Portrait of the Dragon

For thousands of years, the myth of the dragon haunted the imagination of the people. The dragon is probably the most notorious of all legendary monsters. But is it certain that this is a myth?
It can be seen that for centuries the dragon played a role in the arts, legends and religion. Saint George slaying the dragon is only one of many legends related to this symbolic creature.
Man has never had enough imagination to invent or create without using a model.
But, what is this model? An animal ? Several animals whose attributes have been mixed? The question then arises whether the dragon actually existed.

Portrait of the Dragon

The tail in point, the body covered with scales, the flames coming out of its mouth: such is the traditional portrait of the dragon in the West. Vaguely reptilian, this animal flies silently.

Literature has long since featured the dragon even though modern representations are quite different from the dragons of distant legends.
Initially, the dragon was supposed to sleep at the bottom of the ponds, making it an amphibious animal.
His blood contained frightful poisons. The dragon was probably a venomous animal.

Modern Dragon Representation

Since then, writers have added features. For example, science fiction writer Anne MacCaffey imagined that dragons were feeding on mineral substances, and these, combined with stomach acids, give rise to toxic, spontaneously flammable gases.

The fire-breathing dragon was more recently taken to the movies in the reign of fire realized by Rob Bowman in 2002. The dragons then become responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. Thirsting for blood, they try to annihilate humanity.

The Design of Dragons in the Reign of Fire

“We made them powerful and dense,” says Rob Bowman. “Their movements are dictated by their morphology rather than by an aesthetic research, they have effective gestures, they combine reptilian and aerial characteristics, we have elaborated them as for a documentary.

The Reign of Fire

One of the points that particularly interested the filmmaker was the way the dragons spit out flames. “We imagined that these creatures would spit two jets of a kind of venom which, by mixing farther in front of their muzzle, would ignite Like the snakes, they would compress glands in their mouths and spray the two products that would burn In contact with one another “.

Source “secrets of the shooting” Allociné.fr

However, there is a wide variety of dragons around the world. Some are terrestrial, others aquatic. Our distant ancestors had deprived them of human and animal attributes in order to better suggest their supernatural power.
They also shaped the appearance of the dragon according to the wild beasts they were encountering. So we have a dragon-elephant in India, a dragon-deer in China and a dragon-reptile in Europe.

Illustration of a dragon in The Reign of Fire

In many civilizations, the serpent was the ancestor of the dragon. The two animals are also closely linked in many civilizations.

It is therefore very difficult to make a robot portrait of this creature as the descriptions diverge.
Symbol of Evil or Good?

The interpretations are different in East and West.

The Christian tradition has made the dragon the servant of the Devil and the incarnation of evil. It is the “cursed serpent” chased out of Paradise by the archangel Saint Michael.

Illustration of the fight in the skies between the archangel Michael and a Dragon described in the Book of Revelation of the New Testament. (DP)

But it has not always been so. Dragons from ancestral myths were much less harmful creatures.
Of course, they inspired terror, but they caused little havoc. The dragoons could live in peace with the men, who reconciled their good graces in exchange for an annual tribute of gold or human lives.

Perseus and Andromeda painted by Piero di Cosimo, a painter of the Renaissance. In Greek mythology, Andromeda is attached to a rock, offered as a sacrifice to a sea dragon. Perseus delivers it with its magic weapons. (DP)

In the ancient myths, the dragon is also the guardian of the waters. These monsters had the power to make the rain fall.
They were also symbols of regeneration. The blood of the dead dragons could fertilize the earth. Throughout the world, both in the West and in the East, popular traditions have perpetuated this symbolic role of dragons in the course of immemorial fertility rites.

Dragon guardian of the Shaolin temple. By kevin poh

In the West, the story of the battered dragon knows many variations. For most of the ancient heroes, Siegfried, Sigurd, Beowulf, St. George, St. Michael, Arthur, Tristan, or Lancelot, it was the crowning of a career to kill a cruel dragon. On this theme, the legends have expanded.

Saint George who saves the beautiful princess of the dragon (Flemish artist of the fifteenth century, National Gallery of Art Washington). (DP)

In contrast to the West, the dragon personifies sweetness and goodness in China. The dragons were the gods of the rain. They formed clouds with their breath and watered the rice fields.
Chinese dragons changed color according to circumstances. Black symbolized destruction and it was also the dragon-thunder of the Imperial family.
Yellow signified luck, and azure foretold the birth of great men.
Dragons could also become invisible and glow in the dark.

