Are Dragons Real? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Many human cultures have invented mythical creatures - huge lizards that fly and breathe fire - called dragons. In this lesson, learn about the origins of these myths in different cultures, as well as animals that are as close to dragons as you'll see.

Legendary Lizards

Is there any magical creature more popular than a dragon? You see them in Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and lots of Disney movies, breathing fire and being pretty scary. If there are all these dragons in movies, does that mean there are dragons in the real world as well? The answer is yes and no: while the magical fire-breathing creatures are an invention of man's imagination, there are some huge lizards alive today that rightfully are called dragons.

First Fire Breathers

The Ishtar Gates that protected ancient Babylon 2,500 years ago had one of the first recorded images of a dragon, a fierce giant appearing on the walls that was meant to protect the city. Some dragons got the reputation of being monsters that guarded gold, jewels and other wealth. Often, the legendary dragons that guarded treasure were slain by heroes to prove the heroes' strength and bravery.

A Dragon Guarding Treasure
Dragon guarding gold

In Europe, the rise of Christianity brought about new beliefs in dragons, because Christians believed that the devil could be represented by a snake. Since snakes and dragons look and act similarly, it was easy to take legends about dragons and turn them into stories about believers defeating the devil. Perhaps the most famous story is of Saint George, a Christian who saved a town from a dragon and became a hero.

Asian Dragons

While European dragons were usually depicted as monsters or enemies, on the other side of the world, ancient Asian cultures came up with their own ideas about dragons. Instead of big lizards, they appeared much thinner and longer and could be very small, very big, or anywhere in between. Eastern Asian dragons were usually symbols, meaning they represented something, such as wisdom, power or nature, that was capable of helping people in numerous ways. For example, one Chinese dragon lived at the bottom of a deep spring and controlled the rain, and a type of Chinese tea today is named Dragon Well Tea.

Asian Dragon
Japanese dragon

In Vietnam, people believed that a dragon guarded the countryside and created a series of islands off the coast of Ha Long, which means 'descending dragon'. In Korea, the capital city of Seoul lies between one mountain that looks like a tiger and one that looks like a dragon; the dragon mountain is considered lucky. In Borneo, an island in southeast Asia, legend holds that a dragon guards a huge jewel on top of Mount Kinabalu.

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