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Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label.

Some dragons are said to breathe fire or to be poisonous, such as in the Old English poem Beowulf.

Ancient Achaemenid Assyrian seals bear depictions of winged unicorns and winged bulls as representations of evil. Yeats wrote of imagining a winged beast that he associated with laughing, ecstatic destruction.

But sometimes, winged unicorns were representation of light element or sides with the light. The beast took the form of a winged unicorn in his 1907 play The Unicorn from the Stars and later that of the rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem in his poem "The Second Coming".

The association of the serpent with a monstrous opponent overcome by a heroic deity has its roots in the mythology of the Ancient Near East, including Canaanite (Hebrew, Ugaritic), Hittite and Mesopotamian.

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A dragon-like creature with wings but only a single pair of legs is known as a wyvern.The legless serpent (Chaoskampf) motif entered Greek mythology and ultimately Christian mythology, although the serpent motif may already be part of prehistoric Indo-European mythology as well, based on comparative evidence of Indic and Germanic material.The folk-lore motif of the dragon guarding gold may have come from earlier Bronze Age customs of introducing serpents to village granaries to deter rats or mice.In some traditions dragons are said to have taught humans to talk. Illuyanka, etc.; the Biblical Leviathan presumably reflects a corresponding opponent of an early version of Yahweh).Narratives about dragons often involve their being killed by a hero. The motif is continued in Greek Apollo, and the early Christian narratives about Michael the Archangel and Saint George.

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