Here Be Dragons-The Lore Of The Great Serpents Of Old Part One
For as long as humans have walked this earth, there have been tales of massively scaled beasts. Terrifying and fierce, sharp and cunning, majestic and powerful-these are a few of the traits associated with the lore of the dragon.
It’s fascinating how far back the symbology of these creatures goes. These stories saturate the history of mankind. From all over the world, in nearly every single culture, there be dragons.
Babylonians worshiped the primordial Tiamat. In ancient China, colossal dragon kings lived under the sea. Even the Christian Bible has its fair share of dragon lore. In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar throws Daniel into the lion den for daring to slay his beloved Bel.
The Vikings had their world serpent and dragon-headed ships. In India, ancient Vedic texts describe the mighty Vritra who hoarded the waters. Even Scotland has the fearsome Stoor Worm dragon. Egypt had the terrifying Akehekhu, which later morphs into the European griffin. The Toltecs and Mayans worshiped a resplendent feathered serpent God, Kukulkan. The list goes on and on.
Why are we humans so fascinated by the concept of a dragon? Most of us in the West have grown up viewing dragons as imposing, fire breathing beasts who snack on maidens and hoard treasure. Those in the East grow up with tales of these creatures being powerful protectors, wise beyond measure. Fearsome, yes, but noble and just.
Modern-day lore has morphed these two opposing concepts into one. Game of Throne’s version of the dragon is a perfect example of this. Daenerys raises them as her children and, while they are powerful, they are not inherently evil like the dragons of medieval times.
During the Middle Ages, natural history books listed dragons as actual animals. The Aberdeen Bestiary, published in the 1500s, details dragon eating habits. There’s a famous depiction of one of these terrifying beasts wrapping its tail around an elephant. The tome states that the purpose of this was to suffocate and then consume its prey. Who knew medieval dragons liked to munch on more than fair maidens?
Over the next few weeks, we will dive into the lore of this fascinating and enigmatic creature. I’ll be telling you dragon tales from cultures all over the world.
We’ll talk about the real mother of dragons from Sumerian and Babylonian lore, how Tolkien stole Smaug from an actual Norse myth (and most other aspects of Lord of the Rings), the super cool rainbow palaces Eastern dragons live in, and how the Welsh flag relates to the tale of King Arthur.
We’ll be discussing why these creatures are so ingrained in our minds and how the dragon relates to our psyches. Symbolism-that’s what mythology is about, after all. Why do tales of fire breathing beasts of old still capture our hearts and imaginations to this day? Why has history refused to forget these majestic beasts? And, what does the melding of cultures mean for today’s dragon?