We have seen dragons in many cultures and taking many forms. There are many looks to them and many origins as well. Within the fantasy lore, one dragon appearance is seen quite often and is recognizable.
Its appearance has become timeless and crossed from folklore to literature to movies and inspire centuries of artists from many fields.
In Celtic mythology, dragons come in two different shapes. We have the more commonly known with wings and four legs. Then, we have the sea dragon which looks more like a sea serpent. However, it does remain in the dragon family of the Celtic mythology.
Dragons are associated with the gods of Celtic mythology and among the most powerful ones as well. They are the protectors and guardians of all that is living and command respect. Dragons are wholly loved by the Celtic people from texts written and also, by those who adorned the crest of a dragon.
Something I didn’t know was that there is always a Catholic dragon who has taken over guarding either a castle or cavern filled with gold. This dragon is a typically a dragon with scaly skin, almost lizard-like, wings reminiscent of a bat, therefore, having a membrane that permits the ability of flight instead of feathers although there are rare representations of dragons with feathered wings.
Some variations also show dorsal bony spikes and of course, like a bat, the dragon has back legs, and its hands are attached to the wings giving it its web shape, leaving only two fingers at the end of each wing. Moreover, the dragon is known to have a long scaly tail reminiscent again of a reptile, measuring about the length of its entire body.
In folktales, mean dragons are often depicted as greedy, making it more apparent that this is to have a hero slay the dragon in the adventure. Meanwhile, the kind ones are often depicted as resourceful, a source of wisdom and loyalty. Dragons can be both good and bad, and that is the reason why I was surprised to see dragons in Catholicism as they had reduced Elves and Fairies to evil entities.
The Magic of Dragons
Dragons are known to spit a significant amount of fire to protect either their lair or treasures or even people they are sworn to protect. Their fire coming from their belly up to their elongated throat — again, lizard-like, out of their mouth and have a vast range of targeting what or who they wish to set on fire.
Other than their apparent torch ability, dragons have other skills that are unique to them. While researching European dragons, I have found that dragon blood is quite precious and treasured. It can keep the animal alive for centuries if not a millennia while even in particular literature, immortal. Their blood is also believed to be poisonous or acid like to anyone who would touch it.
What seems to be common among European folktales when it comes to dragons is their love for an underground lair. They might be creatures capable of flying only by flapping their hands up and down, however, like their close “flight relatives,” the bats, they prefer to be antisocial and keep to themselves away from humans in caverns and sleep for long periods of time. This particularity can also let us know that by such behavior, they are an ancient species evolved of Earth.
Dragons in the Dark Ages were well present in texts. Amongst Catholics of the time, most of them were evil, except for those guarding castles because of the dragon’s enormous stature. However, when we go up north, the Welsh saw them quite differently.
Dragons in Germanic folktales are depicted as again, guarding treasures of great value. They are hiding from humans, and over an extended period, if the dragon is believed to have left. Humans would then be known to enter the dragon’s lair where the treasure resided. They would then fall ill in some way. That specification has me believe that it must be due to their acidic or poisonous blood and most probably body fluids.
Wyvern Not Dragon
In both England and Portugal, these countries once used dragons to represent their crest, but later on, these dragons became what is called a Wyvern. Those creatures, though closely resembling dragons, have quite a few differences.
One difference being that they have two back legs, but no arms as their wings are their only other limbs depriving them of fingers.
However, I am keeping this fascinating creature for another article. Therefore I am now going to get back to the fascinating dragon’s!
Through research, I have discovered that discussing and informing others about dragons couldn’t be achieved in just one article as it would turn into an entire encyclopedia with all of the information that you get! So, all that I can say is that up until now, dragons seem to share two extremes and it keeps me wondering what is at the core of these extreme personalities.
I want to go deeper with dragons and study their variances throughout the Arthurian literature, England, Celtic, Iberian, Italian and Scandinavian. Each of these has their particular view of dragons, and it has me wondering: did they somehow at one time exist and if so, are any remains unfindable because they would spontaneously combust therefore leaving no traces of their entire existence behind?
One thing is for sure; I am more passionate about them now than I ever was before!
The OCD Elf