I’ve always been a big dragon fan so it wasn’t a great leap for me deciding to incorporate those magical creatures in THE SIXTH PRECEPT and its still-being-written sequel WARRIORS OF THE LIGHT. At first, my dragon characterswere giant, winged beasts that breathed fire, etc. Just like you would expect, right?
Well, it turns out a lot of Japanese tatsu or dragons fly but don’t possess wings. They’re more like long, sinewy serpents with short legs and facial whiskers. Some do breathe fire but others have different powers they employ, some being associated with water or different directions of the Earth (North, West, East, South). As a result, there are a lot of different types of dragons such as the following:
Hairyu the Dragon Bird is one of the only Japanese dragons to possess wings and is of a benevolent nature. He makes a brief appearance in THE SIXTH PRECEPT, helping out the good guys.
Ryujin is the Dragon God and ruler of the seas and oceans. Described as a shapeshifter, he could take human form.
Mizuchi is a river dragon/water diety. I use Mizuchi briefly in WARRIORS OF THE LIGHT in a dream sequence of one of my protagonists.
Azure Seiryu the Guardian Spirit Dragon of the East is one-fourth of the Four Symbols (adapted from Chinese astrology), including Suzaku the Vermillion Bird, Byakko the White Tiger and Genbu the Black Tortoise. Seiryu is also a character in WARRIORS OF THE LIGHT. I characterize her as a shapeshifter as well and a gentle but powerful worker of magic. In my slightly different mythological world, Seiryu is served by the Guardian Spirit Force, a group of eight karura, eagle-human hybrids.
As a sidebar, my dragon character in my upcoming novel, BLOOD OF THE DAXAS, published by Assent Publishing and coming out next year, is more of a traditional-looking dragon, that is, of a medieval European aspect. But the similarities end there.
Wyverna is the Queen of the Daxas (what the dragons call themselves) who is a gentle giant but you don’t want to tick her off, especially when her hatchlings are threatened! She is telepathic and does breathe fire but has another type of magical breath she generates that’s very, very different.
Whatever culture the dragon myth exists in (and there are a lot–dragons or some form of them seem to have been very popular throughout history almost everywhere), they have a mystique, a resonance with people that goes beyond a simple interest or youthful fascination. If I ever get a tattoo (I’ve been wanting to get one for twenty years! What a wuss!), it’ll be a dragon.