Who doesn’t love learning about dragons? These beasts are in nearly every fantasy story and hold deep meaning within many cultures. Interestingly, it’s quite likely that the belief in dragons stems from ancient civilizations uncovering dinosaur bones. While there were no fire-breathing creatures, some were feathered, and all were fierce. Get to know some of the dragons from around the world!
We start our journey in Norway, the land of Vikings and home to Fafnir. This ancient beast is well-known in Norse mythology and was an enormous scaly dragon. While the creatures were more serpent-like at first, Germanic influence gave the dragon legs. Unlike what most of us imagine when thinking of these beasts, Fafnir doesn’t have wings—this trait contrasts with most Western depictions of dragons.
The Hydra is one of several dragons most recognized, thanks to pop culture spreading stories of the legendary creature. Mythical heroes had to avoid cutting off its head when fighting this beast since doing so caused twice as many to regrow. Before even having a head cut off, most images depict the Hydra with three to seven heads, but rarely does it have a pair of wings.
Japan: Yamata No Orochi
Japan’s Yamata No Orochi is next up in our deep dive into dragons from around the world. Like a Hydra, this dragon had several heads, but unlike the Greek dragon, Orochi had eight heads and eight tails. This beast comes from Shinto belief, which considers it an antagonist in ancient Japanese mythology. According to the stories, Yamata No Orochi is enormous, and it’s as long as eight valleys and hills.
This dragon was an Aztec deity who held deep importance to the native culture as they believed he created humanity. The name Quetzalcoatl translates to “feathered Serpent” and is quite fitting since the deity had feathers and a serpent-like body. According to legend, this dragon god could fly and walk, possibly thanks to those feathers increasing its aerodynamics.
The Real Dragons
As incredible as these stories make dragons appear, it’s most likely that these creatures are nothing more than a myth. However, like dragons, many of the real-life beasts—dinosaurs—had large sharp teeth, enormous bodies, and some even had feathers. These prehistoric creatures once ruled our earth. It’s quite likely ancient civilizations came across various fossils as time passed.
It’s hard to say exactly which dinosaur fossils inspired each dragon, though it most likely relates to creatures living in the region.
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