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Archive for the ‘Dragon Folklore’ Category

Do lake monsters take sabaticals? It appears that they do. In May, a Nessie sighting was reported on Loch Ness, after an absence of 8 months. The last previous sighting was in August of 2016.

Rob Jones, a tourist from Wales, recorded a strange object while visiting the mystical lake. It moved in front of a boat, then disappeared from view. You can view the images here at The Mirror’s website.

The cynic in me thinks the “strange object” looks a lot like a navigational buoy, the type installed to warn of submerged hazards. It’s claimed that the object moved in front of a boat, but if you look at the foliage on the lake shore, it’s clear that the object is stationary. Only the boat is moving.

What really interests me is the second half of the coverage. The Mirror interviewed a man who keeps a web site where anyone can report Nessie sightings. Gary Campbell once experienced a sighting himself. His search for information led him to establish his web site, The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register.

Over the years, hundreds of reports have been cataloged. With the popularity of smart phones and similar devices, more and more photos and videos have been uploaded. Although most are quickly explained, Campbell is able to maintain something of an online journal around Nessie’s supposed activities. This is how we know that Nessie had “been away” for 8 months.

Even cryptids can’t escape the paparazzi!


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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Dragons are famous for having vast hoards of treasure, but sometimes I wonder why. If knights are always trying to kill you and take your treasure, why would you even bother with that? Surely a dragon could have a quieter, more secure life without a hoard.

Based on legends and contemporary fiction, here are some reasons that dragons keep hoards.

  1. Pure greed. Some dragons, such as Fafnir, are created in a contest to claim an accursed treasure.
  2. Pride. Dragons often seem to relish the high status of owning a huge treasure. Smaug, in The Hobbit, would represent these dragons.
  3. Nutrition. In some books, dragon parents collect coins and other metal pieces, and feed them to their young. The minerals help baby dragons grow their near-invulnerable scales. E. E. Knight’s Age of Fire series is a good example.
  4. Preservation. Dragons who gather tomes and manuscripts might be dedicated to saving knowledge of the ancient past. They may also find that having a hobby helps them they stay alert and active over the decades.
  5. Obsession. In a few books, such as Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers, all dragons are born with an irresistible urge to collect. They don’t all gather the same things, though. In George’s book, the main dragon character has an enormous collection of shoes.
  6. Remembrance. A long-lived dragon might save mementos from lost civilizations or friends in their past. More aggressive dragons could keep trophies from their victories against various enemies.
  7. Hunting Lure. In my short story, Hoard, a dragon named Carnisha keeps a hoard in order to attract looters. She then feeds them to her babies.

I’m sure there are more reasons. Why do you think dragons gather hoards?


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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Legends from all over the world tell glorious tales of heroes who kill mighty dragons. (It seems unfair to the dragons, but there you go.) Here are my picks for the five best known dragon slayers.

5. Beowulf, the epitome of the Norse warrior. He’s most famous for killing the monster Grendel, but in his old age he still had enough courage to take on a dragon that was attacking his people. (They both died.)

4. Saint George, a Medieval English knight, killed a dragon in Libya and converted the populace to Christianity. (This could be a bit of wishful thinking, since modern day Libya is a Muslim majority country.)

3. Hercules, from Greece, defeated the dreaded Hydra in order to win  forgiveness from the goddess Hera. (It didn’t work.) Later, he used trickery to steal golden apples from their guardian dragon, Ladon.

2. Tokoyo, from Japan. She took the place of a maiden who was about to be sacrificed, and killed the dragon Yofune-Nushi. This healed an emperor’s curse. In gratitude, he released her father from prison.

1. Sigurd, a.k.a. Siegfried, killed the dragon Fafnir. Then he bathed in his blood to become invulnerable. He was also able to understand the language of birds, which allowed him to overcome a treacherous attack. Finally, Sigurd roasted and ate Fafnir’s heart! From this he gained powers of prophecy.

Perhaps you disagree with my choices? Comment away! I’d love to hear who you think are the most famous dragonslayers! Also, check out this Top-Five Dragonslayers list that’s more focused on media and video games.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

Long ago in Japan, the emperor was beset by a mysterious affliction. He was troubled in his mind and could not sleep at night. As soon as he fell asleep, he had terrible nightmares. The whole court was dismayed. A few faithful courtiers resolved to keep watch and discover what was causing this malady. Some stationed themselves just outside his quarters, while others watched the gardens around the emperor’s window.

