Appreciate a Dragon Day takes place annually on 16 January. It was launched by retired schoolteacher Mrs. Paul on 16 January 2004 as a means for people to celebrate dragons and dragon lore. A dragon is a large, serpent-like legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures around the world. Beliefs about dragons vary drastically by region, but dragons in western cultures since the High Middle Ages have often been depicted as winged, horned, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire. Dragons in eastern cultures are usually depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence.
The earliest attested dragons resemble giant snakes. Dragon-like creatures are first described in the mythologies of the ancient Near East and appear in ancient Mesopotamian art and literature. Stories about storm-gods slaying giant serpents occur throughout nearly all Indo-European and Near Eastern mythologies. Famous prototypical dragons include the mušḫuššu of ancient Mesopotamia, Apep in Egyptian mythology, Vṛtra in the Rigveda, the Leviathan in the Hebrew Bible, Python, Ladon, Wyvern, and the Lernaean Hydra in Greek mythology, Jörmungandr, Níðhöggr, and Fafnir in Norse mythology, and the dragon from Beowulf.
The popular western image of a dragon as winged, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire is an invention of the High Middle Ages based on a conflation of earlier dragons from different traditions. In western cultures, dragons are portrayed as monsters to be tamed or overcome, usually by saints or culture heroes, as in the popular legend of Saint George and the Dragon. They are often said to have ravenous appetites and to live in caves, where they hoard treasure. These dragons appear frequently in western fantasy literature, including The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.
The word “dragon” has also come to be applied to the Chinese lung (龍, Pinyin long), which are associated with good fortune and are thought to have power over rain. Dragons and their associations with rain are the source of the Chinese customs of dragon dancing and dragon boat racing. Many East Asian deities and demigods have dragons as their personal mounts or companions. Dragons were also identified with the Emperor of China, who, during later Chinese imperial history, was the only one permitted to have dragons on his house, clothing, or personal articles.
The origin of dragons is disputed and a wide variety of theories have been propose. In his book An Instinct for Dragons (2000), anthropologist David E. Jones suggests a hypothesis that humans, just like monkeys, have inherited instinctive reactions to snakes, large cats, and birds of prey. A study suggests that approximately 390 people in a thousand are afraid of snakes especially children. The earliest attested dragons all resemble snakes or have snakelike attributes. Which suggests that the reason why dragons appear in nearly all cultures is because of humans’ innate fear of snakes and other animals that were major predators of humans’ primate ancestors. Dragons are usually said to reside in “dank caves, deep pools, wild mountain reaches, sea bottoms, haunted forests”, all places which would have been fraught with danger for early human ancestors.
Dragon-like creatures appear in virtually all cultures around the globe. some stories of dragons may have been inspired by ancient discoveries of fossils belonging to dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals and that the dragon lore of northern India may have been inspired by “observations of oversized, extraordinary bones in the fossilbeds of the Siwalik Hills below the Himalayas.
Greek artistic depictions of the Monster of Troy may have also been influenced by fossils of Samotherium, an extinct species of giraffe whose fossils are common in the Mediterranean region. Depictions of the Cyclops may have also been influenced by the discovery of ancient Mastadon Skulls in many parts of Crete and Greece. The ancient Greek word usually translated as “dragon” (δράκων drákōn, genitive δράκοντοϛ drákontos) could also mean “snake”, but it usually refers to a kind of giant serpent that either possesses supernatural characteristics or is otherwise controlled by some supernatural power. The first mention of a “dragon” in ancient Greek literature occurs in the Iliad, in which Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and an emblem of a three-headed dragon on his breast plate. In the Theogony, a Greek poem written in the seventh century BC by the Boeotian poet Hesiod, the Greek god Zeus battles the monster Typhon, who has one hundred serpent heads that breathe fire and make all kinds of frightening animal noises Zeus scorches all of Typhon’s heads with his lightning bolts and then hurls Typhon into Tartarus. the god Apollo uses his poisoned arrows to slay the serpent Python, who has been causing death and pestilence in the area around Delphi. Hesiod also mentions that the hero Heracles slew the Lernaean Hydra, a multiple-headed serpent which dwelt in the swamps of Lerna. The name “Hydra” means “water snake” in Greek.
According to the Bibliotheka of Pseudo-Apollodorus, the slaying of the Hydra was the second of the Twelve Labors of Heracles. Heracles was aided in this task by his nephew Iolaus. During the battle, a giant crab crawled out of the marsh and pinched Heracles’s foot, but he crushed it under his heel. Hera placed the crab in the sky as the constellation Cancer. One of the Hydra’s heads was immortal, so Heracles buried it under a heavy rock after cutting it off. For his Eleventh Labor, Heracles had to procure a golden apples from the tree in the Garden of the Hesperides, which is guarded by an enormous serpent called Ladon which never sleeps, and has a hundred heads. In Pindar’s Fourth Pythian Ode, Aeëtes of Colchis tells the hero Jason that the Golden Fleece he is seeking is in a copse guarded by a dragon, “which surpassed in breadth and length a fifty-oared ship”. Jason slays the dragon and makes off with the Golden Fleece together with his co-conspirator, Aeëtes’s daughter, Medea. A fragment from Pherecydes of Leros states that Jason killed the dragon, but fragments from the Naupactica and from Herodorus state that he merely stole the Fleece and escaped.,In Euripides’s Medea, Medea boasts that she killed the Colchian dragon herself. In the most famous retelling of the story from Apollonius of Rhodes’s Argonautica, Medea drugs the dragon to sleep, allowing Jason to steal the Fleece.
In China, fossils of large prehistoric animals are common, and these remains are frequently identified as “dragon bones” and are commonly used in Chinese traditional medicine. Scandinavia also has many stories of dragons and sea monsters, such as Fafnir and Fasalt. Many dragon images around the world were based on folk knowledge or exaggerations of living reptiles, such as Komodo dragons, Gila monsters, iguanas, alligators, or, in California, alligator lizards.