Thursday, May 24, 2012
"DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part three.
Still trying to find a true Dragon. Well, I sort of found a kind of Dragon in China/Viet Nam, but no necessary wings, and not really fire-breathing either; so, let's call them "Long-Dragons", since "Long/Lung" is actually their Chinese name, if I'm remembering that correctly.
I'm desperate so I'm calling on God, via the Book of Job. Leviathan, who/what art thou??
Leviathan certainly has something going for it. "His snorting throws out flashes of light; his eyes are like the rays of dawn. Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from his nostrils as from a boiling pot over a fire of reeds. His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from his mouth."
Hmmmm. Not bad. Absolutely no threat though, apparently, of taking to the air. Leviathan seems to be a perfectly good fire-breathing sea-monster [of all paradoxical things], but not quite in the Dragon class. There WAS an old cultural icon of the time which did fly about causing trouble, named the Ziz, but I've not seen a good description of its characteristics. If it breathed fire maybe it's a "good dragon".
These are some mediaeval illuminated manuscript illustrations of Leviathan. A pretty fine giant sea serpent the beastie seems to me --- but not quite my dragon.
When God chooses not to reveal His mysteries, there's always JRR Tolkien to substitute. Tolkien is a true expert and maybe one of the few ever. As an early mediaeval languages scholar, who was deeply interested in legends, Tolkien "pursued" the dragon with talents denied the rest of us. The paucity of what Tolkien felt were true remnants of the pre-modern British mind/soul surviving in shreds of myths depressed Tolkien, and some have said that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was, in some way, Tolkien's attempt to fictionally fill that loss. But in what he could find in the truly old literature, Tolkien said that there were only two Dragons: Fafnir, and the beast [not Grendel] who fought Beowulf.
This is a very old legend from the Teutonic and the Norse. It has that proper "darkness" about it which characterizes the deeper feelings surrounding the European/British word "dragon". Fafnir is a human, who transmuted into a great serpent in order to take and guard a magical treasure. He/it is ultimately confronted by a hero with a magic sword, who prevails [this is Sigurd/Seigfried]. Tolkien seems to view Fafnir as one of the two true dragons in western european legend, because it is a very great magical serpent which guards a treasure. Well, that would be one way to decide to characterize a "dragon", but despite my admiration for Tolkien, I'm going to call Fafnir a Great Magical Snake and look for my Dragon elsewhere.
BEOWULF & GRENDEL.
It is in Beowulf, the only authentic glimpse into the pre-modern British heart in Tolkien's mind, that one finally finds The Dragon. Grendel, though very fascinating and even by some argued to be misinterpreted and actually to be serpentine, is, however, not it. Beowulf destroys Grendel, and later, needing lots of help, kills the Dragon, dying from the results himself.
AT LAST, The DRAGON.
So, searching this globe round, here we have at last our quarry: Big, serpentine, winged, fire-breathing. Everything one [me anyway] could want. I have my Dragon, so I know that in very olden times the full dragon idea was "out there", BUT IT IS VERY RARE. Why? Did the Beowulf poet just make this up himself? Where did he get the idea?
It is at this point that one could say that olden culture had rich traditions of giant land snakes, lake monsters, sea serpents, flying lung/longs, and even some fire-breathers. But we really CAN'T say that there was a rich tradition of Beowulf-style Dragons in the old days --- only that some idea of such a thing was around. Hypothesis#1: the Beowulf poet cobbled this together himself with dramatic intent. Hypothesis#2: some idea of this was around but no more than a local cobbling together of different beasts. Hypothesis#3: we have lost so much of the old British and Scandinavian legends that although the True Dragon idea was well-known, Beowulf is the only version of the idea which survived.
If #1 or #2 are correct, then the legendary creature has no legs to stand on. If #3 is correct, then it's more legitimate to ask the question: if so, then where did that image come from? That is, could there have been actual in-the-world experiences? And that of course is the ultimate cryptozoologically interesting question.
We are "feasting" on thin gruel here as far as possible Dragon reality is concerned. In the next post [again, whenever; things are VERY unpredictable], I'm going to try to search for any reason to believe in real dragons. The odds are against me, but it is of such quests that "heroes" are made. Hah!!!
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- "DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part last.
- "DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part four.
- "DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part three.
- "DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part two.
- "DRAGON": A Morass of Confusion (at least to me).
- An "Angel" in Indonesia?
- Going Bump in the Day: another "Happy Poltergeist"...
- Something Small (and Confusing) This Way Comes.
- The Wise Woman of Lisclogher
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