Comprehensive dragon facts are as rare as the creatures it talks about. But in this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about dragons. We’ll even have a dragon analysis, comparing western dragons versus eastern dragons so you’ll get to know these mighty beasts well.
Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll learn:
Come on, let’s get to it!
Dragon Characteristics: Western Dragons VS Eastern Dragons
Now let’s place the world’s dragon facts side by side in western dragons vs eastern dragons comparison. But instead of looking at who’s better, let’s look at them as equally awesome creatures who deserve to share the spotlight. The purpose of comparing their dragon info is simply to help you understand which type you prefer more.
Let’s dive right in.
Facts About Dragons: Western Dragons
Dragons in the west are described as magnificent beasts who have the body of a large serpent, blew fire from their mouths, and flew with large wings. They also had legs to support themselves. Some have small T-rex-like arms too by which to grab their foes.
These mythical creatures lived in mysterious places like deep seas, secluded marshes, or active volcanoes. While some of them lived in craggy mountains or dark caves. That’s why their heroes had difficulty looking for them.
But when they found each other at the dragon’s lair, expect nothing less than an epic battle! A great example is Hercules’ fight with the Hydra that was a fearsome 9-headed dragon in Greek mythology.
Now you might be wondering why dragons are popular if they’re the bad guys in western stories like Hercules. Britannica even shares that dragons were usually seen as “principles of evil”. Which leads us to ask, what do western dragons symbolize? What do they mean to those in the west?
The answers lie in the dragons themselves. Dragons are also perceived as symbols of intelligence and protection in war because of the very abilities they possess. A good example is the Iliad where the story’s king used a shield that had a dragon painted on it. Wales’ coat of arms and flag has the symbol of a dragon on them as well.
So we see that perceptions depend on the country’s culture and context which inevitably change over time. As events in history happened and cultures changed, the image of malevolent dragons won out in terms of influence in later years. This is why western dragons are presented as fierce creatures in fantasy stories today.
Facts About Dragons: Eastern Dragons
Eastern dragons are perceived in contrast to how they’re seen in the west. Eastern dragons are known as celestial creatures whose existence benefited humans instead of harmed them. From this perspective, dragons were treated with respect and reverence rather than beasts to battle.
Here’s a little more context to understand these dragon facts.
Dragons’ habitats in eastern culture are in the elements. Examples of these are the heavens, the air, the waters, or under the earth. They played the role of guardians and stewards of these elements which cemented their image of benevolent beings in Asian culture. This also led to eastern dragons being symbols of royalty and leadership.
Amazing, right? In addition to wisdom, eastern dragons also had the power to control the elements they guarded. So, what does that imply? Here’s a little more context that you should know.
In many Asian cultures like China and Japan, dragons were often associated with water. They were thought to bring the rain needed for farming. Because of these incredible abilities and wisdom, eastern dragons have the power to make man’s livelihood prosper or wilt. This is the reason they’re regarded with great awe and respect.
Now, how do these benevolent and awesome creatures look? The American Museum of National History quotes famous Chinese scholar Wang Fu to describe eastern dragons:
Eastern dragons also usually don’t have wings unlike western dragons. The description above also influenced other Asian countries’ perception of dragons which is why you’ll find similarities among them. There are still differences, though, as each country interprets the legendary creature according to its own culture.
For example, in Korea, dragons are sometimes depicted as having long beards and holding a small orb in its mouth. Japanese dragons, on the other hand, have three claws in comparison to the Chinese dragon which usually has four to five.
In India, the dragon is depicted as an evil being who hoarded waters, stole cows, and hid the sun. This is contrary to dragons being seen as benevolent creatures in other nations. But despite their common perception of being beneficial to man, eastern dragons are also dangerous when angered.
Types of Dragons: Western Dragons
European Dragon Facts
In this section, get to know legendary fiery dragons from Britain, Iceland, Hungary, Russia, and Poland.
Dragon Info On Britain's Wyverns
Remember the coats of arms we talked about earlier? Dragons are common emblems in Britain’s medieval heraldry because they embodied strength and protection. The roots of these medieval beliefs are their culture’s folklore about dragons whom they called, “wyverns“.
Wyverns are vicious and terrifying dragons who have two large wings and two hind legs that support its body. They’re unable to breathe out fire from their mouths but they compensate for it with venomous bites and great physical strength.
A famous wyvern is a dragon from the English epic, “Beowulf”. This dragon was the embodiment of ferociousness as it burned villages when it was angered by a thief who stole a jewel it was protecting in its lair. But the epic’s hero valiantly fought the wyvern with the help of his sidekick and brought peace back to the land.
