The Origin of Dragons

The Origin of Dragons

According to an Old Norse saga, Thor -the
thunder god- went fishing on the open sea accompanied by the giant Hymir. Willfully overhearing Hymirs warnings of the
legendary beast that roamed the waters, Thor sailed too far. Using the torn-off head of one of Hymir’s
bulls as bait, he threw his line into the water and soon felt a mighty tug. It was Jormungandr -the middle earth serpent-
and Thor’s arch-enemy. Described as a gigantic worm or snake, it
was so large that it wrapped around the world, keeping it together. Hymir, fearing the end of the world if the
monster was killed, cut the line, allowing the creature to retreat into the depths again,
much to Thor’s chagrin. At the end of times, it is said that Thor
will once again face his ancient adversary in a final battle. Hi there! You just heard part of the saga on the Norse
God Thor facing a dragon-like foe. If you want to learn more about Thor, check
out this video by my buddy Cogito! Now, Thor’s epic struggle does not stand
on its own. Very similar stories of humongous sea serpents
are found in mythologies all over Europe and Asia, and laid the groundworks for what in
medieval times developed into dragons. But from these archaic beginnings how did
we arrive at the winged, fire-breathing monstrous reptilians that we nowadays imagine when thinking
of dragons? That is actually an interesting story! The middle earth serpent wasn’t the only
primeval dragon in Germanic mythology, which includes Norse and Anglo-Saxon traditions. There was also Nidhogg, a monstrous creature
with a worm-like body that gnawed at the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree of life. And there was Fafnir guarding a gold treasure
and who was eventually slain by the heroic Sigurd. Despite often being depicted as dragon-like
in medieval romanesque and later art, creatures like Nidhågg and Fafnir were originally called
“worms”. Now, this may sound odd in our modern ears,
but to the old Norse, these mythical monsters were classed together with all kinds of other
elongate creatures including snakes, earthworms, maggots, and even diseases. So basically anything bad was associated with
wiggly and bendy beings of variable size. Whether feasting on our bodies, dealing out
venom or being powerful bullies. And this original take on dragons is pervasive
throughout ancient cultures in Europe and the Near East. Even the original Greek word of “drakon”,
was actually just another word for “snake”. Despite still regularly being referred to
as a worm, a creature described in the Old English epic poem of Beowulf, is already very
much like the prototypical dragon. For one, it spews fire, as opposed to the
earlier Germanic forms, that spit venom at most. And it is even capable of flight, with bat-wings
and all, as briefly mentioned in the story. Later, in medieval Europe, a common motif
was that of the lindworm, a large two-legged serpent, sometimes depicted with small wings,
and which basically looks like a small dragon. From very early on, the age-old concept of
giant, often aquatic, serpents was gradually being influenced by classical and christian
ideas, evolving into the modern dragon. Where these extra abilities suddenly came
from is uncertain, but it could have been taken from several other mythological traditions. For instance, there is the Chimera from Greek
mythology, described and depicted as a fusion of different animals. It was part snake, written as drakon, and
could breathe fire. There is also the biblical Leviathan that
is clearly described as a fire-breather in the Book of Job. As the wyrm or dragon in pre-Christian Europe
already often was associated with evil, this tradition was presumably carried on in the
Church’s imageries of the devil and hellfire. Dragons were basically recruited as a kind
of demon and were as such readily associated with fire. As for flight, there is even less certainty,
but winged serpents are both mentioned in the bible as well as by the ancient Greek
historian Herodotes. There has been a lot of speculation as to
why so many different cultures arrived at the same motif, namely of a serpentine monster
of evil to be feared and slain. It is generally assumed that discoveries throughout
the ages of fossil bones of dinosaurs and other extinct creatures fueled the idea of
dragon-like monster. There is also a theory is that it is ultimately
based on our fear of snakes as ingrained in our primate brains. Experiments on macaques show an instinctive
fear reaction to snake pictures. However, that seems to contradicted by the
fact that the Chinese or Oriental dragons are not associated with evil, in contrast
to the European or Western ones. The origins of Chinese dragons is shrouded
in mystery and subject to many conflicting theories. But let us suppose that all of these imaginations
were based on reports of actual living creatures that roamed the wide open spaces, forests,
lakes and seas of Europe and Asia. In a followup video, I will take a speculative
look at what dragons would be like, if they were real. What kind of animals would dragons be? What of their evolution and anatomy? Stay tuned and we’ll piece something together! This idea was suggested to me by YouTuber
Name Explain. Go check him out! Thanks, buddy! For now: Bye, bye!

Randy Schultz

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28 thoughts on “The Origin of Dragons

  1. - Cogito - says:

    Thanks for the mention. Such a great video and I can't wait to see the next one!

