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Archive for the ‘Dragon Folklore’ Category

In Gascony, during the reign of King Charlemagne (742 – 814), there was a dragon named Jilocasin. He enjoyed mingling with humans and often assumed the guise of a troubadour in order to entertain the nobility with poetry and song. One day as he traveled through a forest, Jilocasin heard a woman calling out for help. He rushed to the site found a young lady being accosted by bandits.

A dragon as powerful as Jilocasin had no trouble dealing with such ruffians. However, the lady had swooned and did not see her rescuer in his true form. The kindly dragon carried her back to his castle and resumed his human appearance to tend to her. In doing so, he was startled to discover a tiny baby was wrapped inside the lady’s robes.

When she recovered, the young lady explained why she had been alone in the forest. It seemed she was recently widowed, and in order to maintain control of her wealth, her family had forced her to marry a cousin. They hadn’t even observed the traditional year of mourning. Her second husband was a repulsive person who cared only for her fortune. Soon she discovered that she was with child by her first husband. Her cousin would not permit anyone to rival his claim and demanded that her child be killed immediately after birth.

Somehow, the lady managed to escape into the woods with her child. The desperate widow begged for the (as she believed human) lord of the castle to protect her from her vicious husband. Jilocasin immediately agreed, and made provisions for widow and child to live in his castle.

By the time three years had passed, the two had become very close. In fact, Jilocasin loved her so dearly that he revealed his true identity as a dragon. The widow, in turn, loved Jilocasin so completely that she accepted his nature without complaint. Although they could not marry, they lived together as if they were husband and wife. Soon enough, she became pregnant again.

Alas, the lady died in childbirth, but Jilocasin raised both of her sons as brothers. Though neither became a dragon, they were fine and valiant knights who fought to avenge their dear mother. When the time was right, they attacked and seized the castle of their mother’s second husband. The elder son assumed ownership of his rightful heritage, while Jilocasin’s son ruled his own domain as a peaceful neighbor. Jilocasin helped and advised them until the end of their days.


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In honor of Valentine’s Day, here is a legend of draconic love.

One of the greatest Medieval rulers was Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 – 1204) who reigned over both England and France. Her court held an annual Tournament of Poetry to celebrate the arts.

According to the story, one year this contest was won by a previously unknown young troubadour who refused to disclose his identity even to Queen Eleanor herself. He was as kind as he was handsome, traits that won him many hearts. One of these belonged to  Griselda,  the lovely young daughter of the Lord of Foix. Although shy, Griselda gathered enough courage to declare her feelings for the Troubadour. Her pleas touched the young man’s heart, and he agreed to marry her and take her to his home — but on two conditions. Griselda could never see him except at the times of his choosing and she must promise never to try and find out his true identity.

Personally, I think this should have set off a few alarm bells, but Griselda was deeply in love. She promised to do as her beloved said, and so the marriage was celebrated in secret. Griselda fell asleep in her husband’s arms that night. The following day, she awoke in an unfamiliar chamber. It was luxurious as Eleanor’s own palace, with silken tapestries and gilded furnishings set with precious stones. Beside her, her beloved husband smiled at her surprise.

“This place is my home,” the Troubadour said. “You are my lady, and all that I have is yours. Only remember your promise to me.”

“All that I need is your love,” Griselda replied.

For many months, the two lived happily. Griselda ordered the household, and all the servants obeyed her. She could ride for pleasure and hunt with the hawks. Handmaidens dressed her in finery. Music and dancing filled the nights. As for her husband, he remained kind and attentive. If she needed anything, he would immediately provide it.

Only, at certain times, the Troubadour would go into a locked room. True to her word, Griselda did not ask him what went on there. He was never away for long. Griselda believed she lived in paradise.

But alas, on one fateful day, the Troubadour went into his private chamber and forgot to lock the door. Discovering this, Griselda could not restrain her curiosity. She crept up to the door and eased it open just a crack.

Inside, to her horror, she saw her husband transform into a huge dragon with glittering golden scales and mighty wings. Griselda could not hold back a cry of shock. The dragon turned and saw her there. Griselda was terrified. Surely such a dreadful creature would kill her for disobeying!

