Reptile History
Dragon History

 

Dragon History

Reptiles of the future are of course just speculation. But since it is part of the T Rex Museum mission statement to study this subject we will present it here. Is it possible that reptiles could ever evolve into something we would call a dragon? Well, they do appear to come under the heading imagination. Some would disagree and say they came from our past and that is as may be. But as a museum we would rather explore them under the heading imaginary reptiles. And a good way to start is to look at some of the folklore written about them.

How about dinosaurs and humans living together in a land outside time. The talented author and painter James Gurney has a delightful world called Dinotopia which we will explore shortly.

There has been a surprisingly large amount of information on dragons preserved in either oral or written form as far back as mankind has kept records of any kind. In fact there is so much information that we are going to break it up geographically to manage it.

His is by no means encyclopedic and much more will be added as time goes by. Most stories have multiple versions and all tend to go on at great length so are summarized here for the sake of space. This is a good start on the subject of what earlier civilizations recorded on dragons. We estimate that we will have to add 10 times what is here to cover all the know dragon historical records.

History of Mesopotamian Dragons

Let's first look some of the earlier stories about Dragons. The very first "written" stories (that we have uncovered so far) on the creation of the world is from the Sumerian civilization generally in the area we call Mesopotamia. This area which later became Persia and then part of various Middle East civilization is generally found between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now Iraq and Iran.

The actual word "dragon" comes from the Greek language much later than this time so any mundane interpretation of creatures by this name before the Greeks must be by descriptions and attributes and not by name. They were generally considered "monsters" even if they had divine attributes.

The very origins and foundations of the entire Mesopotamian culture comes from the stories, culture, and ethics of these Sumerians. The later civilizations of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and then Grecians all got much of their philosophy, cosmology, and religion from the earlier stories/ myths of the Sumerians so it behooves us to first look at these early very early stories and pay particular attention to them..

In fact so many of the stories sprout the same type of general story line that we can actually divide them into two categories; Gods versus monsters (dragons) before creation and heros versus monsters after creation. Later versions of the stories often change the names of the parties about but maintain the basic story line. Is it possible that all these stories came from a single source and was later simply adapted, adopted, and some elements changed to suit the civilization telling it? This is a possibility to be considered about these first stories. Many later dragon stories will also be changed in the same manner by different areas or countries but with the same original tale.

The earlier myths often have a god, usually a storm god or a god armed with thunder and lightning bolts, chasing a dragon that has something to do with water. Examples are almost all of the Mesopotamian stories, the Indian god Indra, both Chinese and Japanese myths, the Mayan Rain Gods, the Egyptian sea dragon/serpent Apophis and pursuer Re, and even many early Semitic stories.

From the very start Dragons were seen as guarding treasures, holding back the floods, and dispensing knowledge. They also are battled by gods or heroes from the very beginning. In many cases stories from the Sumerians were borrowed and slightly changed by the preceding civilizations. These same stories were very similar in content but with the actual names of the participants changed.

The first written commentary, found on clay tablets, uses the names of Asag, a monster/dragon (sometimes named as Kur) and Ninurta, a god/hero. Later we are introduced to this same god/hero as Marduk by the Babylonians and the dragons name has been changed to Tiamet. There is some confusion here as the preserved evidence is not in good shape or complete.

In the Babylonian version called the "Enuma elish" Tiamet is one of the original pair of god and goddess at the founding of the universe. From these two all later creatures, good or bad, came into creation. This Goddess is in effect the "mother of all."

In the beginning of the tale Tiamet defends her offspring and all of creation from all the minions and forces of evil. But later, when her husband Apsu is killed, she apparently goes mad and decides to end all creation in her grief. This irrational action pits her against all the other Gods and one of her offspring, named Marduk, is talked into opposing her.

In the fight that ensues Marduk finally kills her by shooting an arrow into her mouth as she tries to swallow him. She is a shape shifter as most or all early Dragons are assumed to be so fought him in different guises. Even time seems to be effect which will come up again in the dragons versions. After the battle he uses her dragon body to form the earth and from death we have life and substance.

The first epic of the hero or human and dragon encounter is the "Epic of Gilgamesh." This we know of by clay tablets from Semitic origin. But these tablets are telling about much earlier versions of the story. Here the hero is pitted against a Dragon named Humbaba who also has shape shifting abilities. Gilgamesh with the aid of the god Shamash finally kills the Dragon but gets in trouble with those other gods who were friends with or supported the Dragon and so has a pyrrhic victory and some penalties for his action are imposed.

Not much later we find the Egyptians with a similar story of either Re the sun god or Seth the hero destroying the snake or Dragon named Apophis. Again there is much confusion and contradictions. In this story both the side of good and the side of evil have attributes of the dragon. So once again we see the idea that the winner of the contest with the dragon take on the attributes of the dragon.

The Hittites have a story of the battle of a storm god with the Dragon named Illuyankas which also has contradictions and different versions but also follows the earlier stories in general details.

