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Dragon

by Graig Bakay
Few creatures of folklore and mythology conjure up the mental images of the dragon. Also known as wurm, wyrm and firedrake, these mercurial creatures pervade almost every pantheon of classical mythology and have become an integral inclusion of an entire genre of fantasy literature.

Descriptions of the beast's benevolence vary from the playful Puff (of Peter Yarrow's song) to the sinister Smaug in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit". Babylonian legends portray the Queen of Darkness as a multi-headed dragon - Tiamat. Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty features a battle between Prince Phillip and the evil Maleficent and the Germanic myth "Die Nibelungen" climaxes with the battle between Siegfried and the giant Fafnir, who has transformed himself into a wyrm in an effort to become more frightening.

Physical characteristics of dragons also vary but several consistencies are usually present. The beasts are typically depicted as huge lizards, larger than elephants on average. Long fangs are generally accepted as are twin horns of varying length. Western cultures generally include large bat-like wings giving the dragon the capability of flight. But eastern dragons, usually wingless, use a more magical means of flying. As well, eastern dragons tend to be more snake-like in nature, albeit with front and rear legs.
Most dragons will be covered in scales, although there are some with a leathery skin. Coloring ranges the entire gamut of the spectrum but red, green, black and gold appear to be the most common. It is also generally accepted that most dragons are magical creatures in nature and have the ability to breathe fire (as a weapon). Some dragons may have a modification in this breath weapon (frost, lightning, gas) but this appears to be purely a fabrication of fantasy role-playing games and the myths they spawn.


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