Yet the dragon prince showed only grief at this betrayal. He ordered his servants to take her away. Before she knew it, Griselda found herself back at Queen Eleanor’s court. She never saw her husband again. Years went by but she never remarried. Only her closest friends knew of her tragic romance with a dragon in human form.


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Unlike the mysterious heath-dragons of legend, these heath dragons are actual, living creatures. Heath dragons are a group of lizards native to Australia. They are members of the Agamid family, close cousins of iguanas.

The natural habitat for heath dragons is open forest, sandy scrub and, yes, heath lands. They mostly prey upon larger insects, such as grasshoppers and crickets. Most of them are patterned with gray, brown and tan as camouflage. They mostly prey upon larger insects, such as grasshoppers and crickets.

These lizards are small, about 21 cm/8 in, and have a wary nature. They prefer to stay under cover of rocks or hide beneath fallen leaves. Sometimes they will bury themselves in sand. It’s thought they do this to help regulate their temperature in Australia’s summer heat.

Heath dragons can be taken as pets and seem to adapt well to human keeping. They are not the most famous pet lizards, though, so this trade doesn’t seem to effect their long term prospects. No species of heath dragons are currently listed as threatened or endangered.


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Last time, I mentioned the Lagarfljot Worm, a lake-dwelling cryptid believed to exist in Iceland. According to the story, the creature was a heath-dragon or lingworm kept as a treasure guardian, but it was thrown into the lake when it grew too large to control. I’ve heard of lindworms, two-legged and wingless dragons of Germanic myth, and the lingworm doesn’t sound too different.

However, the story made me wonder what a heath-dragon might be, legendarily speaking. Just when you thought the Internet could tell you absolutely anything… I can’t find them. So I’m left to speculate.

Let’s see… Obviously, heath-dragons must live on the heath. Heath is any area of open land with poor soil, so it is left uncultivated. Bushes like heather are the main vegetation. You won’t find a lot of cover on the heath, nor large animals for prey. So while many great dragons are found in magnificent mountains or darksome forests, heath-dragons might be creatures on a lesser scale. Small enough to conceal themselves among the heather, they could be ambush hunters preying on rabbits, stray sheep, and the occasional unwary traveler.

Or, perhaps heath-dragons represent a younger stage in draconic life. Only when they grow older and more powerful can they claim those magnificent mountains and darksome forests.

Well, friends, can you help me out? I’d love it if you can suggest any legends and tales about heath-dragons!


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Deep beneath the murky waters of Lake Lagarfljot, Iceland, a monster dwells! This vicious serpent was bound at the bottom of the lake centuries ago. It may not have a cute nickname, like Nessie, but rumors and sightings have persisted from at least 1345 into modern times.

According to the legend, a young lady who lived in the town of Egilsstadir was given a golden ring. She asked her mother the best way to grow this fortune, and the mother told her to place it beneath a lingworm, or heath-dragon. She went out and caught a very small lingworm, and shut it up in her chest of drawers with the ring.

Within a few days, the lingworm grew so large that it shattered the chest. The terrified young lady grabbed the heath-dragon and threw it into Lagarfljot, gold ring and all. Alas, this wasn’t the end of the beast. It continued growing both in size and spite. No one near the lake was safe as the creature killed people and livestock by spitting poison. Two men came from Finland in response to pleas for help. Even they failed to destroy the lake monster. The best they could do was tie its head and tail to the rocks at the bottom of the lake.

Despite being imprisoned in the lake, the Lagarfljot Worm continues to make itself visible. In the water, it is described as having many humps and being about the length of a bus (40 feet or so). In some cases, it’s even been spotted basking on the lake shore and climbing up trees.

One of the best documented “sightings” was in 1983. A crew laying telephone cable across the lake encountered a large, shifting mass on the lake bottom. The cable was laid but soon failed and had to be pulled back up. According the news accounts, the cable had been designed to avoid kinking, yet it was found to be twisted out of shape and torn in several places. Workers joked that they must have laid their cable right into the lingworm’s mouth.

