Historum Emeritas
Jun 2006
Jacksonville, FL
Where did fire breathing dragons come from?

A lot of mythological/medieval type stories have instances where knights went out to fight and kill a dragon or sea monster or something. Where did these stories come from? We know fire breathing dragons don't exist, so why are there so many "fairy" tales about them?

Did people go out looking for komodo dragons or alligators and just embelish a little bit on their size and fire breathing abilities?
Jun 2006
Let's first look some of the earlier stories about Dragons. The very first "written" stories (that we have uncovered so far) on the creation of the world is from the Sumerian civilization generally in the area we call Mesopotania. This area which later became Persia and then part of various Middle East civilization is generally found between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now Iraq and Iran.
The actual word "dragon" comes from the Greek language much later than this time so any mundane interpretation of creatures by this name before the Greeks must be by descriptions and attributes and not by name. They were generally considered "monsters" even if they had divine attributes.
The very origins and foundations of the entire Mesopotamian culture comes from the stories, culture, and ethics of these Sumerians. The later civilizations of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and then Grecians all got much of their philosophy, cosmology, and religion from the earlier stories/ myths of the Sumerians so it behooves us to first look at these early very early stories and pay particular attention to them.

From the very start Dragons were seen as guarding treasures, holding back the floods, and dispensing knowledge. They also are battled by gods or heros from the very beginning. In many cases stories from the Sumerians were borrowed and slightly changed by the preceding civilizations. These same stories were very similar in content but with the actual names of the participants changed.

I think, like all other gods they were just made up creatures.


Historum Emeritas
Jul 2006
Re: Where did fire breathing dragons come from?

It's more likely the ancients found dinosaur bones and came up with the dragon myth to explain them.
Aug 2006
Or perhaps there really were fire breathing dragons. I saw a discovery channel special on dragons, and it explained how they would be able to breath fire and how they were able to fly. I believe it was a flamable gas that they built up that made them lighter and have the ability to breath fire. But I saw this a while ago and have forgotten the details.
Aug 2006
No doubt. But it would help explain why just about ever culture in the world knows of dragons. The Chinese who secluded themselves have known about it for thousands of years. While Europeans had dragonslayers. But who knows. If they did exist, they are extinct now.


Historum Emeritas
Aug 2006
The discovery channel has some very stupid hypothetical shows. SUPER VOLCANO! SUPER TSUNAMI! SUPER BIKE WEEK! What ever happened to shows about dinosaurs and animals, that's what I grew up on, and now the discovery channel is obsessed with a show about overfishing the world's Alaskan King Crab and guys who make motorcycles.

The Chinese still destroy dinosaur fossils by claiming they are dragon's bones and mixing them into elixers to cure what ails ya. It is a matter of uneducated, superstitious people.

A good way to explain how it is a worldwide phenomena is that dinosaurs used to live everywhere, every continent, even Antartica. So wouldn't it be more practical to think it something real and reccorded, then something rediculously far fetched.

Medieval England had never seen a crocodile before Richard brought one home from crusade, only to have it escape and run amok through some villages. It is very mammalian to fear reptiles, it's part of humanity. That's why dragons were these huge, super reptiles with wings and fire.
I think as crazy as it might sound that dragons could have been real animals. There are lots of animals that have very unusual abilities that in a way can be compared to fire. Such as poisonous animals.

From another perspective it could have been embellished stories about dinosaurs. I have seen pictures of ancient people drawing dinosaurs like they are thought to look today. So they could have really seen him. That ruins what science says about history, but that doesn't matter to me. It would fit into biblically for dinosaurs to fit in of being around at the same time as humans. I know from reading the Bible that the description of the bohemoth sounds a lot like it could be a brontosaurus or another dinosaur like that.
Jul 2006
CelticBard said:
Medieval England had never seen a crocodile before Richard brought one home from crusade, only to have it escape and run amok through some villages. It is very mammalian to fear reptiles, it's part of humanity. That's why dragons were these huge, super reptiles with wings and fire.
This is a very interesting hypothesis, CelticBard, and actually makes sense given the history of dragons. It explains the fact that they occur almost simultaneously in many cultures. Fear of the dark, fear of being eaten, etc. are clearly branded into the DNA of mammals, inlcuding humans.

It is highly doubtful they actually existed, as there is no evidence of the remains of such creatures. A sociological phenomenon is, IMO, more plausible.

Jun 2006
The chinese love dragons. I wonder why they would have made up such a creature. It makes you think that perhaps they were real?

I doubt any of them could fly though. Those would have to be some massive wings to support a 2 ton dragon.