9 Legendary Dragons From Around The World

A dragon sand sculpture in Yokohama, Japan
A dragon sand sculpture in Yokohama, Japan
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

From Asia to Europe, South America to Africa—and even the United States—stories about dragons pervade mythology. Some of these dragons are said to bring luck, while others feast on humans; some protect water, while others steal it. In a few of these stories, dragons can even talk. Here's a selection of dragon tales from across the globe.

1. NINKI NANKA // GAMBIA

In Gambia and other parts of West Africa, the Ninki Nanka (sometimes translated as "Dragon Devil") is believed to live in swampy areas. The beast is said to be over 150 feet long and very fierce, with a face like a horse, a crest of skin on its head, and mirror-like scales. Many say that if you see the Ninki Nanka, you will die within a few weeks. Parents sometimes reportedly tell their misbehaving kids that they're going to send them to the swamp, where the Ninki Nanka will take them if they don’t starting acting properly.

2. MESTER SNOOR WORM // THE ORKNEY ISLANDS, SCOTLAND

Mester Snoor Worm was a sea dragon of the Orkney Islands who was said to wake up every Saturday at sunrise, open his giant mouth, and yawn nine times. Then he would set out to procure seven virgins to eat for breakfast. As an old fable says: "Although he was a venomous beast, he had a dainty taste." An accompanying legend describes how an old wizard said the land could be saved from the dragon's appetites for good if the beast ate the king's daughter. Fortunately, a hero showed up to slay the dragon and save the princess, and the dragon's falling teeth turned into the Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe Islands, while its body turned into Iceland.

3. SNALLYGASTER // UNITED STATES

The snallygaster lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Maryland, especially Frederick County. Its name is derived from the German words schnelle geeschter, meaning "quick spirit," and the myths around it are thought to have begun with German immigrants who settled in the area starting in the 1700s (perhaps helped along by some clever newspaper editors in the 1920s and 1930s). The snallygaster is said to be half-bird and half-reptile, with a metal beak, and swoops down from the sky to carry off victims and suck their blood. It has a werewolf-like arch enemy named the Dwayyo, and the two are said to have ferocious mythical battles.

4. XIUHCOATL // PRE-COLUMBIAN MEXICO

A stone statue of Xiuhcoatl at an Aztec site in Tenayuca, Mexico Maunus, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In Aztec mythology, Xiuhcoatl was a flaming serpent associated with turquoise, drought, and the fire god Xiuhtecuhtli. He was said to have been used by the god Huitzilopochtli to behead his sister Coyolxauhqui, in a triumph of light over darkness. He was a national and political symbol for the Aztecs, and ancient incense burners have been discovered carved in his image.

5. MINOKAWA // PHILIPPINES

Minokawa is a bird-dragon who shows up in Filipino mythology. The creature is said to be as big as an island and has sharp feathers like swords and mirrors for eyes. It lives in the sky near the eastern horizon, and once swallowed the moon, causing people on Earth to scream and cry. Minokawa was so curious about the strange noises they were making it opened its mouth in surprise, whereupon the moon jumped out and escaped. After that, the moon was afraid of Minokawa, and so hid from the dragon inside a series of holes in the horizon. Minokawa generally gets blamed for eclipses, when humans need to make as much noise as possible so that the beast will drop the moon.

6. VRITRA // INDIA

In the Vedic religion of early India, Vritra is a serpentine dragon and the animalistic representation of drought. In some versions, he hoards the waters and the rains. He is also the enemy of Indra, the King of Heaven, who heroically destroys him and his “deceiving forces” after Vritra blocks the courses of the rivers. When Vritra battles Indra and swallows him, Indra uses his sword to slice the monster open from inside his stomach. Vrirtra is sometimes also blamed for stealing cows.

