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Hundreds of fantastic dragons appear in the stories of most cultures from around the world, but not all dragons have four legs, clawed feet, and wings: They come in many different sizes, shapes and colors. They can be part of local folklore or a national legend. Sometimes they are known from an isolated report in church records or in an early scientist's notes.

The Amphiptere (America, North Africa, Europe)

Amphipteres were legless winged dragons, or flying serpents. They were first seen in ancient Egypt, guarding the frankincense trees in the great swarms. A beautiful account describes them in the woods around Penllyne Castle in Wales. They had eyes like the feathers in a peacocks tail and wings that sparkled and glittered wherever they flew.

The Piasa (North America)

The Algonquin Indians of North America worshiped a dragon with the face of a man and a tail that was twice as long as a man is tall. An ancient painting of the dragon, thought to be "life-sized", once existed on Piasa Rock in Illinois, but it was unfortunately blown up by workers quarrying for stone. In the Algonquins' native language, piasa means "man-eating bird".

The O-Gon-Cho (Japan)

The O-Gon-Cho was a white dragon that lived in a deep pond at Yamashiro. Every fifty years the dragon rose from the pond and flew as a golden-feathered bird. Its howl warned the people that disaster was coming.

The Ethipoian Dream (Africa)

This dragon had four wings and clawed feet. It was large enough to kill elephants and often ate poisonous plants that made its bite more deadly. Four or five of these dragons were once reported to have twisted themselves together like willow tree branches and sailed across the sea to find fresh food supplies in Arabia.

The Tarasque (France)

The Tarasque was half-fish, half-animal. It lived in a forest near the Rhone River, where it sank boats and devoured the passengers. The local inhabitants prayed to Saint Martha, who was famous for performing miracles. Saint Martha held out her across before the Tarasque and sprinkled it with holy water. Cowering before such forces for Good, the Tarasque was led to a nearby village, now named Tarascon, where it was put to death by the villagers.

The Amphisbaena (Africa)

This dragon had a head at each end and could move in either direction. While a female Amphisbaena's eggs were hatching, she would keep one head at a time awake to watch over them. Today there is a South American lizard that gives the impression of having two heads. When threatened, it raises its tail and moves backward and forward.

The Midgard Serpent (Scandinavia)

The Midgard Serpent of Scandinavian mythology was so long that it slept in the sea with its tail in its mouth and its body encircling the entire world. According to the myth, Midgard will wake at the end of the world and be killed by Thor, god of war and thunder, who will also die in the struggle.

The Chinese Dragon, or Lung (China)

Chinese dragons laid their eggs on the banks of rivers or lakes. The eggs looked like beautiful stones and took a thousand years to hatch. When the first crack appeared in an egg, the parents each cried out. The father's cry whipped up the winds, and the mother's cry calmed them. Lashing rain and booming thunder rocked the world as the egg burst open and the young dragon was born. It took fifiteen hundred years to become a full-grown lung, another five hundred to grow horns, and a thousand more to develop wings. There were four main kinds of lung: the Tien-lung (celestial dragon), which held high the palaces of the gods; the Shen-lung (spiritual dragon), which controlled the wind and rain; the Ti-lung (earth dragon), which ruled the rivers and streams; and the Fut's-lung (underground dragon), which guarded precious metals and treasure.

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