Saint George versus the dragon

In European mythology, a dragon is a serpent-like creature. It is sometimes known by the Nordic word, wyrm.

Table of contents
1 Dragons in modern times
2 Dragons in Slavic mythology
3 Dragons in Celtic mythology
4 Dragons in Germanic mythology
5 Dragons in Norse mythology
6 External links

Dragons in modern times

The dragon of the modern period is typically depicted as a large, winged dinosaur-like creature with the ability to breathe fire. It typically protects a cavern of gold and is usually associated with a great hero who attempts to slay it. Many modern stories represent dragons as being extremely intelligent creatures, some with the ability to use magic. Often they are extremely ancient. Some are helpful and wise whom heroes can consult for advice, while others are greedy and guard a huge hoard of treasure. (Until we get a more detailed discussion, please see .)

Dragons in Slavic mythology

Dragons of Slavic mythology hold mixed temperaments towards humans.

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Dragons in Celtic mythology

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The story of Merlin and the dragons

Dragons in Germanic mythology

The two most famous dragons from the mythology of the Germanic peoples are the dragon of Beowulf, and Fafnir, who was killed by Siegfried. Fafnir turned into a dragon because of his greed -- many scholars believe this and other stories indicate dragons usually represent greed in western cultures. In both Fafnir and Beowulf, the serpents guarded earthen mounds full of ancient treasure. The treasure was cursed and brought ill to those who later possessed it. It has been supposed by some scholars, including John Tanke of the University of Michigan, that the word dragon comes from the Old English draugr, which literally means a spirit who guards the burial mound of a king. How this image of a vengeful guardian spirit is related to a fire breathing serpent is unclear. Many others assume the word dragon comes from the ancient Greek word derekesthai, meaning 'sharp eyed', referring to the dragon's legendarily keen eyesight. But, in any case, the image of a dragon as a serpent-like creature was already standard at least by the 8th century when Beowulf was written down. Although today we associate dragons almost universally with fire, in medieval legend the creatures were often associated with water, guarding springs or living near or under water.

Other European legends about dragons include "Saint George and the Dragon", in which a brave knight defeats a dragon holding a princess captive. This legend may be a Christianized version of the myth of Perseus, but its origins are obscure. (The Revelation of Saint John the Divine describes Satan as "a great dragon, flaming red, with seven heads and ten horns.") Saint George is the Patron Saint of England. Meanwhile, across the border, a red dragon is represented on the Welsh flag. Due to this clash of symbolism, there are very few George and the Dragon pubs in Wales.

The tale of George and the Dragon has been modified for modern works, with Saint George portrayed as 'an effette [sic] wally who faints at the sight of the dragon' in a play [1] and a poem by U. A. Fanthorpe based on Uccello's painting, where Saint George is a thug, the Maiden considers the relative sexual merits of the dragon and saint, and the Dragon the only sane character.

It is possible that the dragon legends of north-western Europe are at least partly inspired by earlier stories from the Roman Empire, or from the Sarmatians and related cultures north of the Black Sea. There has also been speculation that dragon mythology might have originated from stories of large land lizards which inhabited Eurasia.

Dragons in Norse mythology

The most famous dragons by Norse mythology, is Jormungand a form of cobra, so big that the earth-disc can be encircled by it.

Fantasy fiction authors whose works have featured dragons as major plot elements include:

Compare: Chinese dragon

See also: List of dragons

External links