Dragons

Considering that dragons in one form or another are common in much folklore, East and West but that dinosaurs died out millions of years before humans evolved, what inspired the stories? Crocodiles seem the only candidate but are not that close to any archetypal dragon.
 

chrisg46

LE
Book Reviewer
Fossils
 

Trans-sane

LE
Book Reviewer
Considering that dragons in one form or another are common in much folklore, East and West but that dinosaurs died out millions of years before humans evolved, what inspired the stories? Crocodiles seem the only candidate but are not that close to any archetypal dragon.
Both chinese and japanese (and presumably other Far East) mythologies depict dragons as very different from European type dragons though. More of a cross between a salamander with a lion head and a serpent.
 

jarrod248

LE
Gallery Guru
Considering that dragons in one form or another are common in much folklore, East and West but that dinosaurs died out millions of years before humans evolved, what inspired the stories? Crocodiles seem the only candidate but are not that close to any archetypal dragon.
Mother-in-laws obviously.


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It's an interesting question, the problem is Fossils don't necessarily mean dragons/dinosaurs to the ancient mind. The Greeks thought the huge bones were proof of Titans. Seeing as there's no lizard type skin on fossils who know's what people thought?

Re OP dragons are mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle circa 793.


A.D. 793 . This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of
the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these
were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and
whirlwinds, and fiery, dragons flying across the firmament.
These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and
not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in
the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made
lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine
and slaughter.

Also mentions the Vikings' first raid on Lindisfarne there too, so dragons go back at least to the 700s AD in Western Europe.

Britannia: The AngloSaxon Chronicle
 

llech

LE
The Romans nabbed an idea from the Dacians of a large whistle like object, made from wood formed into a beast like head and had a piece of red cloth that flowed like a tail. Extended on a stick it would make a roaring noise when riding on the back of a horse. It was called a Draco.
100's of years mixed in with ignorance and folklore and hey presto you have an animal that doesn't follow even a dinosaurs evolution (a dragon has 6 limbs not 4).
 
Alcohol or possibly fungi. Toads or odd herbs.

Something like that, the shaman/witch/wise one/etc would have seen them during the "sacred" rituals.

Stoned out of their gourd = strange beasties and odd behaviours to be followed.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
RIP
I seem to remember, probably from an edition of Antiques Roadshow, that Chinese have a different number of fingers from Japanese dragons.

Another vague memory is of something, perhaps on TV or perhaps I read it, a complex theory that there were dragons and that they generated hydrogen in their gut so that they floated in the air, and from time to time exhaled it, WOOMFAH! but I forget what the lighting mechanism was. One is of course protected from this by a heavy grade tinfoil hat.
 
It's an interesting question, the problem is Fossils don't necessarily mean dragons/dinosaurs to the ancient mind. The Greeks thought the huge bones were proof of Titans. Seeing as there's no lizard type skin on fossils who know's what people thought?

Re OP dragons are mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle circa 793.





Also mentions the Vikings' first raid on Lindisfarne there too, so dragons go back at least to the 700s AD in Western Europe.

Britannia: The AngloSaxon Chronicle

I believe that Viking ships were refered to as 'dragon-ships' as well as longships. They certainly often had dragon figureheads.
 

Scorpio46

Old-Salt
Another vague memory is of something, perhaps on TV or perhaps I read it, a complex theory that there were dragons and that they generated hydrogen in their gut so that they floated in the air, and from time to time exhaled it, WOOMFAH! but I forget what the lighting mechanism was. One is of course protected from this by a heavy grade tinfoil hat.
I think want your referring to is the Channel 4 film called The Last Dragon from 2004, that took a pseudo documentary approach to show how dragons could have evolved from the prehistoric age to the 15th century.


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JSPrest

Old-Salt
Anyone who wonders where the myth of dragons comes from has obviously never had a Saturday night out in Aldershot. Got und himmel, dragons in dresses ... and their mothers!
 
Both chinese and japanese (and presumably other Far East) mythologies depict dragons as very different from European type dragons though. More of a cross between a salamander with a lion head and a serpent.
Also very different in nature. Oriental dragons are depicted as benevolent and generally quite helpful creatures, normally as controllers of natural phenomena like weather, seas, etc.

They're so different in nature that last year a group of Chinese academics petitioned the government to have the official translation of lóng changed.
 
I seem to remember, probably from an edition of Antiques Roadshow, that Chinese have a different number of fingers from Japanese dragons.
There were also differences in the number of toes between ranks of nobility, which changed with different dynasties. The Qing Dynasty Court robes on display in the V&A were initially reckoned to be made for an Emperor because of the yellow cloth but the dragon design had the wrong number of toes for that dynasty so the changed the description.
 

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