So what is a dragon? This is a question that is challenging to answer.
To ask "what is a dragon" has more in common with asking "how do you pronounce the word 'water'" rather than asking "what is water". When one imagines a dragon, they could have in their minds the mental image of the European dragon: A large creature with a serpentine-like body, 4 legs, a pair of vast bat-like wings, with a horse-like face that can breathe fire. Or they could imagine the Far Eastern "lung" dragon: A large creature with a serpentine-like body, with as little as no legs to as much as 4 legs, no wings, with whiskers extending from its camel-like head, horns that resemble antlers, and can fly.
One of the broadest definitions of a dragon, provided by a Wikipedia section on dragons, states that dragons are "a large, serpentine legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures around the world." But even that definition doesn't cover all dragon-like creations, like the Dacian Draco of the ancient Dacian people or the Japanese Koi fish that are not always dragons but turn into them. There are so many examples of dragon-like creatures in mythology and folklore alone that don't quite fit into any one definition of "dragon". This can be explored further with this list of said legends from Wikipedia. When we broaden the scope to pop-culture and contemporary dragons, we find even more examples of dragon-like creatures that don't fit these definitions. Yet we still would call them dragons. Or perhaps dragon-like, but not a dragon in itself.
These are all dragon-like but
does that make them dragons?
However, this weakness - of a lack of definition - is also the greatest strength of dragon-like creatures. Dragons are universal, across dozens of cultures, folklores, pop-culture icons, and it's what we define tons of creatures. In truth, that is arguably what a dragon is; a large creature of legendary status, with a serpentine-like body, in which we can't otherwise readily define it other than describe it as a dragon. The word 'dragon' itself has not meant anything more than just that definition, which means it doesn't have a rigid definition other than someone saying "I think it's a dragon, therefore it's a dragon". So long as it can be described as snake-like to some degree, powerful, and can't be readily categorized as anything else, then yes that would technically be a dragon.
For this museum with hundreds of dragons to organize, that definition sadly doesn't quite help us in categorizing dragon variants, cultures, and deeper meanings. For that, we turn to our own way of organizing our collection which may help future dragonologists in their studies: The Encyclopedia Draconia.
Draconia Identification: The Encyclopedia Draconia
In an attempt to categorize all forms of the dragon, the museum has created its own encyclopedia. It's important to note this system does not work like a taxonomic ranking system. As stated in the unique challenge of defining a dragon and as dragons don't exist outside the realms of legend and folklore, it's impossible to establish an evolutionary, systematic system to explain what dragons go where. However, the Encyclopedia Draconia does barrow from the attempts of draconologists to give dragons defined evolutionary names and ranks. Specifically, we barrow elements from cinematic dragonologist Jacob Hall and from the artist Drakthug on Twitter.
(Explain the Encyclopedia Draconia. How does it work, what major tiers are there to identify a dragon, and explain how to find a dragon using the system.)
How to Identifiy Draconia
(Explain the Class, Form, Ethology, and Heritology of the system. Use examples of dragon images for visuals. Answer: How does this system organize and identify dragons?)
(Why did the museum do the identification in this way? Why not use a taxonomic ranking system? Would an author's name count for Heritology? Etc. - Answer as many as you can in a responsible way.)
(Provide here additional links to videos, articles, and more that can aid in discussing what a dragon is. In addition, also include those YouTube videos for they're actually really cool.)
Would you like to know more?
If you're curious about the Skymoot Dragonology Museum, we're always happy to answer questions! Contact us by sending us a message to Rikanhimel or to Skymoot. We're always happy to hear from visitors!
Congratulations, you made it to the end! We hope you enjoyed reading this, and enjoy your visit to the Skymoot Dragonology Museum!