The idea of dragons permeates every culture on Earth. And for good reason – they’re terrifying, winged, fire breathing beasts of the night. An imagination can be set ablaze for days fantasizing about everything from massive wing spread, special abilities and habitat down to their smallest details down to the shape and color of their scales and the color of their eyes. In short, they’re just awesome.
The reason dragons are so awesome because they occupy a special place in the collective consciousness of humanity. But the idea of a dragon is as unique to the person imaging such a creature. Sometimes they’re highly intelligent monsters like Smaug from The Hobbit, who rains fiery destruction and death on innocent and unsuspecting villages. Other times they’re imagined to be the benevolent protectors and friends like Elliot the dragon in the children’s movie Pete’s Dragon. The types, abilities, personalities and role of dragons are nearly infinite in the worlds of myth, literature, films and most importantly, imagination.
But the history of dragons is far older than modern writings and films. The ancient world boasted some of the most classic dragons such as Leviathan, who first appears in the Old Testament and is described as a sea monster and later texts characterized him as a dragon that lived in the Mediterranean Sea. Centuries later, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes would borrow the name of ancient beast as the title of his political treatise Leviathan, which went on to shape concepts such social contract theory and sovereignty.
An example of an ancient dragon that still appears regularly in modern contexts is Bahamut. Arabian mythology tells the tale of an epic sea creature. However, the popular Final Fantasy video game series has reimagined this myth as “The King of Dragons” and one of the series most enduring, powerful and popular summons. In most cases players must first defeat this fearsome monster in order to tame it and bring it’s powerful, destructive powers under their control.
One of the most enduring dragon myths is that of St. George and The Dragon. This is the tale of a child eating, plague ridden monster that dwells in a lake outside a small town. To appease the monster, the townsfolk would feed sheep and even their own children to the unnamed dragon. A chance encounter with a princess leads George to slay the dragon in exchange for the town’s commit to convert to Christianity. With his sword Ascalon, and the help of an enchanted orange tree, George destroyed the monster. The story is still remembered today and many Christian sects consider George a saint. He is still venerated each year on St. George’s Day and is even the patron saint of England.
Even today, new tales of dragons are being told, retold, merged, bent and made fresh for modern audiences. Arrowstorm Entertainment’s The Crown and the Dragon is the story of two dragons; “one poisons the land, the other heals it” and the young woman who is destined to become a paladin and prophesied dragon slayer.
These are just a few examples of awesome dragons. However, in the end it isn’t any particular story or dragon archetype that fuels our endless fascination with them. It is the fact that they represent indomitable will, unlimited strength and foreboding nature makes them irresistible for stories about how man can overcome seemingly impossible odds and find in themselves the very same qualities of will, strength and courage that it takes to follow in the footsteps of Saint George, and kill the monster.
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