More recently, a video from 2012 purported to show something swimming against swift currents. Further analysis showed that the “creature” most likely was some sort of debris being swung about just below the surface.

As with Loch Ness, scientists have studied Lagarfljot and declared the whole thing a hoax. They say the murky water results from natural erosion. Also that plant material is carried into the lake and sinks, slowly decomposing and releasing gasses that distort the water.

Nevertheless, tour operators and historical societies continue to preserve the legend of the Lagarfljot Worm for future generations.


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I mentioned on Wednesday that the taniwha of New Zealand were guardians to their own, but could be dangerous to outsiders. In fact, taniwha could be man-eaters as much as any other dragon. Many tales relate attacks by taniwha against humans they weren’t connected to. Luckily, there were warriors with enough spiritual prowess to defeat a rogue spirit, whether by use of wits or force of arms.

One taniwha, Nagarara Haurau, had devoured several villagers before capturing a young woman as his bride. He lived with her in a cave near the sea. The villagers pretended to accept him as their neighbor, and prepared a feast to honor him. During the festivities they ambushed and killed him. It’s said that Nagarara’s severed tail flew off and landed in a lake or stream. Prominent waterfalls in various locations are thought to have been created by the impact of Nagarara’s tail.

Another taniwha, named Kaiwhare, was preying on the people of Manukau. No one could stop him. There was a warrior named Tamure who lived in Hauraki and owned a magical club with power to defeat taniwha. The people of Manukau pleaded for help and Tamure came to them. Kaiwhare readily attacked, for Tamure was a stranger. They wrestled on the shore until Tamure bashed the taniwha over the head with his club. Kaiwhare was not killed, but he did become tame. This taniwha is still believed to live in the waters near Manukau. His diet now consists of octopus and crab.

Near Kaipara, three sisters were out gathering berries one day. As they returned, a taniwha fell upon them. He captured each in turn, finally selecting the loveliest one as his bride. (The fate of the other girls is unspoken. Perhaps he ate them.) The taniwha took the lucky (?) girl to his cave. As time passed, she bore him six sons. Three were taniwha, like their father, and three were human, like their mother. In secret, the captive mother taught her human sons to be warriors. The human sons eventually killed their taniwha brothers, and later their father. They then returned to their mother’s home with her.

Like their distant cousins, the mo’o of Hawai’ian tradition, taniwha could sometimes blur the line with humans. Tales tell of a “woman from the sea” named Pania, who married a human man. Their child was a taniwha. A priest named Te Tahi-o-te-rangi had served as a spirit medium for taniwha. He transformed into one of them after his death.


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Taniwha are nature spirits in the folklore of New Zealand’s Maori culture. They can appear as large sharks, whales, crocodiles — or dragons! According to legend, these spirits traveled alongside the canoes that carried Maori ancestors over the sea from their original islands. After the Maori established their new homes, the taniwha remained to watch over them. Even in modern times, many tribes and local communities can name a specific taniwha who is their guardian.

It was believed that taniwha granted visions to priests, warning of natural disasters or that enemies were nearby. However, taniwha could be both friendly or deadly. They made their homes in deep rivers, caves, and ocean shores prone to dangerous currents or sneaker waves. Friends of the taniwha might be guided away or rescued from drowning. In return, taniwha expected to be treated with respect. They received offerings of the first fruit each season. Even friendly tribesmen passing near a taniwha’s home would make offerings to please these spirits.

In addition to spiritual guardianship, taniwha were enforcers of tapu (commonly Anglicized as taboo), the social code governing Maori life. Violations of tapu would be met by swift retribution. So would any intrusion into the taniwha’s domain. Though they protected their own people, outsiders were fair game. Strangers might be dragged into the water or attacked and devoured. Women might be captured as brides.

Respect for the taniwha has remained strong even into modern times. Several news reports from the early 2000s related that construction projects had been moved or redesigned to avoid disturbing areas where taniwha were believed to dwell.

Check back on Saturday for a few taniwha legends.


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