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Archive for the ‘Dragon Folklore’ Category

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.

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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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In ancient Sumeria (3300 – 2270 BCE), legends told of a savage dragon god who existed at the dawn of creation. Their lore held that the world was composed of three parts: the surface Land, an oceanic Abyss, and between them a space known as Irkala, the Underworld. This was the domain of the gigantic serpent, Kur.

Various deities had paired off during the creation of the world. Anu, god of the stars, captured and married Uras, goddess of the heavens, while Enlil, the storm god, married the earth goddess Ninlil. Not to be left out, Kur abducted the goddess Ereshkigal and made her his queen in Irkala.

This offended the water god, Enki, and he set off to avenge Ereshkigal. Enki descended to Irkala in a boat made of reeds. Kur saw him coming and attacked with a shower of stones while trying to swamp the boat with swirling tidess. Enki fended off the attack. Kur tried again with a rain of boulders and raging waves, but still Enki’s boat survived.

At last Kur himself came in person and the battle was joined! One can only imagine the foam and fury as two water gods made war. Enki prevailed and installed himself as Lord of the Abyss, but Ereshkigal either could not or would not return from captivity. She remained in Irkala as an independent and powerful Queen of the Underworld.

As for Kur, the myths do not state his fate. He may well have survived, for shortly afterward the waters began to rise. Soon all life on Earth was threatened. Check back on Wednesday to learn which deity was next to take on the dreaded Kur!


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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One of the great heroes of Persian lore is the mighty warrior Rostam. He is part of several legends, but the most substantial of these is the epic poem Shahnameh, recorded by Ferdowsi around 1010 C.E.

Rostam dwelt in Sistan, part of modern-day Iran, where he stood high in the favor of King Kay Kaus. Unfortunately, the king undertook an ill-fated invasion of neighboring Mazandaran. He was defeated and captured. Learning of this, Rostam rode to the rescue on his faithful stallion, Rakhsh. The hero endured several trials. He was lost in the dessert and battled a lion, several demons — and a dragon.

Rostam was asleep one night when Rakhsh heard a noise near the camp. A dragon was lurking in the bushes! The horse whinnied and stamped on the ground, making such noise that the hero woke up. He also forced the dragon to retreat, so that Rostam saw no danger and was highly annoyed with his steed.

He lay down to sleep again, but a short time later the dragon returned. Again, Rakhsh sounded the alarm and woke his master. Rostam was furious and threatened to kill the horse, but then he spotted the dragon! The battle was joined, the monster was defeated, and all was well. One hopes that faithful Rakhsh got a good brushing as reward for his help.


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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The evil spirit Ahriman found his perfect puppet in the person of Zahhak, a prince he deceived into becoming king — then cursed with a dragon’s head growing from either shoulder. And these dragon heads could only be placated by one food: human brains.

Whatever goodness may once have been inside Zahhak, he now gave himself completely to evil. His greatest fear was that the two dragons might turn and devour his brain someday. Using a network of spies, he began to arrest anyone who spoke against his rule. And there must have been plenty of protest — no matter how great or small the crime, two prisoners each day were sacrificed and their brains served to Zahhak.

Ahriman must have settled in to enjoy the reign of terror. Zahhak did not rest easily, however. After some time, he had a terrible dream that a rebellion arose. The leader struck him down with a mighty club, then dragged him off toward a high mountain. Upon awakening, Zahhak summoned all his wise men and advisors to interpret this dream. They hemmed and hawed, none wishing to present bad news when their brains might be at stake. The king demanded answers! Finally one admitted that the dream foretold the end of Zahhak’s bloody rule. He even named the man who would bring about Zahhak’s doom. His name was Fereydun.

Nobody knew anything about this person, but Zahhak at once sent his spies to find out. After long searching, the spies discovered that Fereydun was a young boy who lived hidden in the mountains and fed on the milk of a magical cow. Somehow Fereydun must have learned that the spies were coming, for he fled before they reached him. They killed the cow and returned to Zahhak.