7. THE WAWEL DRAGON // POLAND

Jennifer Boyer, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The Wawel Dragon, a.k.a. the Dragon of Wawel Hill, terrorized ancient Kraków, Poland. He inhabited Smocza Jama (“dragon’s den”), a limestone river cave on the banks of the Vistula, which flows below the hill where Wawel Castle sits. He was said to poison the air with his breath and devour both humans and cattle, until one day when a local hero fed him a lamb filled with sulfur—which made him so thirsty that he drank river water until he exploded. A stylized, fire-breathing metal statue of the Wawel Dragon is a tourist attraction in Kraków, and the dragon itself is a symbol of the city.

8. PEUCHEN // CHILE

In the Mapuche and Chilote cultures of Chile, a shapeshifting dragon called the Peuchen is widely feared and revered. The Peuchen takes the form of a huge flying snake most of the time, but can camouflage itself to look like other creatures while trying to suck the blood of various animals (generally sheep). This dragon makes high-pierced whistling sounds and can paralyze its victims with its gaze. It can only be killed by a machi (a medicine woman). The word peuchen is also the Chilean word for the common vampire bat, and some folks believe the bat is the basis of this myth. Other cryptozoologists think the peuchen is a local version of the chupacabra.

9. MO’O // HAWAII

The ancient Hawaiians believed that long black lizard- or dragon-like creatures called moʻo lived in pools, caves, and ponds, and were aggressive guardians of freshwater sources. They were said to be omniscient and able to control the weather, as well as morph into seductive women or mermaids. When slain, their bodies became a part of the landscape—for example, the cinder cone Puʻu Olaʻi and Molokini crater are said to be chopped-up pieces of an unfortunate moʻo who crossed the volcano goddess, Pele. Meanwhile, Molokaʻi’s Kamalo Ridge is said to display a gray outline of Kapulei, a male moʻo who pledged to watch over the area in life and in death.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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8 Fascinating Facts About Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con International.
Kurt Russell speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con International.
Gage Skidmore via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

From his turn as antihero Snake Plissken in 1981’s Escape From New York to Western lawman Wyatt Earp in 1993’s Tombstone, Kurt Russell has endured as one of the more versatile leading men in Hollywood. For more on Russell, including his early athletic ambitions and playing Elvis Presley, keep reading.

1. Kurt Russell originally had his sights set on being a professional baseball player.

On March 17, 1951, Kurt Russell was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, to parents Bing and Louise Russell, but grew up in Thousand Oaks, California. He took heavy inspiration from his father, himself an actor and later owner of a minor league baseball team, the Portland Mavericks. In addition to acting in family films for The Walt Disney Company like 1969’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and 1975’s The Strongest Man in the World, Russell was also pursuing a career in professional baseball. In 1971, he joined the Bend Rainbows and later played for his father’s Mavericks. When a shoulder injury halted his athletic ambitions in 1973, he began focusing on acting full-time.

The news was not broken to him so gently. Remembering the doctor who told him his shoulder would end his baseball career, Russell remembered him asking, “Aren’t you also an actor?” When Russell said he was, the doctor said, “Well, you’re an actor all the time now.”

2. Kurt Russell passed up a chance to be in Star Wars to do a television Western.

When George Lucas was casting Star Wars in 1975, he saw a number of actors, including Russell, who auditioned for both Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Russell was interested in the film, but later said that he was also being offered a role on a television Western called The Quest around the same time and asked Lucas if he could make a decision about whether he wanted Russell in the movie—and if so, in which part.

“I don’t know which part I prefer you in,” Russell recalled Lucas as saying. “I don’t know if I like you as Han and this guy as Skywalker, or this guy as Han and you as Skywalker. I don’t know.” When Lucas couldn’t give him an answer, Russell opted to do The Quest.

3. Kurt Russell was nominated for an Emmy for playing Elvis Presley.

Following his string of Disney films, Russell began tackling more mature roles, including the title character in the 1979 television miniseries Elvis directed by Halloween filmmaker John Carpenter. Playing Elvis Presley earned Russell an Emmy Award nomination and also marked the beginning of his working relationship with Carpenter, who cast Russell in 1981’s Escape From New York, 1995’s sequel Escape From L.A., and 1982’s The Thing, among others.