Dragon Info On Iceland's Fafnir
Now let’s cross the English borders and take a look at dragon fun facts about Iceland’s Fafnir. Fafnir is a long serpentine dragon in Norse mythology’s Volsunga saga. He was initially human but turned into a great venomous breathing dragon when he was overcome with greed in guarding his stolen treasure.
While he was still human, he discovered the wealth that was in his father’s possession and killed him. He was eventually slain by the story’s hero, Sigurd, who gained treasure and supernatural knowledge too.
Dragon Info On Russia's Zmey Gorynych
Over in Russia, dragon facts on the Zmey Gorynych come from Slavic mythology. The zmey gorynych is a three-headed dragon who fought with the valiant Dobrynya Nikitich in a fierce fight where it lost in the end. Aside from having multiple heads, it also spits out fire and can change to human form in other versions of the story.
Dragon Info On Hungary's Sarkany
Additionally, Europe also has dragon info coming from Hungary whose dragons are called, “sarkany“. Sarkany are dragons in Hungarian mythology that symbolized the unity of two worlds. The worlds these dragons symbolized for the Hungarians were the material and spiritual worlds.
Hungarian legends later on associated sarkany with natural phenomena like tornadoes, storms, and floods. Like the wyverns, the sarkany are reptile-like beasts who had vast wings and scales. They also hid treasures in their lairs, held maidens captive, and fought brave knights.
Dragon Info On Poland's Smok Wawelski
And last for our roster of European dragons is Poland’s Smok Wawelski. This famous dragon is also known as the Dragon of Wawel Hill. According to Polish legend, Smok Wawelski was a destructive dragon who devoured the villagers’ livestock and even the villagers themselves when they weren’t able to give him food. He also destroyed people’s houses and wreaked havoc everywhere.
King Krakus, Krakow’s reigning monarch and founder in the story, set up a competition and would reward the man who will be able to slay the dragon. The victor of the challenge was a poor shoemaker who tricked the dragon with a lamb stuffed with sulfur which led to its death.
Now you see the common thread across Europe where countries share the picture of fiery venomous dragons and great treasure. These thought patterns influenced other western countries as these nations crossed borders and traveled the great seas during the Age of Discovery.
African Dragon Facts
Let’s now take a look at dragon fun facts from Africa. These dragons are like their European counterparts in that they embody chaos, destruction, and brute strength.
Dragon Info On Egypt’s Apep
Ancient Egypt worshiped a god whom they called “Apep” or “Apophis”. He was a god who symbolized chaos and appeared in the form of either a great serpent or a crocodile. Egyptian religion back in ancient times goes on to say that Apep opposed the sun god, “Ra”, and had frequent battles with him.
But contrary to dragon legends where they’re eventually overcome, Apep was one who regenerated even after being killed. This led to Ra needing to fight him each day.
Dragon Info On The Democratic Republic of The Congo’s Kirimu
In colorful central Africa, the Nyanga people of Congo offer the dragon from their Mwindo epic. The dragon, Kirimu, is unique in that it’s the first dragon to be described as being a seven-headed dragon who had dog-like teeth and an eagle-like tail.
Its role in the epic is being a friend of the lightning god, Nkuba. It was killed by the epic’s hero, Mwindo, who was punished for its death.
American Dragon Facts
Did you know the Americas has its own share of dragon tales too? Check out the information about dragons from this side of the western hemisphere.
Dragon Info On Mexico’s Quetzalcoatl
In Latin America, ancient peoples like the Mayans and Aztecs worshiped a deity they called “Quetzalcoatl” whose name meant, “feathered serpent”. This dragon-like being was regarded as mankind’s creator and the god governing the winds and the rains. His appearance is a hybrid of a serpent who had feathers of the quetzal, a bird that had an emerald plume.
Dragon Info On The USA’s Piasa Bird
On the other hand, Northern America’s dragon is the Piasa Bird, a monster who’s a blend of the land’s strongest animals. It had an angry expression whose mouth coiled back like a savage beast. Its face had a tiger-like beard, a scaly body, a long tale, deer antlers on its head, and eagle-like claws.
Its name in Native American means, “the bird that devours men”. And legend has it that it terrorized the Native Americans of Mississippi until a courageous chief, Chief Ouatoga, created a strategy that led to the Piasa Bird’s demise. He offered himself as bait and had his men wait in ambush with poisoned arrows which they were to throw when the Piasa took the chief. The plan worked and the bird was defeated.
What mind-blowing stories, aren’t they? It’s no wonder the authors of the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series included dragons in their characters. The stories and the creatures themselves are simply amazing.
