Imagine living in the Dark Ages and coming across a gigantic fossilized dinosaur bone. What sort of creature would come to your mind? Nearly every culture has some sort of mythology on a dragon-like creature. Some of these monstrous beasts have wings, some don’t. Some have scales while others have leather-like hides. Some have the head of a giant lizard, an elephant, or a bird of prey. Some live in underwater palaces, others in caverns, and others still in deserts or mountains.
One thing the dragons across cultures have in common is they are large and almost always guard something. In most western cultures, dragons were fearsome creatures. Nearly every story of a dragon included a heroic dragon-slayer. Consider Ladon, the dragon-like creature which guarded the golden apples in Hercules’ 11th labour – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labours_of_Hercules. There is also the hateful Nordic dragon, Nidhoggr – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nidhoggr. Also, consider the dragons in the ancient Celtic story of Lludd and Lleveleys – http://celticdragonbydawnross.webs.com/index.htm, as retold by myself.
“The Celtic Dragon” (C) Dawn Ross 2010
In eastern cultures, the dragon could be either good or bad. Chinese culture today considers the dragon a creature of wisdom and of high spiritual power. Sometimes these dragons lived in palaces under the ocean or guarded the celestial home of the gods. Some could turn themselves invisible or could even turn into birds and fly away. Consider Wiki for some historical information on the Chinese dragon – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_dragon.
There are also dragons in ancient Egyptian stories, Hindu, and dragon-like creatures are even mentioned in the Bible by Moses and Isaiah.
If you’d like to know where I got most of my basic information on dragons, check out the “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures“. This book covered several pages on dragons, gave lots of basic information on several more dragons in culture than the few mentioned here, and inspired me to do more research using Wiki.
Need ideas for magical creatures in writing a fantasy novel? Or are you reading a fantasy novel or mythological story and don’t know what certain named magical creatures are? “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures” by John and Caitlin Matthews is a great reference book to use.
Mankind has been imagining magical creatures for millenniums. While today’s genre tends to stick with the most common dragons, elves, fairies, and vampires, perhaps you can spice up your fantasy novel with something a little more exotic. Going through the magical creatures in the “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures” gave me a bunch of great ideas.
I didn’t count the number of magical creatures referenced but there must be at least a thousand different ones. All the magical creatures you can imagine are listed from A-Z and range from the most obscure, such as kolowisis, to the most well-known, such as dragons. The magical creatures listed in “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures” are from various cultures such as Greek, Mesopotamian, Mayan, Islamic, Zuni, and more. Some descriptions of magical creatures listed in “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures” are as brief as two sentences while others are paragraphs or even pages long.
The magical creatures are listed A-Z. If you are just looking for ideas, you can simply browse the book. “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures” talks about which cultures the magical creatures are from, what the magical creatures were known for, and gives a brief written description of what the magical creatures looked like. In most cases, however, there are no pictures of these magical creatures so you have to use your imagination.
If you are not writing a fantasy novel, at the very least “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures” will help you will learn some interesting things about various magical creatures in mythology. But if you are writing a fantasy novel, going through “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures” can churn some ideas and help you get over a block in your story. Check out “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures” at our Amazon.com a-Store – Reference Guides to Writing a Fantasy Novel.