There Be Dragons
There have been DRAGONS and DRAGON Slayers
DRAGONS Alive and Well in this day and Age
IN THE BEGINNING
Dragons possibly have their origins in what our ancestors saw and interpreted. Perhaps it is no coincidence that tales of dragons can be found throughout the world and also the remains of dinosaurs.
The Saint George rugby team in NSW, Australia is often referred to as The Dragons because of the legend of St. George slaying the dragon.
From the Chinese New Year dragon that roamed the Sydney shops when I was young and may still do so to the Jabberwocky, who may not be a dragon at all, to the outer space dragon of Star Trek legend, it has been quite a trip. What's more, it isn't over.
Vikings raided the coasts of Britain and France in dragon ships. What's more, the end of the world as we know it, Ragnarok, would according to the Vikings, involve one fierce dragon.
There seems to be a connection in legend between King Arthur and a sky dragon. Can only someone with such a connection rule over the British? They say Arthur is the once and future king. Will he return?
The Chinese Dragon Dance was and is an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations.
There is also a traditional Golden Dragon Dance performed in Japan. In both instances it is hoped that the dragon will bring good luck.
Today Chinese dragon boat races are run not only in China but, at given times, in New South Wales, Australia.
Writers, readers, special effects people and viewers are all drawn to dragons. Soldiers have carried the symbol of the dragon into battle and national beliefs have been founded around the dragon.
According to the Chinese certain years favor the dragon.
OF Welsh DRAGONS And English DRAGON Slayers!
An interest in British dragons dates back to a time before the Roman invasion of England and has continued unbroken up till this day and age.
Monarchs have been associated with sky dragons. A good example of this would be Arthur Pendragon. Yes, the King Arthur of the Round Table who, legend has it, took the sword from the stone.
The long time symbol of Wales is the winged red dragon. Did King Arthur take this symbol with him into battle? Some scholars say yes.
There is an old tale about the red dragon defeating a white dragon and thus claiming the sky. Wouldn't it really be something to have a winged terror on your side? Add to this the connection made between the red dragon and the stars.
The dragon also features in the Book of Kells, a very early Irish Bible with pagan as well as Christian symbolism.
In the King James version of the English Bible, as well as other versions, there are plenty of examples of dragons. For some reason these dragons tend not to be on the side of goodness and righteousness. Perhaps it has something to do with the patron saint of England, Saint George, supposedly slaying a dragon. Perhaps it has more to do with Hebrew beliefs that are featured in the Old Testament.
Well, Saint George and the dragon are forever connected and it is difficult to note the English cross of Saint George without thinking of the dragon as well.
There is a church in Greece where you have represented in art the slaying of the dragon by Saint George.
Curiously enough, when they were doing renovations in the basement, it was discovered that the Christian church stands on top of an old temple dedicated to Hercules. There is even some classical art depicting Hercules slaying the Hydra.
Is there much difference between slaying a dragon as opposed to slaying a hydra. Well, with the hydra's ability to grow heads I would say the hydra would have been harder to beat.
Mind you a creature that might be able to breath fire has got to be a real challenge for anyone. Was the hydra the Ancient Greek form of the dragon? I would say a good argument for this point of view could be raised.
The second of the Alice books by Lewis Carroll (1872) features a nonsense poem about a creature that seems to me to be a somewhat exotic dragon. It has jaws that bite, claws that catch, eyes of flame and it seems important to the storyteller that the creature be slain.
What's more, it seems to me the Jabberwocky has always been illustrated as a dragon like being. It does, however, retain the mystery of not being totally interpreted as something the semi-fictional Saint George would go after.
In 1898 The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame was born. In this tale a poetry loving and quite peaceful dragon is befriended by a boy. The townsfolk, however, get wind of the dragon's existence and call for Saint George to do some slaying.
Well, Saint George and the dragon meet but, instead of fighting like they are supposed to, they have a chat. In the end a fight is staged for the townsfolk in which the dragon is supposedly defeated by Saint George and then reforms into being a beast the townsfolk can accept. The setting is Oxfordshire, England, Kenneth Grahame's home turf.
It should perhaps be noted that in the 19th Century there was a lot of interest in the bones of dinosaurs and other ancient creatures. In 1854 there were dinosaurs designed and sculpted by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, with the aid of Sir Richard Owen, the then celebrated dinosaur expert, placed near the Crystal Palace, London.
