Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


The usual form of dragon that appears in Celtic legend is that represented on the modern Welsh flag, a scaly lizard-like animal, with wings, that can breath fire. It is the symbolic image of the Celtic chief.

Although the appearance of a dragon in Celtic myth is somewhat rarer than in other pagan cultures, particularly Chinese and Slavonic, those that do appear are all Otherwordly creatures, and all are usually dealt with in a heroic manner. Welsh myth is the most common place to find a dragon, but even here they do not leap out from every nook and cranny, being more usually confined to later folklore.

The symbol of Wales is a dragon and the oldest recorded use of this is in the Historia Brittonum, written around 829, but it’s popularly supposed to be the battle standard.

Dragons feature prominently in the folklore and legends of the British Isles, with numerous tales depicting these mythical creatures as powerful and often malevolent beasts.

Dragon Legends

Many British legends revolve around brave heroes who embark on quests to slay dragons terrorizing the land. Perhaps the most famous of these tales is the legend of St. George and the Dragon, where the noble knight St. George rescues a princess and slays a fearsome dragon that demands human sacrifice.

Dragons are often depicted as symbols of chaos, evil, and the forces of darkness in British folklore. They are associated with destruction, greed, and the guarding of treasure hoards. Many dragon legends involve the creatures hoarding vast treasures in their lairs, often hidden deep within mountains, caves, or lakes. Brave adventurers sometimes seek out these treasure hoards, facing the dangers posed by the dragons guarding them.

Dragons appear in the folklore of various regions across the British Isles. For example, the Red Dragon of Wales is a national symbol of Wales, often depicted battling against the White Dragon, a symbol of the Saxons. In Scotland, legends speak of the Linton Worm, a dragon-like creature terrorizing the countryside.

The Red Dragon of Wales and the White Dragon of the Saxons

The Red Dragon of Wales, known as “Y Ddraig Goch” in Welsh, is a legendary symbol deeply ingrained in Welsh folklore and national identity. It proudly adorns the Welsh national flag, symbolizing resilience and the spirit of the Welsh people. According to ancient legend, King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd introduced the Red Dragon to Wales in the seventh century, carrying it into battle against the Saxons.

In contrast, the White Dragon of the Saxons is a mythical creature representing the invading Saxons during Britain’s early medieval period. Like its red counterpart, it features prominently in British folklore and is associated with the legendary Battle of the Red and White Dragons. According to Welsh mythology, these two dragons, one red and one white, were imprisoned beneath Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia, engaging in periodic combat.

The tale of the Battle of the Red and White Dragons, recounted in the medieval Welsh tale “Lludd and Llefelys,” portrays the conflict between the native Britons (represented by the Red Dragon) and the invading Saxons (represented by the White Dragon). King Lludd of Britain sought to end their strife by burying them beneath the hill after luring them into a deep sleep with mead.

The White Dragon of the Saxons likely emerged as a symbol during the early medieval period when the Saxons and other Germanic tribes settled in Britain, clashing with the native Britons. It appears in various medieval Welsh texts, often as a representation of foreign invasion and conflict, sometimes associated with the legendary figure of Vortigern.

Overall, the Red Dragon of Wales and the White Dragon of the Saxons embody significant themes of national identity, resilience, and historical conflict in British folklore and mythology.

The Red Dragon of Wales, known in Welsh as “Y Ddraig Goch,” is a legendary creature that holds a special place in Welsh folklore and national identity. The Red Dragon is one of the most enduring symbols of Wales and is widely recognized as its national emblem. It appears on the Welsh national flag, which consists of a red dragon passant on a green and white background.

The origins of the Red Dragon as a symbol of Wales are ancient and somewhat shrouded in myth. According to legend, the Red Dragon was introduced to Wales by King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd in the seventh century, who is said to have borne the dragon standard into battle against the Saxons.

The Red Dragon is often associated with Welsh identity, strength, and resilience. It symbolizes the spirit of the Welsh people and their determination to defend their homeland against adversity.

One of the most famous legends associated with the Red Dragon is the tale of the Battle of the Red and White Dragons. According to Welsh mythology, two dragons—one red and one white—were imprisoned beneath Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia. When the red dragon emerged and fought the white dragon, the red dragon emerged victorious, symbolizing the triumph of Wales over its enemies.