Later on we get several versions from the Grecian civilization. There is the story of Zeus fighting Typhon. Typhon is described as "Up from his shoulders there grew a hundred snake heads, those of a dreaded dragon." We will deal with the relationship between snakes and dragons a little latter. But suffice for now to say they are essentially the same. And again this monster/dragon is slain by a mighty thunderbolt from Zeus.

Very similar to this is the story of Apollo and Python. Python is alternately described in different versions of the story as a giant snake or a female dragon with many coils. In any case in some versions she is killed by Apollo when the young god shoots an arrow down her throat. But in other version she is taken into his service and becomes a protected oracular serpent at Delphi. It is interesting to note that both Grecian and Romans had serpents or dragons that were kept at various temples including Delphi that were considered to have great knowledge.

It is also interesting that Hercules himself consulted the Oracle of Delphi and was directed on his "12 labors" by the advice he got their. Included in his labors were the destroying of the dragons Ladon and Hydra of the Seven heads.

A good example of another Greek hero is Perseus who instead of fighting for good versus evil killed a dragon that was about to devour the princess Andromeda in order to marry her and gain a kingdom. The dragon was sent by the god Poseidon or Neptune to avenge an insult.

Another hero dragonslayer was Jason who along with his companions the Argonauts had to overcome the unsleeping "dragon of a thousand coils" who guarded the golden fleece. In one version the dragon is ensorcelled into sleeping and they stole away unharmed with the treasure. In another Jason fought the dragon who was a sea dragon and lost the fight and so was swallowed. it was only by intersession of the god Athene that the dragon gave up her prey.

An interesting story related to Jason is that of Cadmus who later went on to be the King of Thebes. He was also given advice by the Oracle of Delphi (who was herself a dragon) that eventually led him to fight and kill a golden crested dragon at the spring of Ares. For killing this dragon Cadmus was forced to serve the god Ares for a year but was then allowed to found his city from the children of the dragons teeth.

History of Eastern Dragons

It has been often said that the finding of dinosaur bones by ancient Chinese was the original basis for their "dragon" stories and myths. In reality there is no definitive proof that this is so. It does seem to make sense as large bones from an unknown large creature (i.e. dinosaurs) would cause a superstitious people to believe in large mythical beast such as dragons.

But this story actually appears to belong to the category of “folklore”, rather than anthropology. The Chinese were a highly civilized peoples and had definite ideas on Dragons which were studied, written about, and philosophized on as if they were rather common creatures to these peoples. This is an attribute that often pervades dragons stories worldwide; offhanded casual acceptance of their presence but debate on what it meant.

The reality in ancient China actually appears to be that Dragons were believed in for far longer than peasants were finding large petrified bones. Some of the earliest writings from the Far East mention Dragons, long before it was reported that bones from this creature were found.

In many early mythologies from Asia we find Dragons as either God's or messengers to the God's. Again like in earlier Mideast stories the Dragons are most often associated with water and wisdom. But unlike the Mideast and later European stories we find little to no fighting and killing of or between Dragons & Gods or normal people and Dragons.

Instead of fear and loathing or even outright worship, here we find Dragons as being desirable to an area and good luck rather than ill falls to those areas where dragons abide. They are often prayed to for deliverance from bad fortune, bad weather, and even bad men. In fact, very early in China's history the emperors are said to be communing with the Dragons to get the advice of the Gods on how to govern their peoples. But somewhere along the way things changed.

One very widespread story is of the Dragon Kings. They were known as the Four Brothers when they traveled together. All were water dragons and served the August Personage Jade who commanded them when, where and how much rain to deliver to the earth.

Each lived in a Crystal palace and ruled one of the Four Seas via an army of crabs and fish, watchman, and ministers. Their names were Ao Ch’in, Ao Jun, Ao Kuang, and Ao Shun. There is no indication that these kings directly communicated with mundane humans. But their ministers, who are presumably all dragons, apparently did.

In Chinese society individualism was strongly discouraged for most of their history. Instead, one was to subjugate ones will to the gods or their representatives including the authorities in power. And that power usually started with the emperor. The emperor himself was to have received his authority and blessings from the heavens and used it for the betterment of all the peoples. But how often in our human histories was this arraignment going to last...

Originally it was believed that the dragons were the ones who talked directly to the Gods. The Emperor was given the God's will for his people and he in turned passed on this message to the people through his growing bureaucracy. In this way the Emperor was seen to be sitting on the throne by the will of the Gods and thus divine himself as long as he passed on the god's will as spoken to him.

As time went on the Emperors apparently decided to cut the Imperial Dragons out of the deal and claimed to be able to communicate directly with the God's. Of course to protect this monopoly no one but the Emperor was allowed to try and communicate with the Dragons.

This is a subtle but definite indication of the strength of the belief that dragons did exist and needed to be communicated with. Otherwise there would have been no reason to give the “no communication” decree and the harsh follow up with strict enforcement.

At this point the Imperial Dragons were said to have 5 claws and other lessor Dragon's 4 or even 3 claws. It was now death to try and "communicate with an imperial Dragon." But there were still those who did not believe that the emperor was the only one who should be allowed to gain wisdom by talking to the wisest of the God's messengers, the Dragons.

