The Different Kinds Of Dragons

By Debra Kelly on Tuesday, February 4, 2014
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“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” —JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit

In A Nutshell

The dragon is a legendary creature that is found in mythologies and folklore around the world, and it appears in a variety of forms. Wyrms are typically British and Norse dragons that have a long, snake-like body and no legs. Wyverns are commonly seen in heraldic devices, and have only two legs. Hydras are many-headed dragons, and Eastern dragons are generally the good kind.

The Whole Bushel

Dragons are a hugely diverse group of mythological creatures. We know them when we see them, even though they can look very different. What we might not realize is that there are names for all of them.

According to the ancient Greeks, the original dragons were a serpent-like creature with a heavy head; in some cases, they had more than one head. The very word for dragon is derived from the Greek words drakein and derkomai, meaning “to see clearly.” It’s the Greeks that also first give us the idea of a greedy dragon guarding its hoard. The Hesperian Dracon, the Colchian Dracon, and the Ismenian Dracon each guarded treasures in the ancient world. Greek dragons were also noble creatures, though, and some served alongside the goddess Demeter and the witch Medea.

If “dragon” is the genus, there’s huge variety in the species of dragons.

The hydra is a many-headed dragon. The most famous one is perhaps the one that gave the group its name, the Hydra, a nine-headed dragon that would regenerate one head for each one that was removed and was eventually killed by Heracles.

A wyrm (or worm, or vurm), is a type of dragon that commonly appears in British and Norse mythology. These dragons have no legs or arms, and only the long, scaled body of a serpent. Often, they are often given poisonous breath and the ability to regenerate or reattach pieces of their body that have been cut off.

The wyvern is a type of dragon that’s often seen in heraldry and as a part of family crests. These dragons have only two legs and a long, serpentine tail that they can sometimes use to support their bodies. They are also usually—but not always—depicted as having wings.

Sea monsters are also considered a type of dragon. These obviously water-dwelling creatures share many of the same physical and psychological characteristics of their land cousins.

According to the Greeks, the classic, reptilian dragons evolved from a different type of dragon. Half woman and half reptile, the water goddess Ceto gave birth to others like her, such as Echidna. Echidna, in turn, gave birth to some of the first “real” dragons of mythology.

Interestingly, it’s thought that the relatively modern idea of the dragon was developed from perhaps the least typically dragon-like of all the Greek dragons, the Chimera. With its long, serpentine tail, it was considered one of the different types of dragons, but we rarely think of something that’s part lion and part goat as being very draconic. Later, medieval paintings of Saint George and his famous dragon have been based on earlier depictions of the Chimera in Greek art.

The typical mental picture that most people have of a dragon, with its four legs, wings, and ability to breathe fire was actually a much later construction than dragons like the wyvern and the wyrm, and is thought to have been developed by the Romans based on these earlier creatures.

The serpentine dragons of Eastern mythologies are very, very different from their Western counterparts. These dragons typically figure into the creation and continuation of the world as we know it, and are more often benevolent creatures that control water and are commonly linked with the powers of light, heaven, and the yang.

Show Me The Proof

Dragons of Ancient Greek Mythology
Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art: Chimerical Creatures of the Dragon and Serpent Kind: The Wyvern
Mysterious Britain & Ireland: The Dragon in Folklore & Legend
American Museum of Natural History: Asian Dragons

  • https://soundcloud.com/arjan-hut Arjan Hut

    The next time a 5-year-old wants to enter a discussion on dragons with me, I’ll be very well prepared.

    • Lisa 39

      Or you can watch harry potter movies!

      • Patriotic Dane

        What about the Hobbit?

        • Lisa 39

          Were there dragons in the hobbit? I read that in 6th grade and don’t remember much, but that was in the 70′s lol

          • Patriotic Dane

            Well, according to Hobbit movies then there is an angry dragon that lives in a mountain!

          • Lisa 39

            O yeah, you’re right, good job pd! I hear there’s a movie being made about the hobbit, i can’t wait to see it!

          • Patriotic Dane

            Yeah! Me too :D

          • Lisa 39

            Do you know when its coming out?

          • Patriotic Dane

            I think it’ll be out in December 2014 (According to IMBD)

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2310332/

          • Lisa 39

            Awesome! I’m looking forward to that, i really don’t remember much from the book but they did show how smeedle got the ring in the 3rd lotr, thanks pd!

          • Patriotic Dane

            Really? That sounds so cool! I can’t wait to see that movie! :D

          • Lisa 39

            Have you seen lotr?

          • Patriotic Dane

            Not yet D:

          • Lisa 39

            What? You poor thing, you’ve missed one of the greatest movies ever, ok you be at my house 9am saturday, wear pajamas, its awesome movie day!

          • Patriotic Dane

            I’ll bring some popcorn! :P

          • Lisa 39

            Cool, i’ll see if its on netflix, if not we’ll watch my vhs tapes lol

          • DarthPoot

            The first part of the movie is out. Honestly, the book was much better.

          • Lisa 39

            The hobbit is out already?

          • Lisa 39

            Wait, do you mean the lord of the ring movies? Its way to early for you to mess with me like this pd ;)

      • https://soundcloud.com/arjan-hut Arjan Hut

        I’m eager to get started, but my wife says 5 is to young for Harry Potter :(

        • Lisa 39

          Bummer, mom rules are no fun sometimes, i know, i’m a mom to lol

        • 4ehtehj5x

          stfu you little faggot

    • Andy West

      5 year-olds yeah, think they’re so goiddam clever! Well they’re not.

      • Lisa 39

        A couple days ago i was holding my 5 month old granddaughter, i sneezed a little loud and it startled her so i said ‘did i scare you? Did you think grandmas head exploded?’, my awesome 4 year old grandson says ‘actually grandma, you’re head didn’t explode’, so we can count 4 year olds in there also!

        • Andy West

          Take everything so damn literally don’t they. My 3 year-old niece called me poopy head, and I’m like, yeah, whatever!

          • Lisa 39

            They do, thanksgiving, everyone was here, same 4 year old was asking to watch a movie, just nagging the shit out of his dad, dad says ‘we’ll watch a movie when i find the remote’, 4 year old says ‘actually dad, its a controller’, o boy, dad handled himself very well after that, he told him ‘ok smarty pants, you find the controller’ then went for a smoke before the child opened his mouth again lol

          • Lisa 39

            Why did your niece call you a poopy head?

          • frank

            You literally had a poopy head?

    • Patriotic Dane

      Well, they are pretty awesome!

      • https://soundcloud.com/arjan-hut Arjan Hut

        5 year olds or dragons :)

      • Lisa 39

        Oohh pretty!

      • Andy West

        Totally!

        • Lisa 39

          That’s great!

        • Patriotic Dane

          That dragon prorbably lives near McDonalds…

    • The Ou7law

      Hell yeah, that jerk at the playground isnt gonna know what hit him

    • 4ehtehj5x

      wow now thats what i call edgy!

      • Lisa 39

        Hi 4, do you not like arjan?

        • lbatfish

          No, he’s just being a poopy-head.

          • Lisa 39

            Well that does seem to happen alot around here :)

  • UN

    interesting besides how a common myth such s dragons, ghosts or even vampires finds its way various cultures all over the world in some kind of form.

  • Dovahkiin

    You forgot The Children Of Akatosh. They are the truest and coolest of all the dragons. The dov are supreme.

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