Archive for the ‘Dragon Folklore’ Category

Long ago, in the Scottish borderlands, a dreadful wyvern made its lair on the side of Linton Hill. This creature would hunt at dawn and dusk. It wasn’t a picky eater — men, beasts and crops all found their way into its gullet. The villagers fought back, but no weapon could pierce its armored scales.

In desperation, a messenger went to the castle of the local laird, John (or perhaps William) de Somerville. De Somerville was famed as a warrior, reckless and fierce. In this case, however, caution seemed to temper his actions. First, he went to all the villages around Linton Hill, gathering tales and advice. Then he found a vantage to watch the creature in action.

De Somerville observed that the wyvern had an exceptionally large maw. It would snap up and swallow anything in its path. However, when it encountered an obstacle too large to be devoured, it would momentarily freeze with its mouth open. In this, the laird saw his chance.

He went to the nearest blacksmith and directed the man to create an unusual weapon. It was a great spear, but with a wheel on the front. He then stuck a chunk of peat on the tip, covered it with tar, and set it alight. Next followed several days of practice getting his war horse used to having a flaming object in front of it.

When he was ready, De Somerville rode out at dawn. Just as the wyvern emerged from its lair, he lit the spear and confronted the beast on horseback. As ever, the wyvern charged with its mouth open to snatch up a meal. But it had never encountered a person on horseback before. It froze, mouth gaping.

Unfortunately for the dragon, De Somerville did not halt his charge. He ran his burning spear straight into the wyvern’s throat. The monster shrieked and thrashed. Dying, it retreated to its lair, which collapsed upon it. De Somerville was knighted and named Baron of Linton. His family crest depicted a wyvern perched atop a wheel.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.


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The amphiptere (pronounced am-fit-ear) is a sub-type of the European dragon. It may also be called an amphithere or amphitere. This creature has a snakelike body with a long tail and wings, but no other limbs. Thus it is somewhat the opposite of a lindworm, which has two legs and often is shown without wings.

At times, these dragons are referred to as a hybrid of serpents with some other creature. They may be shown with bird-like, feathered wings or with bat-like, leathery ones. It may simply depend on the artist’s inspiration.

There is no mention of any breath weapon, and I haven’t found any stories that specify a legend around an amphiptere. So these dragons may be mainly based in heraldry, where dragons were fairly common. People who wanted to use a dragon in their arms had to look for variations in order to be accepted.

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Ancient Native Americans left behind many forms of rock art, including petroglyphs that were pecked into rock faces with smaller stones, and pictographs that were painted onto the stone. One of the best known pictographs was a monumental figure called the Piasa Bird, on an exposed limestone cliff above the Mississippi River in what is now Illinois. It was the largest painted pre-historic image known to have existed in the continental United States.

Like many legendary dragons, the Piasa Bird was a hybrid creature with many parts. It was quadrupedal, with a long body that reminds me of a cougar’s, but with clawed feet like an eagle or falcon. The wings were as large as its body. Its head and face were humanlike, with a bushy beard, but it had antlers. A long tail circled almost completely around its body, with a fork at the end like that of a fish. All parts of it except the face were covered with feathers, or perhaps scales.

Archaeologists believe that this pictograph originated with the Cahokia people. Cahokia was one of the largest native kingdoms in North America. The culture reached its zenith around 1200 C. E. Due to its great size and prominent location, scholars speculate the rock art was a sort of billboard. “Caution: You Are Entering Cahokia Territory.”

As early as 1673, explorers and travelers made note of the rock art, which included several smaller figures in addition to the Piasa Bird. Their accounts state that Native people would shoot their guns at the pictograph whenever they passed. So possibly this was a “scapegoat” image and attacking it was meant to drive off evil forces. Or perhaps later tribes remembered the Cahokia with hatred, and showed it by attacking their most visible relics.

As you can see from all these theories, there is no clear understanding of what the Piasa Bird represented when it was made. (No one seems to have asked the tribal members, I have to note.) One printed account, by college professor John Russell, claimed that the tribes in the area had been at war, and the gigantic Piasa Bird fed on the corpses of fallen warriors. It enjoyed this treat so much that it began snatching people from the villages nearby. A local chief named Ouatoga prayed to the Great Spirit and received a vision. He armed a number of warriors with poisoned arrows and stationed them around the Piasa’s cavernous lair. Then, using himself as bait, he lured the monster out. It soon fell to the tribal arrows. The natives then painted its image to commemorate the deed.

Dramatic as this account may be, there is no documentation to support it. There won’t be, either. The Piasa Bird was painted onto high quality limestone, which was mined beginning in the 1870s. The entire array of images was destroyed. Some historic drawings do survive. Based on these, a re-creation of the Piasa Bird has been painted onto a bluff not far from the site of the original. You can see it at Piasa Bird Park near Alton, IL. The Piasa Bird is also a mascot for a nearby high school.

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Hindu lore brings us these water-monsters, which are hybrids combining the heads of land animals with the tails of sea creatures. Within this general type, each makara is unique. Some have heads of powerful beasts like crocodiles and elephants. Some have tails of seals or fish. Individual artists seem free to create the combinations they like best.

