The dragon is the protagonist of interesting stories that recur in many Western and Eastern myths . For Westerners the dragon was mostly a cave dweller, fierce but vain keeper of precious treasures such as the golden fleece kidnapped by Jason and the gold of the Rhine conquered by Siegfried. For the Orientals instead the dragon was a celestial creature, protector and symbol of imperial China. Dragons were divided into several categories:
– Celestial Dragons: of a color similar to a very light green, they were guarding the sky and were the only ones to have 5 claws per paw; – Spiritual dragons: blue in color, they were the most revered as guardians of wind, clouds and water, and therefore the peasant harvest depended on them; – Terrestrial dragons: emerald green in color, they were the guardians of the waterways, regulating the flow and living in the depths of the rivers; – Underground monsters: g
olden in color, they were the keepers of great and immense treasures and dispensers of eternal happiness; – Red Dragons and Black Dragons:
violent and bellicose creatures, who continually clashed in the air causing violent storms with their energy.
But for all of them it was a gigantic reptile with or without clawed legs, almost always with wide bat wings and often also with the wide vomiting fire. At its creation three elements collaborated, to varying degrees depending on the location and times, first of all the bones of fossil animals found in prehistoric caves, therefore often referred to as “dragon caves”: such is the case of the Klagenfurt dragon, whose monument, erected there at the beginning of the seventeenth century, had as its model a skull of velvety rhino from the ice age which was then jealously guarded in the local town hall; secondly, the fantastic magnification and misrepresentation of common fearsome reptiles, such as the crocodile and the snake; thirdly, existence, in certain districts, reptiles actually quite responsive to the traditional image of the dragon or its basilisk companion: such are the South American iguanas, the varans of Africa and Asia and, above all, that curious lizard from Indonesia who, for the presence of wing expansions functioning as parachutes, had the name of “Draco volans” wrongly used by Linnaeus; to the latter, in fact, the descriptions and sixteenth-century illustrations of Girolamo Cardano, Konrad von Gesner and Pierre Belon clearly refer. Much more like the dragons of the legends were many of the colossal reptiles that populated the globe in the secondary era. But it was absurd to think that some of them had escaped the extinction dating back to one hundred million years ago, had served as a starting point for some fairy tale. It was absurd … until 1912. In that year Professor Owen from the Java botanical garden made a sensational discovery: induced by the strange rumors of the indigenous people of Komodo, a small island between Sumbawa and Flores, he set up a small expedition and he discovered, indeed, even killed one of the mysterious “Doeje darat”, the terrible dragons that, according to the Indians, lived in the bottom of the jungle. The prey proved to be anything but inferior to the legend: up to four meters long, with the mighty front legs longer than the hind legs, the Komodo lizard had, in size and posture, an aspect well worthy of its distant fossil progenitors.
A FAMOUS LEGEND:
SAN GIORGIO KILLS THE DRAGON
(from AM Smyth, Stories of fabulous animals)
This story about dragons, with its candid air, will give you an idea of how,
some centuries ago, sensible men accepted this frightening
and he had fallen so much in love with the land he had bought and had built a beautiful villa on the model of Roman villas, and now he cultivated the land and raised horses. He and Giorgio went around the fields and reached small black cows that were a special dairy breed. Lying next to them, his tongue was out and his eyes were wide and there was a nice little dragon. – Yes – Lucius said – Don is a beauty. Better than any dog. The wolves, foxes and wild dogs no longer concern me since I trained them to watch the herd. – Are you always so docile and trustworthy? – Yes, always like that! You must know that I found him injured on the road. I think he crashed into a war cart, and then only a puppy was born, he had a broken wing and a flattened front leg. But I brought him home, I put the wing in place and I bandaged his paw, and from that moment he was like a child. Here Don! The dragon leaped to his feet and approached his master hopping. It was about a meter high and five feet long, with a body covered with blue scales that under the belly faded into yellow, the serrated tail, the membranous gray-blue wings with a very delicate shape, four large flat legs, with strong claws and beautiful, and a big and proud head. It had small, harmonious ears, pointed forward and lined with gray fur; his eyes were yellow, very bright and intelligent; long jaws with huge teeth. Occasionally, as he gasped with pleasure and excitement at the sight of his master, a puff of smoke rose from his big red mouth. Lucio and Giorgio scratched his ears and patted his massive neck. – It doesn’t burn things with the breath like the other dragons do – Lucio said – A hermit who lives in these parts and owns one of these dragons, he advised me to feed him a lot of lettuce, because this greatly reduces the heat of the breath. Of course he can’t go near the barn or other similar places, but he can come into the house, he does it often and he doesn’t burn anything in the room. – I heard that the most terrible thing about the dragon I have to fight is that you can’t stay close to it because of the heat. – Bad, ill – Lucio agreed – Oh they are very different in size, character and so on. By the way, did you hear the last one on your dragon? – I have heard that people have to tie poor cows out of the village in the evening because they are bothered if they come to eat at night and that they have to put out buckets of milk. – Much worse. The last is that people bind their daughters or old relatives, in short, all those who are not very useful, and lets them devour the dragon instead of cows which, of course, cost more. Unless the stock of cows is over. – It must certainly be so! – said Giorgio somewhat horrified. – Oh, I don’t know. You Britons are capable of anything. You are the hardest people I know, yet I have been in most countries of the empire. “Well, I think I’ll do well to think about it tomorrow,” said Giorgio. The next day, early in the morning, he set off on his big bay up the limestone hills. The larks darted from their nests over the horse’s hooves, and hovered singing in the clear June air. The hills were bare and bare