content by

Yvonne Shiau

The Evolution of Dragons in Western Literature: A History

In 1504, a copper globe was built somewhere in Europe. It stood only 4.4 inches in diameter and 13.6 inches in circumference, so it was nothing terribly overwhelming. Tiny ships and monsters adorned its seas—also commonplace at the time. But there was a small inscription, near the eastern coast of Asia, that made this particular globe one of a kind: it became the only documented ancient map to quietly go on record saying, Hic sunt dracones. Here be dragons.

Like a siren, the promise and danger of that single phrase called out to Western storytellers. Yet the dragons found on that globe, and the dragons found in literature today, are enormously different creatures. We should know: we’re the ones who re-wrote this mythical beast time and again. So just where be Western dragons at the beginning of their story? And how did they grow into the icons we know now?

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