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Archive for the ‘Dragon Folklore’ Category

This tale of The Lady of Langho (a.k.a. The Daughter of Hippocrates) is a really interesting exercise in distinguishing fact from fiction — if that could apply in the case of a mythical beast like dragons. The tale comes from a 14th-Century book, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, which itself has uncertain origins. Allegedly it details the adventures of an English knight, Sir John Mandeville, who traveled through exotic lands like India and China.

However, records show there never was a Sir John Mandeville. In some ways, the book resembles Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which is also a collection of stories framed as a travelogue. It seems that The Travels was widely distributed and translated, since copies have been preserved through the centuries in a number of languages.

One fun part of this origin is to pick out some of the anachronisms that “Sir John” wrote into it. Hippocrates lived in the 4th Century B.C.E., after all. There’s no way there were knights running around in that era. The Knights of the Hospital, referred to in the tale, wouldn’t even be founded until the 12th Century. You could as well expect pirates yelling “Arrr” or gangsters with tommy guns.

The Lady of Langho legend could be viewed as a proto-horror story, in which a hapless young woman is transformed against her will and everyone who might help runs from the sight of her. Some, however, have interpreted the story in a more sophisticated way. The Hospitaller attempts a rescue on his own but is killed due to lack of preparation. The common sailor who impersonates a knight shows his true colors when he flees from the lady in her cursed form.

It’s suggested that perhaps the Lady of Langho was better off in the shape of a dragon than if she had bound her fate to either of these two.


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Long ago, in ancient Greece, the physician Hippocrates (originator of the Hippocratic Oath), had a daughter who was so lovely that she rivaled the denizens of Olympus itself. The goddess Diana became jealous and transformed the daughter into a terrible dragon. The girl’s curse could only be lifted if she found a knight who was brave enough to kiss her in her horrifying state. Even then, it was foretold that she would live only a short time longer.

Shunned by all, the unfortunate young lady retreated to the island of Langho. There she was regarded as a sovereign ruler, but languished alone and hopeless. An old castle was her dwelling. She could reclaim her human form just three days each year, and as a dragon never harmed anyone who didn’t attack her first.

As word of the lady’s condition got out, a few knights turned up hoping to save her and become lord of Langho. First was a Knight of the Hospital from nearby Rhodes. Alas, before this knight had a chance to approach, his horse caught sight of the dragon. It bolted in panic and carried him right over a cliff.

The second to attempt wasn’t a knight at all, but a sailor whose ship had stopped to get supplies on Langho. While on shore leave, he wandered into the lady’s castle and was struck by the sight of her in her dressing room, surrounded by a hoard of treasure. Not knowing of the legend, he for some reason assumed she was a prostitute and, um… asked to be her lover.

Remembering the terms of her curse, the lady demanded to know if he was a knight. He admitted that he wasn’t, so she told him he must go and be knighted before he could kiss her. Returning to his ship, the sailor persuaded his captain to “knight” him and came back the next day. Alas, the lady’s one day as a human was over. When the sailor saw her true form, he fled from her. Wailing in despair, the lady pursued him, but he reached his ship and sailed away, leaving her forlorn.

So, we are told, the Lady of Langho remains trapped in her bestial form until this very day. If only a true and noble knight would be brave enough to kiss a dragon, she might be freed from eternal torment.


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Legend tells that a dragon named Blue Ben once lived in the county of Somerset, on the west coast of England. He dwelt in shale caves near the sea, so if his fiery breath over-heated him he could dip into the waves and refresh himself.

Blue Ben was huge, as all dragons are. Due to his great size, he sometimes got stuck in the mud flats along the Somerset coast. The legend says that, in order to save himself, the dragon built a limestone causeway so he could reach solid ground without becoming trapped.

Ben seems to have been a mild-mannered dragon. There’s little mention of him ravaging the countryside or devouring livestock. Alas, being a good neighbor did not spare the mighty beast. The Devil himself happened to spy the dragon frolicking in the waves. He cast a spell that chained Blue Ben’s will. Poor Ben became the Devil’s steed for a wild ride all through the fires of Hell.

