Tuesday, June 17, 2014

DRAGONS!

In honor of How To Train Your Dragon 2 coming out this summer....


Dragons have always mystified us, whether in a movie, game or books. No one can deny the magical appearance and qualities of a dragon....

the word dragon derives from the Greek word drakon meaning "serpent of huge size or water - snake". The word "dragon" didn't enter the English language until the 13th century. The Latin term for dragon is "draconem or draco" and was used to describe any large serpent like animal not necessarily mythological.
The dragon is a legendary creature with serpentine or reptilian traits, and has been part of many cultures as well as myths.
The European dragon from the European folk traditions are greatly related by Greek and middle Eastern mythologies. Then there is the Chinese dragon which has counterparts from Japan, Korea, and East Asian countries.
In medieval times, alchemists sought these with great diligence, as they were believed to be an essential ingredient in the creation of the Elixir of Life.
Slaying the dragon often disguises a deeper struggle between light and darkness with the dragon usually symbolizing the dark, and it's slayer light and goodness.
In many of the mythology stories the dragon described is not the evil creature, but often a great serpent that represents the primal matter of creation itself! The view of the dragon as a good creature changed as most people shifted from Paganism to Christianity which caused the dragon to become dark as they are linked with ancient powers.  Dragons were mostly envisioned as serpents, but since they Middle ages it became common for dragons to be depicted with legs like a lizard.
Dragons occur in many legends around the world, but with each culture comes a different story. Some dragons are said to breathe fire while others are said to be poison like the one from the English poem Beowulf. Of course though dragons are almost always portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and having scaly or feathered bodies. Dragons are also said to hoard treasure. European dragons are generally the only ones with bat like wings.
In various religions dragons are often said to have major spiritual significance. Asian culture specifically  dragons were and in some culture still are revered as representative of the primal force of nature, religion and the universe. They are said to be wiser than humans an that they possess supernatural powers. Some traditions say that dragon's taught humans to speak. Unfortunately most stories involving dragons usually end with the dragon being killed by a hero. The blood of a slain dragon is depicted as either beneficent or as poisonous in medieval legend. German legend states that dragon blood has the power to render invincible skin for armor bathed in it.
Slavic myth says that the Earth refuses dragon's blood as it is so vile that the Earth wishes not to have it within her womb, and it remains above ground for all eternity.

Greek Mythology

Ladon was a serpent - like dragon (drakon), that guarded the golden apples in the garden of Hesperides. It is said that Ladon had as many as 100 heads. It was thought that Ladon was slain by Heracles, but after a few years the argonauts passed by the same spot on their chthonic return journey from colchis. They heard the lament of "shining" Aigie, one of the Hesperides, and viewed the still twitching Ladon.

Chinese Dragons 

The dragons in Chinese folklore have many animal like forms but they are usually snake - like or with 4 legs. In Yin and Yang terminology, a dragon is Yang and complements a Yin genghuang (Chinese Phoenix".
Dragons in China traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers like control over water, rainfall, hurricanes , and floods. Dragons in China bring good luck for people who are worthy and symbolize strength and power. The Emperor of China used the Chinese dragon as his seal.
During the Zhou and Qin Dynasty dragons with different amounts of claws were used to show rank.
Zhou Dynasty - 5 clawed dragon was assigned to the Son of Heaven
                         4 clawed dragon was assigned to nobles
                         3 clawed dragon was assigned to ministers
Qin Dynasty -   5 clawed dragon was for the emperor
                         4 clawed dragon was for commoners

During the Qing Dynasty the dragon was even used on national flags.
The origin of the Chinese dragon is not certain but the Chinese dragon dates back several thousands of years. Dragons played an important role in early Chinese culture. When Ancient Chinese people unearthed Dinosaur bones they mistook them for dragon bones and recorded them as such. Fossilized "dragon bones" are used in traditional medicines, a practice that is still used today.
You may have noticed that some oriental dragons show a flaming pearl under their chin or in the picture with them, the pearl means wealth, good luck, and prosperity.
Some Chinese dragons show them with wings but most don't have them even though they can still fly. Being a magical creature in Chinese folklore they are able to fly without wings.

Chinese Dragon Folktale


Once upon a time, there were no rivers and lakes on earth, but only the Eastern Sea, in which lived four dragons: the Long Dragon, the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon and the Pearl Dragon. One day the four dragons flew from the sea into the sky. They soared and dived, playing at hide-and-seek in the clouds.
"Come over here quickly!" the Pearl Dragon cried out suddenly.
"What's up?" asked the other three, looking down in the direction where the Pearl Dragon pointed.