except for a few small groups of beech and hawthorn, fresh and green in the morning sun, and ferns sprouted from their feet. The sun shone on Giorgio’s helmet and breastplate, on the armor that covered his legs, hands and arms, on the round shield and on the iron point of the lance. His short, flat Roman sword and dagger hung at his side in the leather sheaths. In a sack placed on the saddle, he also carried the bread, meat, cheese and wine that Lucius had given him. While he rode he heard chisels and hammers being beaten in the chalk pits of the hills, and the men ‘s voice for the quiet air. The sun had risen to the highest point in the sky and he hastened. After a while he reached the high summit where, near a village, the dragon lived. As far as his eyes could go, only undulations could be seen leaning to the horizon. Except for some gray huts, it was one of the most desolate regions of Britain, and Giorgio realized why the dragon had managed to survive so long. Those poor peasants were not to be armed or skilled enough to clash with such a powerful and cunning beast. He arrived as far as Uffington and was accompanied by the village chief. – Lord – said the chief – you would do better to rest and cool down until the sun goes down, because the monster sleeps all day and can never be seen until evening. Then he goes out to devour the victim … The man stopped and burst into tears. Giorgio had already heard crying and sobs from inside his home, and so he asked what it was. – Sir, we drew lots to know who had to sacrifice his daughter, and it was my turn, and this evening my unified daughter will be brought by the village elders and sacrificed to the dragon. Lord, she is our only daughter, it has always been our joy and our consolation. – And he wrung his hands in despair. “And it will be again,” said Giorgio, resting his hand on the poor man’s shoulder. – The dragon had its last victim … it will die tonight. He stayed that afternoon in the chief’s house, and saw that his horse was thoughtfully cared for. Towards sunset, the village elders came to get the girl, and Giorgio told her to go with them too and to let them be tied up, but to trust him because he would save her. Then he saddled the horse and followed the company. As soon as the girl was tied to the a sacrificial tree felt a dull rumble in the ground. The villagers took to their heels and Giorgio saw buffed smoke coming out of what looked like an out of use quarry. A spray of fire followed, the roar grew louder and the dragon came forward heavily. It was a frightening sight: three or four times bigger than Lucio’s Don, and with his jaws continually erupting buffoons of smoke and tongues of fire. Stepping forward, it roared and hissed, waving its powerful and jagged tail. The body, though large, moved very easily on the enormous clawed feet. Giorgio’s courage faltered for an instant. He had not imagined that a monster could be so big and wild. But, unable to backtrack now, he pushed the horse forward. The dragon stopped advancing ferociously towards the girl, to attack him. The horse jumped to the side, frightened by the smoke and the fire, and Giorgio had to encourage it to face the dragon. He himself was half asphyxiated. He targeted the beast with the spear. The dragon towered over George riding his horse. The spear hit him on the shoulder under the wing and, with a great loss of Giorgio, flickered away like a steel plate. The horse slipped to the side and thus saved Giorgio from the pincers of the enormous jaws. He heard the noise of their slamming just behind him and felt the burn, and then he turned the horse promptly to hold it between the dragon and the captive maiden. This fight was very different from anything else he had ever imagined. The smoke that smothered him hid the dragon from him, so that he could not see well or follow its movements. It was covered with impenetrable scales, and the only vulnerable parts of the body were, perhaps, the ventral ones, which Giorgio could only reach by dismounting from his horse; but in this case his gestures would have been too slow to elude the monster. While trying to concoct a plan, he dragged the dragon farther from the maiden, backing away from his impetuous attacks. Then he attacked it, charging it several times, hitting it in several places, trying to find the vulnerable one. Several times he felt a blow as if the spear had hit an armored body, but it did not penetrate at any point. His face and right side were burned, like the horse that had also been wounded by a tear in the jaws of the monster. The light was about to go out, and he realized he had to hurry. As he turned the horse, Giorgio realized that there were only two points to target, the eye or the throat. The eye was too small a target and was often hidden by smoke, so he decided by the throat. The dragon, enraged by the blows he had built, and close-knit as it was, assailed him roaring with its jaws wide open and spitting fire. Giorgio advanced boldly, targeting the fire with his own spear. There was a stroke and the horse fell backward because the spear had caught and stuck in the monster’s throat. Terrible cries of the wounded beast rose, rising in an attempt to crush Giorgio under his feet. In one leap, Giorgio slid down from the horse, drew his sword, aimed straight at the side of the monster where he sank it into the joint between the left front leg and the body. The blow was fatal. The dragon was pierced to the heart. The blood ran hot down the sides of the hill and dug into the ground some canals that are still visible today. The flames diminished as the contortions ceased, and finally the fearful creature lay dead. Giorgio went to the girl, rather badly in a tool, but full of contentment. He untied it and gave it back to his father, who came with the villagers to bless him. They offered him the bride, but he thanked and refused, saying he was a soldier and could not take a wife yet. Then the chief received him at his house for the night while the villagers were celebrating around the body of the dragon which was then burned. The next morning Giorgio got back on his horse and resumed his journey up the hills to return to the regiment. ” Then the chief received him at his house for the night while the villagers were celebrating around the body of the dragon which was then burned. The next morning Giorgio got back on his horse and resumed his journey up the hills to return to the regiment. ” Then the chief received him at his house for the night while the villagers were celebrating around the body of the dragon which was then burned. The next morning Giorgio got back on his horse and resumed his journey up the hills to return to the regiment. “