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There are different sources in which dragons are able to speak and not speak.

Speaking examples:

  • Smaug in The Hobbit
  • Skyrim
  • DragonHeart

Non-speaking examples:

  • Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire
  • Beowulf poem

Where did this notion that a dragon could speak come about? Or is it more that it was always seen as speaking and the non-speaking dragons are "newer"?

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    @Himarm - actually, it's even older than that. In Asian mythology, dragons are the ones who taught MEN how to talk. So it's pretty ancient. There does seem to be a correlation between Asian & European cultures, though - Asians saw dragons as wise & benevolent creatures whereas Europeans saw them as animals/monsters to be slain. That's probably why the non-speaking versions are based on European types.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 19:28
  • welp there we have it. blows modern litterature out of the water by a couple thousand years or more.
    – Himarm
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 19:31
  • @Omegacron very interesting.
    – Raego
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 19:33
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    @Omegacron - You should post that as an answer! Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 20:33
  • 1
    How are talking dragons different from all the other talking animals in fairy tales? In Lord of the Rings there are talking trees too.
    – Dima
    Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 15:00

3 Answers 3

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TL;DR: The oldest mention of a talking dragon would be from Chinese mythology.


It's important to note that the modern concept of dragons is an amalgamation of two primary sources - the European "Classic" dragon myth, and the Chinese Dragon of Asian mythology. Both are tales of large, serpent-like creatures but that's about where the similarities end.

In classic European mythology, dating back to at least the 8th century, the dragon was seen as a large, hostile creature which did not speak or fly. These creatures were typically seen as the embodiment of evil, and may have had their origins in the Middle East (where both the Muslim Quran and the Christian Bible make mentions of evil manifesting as large serpents).

Going even further, however, we find that the Chinese dragon first appeared in Asian mythology some time between 5000-2000 BC. In contrast to the evil creatures found in Western culture, Eastern culture depicts dragons as benevolent and wise creatures who represent celestial power. Eastern dragons almost always talk, and in some traditional stories it was, in fact, dragons who first taught mankind to speak. Eastern dragons also flew, albeit without wings. As part of their celestial power, they "rode the winds".

Modern dragon depictions have, for the most part, kept the traditional two modes separate. The "classic" dragon is still depicted as a large, dinosaur like creature with wings. Over the centuries, however, the classic dragon has begun to take on aspects of its Eastern counterpart - intelligence, ancient power, and (sometimes) benevolence. Although much of this merger has been popularized by recent depictions, aspects of the Asian dragon can be seen in Western culture as far back as Roman battle standards from around 270 AD.

The Chinese dragon, on the other hand, has changed very little in over 5000 years. Numerous Yangshao clay figurines & statues from the Neolithic Period have been found which bear a remarkable resemblance to the modern Chinese dragon. Even in modern Asia, dragons are seen as wise, benevolent, ancient creatures who represent good luck & success. They are almost never seen as evil or hostile, however, unless provoked by extraordinary circumstances brought about by men.

So, to summarize, modern dragons like Smaug are about 80% classic European dragon (looks & intent) with maybe 20% Chinese dragon thrown in (speaks & possesses ancient knowledge).

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  • Do you have a source (or more information) about "The Chinese dragon, on the other hand, has changed very little in over 5000 years."?
    – Charles
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 15:20
  • Charles - Chinese writing only gos back about 3,500 years, give or take a few centuries, leaving about 1,500 years when the only evidence for the Chinese dragon would be pictures on artifacts. Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 3:27
  • @M.A.Golding - you are correct, I've added a sentence and link explaining that the earliest depictions are from statues/figures.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 14:14
  • The European dragons were originally Asian-Siberian dragons from the Caucasus mountains which crossed the Bering land bridge 20,000 years ago! Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 3:54
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I don't know when the first talking western dragon appeared. I have read that Smaug in The Hobbit (1937) made a big impression and is the model for many fictional dragons since.

In a classic story by Haywood Broun, published by 1921, at least one dragon talked to Gawaine le Coeur-Hardy, a teenage student at knight school. Gawaine was sent out to kill a dragons every day with good weather and succeeded fifty times in a row. Unfortunately for Gawaine, the title was "The Fifty-First Dragon".

Kenneth Grahame's "The Reluctant Dragon" (1898) could talk and recite poetry.

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The first talking dragon appears in the Garden of Eden. The serpent in "Genesis" is a DRAGON. The serpent was NOT a snake.

"And the great Dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world"

-Revelation 12:8

You can't "curse" a snake to its belly when it is already on its belly. Just think about it. According to the God-hating evolutionary scientists, no dinosaurs (dragons) had their bellies on the ground when they walked. They were ALL upright walking reptiles (serpents), with their legs directly underneath them. Today, on the other hand, ALL reptiles are now sprawlers, not upright, as their legs come out of their sides, and not from underneath them, causing them to have their bellies on the ground when they locomote. (Alligators, snakes, turtles, geckos, etc.) This is from the curse.

"Because you did this, More cursed shall you be Than all cattle And all the wild beasts: On your belly shall you CRAWL And dirt shall you eat All the days of your life."

Crawling requires appendages. Snakes don't have appendages so they can't crawl, they slither.

Dragons, including talking ones, are testified about in EVERY culture around the Earth. Chinese dragon legends actually claim that it was the dragon who taught men to speak!!! This all makes sense if we take a literal translation of "dragon" in the Bible. The serpent in the garden is a DRAGON, just as the Bible tells us, not a snake, as the unholy Satan-led Roman Catholic Church-commissioned Renaissance art has depicted it for centuries. Get your head around that and it all physically starts to make sense. :)

The serpent in the garden is a dragon.

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    Given that the Pentateuch is dated to around the 6th century BCE, with possible antecedents tracing back up to the 12th century BCE, this seems to be later than the Chinese example above, which can be traced in writing several centuries earlier.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 0:46
  • could you please site the text/writing/manuscript of a "talking" dragon before the Pentateuch? I am well aware that Dragons appear first in Chinese literature, and I am certain if the Bible says that Satan was a talking dragon (serpent), that there were in fact talking dragons. There is no "example above" as I gave from Genesis of a dragon talking to anyone. Dude just said it happened, but gave no citation. I would like to find that example though. Is there an actual text of a dragon talking before the Genesis account of the Bible? I am looking for that "traced in writing" you claim.
    – DragonGod
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 7:42
  • youtu.be/tjDEX2Q6f0o this lizard will blow your mind Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 7:45
  • @lucasbachmann - meh. Watch this: youtube.com/watch?v=WYRNBZOKp_M
    – AcePL
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 11:50
  • So are you saying the bible is science fiction, or are you giving a religious answer to a science fiction question? Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 0:24

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