There are more than a few stories from the Far East about various men who sought out this draconic source of wisdom. But to try and discredit them the Imperial court called them "four-men" or those who talked to less than Imperial Dragons. The implication was that only the Emperor could talk to a real messenger from the God's.

Later on these same individuals who learned and used dragon wisdom became derided as Foemen. But all of these outlawed individuals seeking out Dragons were supposed to prove their worth to talk to these wise creatures by helping out villagers against bandits or oppressive bureaucrats and such.

The tales told of these dragon inspired warriors were very much like the quests and deeds done by the much later heros and the Knights of the Round Table.

JAPANESE DRAGON TALE

The Japanese also had Dragon Kings. One of these was named Rinjin or Ryujin. Like the Chinese Dragon Kings he also had a palace under the sea. Like many other dragon stories this one has several versions. In one case it is about his queen and octopus and in another it is about his daughter and jellyfish.

In the more popular version the jellyfish was a handsome creature with strong bones, ornate fins, and walked on four feet. The princess had a craving for monkey liver and Rinjin liking to spoil his only daughter sent the jellyfish out to acquire one monkey.

To oblige his king the jellyfish found a monkey and invited him to dine at the kings palace. The monkey agreed but on the way back seeing that the monkey was a fine creature confessed why the king really wanted him.

The monkey said that it was alright but that he had left his liver in a special jar at home and would go and fetch it. Eventually it became apparent that the monkey wasn’t coming back and the jellyfish returned to the Dragon King and told his story.

In his rage for the incompetence shown the Dragon beat the jelly fish into a pulp and exiled him from his palace. That is why to this day jellyfish are in the shape they are in.

KOREAN DRAGON TALE

The Koreans also had their very own dragon kings as did the Vietnamese. According to the Chinese their “true dragons” had five claws. All others had 4 or 3. Japanese dragons were said to have 4 claws while Korean and Vietnamese dragons had 3.

VIETNAMESE DRAGON TALE

A Vietnamese story of the Dragonkings starts when a kindly man named Slowcoach finds a cute little animal named Cibet. But his mean brother in jealousy kills the little critter who is then buried under a tree.

Every time that Slowcoach visits the grave silver rains down on him. This does not get missed by the brother who also goes to the grave only to be rained on by mud.

In anger he cuts down the tree and leaves. Slowcoach decides to use the fallen tree so shapes it into a food trough for his pigs. They of course do marvelously well and this also is noticed by the brother who burns the trough.

Only a little piece of wood escapes the fire and this is fashioned into a fish hook by the gentle Slowcoach. But when he puts the hook into the lake the water raises, the pole and line disappear into this turbulence, the waves and almost drown him. Out of the water walks a beautiful woman who says she is the dragon kings daughter and that the hook is caught in her fathers mouth.

Slowcoach agrees too free it and she turns him into a bubble and takes him to her father. The fish hook removed the dragon king rewards him with a bottle containing a little blue fish.

After returning home with his reward which he sits next to his bed life goes on. But one day Slowcoach realized that every time he left his home and came back afterwards it was cleaned. To solve this mystery he came back unexpectedly one day and caught the little blue fish turning into the dragon kings beautiful daughter and cleaning the house.

In order to keep her there forever Slowcoach broke the bottle and asked her to marry him. She agree on the condition that he make her some bones which he did. They lived happily ever after.

As a side note the jealous brother wanting to also get a beautiful wife jumped into the lake in search of the dragon king, but knowing him for what he was the dragon king turned him into a fish. And that was the last anyone saw him except that Slowcoach seemed to spend a lot more time fishing when he wasn’t with his new bride.

JAPANESE DRAGON TALE

Another Japanese story tells of a dragon named OGoncho who lives in a deep but small fissure lake not far from the Kyoto castle named Ukisima. The area of Japan where the white dragon lives is called Yama-shiro and is reputed to be a former home of some demi-god. Every half century the dragon changes into a golden bird and flies around. If anyone hears this bird calling it is a warning that famine will soon be upon the land.

INDIA DRAGON TALE

From the Indian subcontinent comes multiple stories of the serpent-dragon named Vitra. He was said to have absorbed the cosmic waters from the universe and coiled around a great mountain. In order to bring water to both the gods and the humans Indra battled this dragon and proved victorious when he used his thunderbolts to kill this monster and released the waters of life for all.

This tale is very much like several of the Mesopotamian stories and Vitra is sometimes described as the personification of winter. When winter is killed by the Gods water is released in the spring. The name Vitara is sometimes used in place of Vitra but often this is a completely separate dragon.

ISLAND OF BORNEO DRAGON TALE

Another interesting tale comes from the Island of Borneo about a dragon named Kinabalu. He lived at the summit of a mountain of his name. He was the possessor of a fabled pearl of immense size. The Emperor of China heard about the pearl and sent an army to get it for him but the dragon killed all but a few. These survivors return and told the emperor about the disaster and said he could not be overcome by strength of arms. So the emperor sent his two clever sons named Wee San and Wee Ping to get the pearl.

Wee Ping could not find any way to get the pearl but his brother came up with an idea. When the dragon went away to hunt for food they would steal the pearl and replace it with an identical looking one.

