I started a blog series last month entitled Did Dragons Really Exist. I stated four reasons why just maybe they did. Today, I’ll focus on two European countries and their legends of dragons. We’ll compare them and contrast them. Next month we’ll look into dragons in Asia and the rest of the world.
Irish Dragons of Fame
Since I’m of Irish heritage, I decided to take a look at dragons in the wonderful island. It’s fairly easy to find them considering their flag has a huge red dragon on it. I discovered there are two different views of dragons. There’s the original Celtic and druidic thoughts of dragons and then when Christianity came to the island the idea of dragons changed.
View of dragons before Christianity
According to draconika.com ancient Irish believed dragons came from a parallel universe. When dragons took a path that came close to our world or slept somewhere in our world, those places became more powerful. In essence, dragons brought energy and power to the land. They protected the land as well and became symbols of wisdom and strength.
However, when St. Patrick came to Ireland, he brought with him Catholocism. Druid worship and Catholocism didn’t mix well. As people converted, they brought dragons with them, but the idea of dragons changed.
View of dragons after Christianity
The legend states that St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland. Another name for dragon is snake or serpent. Irish dragons are snake-like creatures some with wings and others without more like a sea serpent. What if St. Patrick drove dragons out of Ireland? An interesting idea. After Catholocism took hold in Ireland, dragons no longer held a place of honor. They became known for strife, trouble, and infertility. This view goes along with the King James translation of the Bible that calls Satan a serpent and a dragon.
Legends of Dragons in Ireland
Ireland has several legends of dragons. They seem to all explain various natural happenings. This follows along with the idea of dragons being next to gods in Irish mythology. One story tells of a sea serpent that harrassed a village by yawning bad breath over the land every morning. When the king’s men couldn’t stand against it, a small boy decided to play Pinochio and took a boat out to the dragon. When the dragon yawned, the boy sailed down into the dragon all the way to the liver, where he built a fire. While the dragon writhed and burnt, the boy escaped. After a while, the dragon slowly fell apart creating Iceland and the islands between Ireland and Iceland. Another tale explains the flooding in a valley as a dragon that a monk enchained in a lake.
Unlike Ireland’s early history, dragons in Germany seem to be the greedy, evil type that people try to outsmart. These stories coincide with our classical fantasy writers, Lewis and Tolkein. I know the German composer Wagner influenced both of those authors.
Puk and Black Worm
The Puk seems to be the only really benevolent dragon. It’s a small sprite style dragon that lives in homes and brings stolen goods to the head of the household. I’d love to have this dragon living in my house. I don’t really have stolen items, but things seem to disappear or get misplaced. If I had a Puk living here, he’d be able to help us find things.
I could only find one tale of the Black Worm. He loved his horde of treasure. A man tried to steal his treasure, but became greedy and called to his wife to help. His call woke the dragon. The startled man ran, dropping his loot. The dragon and the treasure sunk into the ground never to be found again.
One of my favorite middle grade/young adult book is The Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke. It’s the tale of a dragon and a brownie to find a new home for the dragons. Along the way, they’re joined by a boy, a hermunculous, a professor and his daughter and wife, and a dragoncologist. The dragon’s name is Firedrake. I don’t know if Ms. Funke had this German dragon in mind or not, but I do know she’s from Germany.
Other famous firedrakes include Smaug and the dragon Beowolf defeats. Firedrakes love treasure and caves.
Lindworms seem to be a very vile dragon. They may or may not have wings, but they definitely have claws. They attack churches and dig up graveyards! I would not want to meet one or fight one. Ugh! No wonder these bad nasties are considered a bad omen. They are known to eat livestock, which makes sense.
Comparing the two
Ireland and Germany in the big scheme of things are not that far apart geographically, and yet, it is enough to have differences in their dragons and to make one wonder, could dragons have really existed at one point in time?
If both countries have legends of beasts that caused havoc and there are enough similarities, wouldn’t it stand to reason that these creatures are based in reality? What are these creatures? Both cultures have them as powerful creatures and both eventually have them as to feared. The two countries have dragons with and without wings, and both have serpent-style dragons.
If both countries have tales of creatures of great power and size that may or may not have wings and were serpent-like, the odds of there being actual creatures that these stories came from are quite high.
Feel free to share what you think with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts.