research on Western dragons on our Earth and their legends
|Research of Dragons; Western Dragons:
Dragons have a rich heritage in the mythology and symbolism of Western culture.
Western dragons have traditionally been a symbol of evil. A typical Western dragon can fly and breathe fire. Many legends describe dragons as greedy, keeping hordes of gold and other precious treasure. In myths and folklore, dragons were monsters to be conquered. As dragons may be seen to represent the dark side of humanity, including greed, lust, and violence, the conquest of a dragon represents the confrontation and extinguishment of those evil instincts.
With the ‘decline and fall’ of Rome, then, knowledge of the dragon might have disappeared from the western world forever had it not been revived at the last gasp, as it were, in the interest of Christianity and in the person of His Eminence the Devil
Take, for example, John’s vision in Patinos of dragon-horses (Rev. 9:17) whose heads “were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone . . . for their power is in their mouth and in their tails, for their tails are like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.”
To fully identify this dragon of tradition with the Devil of the Bible, and so increase the terror of his power, was easy to the zealous, if not over-wise, ministers of Chistianity, and evidence of their success is found in the many representations in mediaeval religious art to be seen in ancient books and manuscripts, numerous examples of which have been copied into Carus’s History of the Devil and other similar treatises.
“Set,” remarks Dr. G. E. Smith, “the enemy of Osiris, who is the real prototype of the evil dragon, was the antithesis of the god of Justice; he was the father of falsehood and the symbol of chaos. He was the prototype of Satan, as Osiris was the first definite representative of the Deity of which any record has been preserved. . . .
“The history of the evil dragon is not merely the evolution of the Devil, but it also affords the explanation of his traditional peculiarities, his bird-like features, his horns, his red color, his wings and cloven hoofs, and his tail. They are all of them the dragon’s distinctive features; and from time to time in the history of past ages we catch glimpses of the reality of these idetitifications. In one of the earliest woodcuts found in a printed book Satan is represented as a monk with the bird’s feet of the dragon. A most interesting intermediate phase is seen in a Chinese watercolor in the John Rylands Library (at Manchester, England), in which the thunder-dragon is represented in a form almost exactly reproducing that of the Devil of European tradition.”
Here we have the genesis of the figure of Mephistopheles! In the oldest version of the Faust legend (sixteenth century) Mephistopheles, the servant-devil, sends Faust through the air whithersoever he wishes to go, according to their compact, on a carriage drawn by dragons, not by wafting him on a magic cloak, as is the more modern rendering.
The dragon has also been used as a symbol of war. The Viking longship, also called a drakkar or dragon ship, was used to transport Viking warriors on their raids across Europe. Often, sea-going dragon ships would have a dragon head mounted at its stern to ward off sea serpents and evil spirits.
Stories of dragons that fly through the air by night and vomit fire are fairly common in Norway and Denmark, and are not unknown in England. “In various places all over the country there are still shown holes in the earth out of which they are seen to come flying like blazing fire when wars or other troubles are to be expected. When they return to their dwellings, where they brood over immense treasures (which they, as some say, have gathered by night in the depths of the sea), there can be heard the clang of the great iron doors that close behind them.”
Dragoons, which are a particular kind of soldier originating in the 16th century, received their name from their primary weapon, called a dragon. The dragon was a short Wheelock gun with a muzzle decorated with the head of a dragon. The mounted infantryman with his loose coat and the burning match at a gallop resembled a mythical dragon.
King Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, received his name Pendragon from his older brother, who saw a dragon-shaped comet. Pendragon also means "chief dragon," which refers to Uther's status as chief of warriors.
Arthurian legends that in the time of Arthur’s father, Uther, there appeared a star at Winchester of wonderful-magnitude brightness, “darting forth a ray at the end of which was a flame in form of a dragon.” Uther then ordered two golden dragons to be made, one of which he presented to Winchester, and the other he carried with him as a royal standard. Arthur himself, it is stated, wore a dragon on the crest of his helmet
1. St. George and the Dragon. An important English legend, as the story goes, Saint George was a Christian martyr who killed a dragon in order to rescue the princess Silene. Saint George is the patron saint of England.St. Margaret who was thrown into a dungeon after tortures of the kind that churchmen ascribe to their martyrs and have with equal piety and relish inflicted upon their opponents. “And whilst she was in prison she prayed our Lord,” as Caxton recounts in his translation of The Golden Legend, “that the fiend that had fought with her He would visibly show unto her. And then appeared a horrible dragon and assailed her, and would have devoured her, but she made the sign of the cross and anon he vanished away. And in another place it is said that he swallowed her into his belly . . . and the belly broke asunder so she issued out all whole.”
2. The Loathsome Dragon, an English tale
3. Lambton Worm, an English tale
4. Saint Martha and the Dragon, a French tale of a dragon called Tarasque which had been terrorizing the small town of Nerluc, situated near the Rhone River. The town had made attempts to slay the dragon, but to no avail. Finally, they called upon a holy lady, Martha, in the town of Saint Marie de la Mer. Martha bravely tamed the beast and led it back to town, where it was killed as punishment for its wickedness. The town changed its name to Tarascon to honor Martha's deed.
5. The Vouivre: The Flying Serpent, a French tale that once a year, the serpent Vouivre would leave her guarded treasure to drink and wash herself. A woman named Louise brought her son with her to the dragon's cave to take her treasure, but was discovered by Vouivre. They were captured and imprisoned for an entire year before they finally escaped, carrying with them some of the dragon's gold.