  2. 2000wires gamming says:

    Very interesting video! I'm excited to see the follow up when it's uploaded

    Also the idea for chinesse dragon may have come from a species of gliding snakes in south east Asia, they can stretch out their ribs outwards to the sides, basically making their bodies arrowdynamic

  3. Understanding Us says:

    Awesome video, do more like these focusing on topics of myth

  4. Stefán Örn says:

    Great video
    I really like the topic

    Though I must say as a native icelandic speaker, the icelandic in the video made me cringe as well as lough a bit

    And I get the language is almost impossible to learn if you didn't learn it at young age (I mean speaking like the natives, I don't mean as in able to understand it and being able to communicate with it), and it also could've been just trying to be like old norsk/Norwegian(wich has evolved into icelandic throughout the years) so it is what it is

    Note: I'm not complaining in any way, I'm just one of those who loves to point out things, even when not needed. People may or may not like it. it's just who I am and I will stay true to myself

  5. Astro Biological says:

    Cool video! Very nicely made and to the point 🙂

  6. RebelBeamMaster X84 says:

    I've heard a hypothesis that Dragons are a combination of all of ancient human's and primate fears. Namely Snakes, Big Cats, and Big birds.

  7. VC3 Productions says:

    2.37 ahaha nice to see you uploading again Phrenomythic

  8. Phrenotopia says:

    Finally back with a video again! Look for the followup video on what if dragons were real!
    Also: Who can find the Easter Egg hidden in this video? 😉

  9. History With Hilbert says:

    Interesting video! Thanks for the little shoutout as well 😄

  10. Stefán Atli Þorvaldsson says:

    hello form iceland p.s. great video

  11. VTom ik says:

    I'm here before you have a million subs 🙂

  12. says:

    The 8-Bit Guy brought me here.

  13. Khodor Sheikh Moussa says:

    2:36 i see what you did there 😂

  14. sinthoras says:

    Very good Video

  15. Donald Kronos says:

    At 0:32, I've never heard (or seen) "overhearing" used that way before… as if to mean "ignoring" orperhaps the audio equivalent of "overlooking", which would make sense if not for the fact that "overhearing" is generally used to mean inadvertently or unintentionally noticing something said to someone else. Yep… the English language is a mess. Thanks for giving me an example of that fact which I had not come across before Much appreciated. 🙂

  16. Odin Wilkinson says:

    hi i subed to you just saying

  17. dragonfire810 says:

    Mythological Creatures such as Bestiary and Humanesque Creatures of fantasy

  18. ha wi says:

    Have you seen the Babylonian dragon called Sirrush? It dates back to the 6th century B.C. and it is actually even more similar to the Christian Medieval European dragon than anything the Greeks or even the Bible came up with. It doesn't breath fire, nor does it have wings, but it is not a serpent or even a serpentine dragon, it is actually a four legged, dog-like creature, but it is covered in reptilian scales and has a snake's head and a long snake neck, as well as it's back feat even having talons and a (scorpion tale). Mesopotamia also has a lot of other creatures that are very similar to the medieval European dragon. Look it up.

  19. Ragadan Aviatori says:

    Who got some god of war flashbacks on this tale
    Who notices the deal with it glasses 2:36

  20. Jakob Egger says:

    Existing poster along anyone relax friend appear salad fail value.

  21. Trips Easy says:

    Go to 3TE YouTube
    Then continue!
    Love the video

  22. Mariocreeper21 says:

    I swear when that guy was speaking another language he said 'ligma"

  23. Sunny Tang says:

    China Dragon 中國“龍”Planet NO.10 ( NIBIRU ) In CHINESE lore :

  24. stephen madl says:

    Worms or wyrms?

  25. ha wi says:

    Here is what information I can give you just from google images:
    .Ancient times – Wyrms
    .Early middle ages – Lindworms
    .High middle ages – Wyverns
    .Late middle ages – Dragons

  26. Bobtacular says:

    I wonder if the Jörmungandr legend is talking about pole shift? The serpent being the negative and Thor being positive, if they came together would cause a short and destroy the world, or something to the tune.

  27. Mike Nelson says:


  28. darylpendley says:

    Is no-one going to mention the Roc, Archaeopterx, or most importantly the Phoenix? Scientists claim birds evolved from dinosaurs, so at some point they most certainly were winged serpents or flying reptiles. Dragon survivors of the great cataclysms were probably hunted to extinction by post flood civilizations, so that only legends remain. Fossils would be super rare, because they would've been airborne or mountain dwelling and rarely covered and preserved in mud. I'm sure the fire breathing is the mythical or fictional part.

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