How to train your (mythical Asian) dragon

How to train your (mythical Asian) dragon

These dragons are not of the easily trainable variety -- they have teeth
How to train your dragon
If toothless cats could fly, this is what they would look like. Gums from above.

"How to Train Your Dragon" opened last weekend to rave reviews. Modern film's most recent sisifying of a monster has gone so far as to feature a toothless dragon named...Toothless. Not quite of the same ilk as Maleficent from "Sleeping Beauty" or Smaug in the TV version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s "The Hobbit". Toothless is more of a flying cat.

With such a sad state of dragon affairs in today's cinema, lets take a look at some truly magnificent mythical beasts of Asian lore. Beasts that would demand proper respect. Dragons that would show Toothless who's the head honcho on the dragon hierarchy scale.

These are dragons that would rather eat a boy than be trained by one. So tread carefully.

Dragons in the ocean. Beating on jellyfish.Ryūjin the powerful ocean dragon

Ryujin represented the power of the ocean in Japanese lore. Able to transform into a human shape, proud owner of an undersea palace complete with sea turtle butlers, fish coral gardeners and jellyfish servants, controller of tides and holder of magical jewels, this was one mythical dragon with some serious pull.

Legend also has it Ryujin was a jelly beater. Ryujin wanted a monkey's liver (what respectable dragon doesn't) and sent off a jellyfish minion to bring him back a monkey. But the chosen monkey wasn't up for any liver thievery. He told his jellyfish escort he must return home to get the liver because you see, he left it in a jar. The jellyfish having returned empty handed to Ryujin, was beaten to a boneless pulp by the angry undersea dragon.

How to train Ryujin: Don't be a jellyfish or sea dwelling creature, and entice obedience with monkey liver.

The cosmic Vitra

Vitra, The Indian serpent-dragon's professional qualifications read: Absorber of the Universal Cosmic Water, and holder of a Great Mountain. Truly a magnificent dragon worthy of the title. No illicit drug use. No toothless gums. What did it take to kill Vitra? A God named Indra hurling thunderbolts. One can only hope Michael Bay never discovers the stories of Vitra's awesome power.

How to train Vitra: A full pack of thunderbolts. Pet treats and electro-collars just won't cut it. 

The Chinese Dragon Kings

The aloof Ao Kuang is the mightiest of the four ocean Dragon Kings. Ao Kuang ruled the East Ocean while the other three oceans were watched over by Ao Chin, Ao Shun and Ao Jun. The dragons were kings of rain and water. In a distinct upgrade from coral, the Dragon Kings lived in palaces made of crystal.

The legends make no mention of any turtle butlers like Ryujin's, but they had powerful dragon minions such as T'ien Lung, Chi Lung Wang, Chang Lung, Pai Lung, Lung Wang, and Shen Lung with duties like controlling storms, rainfall, fires and floods.

How to train a Dragon King: A Dragon King is an Imperial Dragon, so they would not typically see a pathetic mortal straight off unless that mortal was the Emperor. The Dragon Kings were believed to be able to directly communicate with God, and the Emperor would communicate with God through the Dragon Kings. But the Emperor and royals eventually learned that cutting out the middleman is more cost effective. How to train a Dragon King? Make them redundant.

1,000 headed Ananta Shesha

Said to have anywhere from five to 1,000 heads, Ananta Shesha was a destroyer of creation and a creator of life that carried the God Vishnu in its coils. Despite being slightly bi-polar, "Create with fire! Destroy with fire! Create! Destroy!" Ananta is a truly powerful Dragon God. With a full set of teeth. In each head.

How to train Ananta: Actually, a 1,000 headed serpent and destroyer of creation doesn't take kindly to training.

The Buddhist dragon Apalala

Pakistan's Apalala is a serpentine creature with two legs, no wings and a human head that was said to live in the Swat River. Apalala's claim to fame was being converted to Buddhism by Buddha himself. Once he found his inner peace, he helped the locals by providing rain for the land. But Apalala's kindness proved to be short-lived as once the locals forgot about him, he became angry and prayed to become an evil dragon once again so he could cause storms and destroy the land. 


Wish granted. People died, crops were wasted, floods were induced. A deal was eventually reached that pleased Apalala, and he stopped his rampage for an offering of one crop per year.

How to train Apalala: Grain. Tempt with lots of grain, and appeal to his sense of vanity with lots of attention. If that fails... run.

Hair obsessed nure-onna

A Japanese nure-onna is a dragon-like beast with the head of a woman and the body of a snake around 300m long with claws, snake eyes, pointy fangs and some seriously lovely flowing locks of hair. A nure-onna could be considered the "hair washing dragon". While this may not sound fierce, her unpredictability makes her a danger to any foolish enough to venture close to her as she combs her hair on the shore.

If you do get close enough, she may crush you with her tail or swat a tree in annoyance. She may trick people into approaching by displaying what appears to be a "child-like bundle". Treat the bundle nice and live. Discard it and die by having your blood sucked out through her serpentine tongue.

How to train a nure-onna: Over the year's the nure-onna's tastes have changed with the times. Today, a Tiffany's hair brush might gain favor. Though why anybody would want to try and train a nure-onna is a mystery.

Kuzuryu the nine-headed dragon

Reaching peak legendary status during Japan's Nara Period, the Kuzuryu dragon stories tell of the nine-headed creature settling in Lake Ashi in Hakone and demanding human sacrafices. As villagers are typically of the lemming variety, they decide to comply and choose the sacrificial girl by shooting a white arrow into the air, and whatever house it lands on will have to serve up the daughter of the household to the dragon.

A priest named Mankan was having none of it, so he cursed the dragon and forced it to hang upside down. Apparently, girls were still sacrificed but the minor inconvience of eating upside down eventually gave Kuzuryu heartburn. So, he reformed, became a Dragon King and changed his diet to steamed rice and beans. 

How to train Kuzuryu: First, curse it and hang it from cedar. Next, offer it steamed rice and beans. If that doesn't work, a human sacrifice should do the trick.

Kiyo the fire breathing waitress

Kiyo started off as a normal tea house waitress in Japan. But as the saying goes, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Kiyo hooked up with a priest who eventually became bored with her company and tossed her aside. Not pleased at being treated like yesterday's news, she learned how to turn herself into a dragon. Once in dragon form she 'visited' the local monastery much to the cold-hearted priest's dismay, and ultimately his demise. She then killed him by melting the bell tower bell under which he hid. 

How to train Kiyo: You don't train Kiyo, you survive by being faithful.

All stories and legends are approximated and could vary based on whatever sources are referenced. Please, dragon history is not an exact science.

Chris Anderson is the former associate editor of CNNGo based in Hong Kong and is now senior editor at Huffington Post Media Group.

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