Dragon of the Forbidden City. © dinosoria.com

In Korea, each river and river received its own dragon.

In Asia, dragon bones were part of the traditional pharmacopoeia. It is almost certain that they were fossils of prehistoric animals.

Even today, in China, the New Year is celebrated by walking through the streets with huge dragons of paper and bamboo.

Chinese New Year Dragon.

In France, in Tarascon, a mannequin depicting a monstrous animal, is walked every year in the city. This procession is conducted in memory of an amphibious monster who made terror reign in the region of the banks of the Rhone before being according to legend, tame by St. Martha.

How to interpret the symbolism of the dragon?

The struggle of St. George against the Dragon is generally interpreted as an allegory illustrating the victory of Christianity over the powers of darkness.

Siegfried, hero of Germanic mythology, triumphant of the dragon Fafnir. (DP)

But legends and traditions collected in different places reveal that this struggle has an older and more universal symbolic value.
Originally, in all countries, the dragon represents the principle of fertility. It is born every spring from an egg laid under the water. Every year, in winter, it is necessary to kill the old dragon to make room for the new one that will be born next spring.

One can also interpret this symbolism as a victory over the death and rebirth of every being through birth: the declining old man is replaced by his young son full of vigor.

One thing is certain, the dragon is originally an animal that lives partly in water.

The Dragon Trade

The legends of the whole world once caused a flourishing trade in false dragons throughout Europe.
They manufactured and sold imitations of dragoons, which came, it was said, straight from the caves and sandbanks of Asia.
These so-called monsters appeared as early as the sixteenth century. These false dragons were no bigger than kittens and were sold as baby dragons.

False dragon which dates back to about the sixteenth century

In fact, they were probably small flying lizards brought back from the Malay Peninsula and the East Indies that had been mutilated.
Other false dragons were created from scratch from pieces of giant skate or by adding bat wings to the dried body of a lizard.

Has the dragon existed?

Why do these hybrid creatures exert such power over our minds? We encounter terrestrial dragons but more recent and aquatic dragons, the original model. There is a wide variety of dragons all over the world.
Where do they come from ? Have they been created to satisfy a human need, to personify natural forces then inexplicable?

Fantasy illustration of an ancient book on the exploration of America showing the encounter of a creature resembling a dragon. (DP)

In 1960, the dragons made headlines. The story goes on in New Guinea. It was said that the inhabitants of a region had been attacked by dragons, some of them reaching 6 meters.
The craziest rumors circulated: the monsters spit fire and smoke and suck the blood of their victims.
Corpses had wounds of more than 30 cm in length that were allegedly made by dragon claws.

The panic was such that the government gathered the population in protected enclosures and promised a large reward for the capture of one of the monsters, dead or alive.

Nobody went hunting for dragons. The latter probably had to be satisfied because we never saw them again …

Drawing of a dragon whose appearance appeared in the Alps in 1660. (DP)

Today, most people consider the dragon to be a purely legendary animal.

Several questions may arise. On the one hand, are the dragons really the descendants of the great reptiles of the Secondary who would have survived as some claim until the dawn of our history?

On the other hand, we find the stories of dragons in so many different countries that one may wonder if there is not at the base a common origin.
Finally, the initial representations made of it amazingly evoke some flying reptiles such as scientists were able to reconstitute them.

Miniature of a medieval manuscript that illustrates the soldiers of Alexander the Great against terrible dragons. (DP)

The term “dragon” certainly embodies several different species, some aquatic and others terrestrial. These animals, quite real, apparently sufficiently impressed our distant ancestors so that myths and legends would make them supernatural creatures.

However, I emphasize the fact that no parietal painting, or any other representation dating from prehistory (sculptures, carved rocks, decorated pottery …) throughout the world represent an animal approaching the dragon.

What should we conclude?

That this animal or these animals never existed? Or that their population was extremely small and endemic to some remote areas?

Everyone is free to draw their own conclusions. But it is certain that these monsters winged with the breath of fire will continue for a long time to satisfy our thirst for marvelous.

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