The first part of the plan worked as Wee San used a kite to get to the top of the Mountain to steal and replace the pearl. Unfortunately Kinabalu was not fooled and went after the two sons who were sailing away in a large junk with the real pearl.

A fight ensued and Wee San ordered the sailors to heat up a cannon ball red hot and shoot it at the fast approaching dragon. The dragon thinking it was the pearl swallowed it and in doing so was killed and fell into the sea.

Upon arriving home in China Wee Ping lied to his father about who had actually succored the pearl and was given palaces and rewards. Rather than fighting with his older brother Wee San left his homeland and went back to Borneo where because of his good deeds and wisdom eventually became a king.

The lying brother Wee Ping did not get to enjoy his rewards as he was either punished by the Gods or else there was a curse on the possessor of the stolen dragon pearl. Nothing but sadness and misery befell Ping and he died a broken and poor man.

INDIA DRAGON TALE

Another tale from the Orient is of one of the only Dragons ever to be converted to a human religion. This Dragon was named Apalala and lived in the Swat river. Supposedly this young dragon was converted by the Buddha himself. He then went around teaching others until he tried it with other dragons who drove him away but allowed him to continue teaching the humans which is why dragons were here in the first place.

HAWAIIAN DRAGON STORY

From the islands of Hawaii come stories of the mother of all dragons called MO-O-INANEA. She is know as the “self reliant” dragon and not much is known of her other than all others come from her. The natives are very reluctant to talk about this dragon and some speculate she may still be around and is being protected by the Hawaiians.

AUSTRALIAN & NEW ZEALAND DRAGONS

From the Island of New Zealand Polynesians comes a story of a dragon monster (called a taniwha) by the name of Hotu-puku. It seems that travelers going between Rotorua and Taupo started disappearing.

Thinking that neighboring war parties were responsible these people sent out their own war band. At a place called Kapenga they instead encountered the dragon Hotu-puku and were attacked. During the fight several warriors were killed and eaten and the war band had to flee.

Organizing a new dragon hunting party was a man named Pitaka. His plan was to hang a noose across a trail and using himself as bait. The plan worked and when Hotu-puku tried to grab the man he was caught in the rope and strangled.

Just to be sure this was the right dragon the party cut open the dragon and sure enough founds the remains of the earlier victims. These victims were buried and then the dragon was roasted and eaten.

For his bravery and daring Pitaka became known as a taniwha expert and was rewarded as well as in great demand. His next exploits come at a place called Te Awan-hou where a fierce sea dragon named Peke-haua lived.

This dragon lived in a deep water filled lair called Te Waro-uri and could not be easily approached. For this adventure Pitaka used some companions and some magic. He descended alone into the watery lair and tied a magic vine onto the dragon while he slept. He then escaped up to his fellow dragon hunters. Other magic vines and traps were set above the dragon and then he was hauled unceremoniously up out of his home and in the fighting became further entangled and then finally killed. This ended the second adventure of our hero.

Next Pitaka went to a place called Kataore near Rotorue in Tiki-tapu. Here some disgruntled villagers told him they were being preyed on by a dragon that had been named Kataore by other locals.

This proved to be a simple execution as the dragon did not flee when the group approached it and it was easily killed. Unfortunately this dragon was actually the pet and friend of chief Tangaroa-mihi and he immediately set of after Pitaka and party and chased them out of the area while killed some of the so called dragon slayers in this battle. This was the last we heard of about Pitaka the dragon slayer.

EUROPEAN DRAGONS

Perhaps the most famous of the European dragons is the tale of St. George's dragon. There are two versions of the incident. The first was told by the frightened villagers and appears to be somewhat of a cover-up.

In it a dragon appears at the village of Cappadocia and threatens to destroy the region. In fear they first feed off the villages sheep and then finally start feeding the maidens via a lottery until only the princess is left.

She is tied to a stake and this is when George came by and killed the dragon. But there is another version that was first repressed by the villagers. But as the older people died their children started telling a different tale.

In this version a dragon moved into the region as often happens when they are driven out by a more powerful dragon or are young ones looking for a territory. Being used to catching and eating whatever he can this dragon starts first with deer and wild game but then discovers the easy pickings the farm animals in the area are.

No people are bothered but eventually someone (no one remembers exactly who) comes up with a plan to feed the relatively tame dragon at a certain place and at a certain time with the villagers sheep. The idea appears to make this a more predictable dragon. Not knowing knowing any better the intelligent but inexperienced dragon goes along with the plan. Then as he grows he needs even more sheep to fuel his growing body. Eventually this growing young dragon finishes all the available sheep and comes into this now small town and starts looking around for some food.

This same bright individual (likely having only sons) who came up with the sheep plan now comes up with a lottery for feeding off the unmarried maidens in the town. Since after sheep they were the most expendable asset the town agreed to the plan.