To their horror, a black cloud appeared in the sky just after sunset. It swooped and swirled and came to rest on the roof above the emperor’s chamber. The courtiers inside heard the scratching of great claws on the roof. Then the hapless monarch cried out as a nightmare took hold. Something dreadful must be hidden within the vapors! Archers fired many arrows into the cloud, but they had no effect. The black cloud hovered over the roof until dawn, when it moved off toward the east and vanished.

As weeks of insomnia dragged on, the emperor grew very weak and ill. Nobody knew how to help him. They decided to send for a samurai named Yorimasa, whose skill with the bow was widely known. His charge was to discover what creature was attacking the emperor, and put an end to it.

Yorimasa came at once, bringing his bow and arrows and a single retainer. Alas, the weather was very bad that day. Savage winds and driving rain blocked the sky. How could Yorimasa even see the black cloud through this storm? But the samurai was not discouraged. At dusk, he and his retainer positioned themselves where they would have as good a view of the roof as possible, given the conditions. And they waited.

Hours passed and the storm did not let up, but eventually the emperor’s wail of terror told them the nightmares had begun. Yorimasa kept a steady eye on the peak of the roof. At last, luck favored him. A flash of lightning outlined the shape of a terrible dragon hidden within the cloud. As it faded, the samurai saw the evil glint of its eyes.

He raised his bow and shot for the eyes.  A howl, a crash! Something writhed on the ground, wrecking the emperor’s lovely garden. Wasting no time, the samurai drew his sword and leapt to attack. The evil dragon struggled and howled, but Yorimasa and his retainer slashed the monster nine times together. Soon all was quiet. The emperor slept peacefully for the first time in months.

The fearful courtiers emerged with lanterns to see what had been troubling the emperor. The dragon was a large as a horse, with a tiger’s body covered in scales, an ape-like head, wings of a bird, and a serpent’s tail. When the emperor awoke, he ordered the dragon skinned and kept as a trophy. As for Yorimasa, he was presented with a sword called Shishiwo (“King of Lions”) and promoted to the imperial court. There he met a noble woman named Ayame, and was granted her hand in marriage.

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I’ve been talking about the Questing Beast, a dragon-like monster from Arthurian lore. This creature continues to feature in modern works, as well.

In The Once and Future King, T. H. White created his own legend of King Pellinore and the Questing Beast. Here, Pellinore is more of a comic figure who never finds more of the dragon than its droppings. A friend persuades Pellinore to give up his hopeless pursuit. After a while, though, Pellinore learns that the Beast is pining away from loneliness now that the chase is over. The hunter nurses his former nemesis back to health and gives it a head start before once again setting off on his eternal quest.

The Questing Beast has also been featured in T.V. shows such as Merlin. In this telling, the Beast is associated with the Old Religion, a faction opposed to Merlin and Arthur. The dragon’s venom is so powerful that nothing can cure it. Once bitten, death is assured. In the first-season finale, Le Morte d’Arthur, Arthur is bitten and Merlin desperately seeks aid from Nimueh,  leader of the Old Religion. Turns out, there is one way to save the Questing Beast’s prey. The victim can be spared if another person is willing to sacrifice their own life. There’s a lot of hot-potatoing as the price for Arthur’s salvation gets passed from person to person. You can read a full synopsis here.

All these events take place in a mythical version of Britain, but it seems the Questing Beast may even have made its way to the Americas. Residents of the Republic of Molossia, a self-declared micronation located in Nevada, USA, claim to have found fossil evidence of the Questing Beast. There is a hoofprint-shaped indentation on their landmark, Helicopter Rock. The residents claim this is a track left by the Questing Beast as it leapt to escape King Pellinore.

It just goes to show, you can’t keep a good dragon down.

 

 


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

The best known dragon of Arthurian lore, the Questing Beast is a creature that contradicts itself. It is described as a hideous mongrel with a snake’s head and neck, leopard’s body, hindquarters of a lion, and deer hooves instead of paws. Even stranger is the noise that accompanies the Questing Beast wherever it goes. When it is nearby, you can hear a constant growling and barking as of many hunting hounds. Some legends say that the Beast actually did swallow a pack of hounds and they are still barking inside its belly!