6. The Yellow Dragon is a Bukovinian gypsy tale about a cowardly dragon. In this story, a poor old man set out to find a honey cake. He fell asleep, and when he awoke, the cake was covered with flies. He killed 100 flies with one block of wood and wrote, "I killed a hundred with a stroke." A cowardly yellow dragon passed by and saw the words. The old man, perceiving the dragon's fear, tricked the dragon into thinking him the strongest man on earth. By tricking the dragon, he earned a huge sack of gold to support his family.
7. Ivanko and the Dragon, The Ukrrainian folk tale regards a boy named Ivanko, who had once been a sapling. The old woman he called mother had a sweet voice. The dragon asked a smith to forge her a voice as sweet as Ivanko's mother's, and then uses it to kidnap Ivanko. Ivanko escaped the fate of being cooked in the dragon's oven, and returned to his parents.
This miracle was denounced as apocryphal by critics centuries ago, yet the same set of adventures are related of Saints Martha, Veneranda, and Radegund. What troubled the minds of the monks was the difficulty of believing that the Devil had ever been killed! A ridiculous, but celebrated yarn of this class is that of the Lambton Worm, which I quote from the concise narrative by Hartland:
This was a creature caught by the heir of Lambton (in England on the banks of the Weir) one Sunday morning when fishing, and, to add to its iniquity, using very bad language. He threw it into a well, where it grew and grew until it outgrew the well and resorted to the river, lying coiled by night thrice around a neighbouring hill. Meantime, the heir of Lambton, having repented of his evil life and spent seven years in the wars, returned, and determined to rid the land of the curse his wickedness had inflicted upon it. A wise woman whom he consulted advised him to get his suit of mail studded thickly with spearheads, and required him before going forth to the encounter to vow to slay the first living thing that met him on his way homeward, warning him that if he failed to perform the vow, no lord of Lambton for nine generations would die in his bed.
He met the worm and challenged it to the conflict by striking a blow on its head as it passed. It turned upon him and, winding its body around him, tried to crush him in its folds; but the spikes pierced it, and the closer its embrace the more deadly were the wounds it received, until with the flowing blood its strength ebbed away, and the knight with his sword cut it in two.
The knight failed to fulfil his vow because his eager old father was the “first living thing met,” and he could not bear to strike him down, so the curse remained on the Lambton family until worked out nine generations later by the death of Henry Lambton, M.P., in 1761.
Another and more burlesque comedy identified with a place and local families in England, and frequently spoken of, is that of The Dragon of Wantley. Its history is preserved in Bishop Percy’s Reliques under the title–An Excellent Ballad of that most Dreadful COMBATE FOUGHT Between Moore of Moore Hall, and the Dragon of Wantley.
This title-page bore also a picture of a scaly, lion-bodied monster “sharp, fierce and hungry-looking, with wings at his sides, an enormous tail, and two of his feet are hoofed, while the other two are strongly ‘clawed’!” When the ballad was written is not known, but it refers to Sir Thomas Whortley, who aroused the hatred of the people by destroying a village on a hill at Wharncliffe in Yorkshire. He was a great aristocrat, serving as ‘body-night’ to Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII, and Henry VIII, and died in 1514. He was vastly wealthy, jovial and hospitable, and was extravagantly fond of stag-hunting for which he kept a pack of hounds widely admired. Among his possessions was the village of Wantley, which gave him only partial satisfaction, for, as we read: “There were some freeholders within it with whom he wrangled and sued until he had beggared them and cast them out of their inheritance, and so the town was wholly his, which he pulled quite down and laid the buildings and town fields even as a common, wherein his main design was to keep deer, and make a lodge, to which he came at the time of the yere and lay there, taking great delight to hear the deer bell.” Remains of this destroyed town were said to be visible not long ago on a lofty moor between Sheffield and Peristone, including the romantic cavity still known as the ‘dragon’s den,’ and near it are a ‘dragon’s well’ and a ‘dragon’s cellar.’ The cruel and highhanded ejection of farmers, and destruction of good houses, just for sport, so disgusted and angered the people that they cast about for some means of redress. Near the castle of the wicked Whortley was Moore Hall (still standing), whose owner was far from friendly with the Whortleys. To the head of the Moore family, therefore, the distressed people went for a champion–
Sighing and sobbing, came to his lodging
And made a hideous noise,
Oh, save us all,
Moore of Moore Hall,
Thou peerless knight of the woods!
Do but slay this dragon–
He won’t leave us a rag on–
We will give thee all our goods.
Thee champion refused the goods, but asked for
A fair maid of sixteen, that’s brisk
And smiles about the mouth,
. . . . . . .
To ‘noint me o’er night ere I go to fight
And to dress me in the morning.
This is rather a reversal of the rescuing of maids customary in dragon-stories! The ballad–which is given in full in The Reliquary (vol. 18, London, 1878), and is discussed in Yorkshire local histories–relates the amazing combat in which the dragon was killed. Briefly, Moore, the doughty knight, clad in a suit of armour studded with long, sharp spikes, hid in a well to which the dragon was wont to come when thirsty; and when the beast arrived, and lowered its head into the well, Moore kicked it in the mouth, where alone it was vulnerable, and so accomplished its death. This method reminds us how, according to one account, Siegfried managed to kill the Nibelungen serpent Fafnir by hiding in a pit over which it must pass, and stabbing its belly as it crawled across the trench over the hero’s head. In all these stories the dragon appears to be a wofully stupid and defenceless beast, agreeing with the foolish Devil of folklore.
