I’ve just stumbled upon a scholarly article on the origin of dragon-lore in early human cultures: Robert Blust, “The Origin of Dragons,” Anthropos 95 (2000): 519–36.
This is far more highbrow than many of my readers will appreciate, but it’s the sort of thing that stokes my imagination as I think through how I want magic, dragons, and other mythological creatures to “work” in my writing. Here’s an intriguing paragraph from near the beginning:
[T]he idea of the dragon arose through processes of reasoning which do not differ essentially from those underlying modern scientific explanations. Far from being the product of a capricious imagination, the dragon was mentally constructed in many parts of the world as a by-product of 1. meticulously accurate observations of weather phenomena, and 2. an earnest but unsuccessful attempt to grasp the causality of natural events, particularly those relating to rainfall. The dragon thus stands as one of the supremely instructive examples of convergent evolution in the symbolic life of the mind.
By the way, dragons will make their first appearance in the Into the Wonder series with its fourth book, The River of Night, which is currently in the hands of my beta readers. 🙂