Unfortunately the town had no idea how much food a dragon needs and how protective of his hunting territory he could become and eventually the princess was the only maiden left. So she went out in her turn to the sacrificial pole. Here St. George came along and rather than slay the young and ignorant beastie lectures him on the evils of eating people and the values of christianity in general. He and the princess then put the tame but confused dragon on a rope and lead him back to the town where he is officially converted to christianity, leaves the area, and troubles the town no more.

AUSTRIAN DRAGON BELIEFS

An interesting and almost “Asian” philosophy on dragons seemed to pervade the Rhine River areas of Austria. Here there were many tales told of the “Butz” which was a goblinesk creature and the “Nachtvolk” which we would call elves. But dragons were in another category altogether. They were not considered supernatural but rather simply an unwanted part of nature like wolves, bears, and mountain cats.

There are portions of manuscripts found in the area of Vorarlbeg (Western Austria) that mentions them in the same breath as losing a sheep to a pack of wolves. It appears they occasionally took a horse, cow, or some sheep but were rather shy about confronting mankind and were thus never seriously feared or hunted.

They were discussed in conclaves of the nobles and determined to be “no threat to the cities and castles” and thus it was though better to leave them to the occasional wandering wise-men and scholars just like in China and Asia. In short they were just another hazard faced by people living in the area but not to be especially feared.

FRENCH DRAGON TALE

Tarasque was said to be a dragon of a different kind. She was reputed to be the daughter of Onachus (a giant serpent) and Leviathan (a water dragon). She came from the sea up the river Rhone and decided to make her home in Southern France. In size she was said to be bigger than 12 elephants, with teeth as large as swords, scales harder than iron, and with a fiery breath.

Here she settled and was said to terrorize the region for many years. Many knights and heros attempted to kill her. She was , however, too powerful and destroyed or drove off all that came against her.

After seven years had gone by a farmer found her skin with nothing left inside it and everyone rejoiced that she had died. But she was a reptile and every 7 years had to shed her skin so quickly reappeared bigger and meaner than ever.

After putting up with her another seven years the villagers tried to lure her into a swamp and to her death, but she refused to be so tricked and destroyed all the remaining bridges in the area in her anger.

Finally, after twenty one years of failure St. Martha was traveling in the area and heard about the villagers plight. She went out to face the dragoness alone in a white dress and armed only with her faith and a jar of holy water. Apparently that was enough as she led Tarasque back to the town where the now docile and trusting creature was hacked to pieces.

In honor of the event a church was build in Martha’s honor and the town was renamed Tarascon.

GERMAN DRAGON TALE

The village of Brand was a remote village in Germany in a mountainous valley. One day a dragon appeared and began eating the villagers cattle and performing mischief toward the poor villagers. Every effort to destroy this dragon ended in failure.

Finally a traveling scholar arrived at Brand and was told of the creature. Warning them that the cure could be as devastating as the dragon this personage gave them the choice of a water or fire to be rid of their nemesis. They chose the water.

The next evening the skies boiled with thunderstorms and the fiercest storm in memory descended on the mountains above the village. At about midnight the storm had increased to a veritable tempest and the whole hillside where the dragon dwelt collapsed. He could be seen outlined in lightning still attempting to stay above the landslide until a massive bolt of electricity struck him and he disappeared into the muddy torrent.

In the morning the valley at its end was completely covered in a landslide of rocks, trees, giant boulders, and mud. Of the dragon there was never again a sight and the area became known as the “dragons grave.” The scholar was also never seen again.

NORSE DRAGON TALE

A famous Norse story was of the dragon Fafnir and Sigurd the dragonslayer. As usual with dragon tales there are several versions of the story. This one starts with the telling of the order of the world and the great serpent Nidhogger which lives at the foot of the tree of life Yggdrasil. Of his kind come the dragons. But the Norse believe that a dragon can be a state of mind also and this tale explores the evils of the human condition.

Once there were two brothers named Regin and Fafnir. They were dwarves. Fafnir was recruited by the gods to kill an enemy of the gods Otter. Having done so he was rewarded by an immense hord of gold. But Fafnir's excessive delight and greed for this gold slowly turned him into a great dragon.

The brother Regin wanted this gold and so persuaded Sigurd (also called Siegfried in some tales) to kill this evil dragon. Together they dug a hole and as Fafnir walked across it Sigurd stuck his sword into the dragon’s unprotected belly and killed him.

It was apparently good luck to eat of certain parts of the dragon and so after Regin cut out the dead creatures heart Sigurd cooked it. As he was taking the heart out of the fire Sigurd burned his fingers and put them into his mouth. The dragons heart had magical properties and even this little taste of the heart allowed the hero to understand the speech of the birds.

The birds told Sigurd that Regin was planning on killing him and take all the gold so the hero loaded all the treasure onto his horse and rode away.

Other versions have the dragon giving the treasure to Sigurd for his nobility and honesty and departing in peace. It is likely that other versions were made into the story of Drachenstein.

EUROPEAN DRAGON TALE (SEVERAL VERSIONS)

Another of the many stories having to do with the power of dragon parts and dragon blood is that of the Wilser dragon. The town of Wilser has a village named Helvetia near it. In this area a dragon came and was playing the usual havoc they apparently can when undupervised by the gods.