While Martha was preaching Christianity to the pagan people at Arles an urgent message was sent to her from Tarascon, reciting that an awful dragon called the Tarasque, whose lair was in the neighbouring desert of Crau, was killing the Tarasconais, and they begged her to come and destroy it. She gladly complied, and going to his cave was able, by sheer force of lovingness (and a sprinkler of holy water), to subdue and regenerate the ravaging Tarasque, so that he meekly followed her into the midst of the astonished populace. “Along the bright ways of the city,” as the legend goes, “the procession moved: a crowd of excited people, a beautiful woman with the light playing round her head, leading by a silken cord a reformed monster who ambles after her as quietly as if he were a pet lamb. . . . And never again did he ravage the country or carry off so much as a single babe after Ste. Marthe had pointed out to him, with her usual sweet reasonableness, how wrong-headed and how essentially immoral such conduct had been.” So Mona Caird pictures the scene of the deliverance from a devouring creature more dreadful, if we can credit mediaeval descriptions, than anything we have thus far discovered in this history of beastly demons–a figure worthy to represent the hellish character of the Teutonic invasion of this fair land 2000 years ago.
The Dragon Prince:
In the Middle Ages, the most rewowned tournaments of poetry in all of France were held at the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Celebrated troubadours gathered there to demonstrate their art, and once a year the winner of this poetic joust was announced.
On one occasion, the winner was an unknown and very handsome young man, who refuse to give his name or say where he came from, despite the entreaties of Eleanor herself. The aura of mystery surrounding the anonymous troubadour, together with his kindness and beauty, soon made him one of the favorites among the ladies of the court. Griselda, a young and wistful maiden, the youngest daughter of the lord of Foix, fell passionately in love with the knight and declared fer love for him. Moved by the maiden's entreaties, the troubadour agreed to marry her in secret and take her to his home, but on condition that Griselda should never try to see him other than when he chose, and that she should never try to discover his secret.
The lovesick lady promised to comply with this strange condition. It seemed little to ask in exchange for being able to remain with her loved one.
One night, the young Griselda had fallen asleep in the arms of her lover in the castle of Eleanor of Aquitaine where she lived, and on opening her eyes she found herself in an unfamiliar room. It was luxurious place, adorned with silk and precious stones, and beside her lay her husband smiling benignly at her.
"You are in my house, which belongs to you," said the troubadour. "You may give orders to my servants and do whatever you please. There are stables with horses at your disposal, huntsmen and hawks for hunting, and you may go as you wish. You are my lady, and all that is mine is yours. There are maidens ready to serve you and to carry out your every whim, dancers and musicians to entertain you, jewels and silks to adorn you. If you need anything, tell me and I will give it to you."
"I wish only for the love of my lord," replied the young woman, bewildered.
"That is good, my love, but do not forget your promise."
Griselda, full of happiness, demonstrated her compliance by flinging herself into the arms of her beloved husband.
For a while the lady kept her promise and believed she was in paradise. The troubadour knight, who was kind and passionate, spent most of his time with his wife. Occasionally he would disappear into a locked room, and she, faithful to her promise, did not ask him any questions. However, curiosity gradually got the better of her. One day she decided to find out the secret of her knight. She crept up to the door of the forbidden room, which he had left ajar, and spied through the chink. Horrified, she watched as the troubadour turned into a huge dragon with green scales and powerful wings. She could not prevent a cry of horror escaping her lips. The dragon prince wheeled round, and saw his terrified wife in the doorway. Deeply hurt by this betrayal, the knight bade his servants remove Griselda immediatly to the court of Aquitaine, and never again did he turn to see her.
The lady could not forget her beloved, and not a day went by without her recalling the months of happiness beside the gentle dragon. Full of repentance and sadness, she wrote down her adventure; that is how the famous story of the dragon prince has found its way to us.
The Gypsy and the Dragon:
n the vast steppes of Russia there lived a tribe of gypsies, who traveled up and down the country selling remedies and beads, never staying for long in the same place. The leader was an astute and sharp-witted man whose name was Yuri, and he had six clever sons. One day, when the tribe was camped next to a town celebrating the holiday of Saint Basil, Yuri was told that a few versts from there lived a moujik (a Russian peasant) who was selling colts at a very good price. The astute gypsy thought that he would be able to do a good deal if he bought the animals and then sold them again, and he set out cheerfully. He put a piece of fresh cheese and slice of rye bread in a pouch and made his way to the moujik's village, leaving his people to sell their wares at the fair.
On arriving in the neighbouring village, he was surprised to find the place silent and deserted. he walked through the narrow streets in astonishment, looking for clues as to what had happened. Suddenly, he heard a terrified voice warning him, "Flee from here wretch, if you don't want the dragon to devour you."
"Who is speaking?" asked Yuri.
"It is I, old Vestia." And from behind some filthy willow baskets emerged and old man with a long beard. He was stooped and trembling, and so thin that he was nothing more than skin and bone.
"Hello, grandfather," said Yuri amiably, "what is going on here?"
"Oh, my son!" sighed the old man. "An evil dragon has devoured all the inhabitants of the town—people, animals, even the cats! I am the only person left because i am so old that the monster didn't fancy eating skin and bones, but today he will return, and as he will find nothing else to eat, he will eat me too. Go far from here, if you do not want to suffer the same fate."
"Don't worry grandfather," replied the bold Yuri. "I am not afraid of the dragon. If you do what I tell you no harm will befall you. Hide among the willow baskets and don't say a word."
Soon the earth began to shake from the dragon's footsteps. He was enormous and looked very hungry.
Yuri, who knew that dragons are vain and curious by nature, went up to him and greeted him courteously:
"Good day, tsar of the dragons."
The dragon was very proud to be addressed thus. He thrashed the ground with his tail, spread his wings to display the marvelous jeweled breastplate adorning his chest and bowed his head, saying modestly, "But that is not so, I am simply a common dragon."
"You are not common, magnificent lord," protested Yuri, "you are the greatest, the most beautiful and the most powerful of all. I am eager to admire your strength."