It’s also these very legends that inspired the awesome dragon costumes and larger than life animatronic dragons we enjoy today. Let’s be thankful for literature like these that spark imaginations from generation to generation.
Types of Dragons: Eastern Dragons
Now that we’ve wrapped up the western hemisphere, are you ready for the legendary eastern dragons? Read on to unveil the mystery of this eastern legend bit by bit. We’ll be exploring dragons from nations where it’s a major cultural symbol: China, Japan, and Korea.
Chinese Dragon Facts
Let’s start with the Chinese Dragon, the most famous of all eastern dragons and the one on which most base their own. The Chinese dragon is a divine and majestic being in Chinese mythology who’s connected with the waters and the skies. It’s also regarded as the king of the beasts.
According to Britannica’s dragon info, this eastern dragon called “long”, “is associated with heavenly beneficence and fecundity“. Meaning, it’s a dragon who’s thought to bring good things and fruitfulness. This is the exact opposite of the western dragon who brings terror and dismay to those who encounter it.
The Chinese dragon is thought to bring good fortune as it brings on the rain needed to make crops grow. This growth will lead to a bountiful harvest and consequently, good fortune. Ancient people induced this mythical creature’s generosity through rituals so it would dispense the rains they need.
Additionally, the emperor of China in imperial days used it as his official symbol. It’s because the Chinese dragon embodied power, strength, and good fortune.
This eastern dragon is also said to have 9 types:
- Celestial Dragons– the Tianlong, dragons who serve as the guardians of the gods’ palaces, they are said to pull their chariots too.
- Spiritual Dragons– the Shenlong, dragons who control the winds and the rains.
- Underground Dragons– the Dilong, guardians of the earth and its rivers.
- Dragons of Hidden Treasures– the Fucanglong, guardians of treasures buried underneath the earth.
- Horned Dragons– the Qiulong, regarded as the strongest and mightiest of all dragons.
- Winged Dragons– the Yinglong are the only dragons in Chinese mythology who have. wings. The rest are mighty serpent-like four-legged creatures that are endowed with deer-like antlers and soles like a tiger’s. They also have eagle-like talons and scales on its body like a carpet’s.
- Yellow Dragons – the Huanglongare dragons who came from the River Luo and showed the elements of writing to Emperor Fu Hsi.
- Coiling Dragons– the Panlong, dragons who inhabit the great lakes.
- Dragon Kings– the Long Wang, the dragons who reigned over the four oceans and who possessed the ability to change into human form.
Japanese Dragon Facts
The mythical creature who often graces Japanese art is called, “Ryu“. These are the dragons in Japanese culture who take their roots from the Chinese dragon.
The ryu shares similar features with the Chinese dragon such as a serpent-like body. They’re also associated as deities who inhabit the waters and the skies. What sets them apart are small details like the number of toes (it only has three, the long has 4 to 5) and having no wings. They’re also able to breathe fire.
The roles the Japanese dragons play in mythology are as gods who ruled the oceans and the seas. They also initially had evil personalities but were later seen as good creatures as the folklores became influenced by Chinese culture.
Korean Dragon Facts
Another eastern dragon that takes its roots from the Chinese long is the Korean dragon called, “yong“. Like the long and the Ryu, this eastern dragon is perceived as a beneficent creature who brings good fortune.
It’s also regarded as a powerful deity who’s able to control the waters. These powerful creatures are said to live in those bodies of water such as oceans, seas, deep mountain ponds, and great lakes. Some Korean myths describe the yong as dragons who are emotionally intelligent too in addition to being powerful.
What makes it different from the previous two dragons is the orb which it carries in its mouth. It’s an orb that’s said to give the ability to create anything at any time. The legend goes on to say that one can gain omnipotence from the orb too.
Dragon facts unique to the yong are the 81 pieces of scales on its back which were aligned in 9s. The significance of this number is the good fortune associated with the number 9 that represents yang essence. Korean dragons are also depicted as having four toes.
Dragons Tales About You & Me
Do you find dragons amazing after learning all these? Because we do and we’re just left in awe with the richness of the cultures we just learned about. And we know we’ll look at dragons more differently from now on.
We’ve also come to realize that it isn’t so much about western dragons vs eastern dragons. But rather, celebrating the unique cultures each dragon represents around the world. The myths and legends show how each nation sees the world around them. These also show the beauty of their way of life.
It’s that beauty and depth that makes stories like these wonderful. It talks about you and me through the richness of our own heritages.
Are you excited already? Because we are! The dragon fun facts we have shared have shown you the inspiration behind your favorite theme park’s animatronic dragons. Additionally, you could also get to tell a better story with the realistic dragon costume you’ll be getting for Halloween or any party this year!