Although makaras seem like fanciful hybids, some scholars have tried to guess whether they are based on some animal from the real world. Suggestions include river dolphins, dugongs, and two types of crocodile, the mugger and gharial. Mugger crocodiles are the most common kind in India.

As mythical beings, makaras have two primary functions. They act as guardian beasts for temples, gates and doors, and the thrones of rulers. They also serve as steeds for various deities, including the sea god Varuna and Ganga, goddess of the Ganges River. It doesn’t seem that makaras themselves are the prime actors in many tales, but rather serve as fierce protectors for the gods and goddesses.

As time went on, makaras became associated with Buddhist lore as well as Hindu. They are now widespread in art and architecture as far away as Japan and Indonesia. Many temples, especially, have makaras carved as decorative finials, railings, lintels, and so on. They’re a common design for the spouts on fountains and springs, and for vessels such as pitchers. Makaras can also appear in jewelry such as earrings and bracelets.

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One of America’s most famous roads is dubbed The Tail of the Dragon. It’s said to be the single most beautiful, thrilling and dangerous drive in the country.

Officially named Blount Gap, The Tail of the Dragon is a section of U. S. Highway 129 that runs between Blount County, TN and Swain County, NC. Though just eleven miles long, it boasts 318 sharp curves. There are no side streets or driveways, only the rugged Great Smoky Mountains and national forest land.

Many of the road’s features have been given interesting names like Gravity Cavity, Copperhead Corner, and Wheelie Hell. Others are blind corners where unexpected hazards may appear. For safety reasons, the speed limit on this highway has been reduced to 30 mph and it is strictly patrolled. Still, some sources state that at least one death occurs on this stretch of road each year.

Nevertheless, motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts flock to the route during the spring and summer months. All long to experience the challenge of the Tail of the Dragon. Tourists can stop at a few scenic overlooks, and stay at a number of hotels near each end of the route. Perhaps the best known is Deals Gap. This rustic lodge includes an impressive metal statue of a dragon.

The Tail of the Dragon has also been popular with Hollywood, and a number of movies have been filmed on the dramatic twists and turns. These include Thunder Road (1958), Two Lane Blacktop (1971) and The Fugitive (1993). If you aren’t into the Tail of the Dragon’s driving challenge, it sounds like you could enjoy the Hollywood trivia or just relish the beautiful mountain scenery.

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A Swedish prince could not get married until his older brother, a lindworm, found a bride who could love him as he was. After many failures, the human prince despaired. 

In the villages of that land, a young woman heard the lindworm prince was looking for a bride. She was wise enough to seek a soothsayer’s advice before doing anything. It happened this was the very same soothsayer who the queen had once consulted. He told her that if she was brave at heart there was a way to break the lindworm’s curse.

After hearing his advice, the young woman volunteered to be the lindworm’s bride. She came to the forest dressed in many layers of clothing. It seemed odd, but the lindworm was pleased she didn’t scream or faint, so he agreed to the marriage.

What a strange wedding night it was! The groom ordered to the bride to take off her clothes, but she told him he must shed one layer of skin for every garment she removed. With nervous anticipation, they played this game. Over and over, she took off one dress and he shed a layer of skin.

Finally she wore only a shift, while the lindworm had one translucent layer of scales. With a silent prayer, she removed her shift and stood naked. The lindworm coiled around her, slowly and gently.As it rubbed against her, the final layer of scales peeled away. Suddenly she felt not the cold strength of a serpent but a man’s warm arms. By her cleverness and trust, the curse had been broken!

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After consulting a soothsayer, a Swedish queen gave birth to twins — but one of them was a lindworm!

The younger prince grew up to be a handsome man, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a smile to set hearts fluttering. He began to travel the countryside in search of a bride. As he set out, he passed beside a great forest where all sorts of wild beasts were said to roam.

Without warning, his horse suddenly stopped. The prince, too, sat paralyzed as a huge serpent reared its head from the brush at the wood’s edge. It was a lindworm! As he struggled to reach for his weapons, a cold voice penetrated his thoughts.

“Do not worry,” said the lindworm. “I will not harm you. I am your elder brother.”

“How can this be?” asked the prince.

“Perhaps our mother knows,” the dragon said. “I do not care if you become king, for people mean nothing to me, but I demand this one thing. You will not be married before me. Our mother the queen must send me a bride who is willing to marry me and can love me as I am.”

Though shocked, the human prince said, “I will tell her and find out the truth.”

The lindworm withdrew, and the prince was able to move again. He immediately returned to the castle and told his mother what had happened. Weeping, she confessed all that she knew. Once she had consulted a soothsayer but failed to hear all his words, and so her firstborn had been born a monster. Knowing that he indeed had an older brother, the prince agreed to wait for his marriage.

The queen began a long search for a young woman who would be willing to marry the monstrous prince. Although many went to the forest, each of them swooned or screamed at the sight of their prospective groom. Because they were unwilling, the lindworm prince rejected them one after another.

The human prince began to despair. Would he never have a bride? Come back on Saturday for part three!

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