Hey everyone! It’s dragon time!
(Okay, yes, on this site, it’s always dragon time. But, here I am, and here you are!)
Joining us for the first time? Read about me, a modern dragon.
Today I’m going to give a dragon’s eye view on a topic that’s pretty important: Eastern dragons and Western dragons. Human cultures from each of these regions of good old Planet Earth have more or less sorted us dragons into those two groups. And while there is some amount of fluidity between the two groupings, the distinction is useful enough.
So hold onto your riding tufts because we’re about to swoop some important swoops. And just in case anyone thinks this is some sort of competition between winged and non-winged dragons, it’s not: East or West, dragon is best.*
* Calm down; it’s just a phrase. I’m not saying that dragons are superior to other creatures. All creatures are equally worthy. No creature is better than any other creature. Except cats.
What is the difference between eastern dragons and western dragons?
Antiquity recognized two kinds of what, in historical terms, were known as “large serpents”: the Eastern dragon (sometimes called a Chinese dragon) and the Western dragon (sometimes called Uncle Harold. HA! Just kidding, Uncle, if you’re reading this!).
Read about why it’s important not to call a dragon “serpent.”
The Eastern dragon was historically viewed as a celestial figure associated with fertility, water, goodness, granting wishes, and other attributes. Probably this was true most of the time.
But I have to laugh every time I think about a certain Eastern dragon I once knew. She was a student teacher at my elementary school when I was just a dragonet. I couldn’t possibly tell you what she’s up to these days.
Her name was Ms. Long and, tufts bless her, try as she might to increase the fertility of the local townsfolk who wanted babies, the only increased fertility she was able to bring about was an especially fertile harvest of barley.
Which is very nice if you like barley and barley products, but less useful if you’re trying to demonstrate all your core skills so you can pass the Dragon Exams and get a decent job. Ahh, poor Ms. Long. I wonder what ever happened to her.
Anyway, Eastern dragons generally have no wings (but not always), and have very short arms and/or legs and a long, skinny body. They can still fly–don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. While Western dragons fly using thrust generated by flapping their wings and sometimes a magical boost, Eastern dragons fly almost exclusively by using magic. Not a bad deal. Though, I’d never, ever trade my wings for anything.
Then there’s the Western dragon. And this is a painful subject for me because historically, Western dragons have a bad rap. Although the tradition more or less accurately recounts that we are fire breathing (I say “we” because I am a Western), many other harmful and not necessarily accurate stereotypes exist.
Okay, let’s acknowledge the leviathan in the lair: historically, Western dragons were associated with chaos, greed, and evil. How we got that reputation is a sad story for another day. Come back later to MyModernDragon.com and read it, because I’ll get to it eventually. And for more reading, you can also check out this account of dragons as they have appeared in Western literature.
When it comes to physical attributes, Western dragons are especially known for their wings (sometimes with one or more wing claws! So cool.), between two and four legs, and a super awesome tail. Most of us can breathe fire, at least once we learn how. And we can fly if we want to.
We have other cool skills too, which vary by the individual. My friend Kevin, for instance, is surprisingly good at jump rope. And yes, Western dragons roar most righteously.
So that’s a little info on Eastern and Western dragons. We’re not that bad once you get to know us!
Until next time, wishing everyone safe swooping. As always, reach out with dragon questions and comments.
And in closing, here’s a thought experiment:
- For the humans out there: If you could be an Eastern dragon or a Western dragon, which one would you be, and why?
- For the dragons out there: If you could choose, would you continue to be an Eastern (or Western) dragon, or would you switch? Why?
Very truly yours,