Dragon Motifs and Dragon Lore

Dragons are commonly depicted in medieval art and architecture across the British Isles. They appear in carvings, tapestries, and illuminated manuscripts, often as symbols of power, protection, or as allegorical representations of evil vanquished by the righteous. Dragons have been a popular subject in British literature for centuries, inspiring works such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” where the protagonist Bilbo Baggins encounters the dragon Smaug guarding a vast treasure hoard. (Who does not love these books and movies?)

Dragon Species


Drakes are a type of dragon typically portrayed as smaller, lesser dragons compared to their larger counterparts. They often lack wings and are more animalistic in behavior, resembling large reptiles or serpents. In some legends, drakes are associated with guarding treasures or lairs.


Firedrakes are dragons associated with fire and are often depicted breathing flames. They are fearsome creatures found in various mythologies and are sometimes portrayed as elemental beings embodying the destructive power of fire.

Sea Serpents

Sea serpents are dragon-like creatures found in maritime folklore and mythology. They are often described as long, serpent-like creatures with scaly bodies and sometimes multiple heads. Sea serpents are believed to inhabit the depths of the ocean and are associated with maritime dangers and mysteries.


Wyverns are legendary creatures similar to dragons but with some distinct differences. They typically have two legs instead of four, wings, and a barbed tail. Unlike dragons, wyverns are often portrayed as more animalistic and aggressive, lacking the intelligence and magical abilities commonly attributed to dragons.

European Dragons

European dragon lore is rich and diverse, with dragons appearing in the myths and legends of many cultures across the continent. These dragons often symbolize chaos, greed, and the triumph of good over evil. The most famous example is perhaps the dragon slain by Saint George, a Christian martyr celebrated for his defeat of the dragon, which was terrorizing a city.

Slavic Dragons

In Slavic mythology, dragons are often depicted as malevolent beings associated with water and chaos. The Zmey Gorynych is a notable Slavic dragon, depicted as a multi-headed serpent that breathes fire and is often defeated by heroic knights or saints.

Medieval European Art and Literature

Dragons are a common motif in medieval European art and literature, often depicted as monstrous beasts fought by brave knights or heroes. These dragons symbolize the struggle between good and evil, with the hero representing righteousness overcoming the dragon’s malevolence.


Amphipteres are winged serpents or dragons with no legs, often depicted in heraldry and medieval art. They resemble large snakes with wings attached to their bodies. While they are not as common in mythology as other dragon species, they are occasionally mentioned in folklore and literature.


Bolla is a dragon from Albanian folklore, said to dwell in rivers and lakes. It is depicted as a large, winged, serpent-like creature with the ability to shape-shift into various forms. According to legend, it must be fed a daily diet of sheep. The hero Skanderbeg slays the dragon and frees the countryside from its tyrrany.

Germanic Dragons

Germanic folklore also features dragons, often portrayed as fierce and formidable creatures guarding hoards of treasure. The Lindworm is a serpent-like dragon found in Germanic folklore, while the Drachenfels (“Dragon’s Rock”) is a famous landmark associated with dragon legends in Germany.


Hydras are multi-headed dragons or serpents found in Greek and Roman mythology. They are known for their regenerative abilities, with two heads growing back for every one that is cut off. The most famous Hydra is the Lernaean Hydra, slain by Hercules as one of his twelve labors.


The Knucker is a type of dragon from English folklore, particularly associated with Sussex. Described as a large, wingless dragon that dwells in marshes or lakes, the Knucker is known for its ferocity and greed, often demanding sacrifices from nearby villages.


The Tarasque is a legendary dragon-like creature from French folklore, particularly associated with the town of Tarascon. Described as a hybrid creature with the body of a dragon, the head of a lion, six short legs like a bear, and a scaly, turtle-like shell on its back, the Tarasque terrorized the countryside until it was tamed and subdued by Saint Martha.


Typhon is a monstrous serpent-like creature from Greek mythology, considered one of the most powerful and fearsome beings in the Greek pantheon. Described as having a hundred dragon heads with fire-breathing mouths, Typhon battled the gods of Olympus in a cosmic struggle for supremacy.


The Vouivre is a dragon-like creature from French and Swiss folklore, often depicted as a winged serpent or dragon with the ability to breathe fire. It is associated with bodies of water such as lakes and rivers and is said to guard hidden treasures.

Norse Dragons

In Norse mythology, dragons were known as “ormr” or “dreki.” One famous Norse dragon is Níðhöggr, who gnaws at the roots of the World Tree, Yggdrasil. Another notable Norse dragon is Fafnir, who guarded a cursed treasure and was eventually slain by the hero Sigurd.


