European dragon  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

European dragons are legendary creatures in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe.

In European folklore, a dragon is a serpentine legendary creature. The Latin word draco, as in constellation Draco, comes directly from Greek δράκων, (drákōn, gazer). The word for dragon in Germanic mythology and its descendants is worm (Old English: wyrm, Old High German: wurm, Old Norse: ormr), meaning snake or serpent. In Old English wyrm means "serpent", draca means "dragon". Finnish lohikäärme means directly "salmon-snake", but the word lohi- was originally louhi- meaning crags or rocks, a "mountain snake". Though a winged creature, the dragon is generally to be found in its underground lair, a cave that identifies it as an ancient creature of earth. Likely, the dragons of European and Mid Eastern mythology stem from the cult of snakes found in religions throughout the world.

In Western folklore, dragons are usually portrayed as evil, with the exceptions mainly appearing in modern fiction. In the modern period the dragon is typically depicted as a huge fire-breathing, scaly and horned dinosaur-like creature, with leathery wings, with four legs and a long muscular tail. It is sometimes shown with feathered wings, crests, fiery manes, ivory spikes running down its spine and various exotic colorations. Iconically it has at last combined the Chinese dragon with the western one.

Many modern stories represent dragons as extremely intelligent creatures who can talk, associated with (and sometimes in control of) powerful magic. In stories a dragon's blood often has magical properties: for example in the opera Siegfried it let Siegfried understand the language of the Forest Bird. The typical dragon protects a cavern or castle filled with gold and treasure and is often associated with a great hero who tries to slay it, but dragons can be written into a story in as many ways as a human character. This includes the monster being used as a wise being whom heroes could approach for help and advice, so much so that they resembled Asian dragons rather than European dragons of myth.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "European dragon" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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