mythic arts

Chinese hair ornament, thought to have been worn by the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908).  Made from gilded copper alloy worked into phoenix-shapes, decorated with pearls, other gemstones, and kingfisher feathers.  Now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.  Photo credit: Walters Art Museum.


Other than the plated scales, tough leathery skin, frilled head, horned skull anatomy and sinuous tail, mythological and folkloric dragons have very little in common anatomically with actual reptiles. They have MORE in common with the Felidae genus (cat family) and the Aves Phylum Chordata (bird classification).

Like a cat’s eye, a dragon’s eye has a comparatively large iris with a vertical pupil. This arrangement allows the pupil to open extremely wide and receive
more light than that of a human eye.

A dragon’s legs are also decidedly nonreptilian, despite the scaly coverings. A dragon’s legs are positioned more or less directly under its body, in the manner of mammals. (Most reptiles’ legs tend to splay out to the sides, offering
much less support and mobility than a mammal).

Lasly, a dragon’s four feet very closely resemble those of a great bird. Each foot has three or four clawed toes facing forward (the number varies, even among dragons of the same kind), plus an additional toe, also with a claw, set farther back on the foot and facing slightly inward toward the dragon’s body, like a human’s thumb.

A dragon’s resemblance to a reptile is literally only skin deep  So the next time someone you know refers to mythical dragons as giant lizards, you’ll have the know-what to save a life.

Name: Dryad

Area of Origin: Greece

Dryads are tree-nymphs, found in Greek mythology. The Greek word drys signifies “Oak” , meaning that Dryads are specifically the nymphs of Oak trees, though the term has acquired a broader scope over time. Considered to be very shy creatures, Dryads often kept to themselves except when around the goddess Artemis, who was a friend to most nymphs. Like all nymphs, Dryads lived long lives and were tied to their homes, and as with many Greek mythological creatures, were composed of a variety of different kinds. The Hamadryads were integrally and physically attached to their trees, such that if the tree died, the Hamadryad associated with it would die as well.