"Yes," admitted the vain animal, coiling and uncoiling his tail, blushing with pleasure, "it is true that I am strong and I am generally thought beautiful. But who are you standing before me so fearlessly?"
"I am the strongest man in the world," replied Yuri with alacrity.
"You are the strongest? Don't make me laugh!"
"But I am, even though you doubt my words."
The dragon, who by now was very interested in the gypsy, picked up a stone and crushed it to powder.
"Perhaps you can do the same, if you are the strongest of humans."
"That wouldn't be difficult," replied Yuri with aplomb, "but can you squeeze water out of the stone as I can?" And without letting the dragon see what he picked up from his pouch, he squeezed the fresh cheese until whey trickled out between his fingers.
"Well," thought the dragon, "he really is very strong. It would be better to have him as friend than an enemy."
And to win the man's friendship he suggested "Come and eat at my house. You are a very nice human being and I would like us to be friends."
"Very well dragon, let's go." The monster took Yuri to the cave where he lived and asked him, "Would you kindly go to the woods and bring back an oak tree to make a fire?"
Yuri went out determined to prevent the dragon from discovering the trick, but his arms were not strong enough to uproot such enormous trees and bring them back to the cave. Then he had an idea and he tied a group of sturdy oaks together with the rope the dragon had given him.
After a while, and seeing that the gypsy had not returned, the animal made his way to the woods and met Yuri who was very busy tying the trunks carefully together.
"What on earth are you doing?" asked the reptile, astonished.
"Well, I thought that if I bring back all the trees at once we will have wood for several days."
"Leave it, leave it, we don't want to cut down the whole wood," replied the dragon, more convinced of his friend's strength. "I'll take the trunk back home. Meanwhile, bring me a bullock to cook. Behind the house, in a field, you will find herd of bullocks. Just make sure you choose the plumpest."
Yuri set off determinedly for the field, and after a while the dragon found him tying the bullocks together.
"What are you doing?"
"Well, I thought if I brought all the bullocks back to the cave we could make a big bullock stew."
"Friend," said the dragon sighing, "you have a strange way of doing things. One bullock wil be enough. I'll take him back myself." And somewhat perturbed by his guest's behaviour, the dragon seized the plumpest bullock, killed it, skinned it and started to cook it. The two friends gorged themselves until they were full, and after the sumptuous feast, the dragon, who was in a good mood, offered to accompany the gypsy back to his house.
"Thank you," replied Yuri, "but I was thinking of buying some horses."
"Don't worry about that, I have a beautiful colt, and I can sell it to you for a hundred roubles."
Yuri agreed to the deal and told the dragon that he would pay him when they reached his house. As it was a long way the dragon decided to adopt a human form. They set out on horses belonging to the dragon and made good progress towards the camp. During the journey, Yuri warned his friend that he had six sons who were strong and had clairvoyant powers. When they reached the outskirts of the camp, Yuri's sons ran to meet him, and on seeing the colt they began to shout.
"You've only brought one!"
"It must be for me", shouted the oldest.
"No, no, I want this one", argued the smallest.
Yuri looked at the dragon and said, "What rascals! Didn't I tell you that they were clairvoyant? They recognized you." The dragon, terrified, thought that the boys wanted to keep him as a plaything, or to devour him, and as they were strong as their father, there was no possible hope of escape for him. He quickly dismounted from the horse, took on his dragon form and flew off in panic. Never again did he dare go near the Russian Steppes, where the gypsies are so strong they fight over dragons.
Beowulf is a classic epic poem of heroism.
In all of the English language, Beowulf is one of the longest and greatest poems written. It is an epic poem consisting of 3182 lines of alliterative verse. The poem is about the hero Beowulf and his battles with Grendal, Grendal’s mother and finally a dragon. In the beginning, Beowulf travels from his home in Geats to Denmark to help the king of Danes, Hrothgar. Grendal, a fearsome monster, plagued the king’s great hall. Beowulf wounds Grendal who flees and goes to his cave to die. The next night, Grendal’s mother comes to the great hall and kills one of Hrothgar’s men to avenge her son. Beowulf tracks her down into her lair and kills her. When he returns to the great hall, he is rewarded with many gifts and great honors.
He returns home to Geats and rules there for fifty years in peace. A dragon begins to terrorize his land when some of its treasure is stolen. The first time Beowulf attacks the dragon with his servants, they are unsuccessful. He decides it is best to track the dragon to its lair and attack it then. All of his servants are dead or ran away. The only one left to help him is his kinsman, Wiglaf. Beowulf defeats the dragon, but is mortally wounded. He is buried by the sea in a burial mound with the dragon’s treasure.
The only known written copy was written around 1000 AD. Historians believe the poem was first created as early as 700 AD and passed down orally for many years before it was written in its current form. It originally had no title but in the 19th century, people began referring to the poem by the name of the hero in it. There are two styles of handwriting in the manuscript suggesting two separate people wrote it. It is thought that the poem was originally created as an elegy, a mournful poem, for a king who died at some time in the 7th century. Who this king was is unknown to this day.
The first documented owner of the manuscript was the 16th century scholar Lawrence Nowell. In the 17th century, a man named Robert Bruce Cotton acquired it for his collection. The manuscript containing Beowulf can be called either the Nowell Codex or Cotton Vitellius A. xv in reference to the two men that owned it. In 1731, it was irreparably damaged in a fire that tore through a building that housed other medieval manuscripts in Robert Bruce Cotton’s collection.