The town magistrate approached a convicted murderer and said that if he killed the dragon his banishment would be lifted. The man was called Winckelriedt and he was handy with a sword and so he agreed. In the ensuing fight the dragon was killed, but as the victor caused his sword to be raised in triumph the blood trickled down onto him and he died immediately.

GERMAN DRAGON TALE

There is a village in Germany called Bezau that apparently has had more than one run in with dragons. In the first tale there was once a very prosperous farm on a hill named Jolerbuhel. One day a beggar came asking for a little money or food. The farmer did not approve of begging so drove him scornfully away.

The stranger shouted back that the stingy farmer was going to be sorry and that he was going to bring back something for the farmer shortly to prove it. The sky suddenly turned dark and black and a cascade of water and debris suddenly came down the nearby creek. In the middle of the flow was the beggar leading a large dragon on a red cord.

As the farmer stood and watched in astonishment the flow of boulders, trees, and mud was being herded toward him by the dragons deft tail. In a matter of minutes the rich farm was destroyed and all within killed by the fraging debris.

Next the stranger took the dragons red cord and led him through the village of Bezau and out the other side never to be seen again.

In the next tale there is also a lake no more than an hours stroll from Bezau. There has always been a legend that there was a large dragon who made the lake his home. The lake is very deep and no one had ever found out exactly how deep it really was.

One day several of the braver youths of the area decided to become heros and find out the exact depth. In the middle of the lake they attempted to fathom the lake bottom . But they changed their minds when a low booming voice said “If thou fathomst me, I will devour thee.”

No one to this day has ever tried to measure the depth of this enchanted dragon lake. This is true even though another story of this same dragon says that he guards a fabulous hord and most believe it is at the bottom of the lake.

ENGLISH DRAGON TALE

There is a deep cleft in the ground in Sussex England named after the dragon who had resided there. His name was Knucker and he was reputed to do the usual mischief that most European Dragons are said to do. In short he wasn’t wanted by the locals.

As usual there are several versions of how he was killed. One is the tried and worn one of the king offering the princess to anyone capable of killing this dragon. And eventually some knight prevailed, killed the dragon and got his reward.

The other two versions are interesting in that they both involved locals poisoning Knucker. One had a local farmer’s son named Jim Pulk who put poison in a pie that the dragon ate and then died. And of course reusing a classic theme the boy then also died from sucking on his hands and forgetting there was still poison on them.

The third version is that the Mayor of the closest city named Arundel offered a reward and a man named Jim Puttock accepted. In this tale Jim put some poison in some pudding and then when confronted by Knucker talked him into trying the pudding. According to an article in the Sussex County Magazine Jim lived to a ripe old age after killing the dragon.

EUROPEAN DRAGON TALE

An ancient Teutonic myth of unknown origins tells the tale of The Black Worm which is another name for a dragon. In this tale the Black was discovered sleeping on a hoard of gold when discovered by a local couple. Since the gold pile was immense the dragon could not quite curl all the around it and this man took advantage of that fact to climb up and pick out choice pieces.

But after grabbing all he could he got greedy and called to his female companion to come up and get her share. Unfortunately this noise woke the dragon and he roared his wrath at their thievery. The man threw down his ill gotten gains and fled. Looking back over his shoulder he saw the dragon and the gold sink out of sight into the ground, never more to be seen.

GERMAN DRAGON TALE

Another ancient German tale is about a hoard left by a scholar under three large boulders. Scholars were often believed to be magical and found in or near the company of dragons.

Atop these boulders was another large rock now called the Galina gorge outcrop. Shepherds used to shelter from the heat or rain under this rock. The story tells of a young shepherd boy who kept finding pieces of silver and gold under them. Eventually the boys father found out and surmised that they were part of the scholars hoard which was now guarded by a dragon.

Going to collect this hoard and climbing under the three boulders the father suddenly encountered a terrible thunderstorm. He escaped but the three boulders were buried until only the large rock on top was left flat on the ground.

Locals still believe that someday there will be another great storm with lightning, terrible winds, and water. Whoever is brave enough to be waiting on the bridge below will become heir to this hord as the dragon leaves.

IRISH DRAGON TALE

The most famous of the dragons of Ireland went by the name of Ollipeist. The story goes that when St. Patrick came to Ireland the first thing he did was rid the island of snakes. But then he turned his attention to the dragons and started imprisoning them. Knowing his fate if he stayed Ollipeist fled the country and in so doing left his mark with his tail in what is now called the Shannon Valley.

EUROPEAN DRAGON TALE

On the Island of Largo was a ruler by the name of Ypocras. Somehow he angered an unnamed goddess who turned his beautiful daughter into a fierce looking dragon. But still her people loved her and called her “The lady of the land” and her father built her a cave inside her former castle.

It was said that if any hero was brave enough to kiss her on the mouth she would revert to the beautiful princess once more. Many would be heros came calling but all went away in fear and died miserably shortly thereafter. The lady is still waiting for her true love.

GERMAN DRAGON TALE

The German village of Sonntag was a prosperous mountain village until one day a dragon appeared. The death and destruction to the region was typical of dragon stories told at this time. Nobody could kill or drive the dragon away.