The King has followed Russell around, or vice versa. Russell had a small part in an Elvis film while as a child actor, appearing in 1963’s It Happened at the World’s Fair. In 2001, he appeared as a criminal who was also an Elvis impersonator in 3000 Miles to Graceland. Most notably, he agreed to dub over an actor playing Presley in 1994’s Forrest Gump as a favor to Robert Zemeckis, who directed Russell in 1980’s Used Cars.

4. Bull Durham was written for Kurt Russell.

If you’ve ever wondered why a former baseball player like Russell never made a baseball movie, he came close. Writer and director Ron Shelton wrote 1988’s Bull Durham, about an aging slugger named Crash Davis, specifically for Russell. The studio, however, insisted that Shelton cast Kevin Costner instead.

5. Kurt Russell was paid twice his going rate for Stargate because he was considered impossible to dislike.

Kurt Russell in Stargate (1994).Lionsgate Home Entertainment

It’s often been said of Russell that he possesses an inherent likeability. Perhaps audiences won’t like every film he appears in, but they like the actor himself. According to Russell, that was once backed by research. Recalling that the producers of 1994’s science-fiction movie Stargate offered him twice his going rate to secure his services, he cited audience satisfaction as the reason why. “They said, ‘Oh, well, we ran a questionnaire around the world,’” Russell told GQ in 2016. “They wanted to rate actors on their unlikeability. They wanted to find someone who was likeable because the part, as written, was not. And they said, ‘You know the only star out there who has zero unlikeability?’ ‘Kurt Russell.’ Zero unlikeability!” Russell added that the research was done a long time ago and “that number may have changed significantly.”

6. Kurt Russell may have stealth-directed Tombstone.

In 1993’s Tombstone, Russell plays a world-weary Wyatt Earp attempting to bring order to the lawless town of Tombstone. Directed by George P. Cosmatos, the film has become a classic of the Western genre. According to an interview with Russell in True West magazine in 2006, it was he, not Cosmatos, who did most of the heavy lifting behind the scenes. After screenwriter Kevin Jarre was let go from directing, producers asked Russell if he wanted to direct it. He did, but he didn’t want to put his name on it. Instead, he said, he gave Cosmatos a shot list every night for the following day’s shooting, an arrangement that Cosmatos agreed to and apparently had with Sylvester Stallone on 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Russell later criticized the True West interview, saying that he preferred not to discuss what went on with Tombstone in a public forum. “I told [George] that if the studio heads talked to me and the producers talked to me about what took place on Tombstone in terms of George’s involvement, in confidence I would tell them the private and real truth,” he told The San Diego Reader in 2016. “Publicly, I have no interest in tainting anything about Tombstone. The credits are what the credits are, and I will leave it at that.”

7. Kurt Russell once reported a UFO sighting while flying an airplane.

Russell is an aviation buff who has his pilot’s license. While flying his plane with Oliver Hudson (Goldie Hawn's son, who Russell raised and considers his own son) in 1997, he reported a strange event. “I was flying Oliver to go see his girlfriend, and we were on approach,” Russell told the BBC. “I saw six lights over the airport in absolute uniform in a V shape. Oliver said to me—I was just looking at him, I was coming in, we’re maybe a half-mile out—and Oliver said, ‘Pa, what are those lights?’ Then I kind of came out of my reverie and I said, ‘I don’t know what they are. He said, ‘Are we OK here?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna call in,’ and I reported it.” The lights soon became known as the Phoenix Lights, which were witnessed by several people. Russell didn’t make his sighting public until 2017.

8. Kurt Russell is not crazy about an Escape From New York remake.

Kurt Russell in Escape from New York (1981).© Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal

Talks have been ongoing for a remake of Escape From New York, the 1981 film that put Russell on the map as a viable action hero. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2017, Russell was asked how he felt about someone else playing Snake Plissken. “I didn’t play Snake Plissken,” Russell said. “I created him!” Asked if he would do a cameo or play a supporting role, he was more succinct. “F**k that! I am Snake Plissken!”