In 1818, an Icelandic scholar named Grimur Jonsson Thorkelin, created the first transcription of the epic poem. This record of the poem was highly prized, but the accuracy of it was called into question since the original had decayed further over the years. In 1845, an attempt to preserve the manuscript was made. The pages were mounted in special paper frames to prevent further damage. The pages were protected but letters near the edges were covered. In 1993, the British Library started the Electronic Beowulf project. They used special lighting techniques apply infrared and ultraviolet lights to reveal the covered letters.
Two scribes transcribed the Beowulf manuscript that exists today from an original. The style of handwriting is consistent from the start of the manuscript until line 1939, after which the handwriting changes to another for the rest of the poem. Both pagan and folkloric aspects as well as indisputable Christian tones are found in Beowulf. This duality of symbols in the poem has led some to think that there were at least two authors of the original poem. Others speculate that as the poem was told and retold over time it picked up Christian themes as Christianity spread over Europe. Given the age and condition of the original manuscript as well as the two separate handwriting styles and lack of information about the original author, it is impossible to know for sure.
The Cooper and the two Dragons:
In Switzerland lived a man, a cooper by trade, who one day climbed the soft slope of a nearby mountain to a forest of oaks and birches to find wood. It was autumn and the ground was covered with a thick carpet of dead leaves. The cooper deviated soon from the path, in search of some good low branches to cut and carry home on his mule.
At the falling night, he noted that he had been mislaid. He scanned the darkness in the hope to see the campfire of some hunter or the hut of a coalman. The branches lacerated his face while he advanced in the obscure forest, and sudden it seemed to him that the ground was falling under his steps. He released the leading-rein of his mule, tried to advance, lost foot and fell at the bottom from a ravine, bringing in his fall several roots and stones. At the bottom, the ground was covered with mud and the air impregnated of a strong odor of manure and burned foliage. Exhausted, the cooper shrivelled in a corner and fell asleep.
With the pale gleam of the dawn, he woke up, sored all over, and contemplated the thin band of sky which cut out between the walls of the ravine, so high and abrupt that he could not think of climbing them, and he sank in a deep despair. Then he heard the sigh of a drowsy animal, so near and so powerful that he felt his hair to straigt up on his head. This breath was hot like the breath of a furnace and passably sulfurous. It seemed to emanate on the side opposite of the ravine and the cooper leaned ahead and scanned the darkness. In a jump, he stand erected. Not far from him, their folded up rings and their massive forms cutting out vaguely in the dim light, their heavy half closed eyelids because the winter torpor, two enormous dragons were rested.
Our man fell to knees to beg the sky. At this time there, one of the dragons emerged from its torpor. The wings folded up like a fan, it came out of the cave in a great unfolding of scaly rings, carried by four short clawed legs. It agitated the tail in direction of the cooper and it was rolled up around him. The dragon looked a few moments at the prisoner with glaucous eyes, then released him and re-entered in its den, leaving poor man with his knees trembling of terror, but unharmed.
Knowing his rescue improbable and his escape impossible, the cooper spent the winter in the ravine, accompanied by the drowsy dragons. He nourished from mushrooms growing on the wet walls, heated by the breath of the dragons, and was refreshed by collecting the dew in his hands. As he was left in peace, he lost his fear and, one night when the snowflakes fell thick and where cold bit him, he slipped into the cave and settled himself well at the heat from the hollow of the rings. One of the dragons turned the head but, accepting the intrusion, it took again its position and left him quiet.
The cooper thus spent the night and all those which followed and, with the return of spring, when the melting made waters cascade in the ravine, the dragons saved his life. One morning, he woke up alone and frozen in the smoked den. He heard the sound of the beating of large wings. He went outside and saw one of the dragons spreading its membranous wings and, whipping the air from its tail, rising in the sky. The other dragon was also on the point of flying away in the bright light of the morning and it slowly unfolded its wings. The cooper seized it by the tail and he hung on with all his strength while the animal rose off the ground and into the sky.
Arriving at the edge of the ravine, the man released his grip and fell gently on the ground. He looked for a moment upon the rise of the dragons in the luminous sky. Then, he found the path from which he had deviated the preceding autumn and followed it until he reached his home. There, he told his adventure to his friends and relatives, who were amazed. They thought he was dead since his mule had returned alone, several months before.
Story by Montse Sant
During the reign of Charlemagne, there lived in the region of Gascony a very old and wise dragon called Jilocasin, who was a poet. Every so often, Jilocasin would abandon his confortable and spacious dwelling and take a human form to visit the King's court. There he was a well-known and respected troubadour, and he made the most of these brief sejourns to sing his verses and listen to the creations of the other poets. Then he would return to his home in Gascony, where he could compose in peace and lead a peaceful life far from the world.
One day, he was travelling through the forest of Gascony disguised as a troubadour, when he heard a desperate cry of help. Without losing a moment he ran in the direction of the screams and came across a poor woman who was trying to defend herself against some bandits. Jilocasin changed back into a dragon and with two blows he finished off the ruffians. The woman had fainted from her injuries, and the dragon lifted her onto his back and flew speedily back to his dwelling.
Jilocasin's servants took care of the lady, whose clothes, although they were torn and dirty, were those of a lady of high rank.
On undoing the bundle which the woman clasped to her breast, they found a baby only few weeks old slumbering peacefully, oblivious to everything.
Thanks to the care and solicitude of the servants, the woman soon came to, and Jilocasin took on his human shape to visit his protegé. The lady expressed her gratitude and told him her story. She had been widowed within two years of marriage, and her family had forced her to marry her cousin, an unscruppulous man who was interested only in inheriting the title and wealth of her deceased husband.
The wedding was celebrated in haste, before the mourning period prescribed by law had been observed.