But one day a Venediger appeared, befriended the dragon and rode away with him. A Venediger was the German word for supernatural being and could be a dwarf or goblin with a love for crystals and rare minerals. It is also the word for the rock merchants from the city of Venice so it was either a small Venician or a dwarf, both with a love of crystals and dragons.

NORSE DRAGON TALE

There are many stories told of Jormungand by the Norse people. He is said to be the offspring of the god of mischief Loki and his bride Angurboda. He is also called the Midgard serpent who lives in the sea and is so long that he encircles the whole planet and has swallowed his own tail. This is why he is also prominent in their stories as the World Serpent. There are to many stories and versions to tell here. But they are another example of dragon and serpent stories told at this time.

GERMAN DRAGON TALE OF NOTE

The city of Heidelburg has always had a love affair with dragons unlike most other parts of Europe. For much of the early middle ages this city seemed to be the very epicenter of friendly dragon activity.

Dragon eggs were first found in the Neckar river nereby. When incubated in the home and raised properly they were grew into loyal protectors of the hearth of the home. The dragons all had the ability to breath fire and so were especially loved by the local blacksmiths who produced the finest steel in the region because of their reptile helpers.

The males of this larger species could fly and a few of the especially brave of the city residents actually became dragon riders. The female dragons were more water lovers and often helped the fishermen. The females were also said to be highly intelligent and some could converse in the human tongues which made them very popular with the scholars and wise-women who would spend much time learning philosophy from them.

In addition to the big dragons there was a race of dwarf flying dragons who nested in the warm hillsides near the city. They were very popular with the city dwellers who did not have the room of the country residents and farmers. AQ small dragon would be a better asset to an apartment dweller than their larger cousins.

All this happy interactions and love affair between the people of Heidelburg and the dragons came to an end when the christian church moved into the area and the clergymen convinced the people that dragons were actually the offspring of the creatures of hell. When they were turned away from and even killed by their former friends the dragons saddly all left the area and were not seen again. Many in Heidelburg wish they would come back and festivals commemorate this ancient friendship.

AUSTRIAN DRAGON TALE

In the Austrian capitol of Innsbruck of the province of Tyrol was a narrow gorge carved by the Sill river. The Sill ran through a mountain forest that was shunned by the locals because of the rumors of a dragon living there guarding a huge horde of gold.

The locals knew this was true because after floods they would find pieces of the dragons hord washed out of his lair by the high waters.

Problems arose when the dragon found out that some of his gold was missing and went on a rampage to find where it was. He would destroy fields, farms, orchards, and houses until he found his missing gold. No one could stand against the dragon and the region became impoverished and desolate.

A nobleman of royal birth by the name of Haymo lived some distance away but heard of the cities plight. He was a giant of a man standing some 12 feet in height. He gathered up his armor and weapons and came searching for the dragon. When he found the creature the battle began.

The tide quickly turned against the dragon and he fled to the refuge of his cave in the forest. But Haymo pursued his foe into his very lair and after a fierce struggle killed the dragon and cut out his tongue to bring back to the waiting locals.

Upon seeing this proof the locals asked their new hero to become their leader and he accepted. Many more adventures befell this dragonslayer but in later years he regretted all the killing he had to do and founded the monastery of Wilten on the spot where he had killed the dragon years earlier.

EUROPEAN DRAGON TALE

Another dragonslayer was St. Margaret. She lived in Antiochia and the story says that she converted to christianity and was then tempted by the governor Olybrius who wanted her as wife. She was imprisoned in a tower and tortured when she refused his advances.

She was also tortured and tempted by satan who finally sent a dragon against her. But she was strong in her belief in the Lord and made the sign of the cross over the dragon and he was killed. After this the governor lost patience with this christian virgin and dragonslayer and had her beheaded. This is still another example of stories that show dragonslayers have a short life after killing a dragon.

SWITZERLAND DRAGON TALE

This is the story of St. Magnus and his exploits against dragonkind. As a historical figure Magnus is known to have been born between 1698 and 1702 and is variously claimed by the Irish, Romans, and Alemannians. He died sometime between 1750 and 1772.

With some companions he traveled into the then pagan or neo pagan areas of Southern Germany where he constantly battled on behalf of his christian beliefs. He was credited with founding several notable churches and monasteries.

Magnus had his first encounter with a dragon at the city of Kempton. This city was originally founded by the Roman’s around the time of Christ but over the intervening years became a battleground for beliefs. It was repeatedly conquered and occupied by both pagan and christian armies only to be lost again. It was certainly an interesting place to live in if you liked war.

When Magnus came to the city it was said to be empty of men and filled with dragons and snakes. Against his companions advice he decided to sleep in the open just outside the city and was predictably attacked that evening by the dragon (worm) Boas. Calling on the power of his God Magnus was able to kill this powerful boss dragon and chase the rest of them out of the city. The humans moved back in right after this of course.

