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The dragon of the modern period is typically depicted as a large, winged dinosaur-like creature with the ability to breath fire. It typically protects a cavern of gold and is usually associated with a great hero who attempts to slay it. Many modern stories represent dragons as being extremely intelligent creatures, some with the ability to use magic. Often they are extremely ancient. Some are helpful and wise whom heroes can consult for advice, while others are greedy and guard a huge hoard of treasure. (Until we get a more detailed discussion, please see http://www.draconian.com/whatis/whatis.htm .)
Dragons of Slavic mythology hold mixed temperments towards humans.
needs workThe story of Merlin and the dragons
The two most famous dragons from the mythology of the Germanic peoples are the dragon of Beowulf, and Fafnir, who was killed by Siegfried. Fafnir turned into a dragon because of his greed -- many scholars believe this and other stories indicate dragons usually represent greed in western cultures. In both Fafnir and Beowulf, the serpents guarded earthen mounds full of ancient treasure. The treasure was cursed and brought ill to those who later possessed it. It has been supposed by many scholars, including John Tanke[?] of the University of Michigan, that the word dragon comes from the Old English draugr, which literally means a spirit who guards the burial mound of a king. How this image of a vengeful guardian spirit turned into a fire breathing serpent is unclear, but it had already occurred at least by the 8th century when Beowulf was written down. Although today we associate dragons almost universally with fire, in medieval legend the creatures were often associated with water, guarding springs or living near or under water.
Other European legends about dragons include "Saint George and the Dragon", in which a brave knight defeats a dragon holding a princess captive. This legend may be a Christianized version of the myth of Perseus, but its origins are obscure. Saint George is the Patron Saint[?] of England. Meanwhile, across the border, a red dragon is represented on the Welsh flag. Due to this clash of symbolism, there are very few George and the Dragon pubs in Wales.
The tale of George and the Dragon has been modified for modern works, with Saint George portrayed as 'an effette [sic] wally who faints at the sight of the dragon' in a play  (http://fp.millennas.f9.co.uk/clerchr3.htm) and a poem by U. A. Fanthorpe[?] based on Uccello[?]'s painting, where Saint George is a thug, the Maiden considers the relative sexual merits of the dragon and saint, and the Dragon the only sane character.
It is possible that the dragon legends of north-western Europe are at least partly inspired by earlier stories from the Roman Empire, or from the Sarmatians and related cultures north of the Black Sea. There has also been speculation that dragon mythology might have originated from stories of large land lizards which inhabited Eurasia.
See also: List of dragons