What were dragons like in the past? To find it out, we went back several centuries, to the time when it was widely believed that dragons existed. At the beginning of our research, we thought that all dragons had wings, claws and a reptile tail. But this was not the case. Some dragons looked more like large snakes.
Indeed, in ancient times, there was no difference between the dragon and the snake. The Greek words ophis (snake) and drákôn (dragon) were used to designate the same animal.
As for its name, it comes from the Greek “drákôn”, derived from the verb “derkomai” which means “to look with intensity”. It was said that the dragon had the look of a snake with fixed and transparent eyelids: a look that makes your blood run cold, aglaglagla.
Therefore, at that time, if no one doubts the existence of dragons, their appearance is very varied from one continent to another:
In South America, the Giant Serpent draws the course of the rivers of Amazonia with its body.
In North America (Mexico), Quetzalcoatl, an all-powerful God, is a feathered serpent capable of transforming into wind and clouds but also into a human.
In Europe, the Dragon is often represented as a crocodile or lion-headed monster with bat wings, a snake body and eagle talons. It is rather evil.
In Asia (India), Apala, a dragon with a human head and legs and the body of a snake, protects cities from evil dragons.
Also in Asia, Long is an oriental dragon without wings, with the body of a snake, the mouth of a dromedary, the legs of a lion and the talons of an eagle. He is a messenger between men and the gods.
In Africa (Egypt), Apophis, a giant snake sometimes winged, tries to prevent the sunrise every morning.
In Oceania (New Zealand), Peke-Haua is a giant lizard-snake that lives hidden in a bottomless spring. It devours lost humans.
Where did Dragons live?
Some lived in mysterious caves or in the earth like the dragons of the Merlin legend. Others lived in the sky like many Chinese dragons. Finally, there are those who preferred to spend their time with their feet (when they had them) in the water of springs, rivers, swamps, etc.
What did Dragons do all day?
Their occupations were quite amazing. We have classified the dragons into several categories. There were :
– The thieving dragons (St. George and the dragon): These dragons stole treasures, stole princesses, martyred the inhabitants of cities or villages. Fortunately, a hero always came along and decided to crush them to become a superhero.
– The factor dragons(Asian dragons).
They were messengers between men and the Gods.
– The architect and gardener dragons (Tiamat, The Giant Amazon Snake)
These dragons were there at the beginning of the world. While some of them were cut in two to make Heaven and Earth (Tiamat, a dragon from Iraq), the movements of other dragons on the ground shaped the landscapes or drew the course of rivers (the Giant Snake of Amazonia).
– Star dragons, friends of kings and warriors (the Chinese Imperial Dragon)
They didn’t do much. Kings and warriors sought their company to take advantage of their magical powers.
– Dragons were guardians of treasures and springs (Colchis Dragon, guardian of the Golden Fleece).
It is said that dragons never sleep. This quality was highly valued by those who had treasure to protect.
– Dragons as rainmakers and fair weather makers (Asian and European dragons)
They brought rain but also floods and announced the seasons, for example by spitting foliage in spring. They also caused eclipses of the moon and sun, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions!
Well, nowadays, we know that dragons never existed and yet I can see that several questions are burning your lips:
But then, if they never existed, how is it that so many people who don’t know each other could have invented such similar animals?
These imaginary dragons have similarities with animals that live on Earth. The dragons have a family resemblance with snakes such as the python, but also with the crocodile or the Komodo monitor, which is a huge Asian lizard. But they also have common traits with the dog, the eagle, the camel, the lion, the rooster, the bat, etc. Finally, dragons are an assembly of pieces of real animals.
Why have dragons been believed in for so long?
Many people have believed they saw dragons. Even Marco Polo (a famous Italian traveler) claimed to have seen them in Asia. Today, it is believed that what he saw were crocodiles.
There are even some who have provided evidence of what they claimed. For example, a dragon skull was found in Mixnitz, Austria, which is actually a prehistoric bear skull. The tongue of another was exposed for a long time in an Austrian monastery. Today we know that it is the pointed snout of a swordfish (the rostrum). In Switzerland, a farmer even claimed to have found a magic stone lost by a dragon flying over his head!
And then, until the 19th century, we didn’t know anything about dinosaurs, so much so that we believed that the gigantic bones of these prehistoric animals (especially those of the pterodactyls) were dragon bones. Finally, everyone wanted to believe in this fabulous animal!
When did we really stop believing in the Dragons?
In 1842, Richard Owen put an end to the myth of dragons. This paleontologist gave the name “dinosaurs” (from the Greek deinos, terrible and sauros, lizard) to the fossils of gigantic animals that he had been studying for a long time. We now know that the huge fossilized bones found around the world are not those of our good old fire-breathing dragons, but those of giant lizards that disappeared millions of years ago!