|Zu (a.k.a Asag)
From Sumerian mythology
This is probably the earliest dragon legend - from about 7000 years
When the world was young the already ancient dragon, Zu, stole the Tablets
of Law which regulated the order of the universe from the great god Enlil.
The sun-god Ninurta was sent after - and killed - Zu and rescued the Tablets,
thus preventing the universe from returning to the primordial chaos.
Tiamat and Apsu
From Babylonian mythology
The Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, tells of how, in the beginning
there was nothing save for two elements: Apsu - the male spirit of fresh
water and the abyss, and Tiamat - the female spirit of salt water and chaos.
Their children were the gods, but, becoming increasingly enraged by their
offsprings' unruly ways, Apsu sought to destroy them. But the gods struck
first and destroyed Apsu.
Tiamat lived on and plotted her revenge. She spawned eleven monsters
to help her make war upon her children; the viper, the shark, the scorpion
man, the storm demon, the great lion, the dragon, the mad dog and four
Marduk was the only god who fought Tiamat. There was an epic struggle
but Marduk was finally able to shoot an arrow into her mouth which split
her heart in two. He then divided her body into two parts - the sky and
the land. Marduk cut the head off one of Tiamat's advisers and from the
blood created humanity to serve as slaves to the gods.
Tiamat is portrayed in several different ways, but she was originally
drawn as a four-legged creature with head and forequarters of a lion, a
scaled body, feathery wings, an eagle's hind legs and a forked tongue.
She also had a hide that was impervious to all weapons.
From Persian mythology.
Angra Mainyu, the Father of Lies, created Azhi Dahaki to rid the world
of righteousness by extinguishing the light of a sacred flame known as
The Divine Glory. When Atar, the god of fire, tried to save the flame,
the dragon threatened to destroy the light of his fire forever, but Atar
swore he would send his flames throughout the dragon's body. Azhi Dahaki
drew back, but the divine hero Thraetaona bound and imprisoned the dragon
on Mount Demavend near the Caspian Sea for the damage he had done to humankind
on his evil quest.
It is believed that at the end of the world the dragon will be freed
and, in his long repressed fury, will devour one third of all men and animals
before the hero Keresaspa destroys him.
Azhi Dahaki appears as a fearsome three-headed dragon and his body is
filled with spiders, lizards and snakes; if he were ever cut open then
these venomous creatures would infect the world.
From Turkish mythology
Illuyankas was a mighty dragon who was killed by the Hittite storm-god
with the help of the goddess Inaras and her human lover Hupasiyas.
From Canaanite mythology
A seven headed sea dragon destroyed by the young god Baal.
Apophis (a.k.a Apep)
From Egyptian mythology
The spirit of darkness and death, Apophis was a huge sea-serpent that
attempts to destroy the sun-god Atum-Ra during his voyage across the sky.
He is attacked and slain by the children of Atum-Ra, or by Set - depending
on what your source is.
Nidhogg (the 'Dread Biter') and Midgard's Worm.
From Norse mythology
At the 'still point of the turning world' there stands the ash tree
Yggdrasil which supports the whole universe. There are three great roots
of the tree, one of which reaches over Niflheim where Hel reigns as Queen
of the Underworld. Beneath Niflheim the dragon Nidhogg gnaws at the root
seeking to destroy the universe - which is why he's known as 'The Dread
Midgard's Worm (a.k.a Jorungard's Worm) is a threat on a more earthly
level. The Worm lies in the seas with its tail in its mouth, encircling
the land, creating the oceans. Disaster would befall the world should the
Worm's tail be removed from its mouth. Midgard's Worm meets its end at
Ragnarok when it and Thor kill each other.
From Norse mythology
Fafnir was once a giant who killed his father in order to take the treasure
he owned. To guard the ill-gained hoard he transformed into a dragon and
carried it to a remote cave.
In another version of the legend - from the Volsung Saga which, incidentally,
Wagner put to music as the Ring Cycle - Fafnir was transformed into a dragon
after stealing the hoard of the dwarf Andvari which was cursed.
Either way, the dragon is eventually slain by Sigurd (called Siegfried
in the German versions).
From Greek mythology
Ladon was the guardian of the golden apples of the Hesperides and son
of Mother Earth. He was slain by Heracles (Hercules):
"For 'twixt the sunlight and the shadow green
Shone out fair apples of red and gleaming gold.
Moreover round the tree, in many a fold,
Lay coiled a dragon, glittering little less
Than that which his eternal watchfulness
Was set to guard;"
-William Morrace, from 'The Life and Death of Jason'.
From Mexican mythology
Quetzalcoatl, the Lord of the Morning Star, was a benign serpent-like
god worshiped by the Toltec Mexicans as the bringer of light to his people
and fertility to the land. Sometimes he appeared arched across the sky,
and other times he adopted human form - either a young man in a feathered
cloak, or an old man with a broken walking stick and a white beard - and
mingled amongst his subjects.
From Norse mythology
This is the dragon that Beowulf fought his final battle with as the
aging hero died of his wounds.