No one knows how long this went on. The dragon ultimately freed himself and escaped back to Somerset. Desperately hot and tired, he flung himself into the water to cool off as he usually did. Alas, he had chosen a spot far from his causeway. As he emerged from the sea, Blue Ben became stuck in the mire. No matter how he struggled, he couldn’t get free. In the end, he succumbed to his exhaustion and was entombed in the mud. A sad end for such a magnificent creature.

True fact #1: Blue Ben’s “causeway” is a naturally occurring limestone formation that resembles a paved road. Several sections can be seen along the coast, near the town of Kilve.

True fact #2: In the 19th Century, a shale quarry outside Kilve yielded the fossil skull of an ichthyosaur. The local people immediately proclaimed that this was the skull of Blue Ben. The fossil can still be seen in a Somerset museum.


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One thing that distinguishes Asian and European dragons, aside from their obvious physical differences, is the underlying concept that Asian dragons have a life cycle. In European lore, dragons tend to be individuals. Think Fafnir and Hydra. Each dragon is unique, it lives in one place (as Hydra does at Lake Lerna) until it encounters a hero who vanquishes it.

By contrast, Asian dragons are a species widely distributed across China, Korea, Tibet, Japan, Thailand, and into the islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. These dragons, collectively known as Lung dragons, are born, grow, and gain power. Human beings will not know of one single dragon, which they can avoid if it is dangerous. Lung dragons can be encountered near any body of water and in some mountain ranges or even large towns.

Lung dragons are hatched out of eggs, laid on the banks of rivers and streams. They may appear as beautiful stones, and will remain for thousands of years before hatching. Possibly there needs to be some sort of spiritual imbalance that “tells” the embryonic Lung it is needed in the world. When they emerge, they have long, fish-like bodies and various appendages depending on who is telling the story. Cat whiskers, eagle talons and tiger legs are among the possibilities. According to some lore, Lung are born without horns and cannot yet fly.

The young Lung will take up residence in the water where it is born. It protects the environment there and people living nearby know it as a helpful and lucky spirit. The larger the body of water, the faster and more powerful the Lung will grow. However, if the water is diverted or drained, the dragon will be forced to move on and all the luck of the community will turn bad.

At about 500 years old, it will transform into a Kioh-Lung. Now more powerful, the Lung dragon gains stag horns and the power of flight. This allows it to extend its protection over a much wider area. Kioh-lung can personally bring rain to areas where it is needed. They gain more powers of transformation and can become as small as a silk worm or large enough to blot out the sun. Kioh-lung can even take human form to move among the populace. It pays to show kindness to strangers, for you never know who is a dragon in disguise!

During this phase, Kioh-lung can assume specific responsibilities, as described in my last post. Chulong, Fucanglong and Shenlong are all examples of the niche a Kioh-lung may fill.

After 1,000 years in all, the Lung again transforms to become a Yinglong. These dragons grow wings in addition to their other features and can move freely among the gods themselves. Like the gods, dragons are immortal unless somehow killed. Asian people believe that these friendly spirits have watched over them through the ages. They hope the dragons will always be there for them.


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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Yinglong was the eldest of all dragons in Chinese lore. His name meant “proper conduct dragon,” showing how he set an example for all of his kind. Unlike any other dragon, Yinglong had wings in addition to his stag horns, snake neck, camel head, demon eyes, cow ears, clam belly, fish scales, eagle claws and tiger legs.

In addition to Yinglong, Chinese legend features a number of dragons with specific roles to play.

Chulong, the Homeless Dragons, inhabit desolate areas such as mountains, marshes, and the bottom of the sea.

Dilong, the Underground Dragons, watch over rivers and streams. In some tellings, these are female dragons who mate with Shenlong.

Feilong are Cloud Dragons, who dwell among the clouds and mist.

Fucanglong, the Dragons of Hidden Treasure, live in the underworld and guard its buried wealth. When a Fucanglong comes out of the ground to report to the heavens, a volcano is formed.

