A dragon is usually a huge, serpentine, ancient creature that often appears in the folklore of many different cultures. Beliefs about dragons range widely through different regions, though in many eastern cultures dragon images are associated with the concept of the underworld, where they are feared and sometimes worshipped.
In both Eastern and Western cultures dragon images can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and forms. This paper will focus on the Western myth of dragons and the various ways in which dragon images are portrayed throughout various media. Dragon mythology is part of the basis for much of the art and literature that exist around the world. The name dragon is derived from a combination of two words, both of which translate literally to “sea monster”. This word combination has led to the modern interpretation of the dragon as being primarily a serpent-like creature, though there are also some suggestions that dragons may have been mythical winged creatures.
In both cases, the dragon has become a central figure in mythological stories throughout the ages. Dragon images are particularly popular in many famous works of literature, including The Book of One Thousand Nights (The Arabian Nights) and One Thousand Dragons by Patricia Bridgman. Dragon stories appear throughout most of the world’s great literature.
In European mythology, the dragon appears as a symbol of magic and power. He is frequently used in all kinds of artwork, sometimes representing a more vicious nature than he is in legend. One of the most famous dragons is the basilisk, a dangerous reptilian creature with razor sharp teeth and a powerful attack ability. Artwork with dragons often feature scales in an orange and black color, with the dragon’s head either red or yellow. The dragon’s claws and talons are gold, and the skin is always dark. The dragon’s teeth are large, almost chiseled, and can be colored either orange or gold. The dragon’s eyes are green with a slight reddish glow, and he has long, pointed ears.
Because the dragon has such a widely known role in Chinese literature, it is not surprising that the dragon figure is also widely represented in Chinese art. Dragons come in many different shapes and sizes, with some species being far more serpentine than others. For example, a dragon with long, curled scales and a broad, horse-like head would obviously be a dragon with a lizard-like physique, while a dragon with flat, narrow scales and a human-like face would be a dragon with bird-like features.
Generally speaking, the size and physical description of the dragon characters found in Chinese artwork are quite accurate, though the exact color of the dragon scales vary between breeds and can actually vary more between the species than between any other animal in the world.
In Chinese mythology, dragons are not always vicious animals. Some are benevolent, protecting what they love – and themselves – from other creatures. In fact, one of the four celestial animals, the dragon, is also responsible for causing rain to change its nature (so that it does not dry up). In the legend, a dragon tries to destroy a powerful demon, but the demon flees from the battle, causing a massive drought. As a result, a huge hole is torn in the sky, called the Hole of Heaven, so that no more rain can fall. This, in turn, causes the rivers to dry up as well, and the Dragon is driven back into the earth.