Dragons were believed to live at the bottom of the sea (Water) or in deep caves of high mountains (Earth), where they guarded vast treasure hoards, very frequently of pearls and stones. Usually dwarves are looking after them in popular fairy tales.
Chinese dragons do not typically guard treasures , but they are often kept with burial treasure. The horns on the head of a Chinese dragon (尺木) allow it to fly, and so dragons in Chinese mythology are connected to the heavens. This manner a dragon placed in a tomb would allow the owner to ascend to the heavens after death. Dragons in Chinese mythology also often carry pearls, symbols of wealth and prosperity.
Some famous examples of dragons guarding treasures in Greek and Germanic Mythology are:
- The Oracle of Delphi – The great oracle dragon Python was a guardian of the Oracle of Delphi. It took the god Apollo to slay this dragon and free the precious Oracle for all of humanity to use.
- The Golden Fleece – Besides the monetary value of this treasure, the Golden Fleece was pursued by Jason and the Argonauts as part of the tasks given to him in order to acquire the monarchy. The dragon that guarded this treasure never slept and it took the dragon witch Medea’s magic to bewitch the monster and make it sleep.
- Beowulf Dragon’s Treasure – The dragon Beowulf had to slay had guarded a huge treasure. In fact, a thief had stolen a cup from that treasure and this is what drove the monster to go out its cave and start ravaging the country side.
- Fafnir’s Treasure – The dragon Fafnir was once a man but he stole from his brothers a treasure of red gold and turned to a dragon to keep it safe. The treasure was so huge all had heard of it but the dragon was so fearsome none dared approach it, until Sigurd came.
- The Golden Apples – This great magical treasure was guarded by Ladon, a great one hundred headed dragon that no one could over come. Hercules slew that dragon and took the Golden Apples as part of his twelve great labors. It has been said that twelve years after he killed the dragons, people could still see the great beast’s body twitching in death.
- The sacred Spring of Ares God of War – The dragon guarding this treasure was a huge serpent-like monster that killed hordes of trained soldiers. The hero Cadmus was finally able to slay it, although his punishment was to become a serpent-like dragon himself, at the hands of the gods.