Fafnir is a dragon from Norse mythology, featured prominently in the Völsunga saga and the Poetic Edda. Originally a dwarf who was transformed into a dragon after being cursed by a ring of gold. He guards a hoard of treasure and is eventually slain by the hero Sigurd.


In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr, also known as the Midgard Serpent, is a giant sea serpent that encircles the earth and holds its tail in its mouth. It is one of three children of the trickster god Loki and the giantess Angrboða, along with the wolf Fenrir and the half-dead woman Hel. According to myth, Jörmungandr encircles the world and is destined to battle the god Thor during Ragnarök, the end of the world.

North- and South America

Amhuluk is a dragon-like creature from Native American mythology, particularly associated with the Chinook people of the Pacific Northwest. It is often depicted as a giant serpent or dragon that dwells in lakes or rivers and is said to devour anyone who ventures too close to its waters.


Quetzalcoatl is a feathered serpent deity from Aztec mythology, revered as the god of wind, air, and learning. Depicted as a large, feathered serpent with colorful plumage, Quetzalcoatl is associated with creation, fertility, and the cycles of life and death.

Asia and Oceania
Chinese Dragons

Chinese dragons, known as “Long” in Chinese, are revered creatures symbolizing power, strength, and good luck. They are typically depicted as long, serpentine creatures with scaled bodies, clawed feet, and often with a mane or whiskers. Chinese dragons are associated with water and are believed to control rain, rivers, and oceans.


Lung is a Chinese dragon from Chinese mythology, revered as a symbol of power, strength, and good fortune. Lung is often depicted as a long, serpentine creature with the head of a camel, horns of a deer, eyes of a hare, ears of a bull, and scales of a fish, among other attributes.


The Bakunawa is a dragon or serpent-like creature from Philippine mythology, often depicted as a giant sea serpent or dragon that lives in the ocean. It is believed to be responsible for eclipses, as it is said to swallow the moon or sun during these celestial events.


Gorynych is a three-headed dragon from Russian folklore, often depicted as a fire-breathing monster terrorizing villages and towns. It is said to be incredibly powerful and difficult to defeat, requiring heroes of great skill and courage to overcome.


Illuyanka is a dragon from Hittite mythology, depicted as a monstrous serpent or dragon that battles the storm god Tarhunz. In one myth, Tarhunz defeats Illuyanka by tricking him into becoming drunk and vulnerable.


In Sumerian mythology, Kur is a dragon-like creature that represents the underworld or the realm of the dead. It is often depicted as a monstrous serpent or dragon coiled around the earth. Kur is sometimes depicted as the adversary of the storm god Enlil.


The Sirrush, also known as the Mushussu, is a dragon-like creature from ancient Mesopotamian mythology, particularly associated with Babylonian and Assyrian art. It is depicted as a composite creature with the body of a snake, the forelegs of a lion, the hind legs of an eagle, and the horns of a goat.


Taniwha are dragon-like creatures from Māori mythology, found in the mythology of the indigenous people of New Zealand. They are believed to inhabit bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and oceans, and are both protectors and guardians of these places.


Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the ocean from Babylonian mythology, often depicted as a monstrous dragon or serpent. In the Enuma Elish, Tiamat battles the god Marduk but is ultimately defeated and slain, with her body divided to create the heavens and earth.


In Hindu mythology, Vritra is a serpent or dragon-like demon associated with drought and chaos. He is often depicted as a fearsome serpent or dragon coiled around mountains, holding back the waters until he is defeated by the god Indra.

Yamata no Orochi

Yamata no Orochi is a legendary eight-headed and eight-tailed dragon from Japanese mythology. It is often depicted as a massive serpent-like creature with multiple heads and tails. It is defeated by the hero Susanoo to save a village from its wrath.


The Zilant is a dragon-like creature from Tatar and Russian folklore, associated with the city of Kazan in modern-day Russia. It is depicted as a winged serpent with a dragon head wearing a crest or crown on its head, and is often portrayed as a guardian spirit or protector of the city.

See also
Dragon Banner | The Legend of King Arthur
Dinas Emrys | The Legend of King Arthur
Lludd | The Legend of King Arthur
Pfetan | The Legend of King Arthur
Val sans Retour | The Legend of King Arthur
Vortigern’s Tower | The Legend of King Arthur