A Guide to provide information about the diversity of dragonkin, a brief look into basic mythologies surrounding dragons and then opinions and personal explanations on the misconceptions of their portrayal in the media. I can't and don't claim to speak for all dragons with this, it is just a personal interpretation.
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Diverse range and beliefs of dragonkin
Dragonkin are a very diverse group of individuals each having there own beliefs and experiences relevant to their own draconity. No one dragon will have the same experiences as another, all have some similarity to each other as to be expected but dragons cannot just be meshed into one group there's just so many and there just too different from each other, categorization beyond anything but basic body plans/colours is impossible. When it comes down to it nearly every dragonkin seems to be of their own species some really small, some completely huge, some scaled, some feathered/ have fur (although from what I’ve seen many fall predominately under the western body plan) each having there own customs/behaviours which I find really interesting many say they're from different planets few say they're from earth I just find that it highlights the sheer diversity that we have and that modern media and mythology doesn't really do a good job at describing the majority besides some generalisations. I myself fit well into one of the dragons described in modern fantasy so it's not all bad, some stereotypes I find ridiculous though and I’ll go into that later on in this article. So if your a newly awakened dragon and your not sure what kind of dragon you are I hope the below mythology is helpful. Obviously there are some limits here even with mythological creatures but generally speaking each dragon seems to be different in some way and the chance of you meeting a dragon the same as you if you're not like any specific species described in myths or fantasy is, from what I’ve seen, very uncommon. The point here is, every dragon is different, but all dragons seem to follow the body plans of what is seen in mythology.
In mythology and folklore very broadly speaking dragons are most commonly viewed in three body plans, the western dragons, eastern dragons and the wyverns although there is more than this which I'll list some of. I'll briefly go through some common mythology of these three.
Western dragons- also called European dragons due to the origins of the myths are generally speaking described as four legged, having two leathery/bat like wings and a long tail. Most commonly associated with fire-breathing but have been depicted as breathing other things, hoarding riches and living in caves. European dragons are largely depicted as malevolent in legends and mythology most notable would be the legend of St' George and the dragon, although there are some exceptions to this such as the dragon in welsh legends and ouroboros.
Eastern dragons- also known as and include Loong, Asian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese dragons, they are dragons from eastern cultures generally seen as serpentine with no wings and 4 legs and represent nature usually more strongly associated with water and are largely revered as benevolent beings of wisdom. There are differences between the cultures in regard to appearance, with Chinese/Korean dragons having four toes, Japanese having three toes and then Imperial dragons been the only ones with five toes.
Wyverns- Wyverns are dragons most commonly confused with western as they are similar in appearance, however a wyvern is generally smaller, has only two legs and there front legs are instead replaced with wings with have claws on the end which they use to move around on. The are often depicted as having a venomous barbed stinger on the end of their tail and been unable to breathe fire like westerns. They may also have a venomous bite also and are most commonly displayed in medieval heraldry. There are considered to be less intelligent than western dragons and often viewed as vicious and malicious creatures.
Other dragons/draconic beings-
Wyrms- serpentine dragons with no legs or wings, the lambton worm is a common story in English history.
Lindworms- A serpent like dragon with two legs and no wings, usually depicted with a venomous bite.
Amphipteres- A serpentine dragon with no legs but two wings that are usually depicted as feathery. The Quetzalcoatl is the most famous one from Mexican history.
Sea serpents- Serpentine dragons that inhabit the sea, usually depicted with no limbs but sometimes have two or four limbs and fins.
Ouroboros- a dragon or snake biting it's own tail, symbolising eternity and the cyclic nature of existence.
Hydra- A serpentine dragon seen in Greek and Roman mythology with multiple heads and no wings each time a head was cut off two more would take it's place. Hercules was sent to slay the hydra and succeeded.
