Dragons are found throughout history dating back thousands of years. There are stories from Greece, Germany, England, Norway, Japan, China, Indonesia, and more. It's almost enough to make you think they really existed. We have no proof (like bones or fossils), but at one time explorers really did believe they existed. They came back from their world travels with stories of dragon graves and monsters at sea. If you look at ancient maps you will often see dragons on the borders. This was a way of showing places too dangerous to explore. Often what the explorers really saw were crocodiles or elephants. But those were animals they had never seen before so it is easy to see how they could make a mistake. If you stumbled on a large snake or a Komodo dragon on a dark, stormy night you could very well believe it was a magic dragon.
The word dragon comes from the Latin word draco. This word has different meanings. The one used for dragons means a constellation of stars in the northern sky. I bet if you look at the stars at night you could find some dragons up there.
Dragons were considered to be one of the scariest beasts ever. They had long, sharp talons, big razorlike teeth, and a lot of them could fly. And if that's not enough, they could also breathe fire. That's enough to make most people sit up and take notice — or run away screaming. When someone can shoot flames out of their mouth, it's always a good idea to stay away.
Which brings us to our next point: They were very solitary creatures. Now we can see why!
To Europeans, dragons were nasty, dirty creatures. They liked to live in dark, wet caverns with the remains of their dinners scattered around. Imagine the smell. Peeyewww!
In Asia they were very different. They were civilized and clean. Most dragons lived in the sky or in oceans or rivers. As you can imagine, dragons were much more popular with Asians. In fact, they were seen as signs of luck or bravery.
Dragons came in all shapes and sizes, from super-giant to pip-squeak. In Russia some dragons were so big their wings would darken the sky as they flew overhead. In Japan some were so tiny they could fit inside a raindrop.
Sometimes they would hang out with each other (well, no one else would!), but usually that didn't last too long. They would start boasting how far they could shoot flames and get into fire-breathing contests. The next thing you know, there goes another village! You can see why people didn't want them in the neighborhood.
Dragons really seemed to have a thing for royalty — either eating them or stealing their jewels. A lot of dragon stories involve a brave knight riding in to rescue a princess. If he was successful he would get her hand in marriage. If he wasn't, let's just say he was one crispy knight. Some modern stories have turned things around and the girl rides in to rescue the boy (because girls are just as brave as boys, it just depends what they're up against).
Dragons have provided us with great stories and adventures, so we should really thank them for that. And it seems that in modern times they are keeping their distance, so we should thank them for that too!
So if you're feeling brave, grab your shield and pen and let's go find some dragons!