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The Three Headed Dragon

Multi-headed, Mythology -

The Three Headed Dragon

Role-players have often debated it over a good pizza: is the three-headed dragon a monster or a mythological animal?

There is certainly a lot to debate, and this is to the delight of dragon enthusiasts.🐲

Don't forget to check out our amazing selection of multi-headed dragon toys:

At first glance, anything with more than one head could be considered a monster or a malformed creature! But, are we really sure about this in the case of the three-headed dragon?

1. The Multi-headed Dragon: a Monster or a Mythological Animal?

A) Greek mythology

When people talk about dragons with several heads, the image of Lerna's terrifying hydra comes to mind! Daughter of Typhon, a creep who only sired monsters, the hydra had seven heads, one of which was immortal! Each severed head grew back with all the more vigor.

Hercules finally brought the monster down, reducing it to a steaming lump of meat! It should be noted that for the ancients, the hydra was a polycephalous snake, while for the medieval, the hydra was a wingless dragon!

If you want to know more, check out our article on the multi-headed dragons in the Greek mythology, or to be more specific, the Hydra of Lerna.

But three-headed dragons exist in the myths and legends of many other countries.

Hercules battling Hydra

B) Celtic and Irish mythology

In several Celtic and Irish legends such as Gwydion and Manannan, there is the Ellén Trechend, who, according to legend, devastated Ireland before its defeat. She has been depicted in the form of a three-headed fire-breathing dragon or a three-headed bird, among others, in artwork and drawings.

Ellén Trechend

C) Romanian mythology

There is also the Balaur, a wingless dragon with fins in Romanian mythology, which may have had three or more heads.

D) Slavic and Russian mythology

In East Slavic mythology, there is the Zmey Gorynych, which is sometimes described as having regenerative abilities similar to those of the hydra. Like the more traditional dragons, it was green, sometimes depicted with wings, it could also spit fire. A version of the dragon was killed in the Russian fairy tale, Dobrynja and Gorynych.

E) Japanese mythology

In Japanese mythology, Yamata-no-Orochi is a dragon with eight heads and eight tails whose breath was poisonous. Remember, we saw it in the article on Japanese Dragons.

It was a giant on which land, mountains, valleys and rivers flowed. In spite of its gigantic size, its snack was not gargantuan, it only devoured one girl a year.

We owe the hero Susanoo the annihilation of this rather frugal dragon, who would have let himself be tempted by a few barrels of sake.

Yamata No Orochi

2. The Three-Headed Dragon and History

There's little literature on three-headed dragons. Some are tempted to question their existence, even mythological. One would be inclined to trace their birth to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. This film will give birth to a whole literature of bestiaries ever more substantial, such as those of Dungeons and Dragons.

A) In the Bible

Yet, in the Bible, Revelation 12, appears a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. On the seven heads, there were seven diadems. The horns are a symbol of power, and the crowns are a representation of authority. The seven heads and the ten horns represent a terrifying image of great power, authority, knowledge and strength. This great power is illustrated in verse 4 where the dragon is able to sweep away one-third of the stars in the sky and throw them to the earth.

Verse 9 clearly indicates who the dragon is. The dragon is that ancient serpent that is called the Devil and Satan. He is the liar who deceives the whole world. Verse 4 reveals that Satan is waiting for the birth of Christ to destroy him.

Don't miss our article about the Dragons in the Bible.


B) In the French Middle Ages

In his Middle Ages Bestiary, the French historian and symbolist Michel Pastoureau cites singular cases of polycephalous dragons:

  • Bicephalous (two heads) like the amphisbene,
  • Tricephalous (three heads) like the "dragon of the Amazon country", having a large head surrounded by two small ones,
  • And then seven heads like the hydra. If this case of a singular dragon is rather absent from the literature of the medievalists, the study of symbols and in particular the number three can provide us with some information.

three headed dragon statue


3. Three, a magic number

In most of the cultures that have made their way onto the earth, three is a fundamental, if not perfect, number.

Among the Gauls, triad meant:

  • the tripling of intensity,
  • or the plural of majesty,
  • or even the triplicity of a being,
  • or the distinct states of the same being (sky, air, earth)
  • or the passage through time: past, present, future.

Their god Sylvain Cernunnos was sometimes represented with three heads.