While the hunt went on, a pair of dissidents managed to work their way into the kitchens of Zahhak’s palace. There they worked out a plan where they served sheep’s brains instead of human and allowed some of the prisoners to escape. The dragon heads didn’t seem to notice a difference, but Fereydun’s army grew steadily.

Meanwhile, Zahhak embarked on a political campaign to head off the rebellion. He drew up a document that testified to his righteousness, thinking that this would remove the justification for a revolt. Then he summoned leaders from every part of the land and commanded them to sign it. Fearing death, most of them complied. However, a blacksmith named Kava stood up and protested that all of his sons had been arrested and only one was still alive. Seeking to appear merciful, Zahhak agreed to release Kava’s son. Once his son was freed, Kava tore up the document and fled.

He raised his blacksmith’s apron as a banner and gathered many followers. Soon they joined Fereydun’s cause. As the boy had now grown into a man, Kava made for him a mighty mace shaped like an ox’s head. They marched forth to war. The tyrant fled with his army in retreat, and Fereydun soon took the capital city. The surviving prisoners were freed.

Zahhak’s government officials swore to serve the rebel leader. However, the treasurer, Kondrow, snuck off with information on where Fereydun’s forces were arrayed. Zahhak snuck back in, thinking to catch his enemy unawares. But it all happened even as he had dreamed. Fereydun struck him down with the ox-headed mace and dragged him to Mount Damavand, a volcanic peak in modern-day Iran. There the bloodthirsty tyrant was imprisoned for all time, with his own dragon heads gnawing at his skull.

Wow. There’s just nothing like a true dragon legend, is there!


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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In 2014, I retold the legend of Zahhak, a dragonlike character from Persian and Zoroastrian mythology. Recently a comment pointed out that I had called Zahhak an “Arabian dragon” when in fact the myth is Iranian. This is true, and I apologize for assigning a generic nationality. However, the legend is complicated, as stories often are.

According to this article, the legend of Zahhak does come from Iran but the character of Zahhak is described in the legend as an Arab. It seems that Arabs had conquered Iran in the 7th Century. When it came time for storytellers to identify Zahhak’s origins, they were not able to resist the temptation of linking him to the conquerors.

Here is my original post, edited properly.


Zahhak

 

Long ago in Persia, a king named Merdas had only one son. Prince Zahhak was clever and handsome, but his character was weak. He found it easier to go along with what the courtiers and advisers said than to think for himself. This was observed by Ahriman, an evil spirit rather like Satan of Jewish and Biblical tradition. Like Satan, Ahriman aspired to cover the earth with his malevolent rule, and Zahhak seemed like a perfect tool toward this goal.

Ahriman wormed his way into King Merdas’s court and became close to Prince Zahhak. Over time, he persuaded Zahhak to murder his father and assume the throne. The means was to dig a deep pit in a place where the king often walked, and conceal it with brush. This was done; the king fell into the pit and was killed, leaving his son a bloody throne.

Perhaps the new king repented at this, for his former friend was banished from the court. But this was no impediment to Ahriman. He changed his form and returned in the guise of a chef whose food was so wonderful that after some weeks King Zahhak promised him any reward he wanted. The “humble” chef asked to kiss the king on both shoulders. This was agreed. But when the chef had kissed the king’s shoulders, he suddenly disappeared.

In that same moment, two black serpents grew from the king’s shoulders. The horrified king commanded that they be cut off, but as soon as that happened, two more dragon heads grew. Days passed by, and no one could find a way to remove the dragons. In fact, the hungry beasts bit and snapped at everyone, so that no one dared approach.

Except for Ahriman, who now wore the shape of a wise physician. Ahriman told King Zahhak that the dragons couldn’t be removed, but they could be temporarily sated. The only food they would accept? Human brains.

…Oh, didn’t I mention this is a zombie dragon story? Check back next time for the next chapter.


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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