Huanglong, like Yinglong, is an individual and one of the eldest dragons. He bestowed the gift of writing upon Fu-Shi, one of the mythical Five Emperors. Later, when a monster named Kung Kang had torn a hole in the sky, Huanglong filled that gap and his light restored life to the land. Day and night, months and seasons were synchronized with Huanglong’s breathing. Another version of this tale is called The Candle Dragon.

Jiaolong are Hornless Dragons, most likely similar to crocodiles, who are the rulers of all reptiles.

Longwang are the four Dragon Kings, each ruling one of the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Seas. These dragons appear in several legends, including The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea and The Rabbit and the Dragon King.

Panlong, the Coiling Dragons, live in ponds and lakes. These dragons have not yet been called to heaven.

Shenlong, the Spiritual Dragons, are rainmakers who watch over humanity. They are associated with storms and thunder.

Tianlong, the Celestial Dragons, serve the gods directly by guarding their heavenly palaces and pulling their chariots.


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.

Follow my Facebook page: AuthorDebyFredericks, for all my news and announcements.

 

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Yinglong are Chinese dragons associated with technological innovations in flood control. In various legends told over thousands of years, Yinglong most often appears as a sub-type of Chinese dragons, yet in some cases it seems the stories refer to a specific individual dragon.

Written accounts of Yinglong appear as early as 400 B.C.E. These dragons are associated with a group of mythical ancient rulers known as the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors (perhaps 2850 – 2070 B.C.E.). Each of these rulers is said to have invented some important technology — for instance, harnessing the power of fire — often with the guidance of dragons.

The most common tale regarding Yinglong is that he came to the aid of humanity during a time of relentless floods. A succession of kings had been trying to solve this problem. It wasn’t until the time of King Yu that progress was made. For whatever reason, Yinglong had sympathy for King Yu. Descending to the Earth, the dragon drew lines in the mud with its tail. Yu recognized that this was a map of China, and the lines from the dragon’s tail indicated where canals could be built.

By implementing Yinglong’s design, King Yu not only diverted dangerous floods from inhabited areas, but allowed better irritation of rice fields. He ultimately divided the land into the nine provinces that formed the backbone of Chinese identity for many centuries. King Yu also is credited with founding the Xia Dynasty, China’s earliest known civilization.


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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This is the second of two legends related to Kur, a Sumerian dragon god who ruled in the underworld.

In this telling, Kur’s foe is the hero-god Ninurta. Ninurta had his origins as a god of agriculture, specifically barley. As Sumerian life changed, with small farming villages becoming powerful city-states, Ninurta’s role also became more martial. Eventually he was something like Hercules in Greek myth — a hot-tempered god who ran around having adventures while the other gods minded their celestial business.

Ninurta had a marvelous weapon, a mace called Sharur, which could talk and change its shape to that of a winged lion. As the story begins, Ninurta is feeling down because he hasn’t had a good fight lately. Sharur suggests that he take on Kur, who after all is evil and a force for destruction. After extensive flattery by Sharur, Ninurta takes on this challenge.

At in the previous version, Ninurta travels to Kur’s domain and is met with a shower of falling rocks. The battle goes poorly, and he is forced to flee — possibly by flying on Sharur’s back. After Sharur exhorts and encourages him, Ninurta returns to the fray. This time he is attacked with boulders, but he summons all his courage and might. At the end of the battle, Kur lies dead. Sharur extols his master’s great achievement. But…

Kur’s celestial business was to keep the abyssal sea separated from the fertile land. Without him, there is no one to hold back the tides. The sea begins to rise, slowly but surely, until salt water threatens to cover all the land. No fresh water can reach the crops. Soon people are desperately hungry.

When Ninurta learns what is happening, he knows he has to make this right. Returning to the battlefield, he discovers that salt water is ceaselessly flowing from the place where Kur’s body lies. Acting quickly, Ninurta gathers up all the boulders he and Kur hurled at each other during their battle. With these he builds a mighty wall. Ninurta’s stone dam diverts the salt water back into the sea. This allows the Tigris River to run clear. With fresh water restored, the people can once again grow crops. They praise Ninurta as their savior.


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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