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Here there be Dragons: So what’s a dragon anyway?

Before we get into our new Demon of the Week category, Here there be Dragons, I’d better define what’s a dragon anyway.

Short answer: Anything I say it is.

Here’s why (Well, besides the fact they don’t exist). The word “dragon” originated in early 13th Century France, from the Latin “draconem” (nom. draco) “serpent, dragon,” by way of the Greek “drakon” (gen. drakontos) “serpent, seafish,” from drak-, strong aorist stem of derkesthai “to see clearly.” (Thank you, Online Etymology dictionary.)

So the word “dragon” is Greek/Latin/French. And English, by extension.

Because we have this word, we look at a serpent creature from Ancient China, and say “dragon.” But a Chinese “Dragon” is actually called “Lung.” Does Lung equal Dragon? Sure, a Lung is serpent-like, with legs, and sometimes they can fly. So far, that’s like a dragon. But the Lung is has the head of a camel, the eyes of a demon, antlers like a stag and the belly of a clam. They’re wise, benevolent deities, totally unlike the dumb, bent on destruction animal-brained 13th Century French “dragons.”

But we have this word. “Dragon.” And we use it for the German Wurm, the Chinese Lung… In the end, it’s okay. We can interpret the word the way we want to. Just bear in mind as you’re reading: Sometimes a dragon isn’t exactly a dragon.

On Saturday, I’ll introduce you to Tiamat, the first dragon. Also could be categorized under “Bad Girls”!

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About teresawilde

Author of Young Adult Paranormals, Paranormal Romance, Historical Paranormal Romance, tragical- comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, and poem unlimited.

10 responses to “Here there be Dragons: So what’s a dragon anyway?

  1. Never thought about the origin of the word ‘dragon’ before. Yet I’ve seen ‘Wurm’ used to describe dragons in some fantasies. So in some sense dragons ‘see clearly’ which justifies writing them as wise beings, as some have done.

    In my latest, almost finished, novel one character describes the dragon that swallows the princess (think python and rabbit) as ‘just a big snake.’ Which is kind of like describing a Typhoon as ‘just a big wind.’

    Er, what exactly is the ‘belly of a clam’ anyway?

  2. Woot, Tiamat! I love Mesopotamian mythology! And I’m so glad you’re spending a whole month on dragons.

    I read an article recently suggesting that Chinese dragon lore originated in people finding dinosaur fossils and speculating what the dinosaurs must have been like.

  3. I love learning the lore of magical creatures, especially dragons. Interesting post!

  4. teresawilde ⋅

    Bart, you must be connected to the hivemind somehow: both Python and Typhon (where the word typhoon comes from) are ancient Greek ‘dragons.’

    A wurm is a dragon because we call it one. It has some essence that we pile in with dragons. But a wurm is as far from a lung as they come. Yet we call them both dragons. It’s the scales and the large size and the legs, I guess. Can’t be the wings, because both a Japanese dragon and a Komodo dragon lack wings, but they’re undeniably dragons.

    If I had to guess, I’d say its belly was as hard as the shell of a clam. But that’s a guess.

  5. Rashda ⋅

    Ooh, I love dragons! Enjoyed the post and looking forward to more 🙂

  6. A wonderful post, and I am thrilled to discover your blog. I visited the Museum of Natural History several years ago for their Mythical Creatures exhibit whihc, you guessed it, had an entire section on the different dragon mythology. Way cool. Here’s the link: http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/mythiccreatures/
    Can’t wait for next week’s demon!

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