Since that time the man made dinosaurs have fallen on hard times. They are no longer considered to be true replicas of what the dinosaurs they depict were really like. Even so, they were a brave attempt to get it right and they did cause a sensation when first introduced to the public.
They no doubt created a longing for dragons amongst both writers and the reading public. Out of all this came Ann Coates' whimsical work, Dinosaurs Don't Die (1975).
In this children's book, the dinosaur models created by Hawkins come to life and a young boy befriends one of the dinosaurs. In the early 21st Century much care has been taken to restore these creations back into good order. What they lacked and continue to lack in authenticity they more than make up for in being the stuff of Victorian and perhaps 20th and 21st Century dreams.
For over three decades, before the camera and in paperbacks, Doctor Who has faced various types of dragon. The third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, had dealings with the Draconians, a race of lizard like humanoids with a culture similar to that of feudal Japan. They were and are lizards with honor.
Then there was the time this third Doctor had to contend with dinosaurs brought into the 20th Century. In the fourth Doctor's adventure, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, one of the weapons leveled at the doctor, played by Tom Baker, was on a very dragon like platform.
In Terror of the Zygons this doctor not only tackled a race of slimy lizard like humanoids but also the famous Loch Ness monster. Lets face it, you can't get anything more dragon like or more dinosaur like than the Loch Ness monster.
In 1987 Ace and the Doctor came face to face with a Dragon in the Doctor Who adventure Dragonfire.
In 1996, Ted Danson starred in Loch Ness, a film about the monster and how sometimes it is better to leave a legend as a legend rather than run the risk that it might be destroyed by modern humans.
Many of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels touch upon dragons of various kinds. In The Color of Magic (1983) there are dragons that only exist to those who believe in them.
For STAR TREK Novelists There Be DRAGONS On Other Planets
The Disney studios in the USA have been playing around with dragons for some time now. In the 1940 animation film Fantasia there is a rather fierce and menacing dragon.
In 1963 Disney's animated film Sword in the Stone came out. There is a wonderful scene in this movie where a wicked witch turns herself into a dragon.
One Irish American writer who put her all into creating dragons was novelist Anne McCaffrey whose Pern novels were loaded with the winged wonders.Her dragons are intelligent as well as being fire breathing.
In 1977 Disney put out Pete's Dragon, starring Helen Reddy and Mickey Rooney. It was about a boy and his dragon. The plot was weak and the special effects not up to the standards set by films such as Mary Poppins. Even so, there was a friendly if somewhat silly looking dragon wandering about in a fictional town in Maine, USA in the early years of the 20th Century.
It was inevitable that dragons would eventually enter into Star Trek lore. If there were no longer any dragons on earth then surely there must to dragons out there in outer space.
in the novel Here There be Dragons by John Peel (1993) there is a village and a castle of humans on another planet who were transplanted there by aliens during the Europe's middle ages. Thanks in part to the wild life, which includes dragon like creatures, these humans haven't advanced much since the transplanting. In this novel we get to see a down and dirty view of what medieval times were really like and, thanks to the Enterprise's holodeck, we get to see medieval times the way the romantics envisioned it to have been. All up, it is quite an enjoyable Star Trek, the Next Generation read.
Dragon's Honor, a 1996 Star Trek the Next generation novel by K. Johnson and G. Cox, takes the crew of the Enterprise to a planet of humans which based on ancient China. Here the image of the dragon is held in high esteem.
In 2003 Dean Cain, who played Superman in Lois and Clark; The New Adventures of Superman, starred in Dragon Fighter. Through a cloning process a British style flying dragon is brought back into existence in a secret lab and then cuts loose. It should be noted that, even in the early years of the 21st Century with jet fighters on the attack, dragons are not easy to kill.
DRAGONS and DRAGON like Creatures
In New South Wales, Australia there is a bank called Saint George. Its logo is a happy green dragon. In New South Wales, on the south coast, there is a rugby team sometimes referred to as Saint George and sometimes referred to as the Dragons. Their colors are red and white.
In my novel, Desk Job, there is a dragon like creature living on an alien planet. It is not a friendly creature. It happens to breath fire and it is hard to kill. All up, it is a creature best avoided. It is similar in some ways to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.
The praying mantis is dragon like and there are quite a few praying mantises to be found in the office in Sydney, Australia in Desk Job as well as on the above mentioned alien planet. On Earth the praying mantis' faithful companion is the rather subservient dung beetle.
I hope you have enjoyed my little salute to dragons and those who enjoy tales about them. There is, of course, a lot more that can be said about dragons and those who are involved with them.
More by this Author
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