"But I was pregnant by my first husband, something which my cousin did not know," explained the woman, weeping. "When the baby was born, six months after the forced wedding, my husband tried to seize the baby to prevent him threatening his inheritance. Fearing for the life of my son, I ran away, but the villain pursued me with his henchmen, and he almost succeeded in killing the child. Fortunately, you saved us, and now my life belongs to you."
Touched by the grief and beauty of the woman, Jilocasin offered her support and shelter in his house.
Time passed, and the dragon-troubadour and the lady became inseparable. The beautiful fugitive was aware of Jilocasin's true identity, but she was so taken by his kindness and amiability that it did not affect her love for him. Meanwhile, the dragon found in her the understanding and friendship he always sought. Jilocasin and the lady would go for a long walks together, and sometimes the dragon would carry her on his back and they would visit far-off lands. Together they rode, loved, and sang the verses which the dragon-poet composed. They spent three happy years in this way. To complete her happiness, the woman became pregnant. They were both looking forward to the birth of their son, but the lady died in childbirth. Jilocasin was inconsolable. He had lost an irreplaceable companion, the only woman who loved him as he was.
Faithful to her memory, the dragon cared for the two boys without making any distinction between his adoptive son and his own son. He taught them the highest principles and, after a while, present them at court to be armed knights.
The two brothers, who chose to be called the Knights of the Dragon, were famous for their nobility and honour, and they finally avenged their mother's memory by capturing the castle which their villainous uncle had stolen from them.
Maud and the Wyvern:
It appears as the emblem of envy, insignia of war, personification of pestilence, representation of non-transmuted matter in alchemy, disguise of the devil and as a prevalent device in heraldry. Rarely, however, does it elicit emotions of friendship or love - which is why the medieval legend of the Mordiford wyvern is so unexpectedly poignant.
Maud's parents had little objection to their young daughter owning a cat or dog - but they were more than a little perturbed by the creature that stood before them, small and colourful though it might be. Earlier that day, Maud had been walking through the woods near her home at Mordiford, in English county of Herefordshire, when she came upon a strange little animal looking forlorn and dejected. It was poking its snout listlessly a clumb of flowers, and was quite evidently lost.
The creature looked like a baby dragon: its body was no bigger than a cucumber and its bright green scales - sparkling like a shining peridots in the sunlight - made it appear even more like one as it squatted upon its single pair of legs. Every so often, it would open its fragile, membranous wings and flutter them hopefully, but it was clearly far too young to fly. As soon as it saw Maud, however, its sadness evaporated, and it began chasing merrily around her, frolicking with joy that it was no longer alone.
Maud was throughly enchanted by her unexpected playmate, and happily took it back home with her, convinced that her parent would share her delight in the tiny creature. But they recognized it as a wyvern (albeit a very young one), and their reaction was very different. In word that brooked no opposition, they insisted that she should take it back to where she had found it and leave it there. Steeling themselves to ignore her tearful protestations, they closed the cottage door behind her and wathched, sadly but with great relief, as their daughter walked slowly back to the woods, followed by her strange little companion.
Once out of sight, howerver, Maud turned away from the main woodland path and ran instead toward her secret hidding place - a little nook known only to her, where she spent many happy hours concealed from the rest of the world. Here she placed her new-found pet, and here would remain, where she could visit it, play with it, and feed it every day, safe from the prying eyes of her parents and the other Mordiford folk.
As the months went by, howerver, Maud's pet grew even larger, and at a quite alarming rate. The cucumberlike youngster was maturing into an impressive adult wyvern, whose soft green scales had hardened into razorsharp discs of a deep viridescent tone, whose gossamer wings had become leathery and bat-like, and whose curly tail bore at its tip a deadly sting.
The saucers of milk brought to it everyday by the ever-faithful Maud, which had once satisfied its juvenile appetite, were no longer able to dispel her pet's pangs of ravenous hunger. And so it began to seek sustenance elsewhere. The local farming community soon suffered great losses of livestock, and it was not long before the culprit was unmasked. Maud's dragon had acquired a liking for the flesh of sheep and cows. But worse was to come. When some of the bolder farmers attempted to deal with the monster, it ably defended itself, and in so doing discovered another taste much to its liking - humans!
Maud was devastated by the actions of her former playmate, and begged it to end its murderous assaults upon the townfolk, but to no avail. Not even gentle rearing by a loving child could suppress indefinely the irascible and predatory insticts of a true dragon. With the advent of maturity, these had inevitably been unleased in a violent torrent of uncontrollable, primeval force. Just one person remained safe from the marauding wyvern - Maud, its early playmate and friend.
Not for her the flame and the fear, only the love that ever the heart of the most terrible dragon contains, but which is so rarely ignited by human. She alone could walk safely beside it, stroke its ebony claws and gaze without trepidation into its eyes of blazing chrysolite. Such is the power of friendship and love.
Neither of these, howerver, was sufficient to change to inevitable course that events were about to take. The wyvern's tyranny had to be countered if Mordiford's habitants were to survive. And so it was that one morning, a tall figure encased in armour and mounted upon a magnificent steed rode into the woods, with a sturdy lance grasped firmly in his hand.
A member of Mordiford's most illustrious family, the Garstons, he dismounted and courageously sought out his dreadful quarry. Suddenly, from amid a tangled mass of foliage, a massive green monster lunged forward; it scaly covering had imitated so intimately the leafy vegetation that it had been completely invisible as it lay in wait for its opponent.
Instinctively raising his shield, Garston deflected the great blast of fire that roared from the wyvern's gaping jaws, and aimed his lance at its thoat, distended from the force of its expulsion of flame. The lance pierced the monster's flesh, and an explosion of dark blood burst forth, staining the grass. Garston also carried a sharp sword, and was about to plunge it into the stricken creature's head when a young girl, screaming not in fear but in hysterical rage, ran out of some bushes and starled hurling stones at him. His horse reared up in alarm, but far more starling to Garston was the extraordinary sight of this same child, kneeling on the blood-soaked grass and weeping uncontrollably, with her arms around the neck of the dying wyvern.