On the earth they saw many people putting out fruits and cakes, and burning incense sticks. They were praying! A white-haired woman, kneeling on the ground with a thin boy on her back, murmured,
"Please send rain quickly, God of Heaven, to give our children rice to eat."
For there had been no rain for a long time. The crops withered, the grass turned yellow and fields cracked under the scorching sun.
"How poor the people are!" said the Yellow Dragon. "And they will die if it doesn't rain soon."
The Long Dragon nodded. Then he suggested, "Let's go and beg the Jade Emperor for rain."
So saying, he leapt into the clouds. The others followed closely and flew towards the Heavenly Palace. Being in charge of all the affairs in heaven on earth and in the sea, the Jade Emperor was very powerful. He was not pleased to see the dragons rushing in.
"Why do you come here instead of staying in the sea and behaving yourselves?"
The Long Dragon stepped forward and said, "The crops on earth are withering and dying, Your Majesty. I beg you to send rain down quickly!"
"All right. You go back first, I'll send some rain down tomorrow." The Jade Emperor pretended to agree while listening to the songs of the fairies.
The four dragons responded, "Thanks, Your Majesty!"

The four dragons went happily back. But ten days passed, and not a drop of rain came down. The people suffered more, some eating bark, some grass roots, some forced to eat white clay when they ran out of bark and grass roots. Seeing all this, the four dragons felt very sorry, for they knew the Jade Emperor only cared about pleasure, and never took the people to heart. They could only rely on themselves to relieve the people of their miseries. But how to do it? Seeing the vast sea, the Long Dragon said that he had an idea.
"What is it? Out with it, quickly!" the other three demanded.
"Look, is there not plenty of water in the sea where we live? We should scoop it up and spray it towards the sky. The water will be like rain drops and come down to save the people and their crops," said Long Dragon.
"Good idea!" said the others as they clapped their hands.
"But," said the Long Dragon after thinking a bit, "we will be blamed if the Jade Emperor learns of this."
"I will do anything to save the people," the Yellow Dragon said resolutely.
"Then let's begin. We will never regret it," said Long Dragon.
The Black Dragon and the Pearl Dragon were not to be outdone. They flew to the sea, scooped up water in their mouths, and then flew back into the sky, where they sprayed the water out over the earth. The four dragons flew back and forth, making the sky dark all around. Before long the sea water became rain pouring down from the sky.
"It's raining! It's raining! The crops will be saved!" the people cried and leaped with joy.

On the ground the wheat stalks raised their heads and the sorghum stalks straightened up. The god of the sea discovered these events and reported to the Jade Emperor.
"How dare the four dragons bring rain without my permission!" said the Jade Emperor.

The Jade Emperor was enraged, and ordered the heavenly generals and their troops to arrest the four dragons. Being far outnumbered, the four dragons could not defend themselves, and they were soon arrested and brought back to the heavenly palace.
"Go and get four mountains to lay upon them so that they can never escape!" The Jade Emperor ordered the Mountain God.
The Mountain God used his magic power to make four mountains fly there, whistling in the wind from afar, and pressed them down upon the four dragons. Imprisoned as they were, they never regretted their actions. Determined to do good for the people forever, they turned themselves into four rivers, which flowed past high mountains and deep valleys, crossing the land from the west to the east and finally emptying into the sea. And so China's four great rivers were formed -- the Heilongjian (Black Dragon) in the far north, the Huanghe (Yellow River) in central China, the Changjiang (Yangtze, or Long River) farther south, and the Zhujiang (Pearl) in the very far south.

Welsh Dragon Mythology 
In Welsh mythology, after a long battle "which the Welsh kind Vortigern witnesses" a red dragon defeats a white dragon; Merlin explains to Vortigern that the red dragon symbolizes the Welsh, and the white dragon symbolizes the Saxons - thus foretelling the ultimately defeat of the English by the Welsh.

Japanese Dragon (Ryu)
Japanese dragons are like Chinese dragons but with only 3 claws. They are usually benevolent, associated with water, and they are said to grant wishes! (reminds me of the dragon from Dragonball Z)

Now after reading this do you believe in dragons or are they just large beasts appearing only in stories? Don't forget to go see How To Train Your Dragon 2! 
 

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