bright sword
called him forth to defend his hoard.
His teeth were knives, and on horn his hide,
but iron tore him, and his flame died.
||A Dragons Lament
I'm tired of being a dragon,
Ferocious and brimming with flame,
The cause of unspeakable terror
When anyone mentions my name.
I'm bored with my bad reputation
For being a miserable brute,
And being routinely expected.
To brazenly pillage and loot.
I wish that I weren't repulsive,
Despicable, ruthless and fierce,
With talons designed to dismember
And fangs finely fashioned to pierce.
I've lost my desire for doing
The deeds any dragon should do,
But since I can't alter my nature,
I guess I'll just terrify you.
By Jack Prelutsky
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*Excerpt from "A Natural History of the Unnatural World"*