Among the Slavs, the god Triglav (also called Perun) is almost always represented with three heads. This tricephaly is interpreted as a tribute to his universal domination over the sky, the earth and the underworld.

At this point we are reduced to speculation about the three-headed dragon. Can one magnify a mythological animal as perfect as the dragon? After all, the dragon already dominates the sky, the earth and the animal kingdom.

4. The Devil, the Trident, and the Three-Headed Dragon

This is a pure hypothesis, but wouldn't the inspiration for the three-headed dragon come from the trident? In the Middle Ages, and especially in the Christian tradition, the dragon was associated with the Devil.

Who doesn't know the hagiographic story of St. George slaying the dragon to save the virgin? Originally a pagan symbol, the scepter of the god Poseidon is among Christians a satanic symbol. It is the instrument of punishment, the illustration of torment. It is used to push the damned into the furnace of Hell.


5. Popular culture: cinema, fantasy and games

The first cinematic occurrence of a three-headed dragon most likely occurs in The Sword and the Dragon (1956), a Russian film by Illya Muromets in which a three-headed dragon almost anecdotally appears.

A) The Three-Headed Dragon in Godzilla

But it is the Godzilla series that will be the most prolific to stage a three-headed dragon: Ghidorah. Ghidorah is the brainchild of Tomoyuki Tanaka, who also designed Godzilla. Ghidorah looks more like a wyvern (fantastic creature) than a dragon since it has only two legs. Nevertheless, it has three lightning spitting heads, two tails and membranous wings.

Its origin is extraterrestrial, it's Godzilla's recurring opponent, probably his alter ego, and you have to admit that in many cases he kicks the lizard's ass! 😉

It would be too long to mention here all the feature films in which he appears, but there are about ten films to date.

The first one came out in 1964, Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster, but we must admit that all that has aged well, it's at the crossroads of X-Or and a wrestling match between obese Mexicans! 😄

On the other hand, the latest version is a real eye-catcher, in Godzilla, King of the Monsters (2019), the 3D gives us the best 3 head dragon animation of all time! The script is probably no thicker than a sheet of cigarette paper, but the incarnation of Ghidorah is powerful, fluid and majestic at the same time.


B) The Three-Headed Dragon in Game of Thrones

The sigil of the Targaryens is a three-headed dragon which symbolize Aegon and his two sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya, who conquered Westeros and forged the Seven Kingdoms on the backs of their three dragons : Balerion, Meraxes and Vhagar.

Targarien sigil

Targeryans are like dragon lords and are always closer to the dragons than any other men. Aegon I introduced dragons to the land of Westeros when he first conquered it, and the dragons were mounted by the Targeryans until the last one perished under the reign of Aegon III the Dragon Bane.

The Targeryans therefore kept dragons for most of their reign in the Seven Kingdoms. They housed them by building a massive dome-shaped structure at King's Landing called the Dragon Pit. They raised new dragons from the first three of Egon, called Vhagar, Meraxes and the dreaded Balerion.

In season 2, episode 10: "Valar Morghulis", Danaerys finds herself in the House of the Immortal, where she has visions.

However, in the novels, she has a major vision, which does not appear in the series, where she sees the one we assume to be her dead brother, Rhaegar, who ran away with Lyanna Stark and Jon Snow's real father.

Rhaegar names his newborn son Aegon, and says he is "the promised prince" before looking at Danaerys and saying "there must be another one, the dragon has three heads".

We can hypothesize that the prophecy about the promised prince and the prophecy about the three-headed dragon are linked.

Rhaegar talks about a three-headed dragon. For convenience, Danaerys has three dragons. The logical conclusion would be that this prophecy refers to Danaerys' dragons. This prophecy also means that for each dragon, there is a corresponding Dragon Rider. Three heads, three dragons, three riders.

If you are a big fan of the series, you don't want to miss our article on the Dragons in Game of Thrones!


C) The Three-Headed Dragon in Video Games, Movies and Series

Finally, it should be noted that the bird appears in about twenty video games and a handful of manga.

A simple mention for the Dragonstorm robot from the Transformers series from their controversial latest opus "Transformers: The Last Knight" (2017).

6. Fans of multi-headed creatures?

In order to satisfy those of you who loves multi-headed creatures, Dragon Vibes can't resist showing off its range of products featuring the three-headed dragon.

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