Dragons have been an integral part of many cultures for longer than probably any of them can remember. What makes us humans so fascinated and terrified by these incredible beats? And were "dragons" merely dinosaurs whose stories were embellished with fire and horror? Could they have been inspired by something else? Do they exist in our stories because of our imaginations or an ancient instinct?
First of all, we have to make sure we’re on the same page about what dragons I'm referring to here, because my go-to definition of a dragon may be different than yours. The focus of this post is what some have referred to as the European dragon. This is a giant lizard with four legs (not a wyvern) and a pair of large wings, usually capable of breathing fire. This dragon is pretty much always represented as a villain in old literature, and only in the last several decades has it been more commonly represented as a good character. (If the Chinese version of a dragon is more you’re type, you may be interested in this post comparing the European dragon and the Chinese dragon, as there is more history and description of them there.)