Friday, 16 December 2011


As an image based individual, I am fascinated by how people imagine and interpret how dragons are supposed to look. They seem to have certain rules; they need to be reptilian, with claws with dinosaur-like teeth. But how dragons look changes according to where you live in the world. There is the Chinese dragon, still reptilian but with more a more serpentine look. The other type, the European dragon, likes to breathe a little fire, perhaps has wings. Considering it’s a mythical creature, it certainly does have a definitive identity.

Which makes me wonder, why did we create these imaginary creatures and why have they endured so well? There are plenty of mythological creatures to choose from, what makes the dragon such a romantic figure? There is more than one hypothesis. One is that the discovery of dinosaur bones made these creatures real to the people who first found them. Another is that we have an innate repulsion of reptilian creatures by instinct (a little like the fear of spiders) which has encouraged us to create these images. But why haven’t we created a giant fire breathing spider that flies? We have even gone as far to surmise how they reproduce; we all know that dragons lay eggs don’t we?

As fierce as they seem to be in stories and illustrations, they are still incredibly beautiful. I love to see how people illustrate dragons in such differing styles. I have always seen them as noble creatures, not vicious and bloodthirsty. There has to be more than just seeing bones and guessing, there has to be more than primeval fear. Something is at work. Here there be the creative impulse. As Vicky said yesterday, dragons are us without the chains. Dragons are us, they are part of us which we create in a reptilian form. We transfer ourselves from the mammal to the reptilian and all our faults and virtues travel with them.

Image from kerembeyit on Devianart.


Ste said...

This and Vicky's post yesterday got me thinking about 'Life of Pi'

I like the questions here - I never thought about dinosaur bones but have always thought encounters with crocodiles, Komodo dragons etc fed the myth, (whales, giant squid for the kraken as well)

I think we humans have a knack for making the fantastic out of the ordinary. 'Life of Pi' is one of my faves because of this.

I love a line near the end of the book (the actual quote says 'animals' but I shall substitute for 'dragons':

"'So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can't prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with (dragons) or the story without (dragons)?'

Mr. Okamoto: 'That's an interesting question?'

Mr. Chiba: 'The story with (dragons).'

Mr. Okamoto: 'Yes. The story with (dragons) is the better story.'

Pi Patel: 'Thank you. And so it goes with God.'"

Tons of the books I read have dragons as a central theme and they always represent transience, spirituality and power. Maybe they represent what we strive to be?

Dunno but you and Vicky got me thinking anyway - great post. Hope you enjoy yourselves at DGPS tonight :)

vicky ellis said...

Lindsay, I reckon that dragon makes a noise like a church organ - it has enough pipes :) I want to see you draw a dragon please!

See you later x

Ashley R Lister said...

I've been researching dragons over the past few days and you're right to mention the fact that they're a worldwide phenomena.

The differences seem to be minor - and the similarities do tend to suggest that there is something behind the myth.

Great post,