Dragons possibly have an origin in Chinese mythologies, but I am not looking for mythologies. Lots of modern fantasy works have borrowed the concept of fire-breathing flying creatures. e.g. Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones etc.

Which one was the first to borrow the concept?

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    What is your definition of "modern fantasy works?" For example, would fairy tales from the Bros. Grimm fit your definition? What about the orally transmitted legend of St. George? – Lexible Dec 8 '18 at 1:47
  • @Lexible They should be published. – Umbrella Corporation Dec 8 '18 at 3:37
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    The Saint George story was written down and published in XIII Speculum Historiale en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon – Yasskier Dec 8 '18 at 7:51
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    @Yasskier I'm sure there are earlier examples from China & Japan that were published, & when was Beowulf written? : you probably couldn't get a panel of history professors to agree an answer for this because they'd be going so far back some of the entities from "published" works they'd be talking about would begin to fall into categories where it was a matter of opinion if they qualified as dragons or not. – Pelinore Dec 8 '18 at 9:09
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    You might as well ask the first work of fantasy fiction to contain a sword or a hat. Along with dragons, they existed before people started writing things down and are pretty much ubiquitous. – Valorum Dec 8 '18 at 9:59

Dragons (or at least a monstrous beast that's covered in scales that fits the description of a dragon) first appear in fantastic fiction in our old friend The Epic of Gilgamesh from 2100BC, literally the first work of published fiction. The beast Humbaba is described thusly;

"he had the paws of a lion and a body covered in thorny scales; his feet had the claws of a vulture, and on his head were the horns of a wild bull; his tail and phallus each ended in a snake's head.

We also see him breathing fire

Enlil assigned (Humbaba) as a terror to human beings,
Humbaba's roar is a Flood, his mouth is Fire, and his breath is Death!
He can hear 100 leagues away any rustling in his forest!
Who would go down into his forest!
Enlil assigned him as a terror to human beings,
and whoever goes down into his forest paralysis will strike!"

Which all sounds pretty dragon-like to me.

Note that since dragons are mythological and pre-date writing, they crop up in pretty much every early work of fantastic fiction, including several other potential candidates from Gilgamesh (Kur?) and The Exploits of Ninurta. You might also look at the legends of Cadmus, Ladon and Python in Greek Myth.

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  • Could Humbaba fly? – Umbrella Corporation Dec 8 '18 at 9:51
  • @Endgame - It's not clear from the text, but we know that his brother is Pazuzu Demon of the Wind and who most certainly does have wings. Possibly it's a family trait. – Valorum Dec 8 '18 at 9:56
  • Humbaba, I thought he was a giant? Pazuzu I know was depicted as a winged humanoid. – Pelinore Dec 8 '18 at 10:15
  • @Pelinore - Depends on the translation. In some he's depicted as having a face made of entrails, in others he's a giant, in others he's a sort of proto-dragon. If you don't like Humbaba as a dragon, Kur (also from Gilgamesh) is definitely so, albeit not fire-breathing as far as I can tell. – Valorum Dec 8 '18 at 10:20
  • Well if Paz is his brother then his dads a god, he was probably some sort of embodiment of the forest the same as his brother was an embodiment of the sky or wind, these early demi-god types often had pretty mutable forms, especially when they belonged to a culture that grew old with them, the Chinese whispers of generations can really mess with your self image if your not careful. – Pelinore Dec 8 '18 at 10:25

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