I’m sure you have seen numerous images of dragons throughout your life. However, do you know much about these legendary creatures? Well, the dragon is a creature with reptilian or serpentine traits and has appeared time and again in legends and myths. And since in most of the legends, dragons have an evil alignment, people mostly tend to think of them as creatures of destruction and devastation. When you read about the cultural traditions of dragons you will see that two distinct cultures exist. One is that of the Chinese dragon and another of the European dragon. Below I will cover some of the myths associated with the European dragon.
An integral part of the European dragon folklore is the Catalan dragon. Though in different European languages dragons are known by different names, in Catalan it is simply known as dragon. The Catalan dragon is a serpentine creature that usually has two legs. Some Catalan dragons, however, have four legs. It is believed that a few Catalan dragons have wings. The faces of Catalan dragons resemble that of other animals. Therefore while the faces of some look like that of the cow others look like lions. It is believed that Catalan dragons breathe fire and their breath is poisonous.
The Welsh dragon also forms a part of the European dragon myth. The Welsh dragon is popularly known as Y Ddraig Goch. According to the Welsh mythology, King Vortigern of Wales witnessed a battle between a white dragon and red dragon. The red dragon defeated the white dragon at the battle and Merlin explained to King Vortigern that while the white dragon represented the Saxons, the red dragon represented the Welsh. Therefore Merlin foretold the defeat of the Saxons in the hands of the Welsh. The Ddraig Goch has found a place in the Welsh national flag as well.
An article about European dragons will never be complete without a mention of the Slavic dragon that is more popularly known as smok, drak or zmey. In keeping with the tradition of European dragons, the Slavic dragon has multiple heads. When the Slavic dragon flies it leaves behind fiery wakes and they breathe fire. According to the Slavic myth a dragon is associated with evil. Some Slavic dragons are also given Turk names in order to symbolize the long drawn conflict between the Slavs and the Turks. However, the Bulgarians and Serbians believe that the Slavic dragon fight Ala, a destructive demon and also protects their crops.
The people of Greece usually refer to the Greek dragon as Drakon. Ancient Greek lore has it that Cadmus fought against the Ismenian dragon. In Greek legends the dragons usually protect places or objects of eminence. For example, the Nemean dragon is known to protect Zeus’ sacred grove whereas Colchian dragon is known to protect Golden Fleece.
Other dragons that form a part of the European dragon legend are Lithuanian dragons known as Slibinas, Albanian dragons known as Dragua and Siberian dragon known as Yilbegan.