Monday, February 29, 2016

Dragons

Why do so many people love to read about dragons? Dragons are purely mythological, but have appeared as both European and Asian symbols for centuries, possibly in Asia as far back as 3000 BC. Most of the myths don't encompass a story but rather an image. St. George and the Dragon is a exception, a medieval tale about killing a dragon to save a princess. Today dragons still inspire stories. Many current novels feature dragons, notably Irish novelist Anne McCaffrey's stories of Pern, which is a science fiction series involving star travel and biology, and might have impelled current interest. Even more recently, dragon shape-shifters have been chronicled in Shanna Abe's series about dr├íkon (Greek word for dragon, draco is the Latin word) beginning with The Smoke Thief which takes place in the 18th century. Another recent series on dragon shifters is Donna Grant’s Dragon King Series. I just finished reading another novel about dragon shape-shifters in the humorous beginning of an urban fantasy series, I Dream of Dragons by Ashlyn Chase. So whatever the pull of the dragon, it remains with us.

Today dragons are envisioned as Tyrannosaurus Rex sized winged lizards living in caves and often guarding a hoard of golden treasure. As mentioned above, they are often crossed with werewolf shape-shifting legends, the humans involved change into dragons. While dragons have often been portrayed as a lizard of some type, in ancient times they were portrayed as water creatures or snake-like creatures slithering across the land. Some claim the Leviathan of the Bible was a dragon. In Chinese lore they are symbols of good luck and power, often associated with the ruler. In Europe, they were seen as more malevolent creatures.

Throughout all the legends and stories, dragons represent a powerful advisory, and killing the dragon indicates courageously attempting a dangerous endeavor. If you felt fear in the movie Jurassic Park, you can understand how the legend of such a creature affected ancient audiences: dragons were formidable and terrifying.

Where did the ideas for these creatures come from? Certainly the legend creators didn't see them in reality. Yet, perhaps ancients came across dinosaur bones at some point in time and recognized the enormous bones as legs of some creature, perhaps even wings, spawning the rumors of such creatures. More likely they enlarged upon fearsome creatures they saw or heard about like pythons, alligators, crocodiles, or other large lizard or water species. In the Far East it might have been creatures like seahorses or lion fish that helped inaugurated the legend. You can see from these photos of lion fish on the National Geographic site how these beautiful but poisonous fish might have inspired such beliefs.

At the website Whats Your Sign dragons are seen as symbols of the need for strength and courage during times of trouble. They are magical creatures who are masters of all the primal elements of land, sea, air, and fire.

Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces, in the section on Atonement with the Father, says, “Atonement (at-one-ment) [Campbell's implied emphasis presumably points out this mean the conclusion of the action 'at one'] consists in no more than the abandonment of that self-generated monster—the dragon Sin (repressed id). But this requires an abandonment of the attachment to ego itself, and that is what is difficult.” Certainly it has been proven by Campbell, Jung and others, that folklore and mythology often have psychological aspects, so perhaps the creatures of myth do to. Perhaps our fascination with dragons is because one exists within each of us. Something we must either learn to accept, or something we must destroy in order to become our true selves. Something to think about.

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