In the Middle Ages, questing was another word for the cry of hounds following a scent. Indeed, its name in French is the Beast Glatisant, which refers to the baying of a pack of hounds. So, calling it a Questing Beast is something of a joke. For further irony, the Questing Beast doesn’t seem to be questing for anything. Instead, various characters take it as their quest to slay the Questing Beast.

This dragon’s initial appearance in Arthurian lore is when King Arthur wakes from a nightmare and beholds this bizarre animal with its noisy ambiance. It seems Arthur had spent a night of passion with a woman named Morgause (a.k.a. Morgan Le Fey), not knowing she was his sister. Their son, Mordred, was destined to destroy everything Arthur tried to build. The Questing Beast’s arrival is believed to be harbinger of this doom.

Arthur chose not to pursue the Beast, but soon after he was approached by another knight. King Pellinore explained that it was his family’s curse to endlessly pursue the Questing Beast. Arthur consulted his wizard, Merlin, who divined the dragon’s origins. A princess had once been tempted by the Devil to lust after her own brother. Through Satan’s machinations, the brother was killed, and their child was born twisted by his mother’s crimes. Perhaps King Pellinore was descended from the same royal family. This could explain his oath to destroy the Beast.

A separate story describes the Questing Beast quite differently. In this version, Sir Percival encounters the Beast while searching for the Holy Grail. What Percival sees is a small animal, pure white and beautiful to behold. The barking still accompanies it, except when the Beast pauses to drink from a pool. Some have suggested the Questing Beast represents Christ guiding Sir Percival on his quest. However, evil forces are tearing the Beast apart from inside. This could refer to Jews, who follow the Old Testament instead of Christ’s teachings, or it could just mean all those rude people who insist on talking during mass.

In yet another variation, the Questing Beast is hunted by Sir Palmades, a Saracen knight who wants to win the affection of Queen Isolde of Cornwall. I was kind of surprised to learn there had been a Saracen knight in Arthurian lore. Ultimately Sir Palmades converts to Christianity and puts his hopeless love aside.

And those are just the Medieval variations on the Questing Beast! Check back on Saturday for the more contemporary versions of this ancient dragon.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

The hundred-headed dragon, Ladon, had been ordered to lurk in the Garden of the Hesperides by Hera, queen of the Greek gods. His task: prevent any intruders from stealing the golden apples, which bestowed immortality. However, during these days, the demi-god Hercules had offended Hera and been assigned to do ten great labors as penance. The arbiter of the labors was Eurystheus, a devout follower of Hera. In order to delay Hercules completing his penance, Eurystheus declared that two of the ten tasks (killing the Hydra and cleaning the Augean Stables) were void. Hercules would have to do two more.

As the eleventh task, Eurystheus demanded that Hercules bring him the golden apples of the Hesperides. That’s right — in order to appease Hera, Hercules had to steal something from her garden! (What a great idea. Thanks so much, Eurystheus.)

Hercules set off on his journey. After several trials just to find the Garden of the Hesperides, Hercules received advice from the tortured god Prometheus. Prometheus said that the Hesperides were daughters of the god Atlas, who held up the Earth and sky. Because of this, Ladon would not challenge him if he went to pick the apples.

Hercules traveled on and found Atlas, groaning under the weight of his immense burden. He offered to hold the Earth if Atlas would do him this favor. Atlas immediately agreed. He went to the garden, probably had a nice visit with his daughters, and came back with the golden apples.

However, Atlas enjoyed being free. He wanted to extend the time a little longer. So, Atlas offered to take the golden apples to Eurystheus in Hercules’s place. Hercules knew that Eurystheus probably wouldn’t count this task if someone else brought him the prize. He pretended to agree, but asked that Atlas take his burden back long enough for Hercules to fold his cloak and make a pad for his shoulders. Atlas put the apples down and lifted up the Earth. Whereupon, Hercules grabbed the apples and ran off, leaving Atlas with his original task of holding up the earth and sky.

All of this means that Ladon has a great distinction. He is the only magical beast to have survived an encounter with Hercules!


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

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