Unnerved, and oddly perturbed by his success in slaying the huge dragon that had terrorized Mordiford for so long, Garston rode away, back to the joyful villagers - leaving behind a dead monster with its only friend, a girl called Maud for whom the innocence of childhood had come to a sudden and savagely premature end.
The Peasant and the Dragon:
One day, a dragon who was flying back home was caught in a violent storm. The wind howled and the rain came down with such force that even the sturdiest oak trees were uprooted and blown down like straw. Despite his great size, the dragon was buffeted in all directions and in the end he lost his way in the dark. In vain he tried and tried again to rise above the storm, battling with all his strength against the elements, but at last, overcome with weariness, he fell exhausted to the ground.
While he lay unconscious in the mud, a peasant who lived in a humble shack nearby walked past.
On catching sight of the monster, who lay so still that he looked dead, the man, whose name was Lucas, felt sorry for him. He approached the inert body and saw that the dragon was still alive. With the help of his horse he moved the dragon to an outhouse which served as a barn. Then he made the dragon comfortable and cover him with a patched blanket, and ran into the house to ask his wife to prepare some hot food. She was apprehensive.
"You are mad if you want to give food and shelter to such a beast. You would do better to kill him and then the king will give us a reward for his skin."
"Quiet, woman," retorted Lucas. "The dragon is weak and ill, and it is not Christian to deny help to the ailing, of whatever race they belong to."
"Don't be stupid!" exclaimed his wife. "This creature is not a Christian, nor is he a man. He will eat you the minute he is better."
Taking no notice of his wife's warning, the peasant devoted himself to feeding and caring for the animal. As a result of his efforts, the dragon soon recovered and thanked the peasant for saving him.
"There is nothing to thank me for," replied the good man. "We are all God's creatures."
"Even so, many men in your position would have killed me and sold my skin, which is very valuable."
"Any man who takes advantage of the fallen must be very evil. Such behaviour does not befit a knight", replied the peasant.
On hearing her husband's words, the wife, who was listening at the door, began to laugh.
"Look at this fool, giving himself the airs of a knight when he is a pauper!" she exclaimed from her hiding place. "You won't speak like that when the tax collectors come and take away our horse because we haven't paid our taxes."
"It is honor not wealth that makes a man a knight," replied the worthy Lucas in a low voice.
However, the dragon heard the conversation, and, noting the peasant's poverty, offered him a reward for his trouble.
"I could not refuse anything in gold, because the tax collector is coming soon and I have nothing to pay him with. But that is not why I helped you, friend," said the man.
"I know, but now that I am strong enough to fly home, come to my cave and choose anything you wish. Lucas climbed fearlessly onto the dragon's back, but his wife begged him not to trust the dragon.
"When you are in the middle of the forest, he will eat you," she groaned, "and I will be left alone."
The dragon bore the peasant to his cave and there he entertained him for three days. When the time came for him to return home, the animal loaded a huge sack of gold and precious stones on his back as a gift, and carried Lucas back to his shack.
"Come and see me whenever you are hard up," he said on parting.
Lucas found his wife sad and dressed in mourning, for she believed he was dead. With the dragon's gifts the couple were able to buy a beautiful farm with many animals, but the wife started becoming extravagant, and one day she said to her husband: "If we had a little more money, we would be able to buy good land and employ others to work on it, and then when we have a son he will be able to be a knight. Why don't you ask the dragon for a little more gold?" Lucas refused, but in the end he gave in and when to see the dragon. The creature thought it was a sound idea, and was delighted to be able to help his friend once more. But then hardly a year went by and the wife insisted:
"If we could buy a castle and some villages, we would become counts." Lucas, tired of his wife's nagging, went once more to see the dragon in his cave, and the latter granted his request. The couple received a dukedom. Not long afterwards, the wife wanted to go and live at court.
One day, the new duchess saw the queen arriving in her golden carriage, dessed in silks, with silver farthingales, and wearing fabulous jewels. Her eyes glinting with ambition, she said: "My good Lucas, it has occurred to me that when we have a son, if there is a war he will have to go the front as an officer, and he might die in combat. It would be much better if we became monarchs so that our son would be in less danger. Your friend the dragon will grant us this wish."
"Don't talk nonsense," he replied. His wife cried and entreated him until finally Lucas decided to visit the dragon who greeted him warmly.
"Friend," said the dragon after listening to his story, "your wife is too ambitious. She will never leave you in peace. She will never have enough and she will always want more, but I have the answer. Come into the cave."
And the dragon showed his guest into a cosy room where beautiful young women were singing and dancing.
"Now you are my prisoner. These girls will keep you company and will see that your every wish is carried out, for they are my slaves, but you will not be able to leave the cave other than in my company and you will not return to see your wife."
From then on the good man lived happily with the dragon and the maidens. As for Lucas's wife, she had to dress in mourning, convinced that her husband had finnally been devoured by the monster, just as she had predicted from the beginning.
A Stay At the Waters Kingdom:
Through the vineyards and the olive groves of the South of France, at the foot of the proud castles of the lords of Provence and along the villages with the tiled roofs of their vassal, ran the Rhône whose majestic course could not, it seemed, conceal a dragon. And, however, in its depths, close to the small town of Beaucaire where the curve of the river is directed towards the sea, was hidden the cave of Drac.