Portrayal in the media and misconceptions
Ah stereotypes , everything seem to have them and dragons are no exception I'll just list the most common ones here and go into more detail about some of them further down this article. These include hoarding shiny things usually gold/gems, breathing fire, generally considered stupid and/or evil. Fire breathe is a common one and while not wrong there are a lot of dragons that used other things as breathe weapons such as ice, acid, electricity, water, etc. I didn't use fire myself I used acid though usually you only see breathe weapons other than fire only in modern fantasy or some games rather than the actual media itself. Most shows or movies usually involves some “brave knight” willing to risk there life to kill the dangerous beast and become a “hero” when really you basically just killing an animal to inflate your own ego so I do question who the villain is here myself, and then you have the classic preferring to eat maidens or some nonsense like that (although red dragons do have this listed in there mythology occasionally, over-exaggerated nowadays though). Yes I'm aware this isn't always the case but it is the majority.
When it comes to dragon intelligence in the media I’ve noticed that there doesn't seem to that much of a differential from stupid/animalistic and relying solely on instinct to ancient and wise with seemingly human level intelligence I'm talking about western dragons and wyverns here eastern from my knowledge rarely appear in the media as much as these two but are generally depicted as great beings of wisdom and seldom unintelligent. Really dragons in my experience I think fit in-between the two I and I’m sure many others won't claim to be of human level intelligence but I wasn't like an animal nowadays either. I was capable of logical reasoning/thought and problem solving and had my own morals (albeit bad ones) and was aware of choosing everything I wanted to do rather than only following instincts . I also had my own preferences for certain things and behaviour's that instinctively did nothing to benefit my survival. I understand the extremes of either end can and do exist though but it's not the general consensus that the media puts out.
When it comes to dragons in the media especially in films/TV there are almost always seen as malevolent beings or shown to be “evil” just because there following there natural instincts this bring me back onto intelligence and if there viewed as having the mental capacity to understand good from evil (even if both can be considered subjective anyway) then they are usually on the villainous side or if not depicted as intelligent then just made to look like they are when really they just want to be left alone. Been a malevolent dragon myself I just don't like the way the media handles these things in general it's just too stereotyped especially in regards to how good always triumphs over evil because that's what they think the general population wants to see. I respect that it's not all as clear cut as this and that some are shown to be benevolent (the movie dragonheart was a great example of showing a polar opposite side to the usual western dragons you see) or a mix of both. Modern fantasy games such as dungeons and dragons does a good job of balancing between malevolent and benevolent dragons with the whole chromatic and metallic categorization, the media at large though just warps everything into something it shouldn’t be. This brings me onto the biggest misconceptions that I’ve found.
Mainly wyvern body plans-
Now this is one of the biggest gripes I have when in comes to modern media and games. They basically shove the body plan of a wyvern onto the qualities of a western dragon and create this fire-breathing two legged lizard with fore-arm wings that in reality doesn't really exist in mythology. Popular franchises like the hobbit, harry potter, game of thrones and games like skyrim all use this misrepresentation. Wyverns are dragons yes but a different kind of dragon as you would have read above but whenever the general public thinks of dragons there really thinking of wyverns that have the fire breathing capabilities of western dragons rather than them been separate animals. Personally I think this is just due to the fact that the wyverns body plan can be made to look a lot more menacing than the standard western one and that for cgi/animation purposes it's a lot easier to animate a wyvern as it's anatomy resembles that of a bat or other flying animal and so more details can be put into how it moves and flies. Fire-breathing was then just added for good measure and a more public wow factor and then this kind of dragon just sort of stuck. Don't get me wrong I do like these dragons a lot, but it doesn't help the general population get an idea what what dragons actually are and just adds to the confusion of categorizing western dragons and wyverns separately.
Granted everything I’ve personally said here can't really be proven and it's just as valid as how the media portrays use and what is in mythology as nothing is scientifically proven so there's always going to be fluctuations in peoples beliefs. I just hope that this has helped any dragons new or old and anyone that's interested in us to realise were very diverse and not really like how the modern world wants you to think.