His next encounter was in a valley called the Rosshaupten on his way to the city of Fussen. Here he had to pass by a dragon who allowed no one to leave his valley unmolested unless he was out hunting. This dragon lived in a cave next to a beautiful apple tree. Everything else was said to be bare and desolate because of the dragons wrath.

Trusting again in his God Magnus walked up to the lair and challenged the beast. The dragon rushed out to eat this impudent holy man whereupon the human tossed resin and pitch into the dragons mouth which erupted in flame and burned the creature to death.

The local version of this is that magnus and his companion Tozzo built a monastery on this very spot. But the official church version is that the monastery was built at Waltenhofen a mile further up the valley from the dragon slaying.

Interestingly many other villages in the area claimed to have had dragons that were driven off by this saint as well. The village of Ronsberg was one of these. Here it was claimed that three dragons were ransacking the area. One of the locals was a sorcerer and he had succeeded in convincing these dragons to spare the village and instead raid the other areas.

This they did until nothing was left standing or alive except Ronsberg where they turned their attention to once more. Before the sorcerer could again negotiate with the dragons they killed and ate him. The villagers offered the dragons a cow which held them long enough for them to bring Magnus to the village.

He brought with him a tribe of bears that he had tamed and set them on the dragons. Outnumbered the dragons tried to get back to their lairs but eventually they were burned out and destroyed by the saint and his tame bears.

In still another story Magnus killed a family of dragons but spared the young one because he was innocent of the crimes of his older relatives. The villagers raised the young dragon and fed him on mice and rats.

In return as the dragon grew he helped to clear the forest of logs and rocks. He even cut the trees into lumber for the locals. As he continued grow he cleared snow from the fields and even helped build new roads. But he was constantly hungry.

The local villagers refused to feed him anything other than the vermin he could catch and so one night he stole a calf for food. Maddened the villagers attempted to kill him in his sleep. One of the villagers cut him with an ax and a stream of milk shot from the wound.

This was by far the best milk ever tasted and so the locals tried to make amends to their dragon. But he would have nothing to do with them and left the area and never came back.

A RUSSIAN DRAGON TALE

This the story about a well regarded and handsome hero named Dobrynja who lived with his mother who was very wise. He always had to listened to her sage advice on just about everything. That may explain why he was always going off on quests and such. She especially counseled him never to bath in the river several hours away from their home as it was home to a terrible dragon who killed or imprisoned everyone who went into the river.

One hot summer day the hero was riding near this same river and forgetting his mothers warning decided to take a cool bath. Taking of his weapons and armor he left them on his horse as he strolled leisurely into the river to cool off.

He now remembered his mothers words that the rivers first wave would spit fire, the second sparks, and the third wave would bring steam. But everything seemed peaceful and calm.

Suddenly the sky turned black and a three headed dragon with seven tails flew down at him saying “I am Gorynytch. It was prophesied that a hero named Dobrynja would be my death, but instead I see a naked fish in my river that I think I will eat.”

To escape the hero swam under the water and out of sight of the dragon until he reached the shore where he had left his weapons. Exiting the waters he discovered the horse and all his possessions had disappeared and the dragon was waiting.

Flames came from one dragon head, steam came from another, and sulfur was thick in the air. Looking around in his helpless condition the hero saw only his helmet was still here so he knelt down beside it. The dragon thinking he was begging for his life did not immediately strike.

In this short interval the hero had filled the helmet with sand and rock and then jumped up and swung it so mightily that one of the heads was knocked off and the dragon fell to the shore stunned.

Gorynytch now begged for his life. But not for himself so much as for his own hatchlings who would starve if he was killed. The noble hearted hero felt sorry for the dragon and gave him his parole provided he never again attacked him and the creature agreed.

The dragon had other things in mind now however, and immediately flew up North to the city of Kiev and kidnapped the High Duke Vladimir’s virgin daughter.

On his way home Dobrynja saw the dragon flying towardhis caves with the Dukes daughter and changed his course to go straight away to Kiev where he met with the Duke to see what had happened. It seemed that no one had the courage to go after the Duke’s daughter and when he was informed that the hero and the dragon were recently seen together at the river the Duke order Dobrynja to go to “his friend the dragon” and retrieve the girl.

Not knowing what to do the hero went home and told his mother what had happened. His mother was very wise and sent her son to bed to rest. That night she made a special kind of silk whip and in the morning told the hero to go get his grandfathers horse. He was then to go to the cave which would be unguarded and by laying the whip to the horse the dragons younglings would be trampled to death.

Doing what he was advised he had just destroyed the brood before the dragon rushed in to see what was happening. Calling the knight an oath breaker the fight was joined and the two antagonists fought for 3 days and nights until Dobrynja remembered the whip. Using it he soon subdued Gorynytch and then quickly cut off his remaining two heads.

But the knight had been wounded and sorely taxed by the fight so he bathed in the dragons blood for three days before he recovered and used the whip to remove any poison in the blood he was soaking in. Next he went out to search for the Dukes daughter.

One by one the hero searched eleven caves and freed hundreds of the dragons prisoners. But it was not until the twelfth cave that he found the virgin tied to the wall with golden chains. He freed her and took her back to her father where the story ends without telling us what his reward was.

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