The monster expert in sorcery, Drac liked the human flesh and enjoyed to hunt the mortals. Sometimes, he left the river to go to Beaucaire where, on the place of the market, he wandered, invisible to the eyes of humans, in the shade of the plane trees in the middle of the fish baskets and the fruit and vegetable inventories. Cold, with a pale glance, the dragon observed the women chattering with the merchants and, from a swift claw, sharp-edged, removed a child whom his parents had, for a moment, neglected to supervise.
Sometimes, for the simple pleasure, Drac attracted the humans in his river to trap them. He was doing this one day, for a strange purpose. Here is exactly what occurred:
By beautiful afternoon of summer, under a burning sun bathing the city and the fields, a young woman went at the edge of the river to wash there the swathes of her new-born baby. While rubbing her linen vigorously, she threw a distracted glance on gleaming water, and saw floating on the surface, not far from bank, a cup engraved with gold in which shone a pearl.
The young woman did not see the trap. Without taking time to think, she tightened the arm to seize the object but the cup scintillating at the sunray deviated out of her range. Again, she leaned very far ahead, stretched and, as one could envisage it, lost balance abruptly.
As she fell in the water, an invisible claw seized her wrist. The young woman tried in vain to break free. The irresistible grasp dragged her downwards. Right before she sank, whereas she felt her skirt fill up water, she had a last vision of the ground with the scattered linen drying on grass and her crying baby, then the Rhône engulfed her.
She returned to her senses in a crystal cave. Beyond the translucent walls, several long algae undulated, as rocked by the breeze. Fishs slipped by among grasses. Close to her was posed the gold cup containing the pearl which she had wanted to seize. Then she saw her kidnapper. Enormous, the dragon with the shining scales contemplated her, lying close to the cup.
Fascinated by his emerald glance, she tried to rise and felt her memories of her life of the surface to be erased: her child, her husband, her house of Beaucaire, the fields, the silver olive-trees all around the sunny city, all this faded and grew blurred, like the memories of dreams. She did not hear nothing more in her head except the words of the dragon whose voice had resonances of a gong. She could only subdue to the will of the monster.
Drac had taken her because she was young and robust, and because she nursed herself her baby. The dragon needed the milk of a mortal to nourish his own young, a fragile freshly hatched creature. Thus, taken with the snares of a magic spell, the young woman became the slave of Drac and... the nurse of a dragon.
In the dim green light of her crystal prison, the days passed monotonously. The prisoner was rocked by the movements the water and bewitched by the dragon. She lived in a kind of trance, nursing the young of Drac and looking after him with all the tenderness of a mother. She slept when the dragon gave her the command and absorbed food he presented to her. Through the opalescent walls of the cave, she observed the movements of the river and its inhabitants; the striped of green and gold pike, the sinuous eel, the trout as fast as the thunder had become to her as familiar as her formerly neighbors of Beaucaire. In the watery world which surrounded her, the rocks and the algae had become the fields and the wood of her abolished past.
The visions came to her without her knowledge of the evil spells of the dragon. Every evening, on the command of Drac, she anointed the eyes of the young with a balsam intended to give him the piercing vision of a dragon and, each time the nurse rub her eyes, she impregnated them with traces of the ointment and thus received a piece of the magical capacity of the creature.
Seven years passed. The young of the dragon became large and strong, and the day came where Drac did not need anymore the services of his captive. However, since she had nourished his offspring, He did not kill her and, after having called on her the charms of forget and sleep, he brought her back to the fresh air.
When she awake on bank of the river not far from her home, the young woman felt disorientated. She preserved the confused memory of a burning sun day, the white and wet linen spread out in grass and of the merry laughter of her baby who played beside her. But now she was alone, the evening fell, the lights of the city were lit up one after another. She hesitated one moment then moved towards the city, and regained her house.
The door was opened for the freshness of the evening; she crosses the threshold. Two familiar faces turned toward her, those of a bearded man and a young boy who make her remember her husband in his youth. They were disfigured each other for a moment. Then, under the eyes of the astonished child, the man pushed a cry, sprang and took her in his arms. Her husband, who had believed her drowned and had cried her for seven years, overpowered her with questions, but she was unable to answer, having no memory of the universe of the dragon.
The young boy, her son, remained mute in front of this stranger in rags whose silence worried him.
But the love of the man for his wife was so deep and his joy so sharp for this reunion that the child soon adopted the unknown stranger. Her neighbors accepted her in the same way although her seven years absence remained for all a complete mystery. She dreamed of dragons, she often said and her entourage listened to it with indulgence. Slowly, she took again her peaceful existence of the old days, being occupied with the domestic tasks, taking care of the father and the son, working in the fields accompanied by the other villagers.
The life had thus followed its course, serene and without troubles, but, as she went one day on the market place, suddenly, among the fish and vegetable salesmen, she saw appear Drac. The shining scales, he dominated crowd, his enormous head almost at the level of the roofs. His green eyes shone of a charming glare but all the busy merchants and the variegated crowd of the barges were not aware of him. The monster was visible only for the young woman. When she fetch a cry, he threw on her a penetrating glance.
"You see me, mortal?" a voice asked in her head.
"I see you, dragon," she answered and at the same moment she remembered the seven lost years.
She remained motionless when a claw of the dragon dropped on her and covered her left eye.
"You still see me?" asked the dragon. She answered yes. The claw posed on her right eye and, from the other, she distinguished nothing more than the crowd and the inventories from the market. Docile, she says to Drac that she did not see him any more. At the same moment, a fulgurating pain was irradiated in her head. From his claw, the dragon had torn off the eye that could saw him.
During many years, the woman lived, one-eyed, re-telling without rest the story of the dragon. The inhabitants believed her insane and refused to take account of the warnings which she persisted to gives them. Thus, every year, of the children continued to disappear on the market place and nobody, never, knew why.