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All About Dragons: a Brief History

By Kayla Aldrich, Read to Them staff

Hello there, readers! Given the heart of Dragons & Marshmallows is Zoey and her love for the magical creatures who need her help, we wanted to highlight one creature in particular - Dragons.


You’re probably pretty familiar with dragons already. After all, you’ve likely met Mushu from Mulan, Smaug from The Hobbit, and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. Best of all, you've gotten to know Marshmallow, the sweet little dragon that Zoey is nursing back to health. But each of these creatures is distinct from their colors to their sizes, to their ability to speak or not speak, and yet, each is considered a dragon!

Let's start with the basics:

A dragon is (normally) a large, serpent-like creature with four legs, wings, and the ability to breathe fire. However, in Eastern cultures like China, dragons are wingless and are quite smart.

While the earliest records of dragons can be traced to ancient Mesopotamia, dragons in some shape or form crop up all over the world. These globetrotters make appearances in the art and literature of Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, French, Greek, Norse, and English mythologies, and that's just the tip of the iceberg!

Dragon on Mengjia Longshan Temple, Taiwan. Photo by WikiLaurent.

Throughout history, dragons have played many roles. For the Chinese, dragons became a symbol of the Emperor of China; the Emperor was the only one permitted to have dragons on his house, clothes, or other personal belongings. In Egyptian myths, dragons live in the Underworld and a fight with the sun god, Ra, is what resulted in the sun setting each day. In western cultures like Ancient Greece and Rome, dragons often take on a villainous role. There is the mighty Hydra of Greece, a creature that when you cut off one of its heads, another would take its place. They are seen as conquests for heroes, a challenge to be completed in order to win divine favor.

The dragons that you're likely the most familiar with come along in Europe's Middle Ages. This period launched the age of knights who set out on long journeys to defeat their dragon foes. These creatures became known for their huge appetites and their greed, and - especially in European settings - were seen as symbols of evil.

MS Harley 3244, a popular Medieval manuscript from 1260 AD

In more recent years, dragons have become a staple of the fantasy genre. They make appearances in Harry Potter and Lewis Carrol's Through the Looking Glass, among many others. While many traits have persisted from the Middle Ages, there are dragons who are depicted as kind, benevolent helpers such as Grahame in Kenny & the Dragon and the Dragon of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. These powerful allies are unlikely to dip out of art or books anytime soon, and why would they? Dragons are fierce, wise, and timeless, after all.

We hope that Marshmallow will become a welcome addition to the dragons you've come to love and appreciate!

For now, know that you’re always welcome to share photos with us of you and your family during the reading event on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Looking for a community to talk about all things Dragons & Marshmallows? Don’t forget to join Flipgrid to share your thoughts with your peers. Be well, all, and happy reading!

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