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.......Curiosity Corner .......

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The Dragon

Readers may remember that in this series we have already examined the gryphon (or griffin), a beneficent beast often, we must admit, most unfairly confused with the dragon (and vice versa, for the "griffin" opposite the Law Courts in London is in reality a dragon). But despite their common misidentification they are very different, especially in their character. Experienced travellers from the East report that there the dragons are kindly beasts, but in the West they represent all that is most dreadful and are treated as the Devil incarnate.

It has been said of the dragon that its head ~

....... is like nothing else in heraldry, and from what source it originated or what basis existed for ancient heraldic artists to imagine it must remain a mystery, unless it was developed from the crocodile or some antediluvian animal much akin.

This nineteenth century author then opined that ~

It is like nothing else in heaven or on earth.

and proceeded to describe it thus ~

Its neck is covered with scales not unlike those of a fish. All four legs are scaled, the back is scaled, the tongue is barbed, and the under part of the body is likewise scaled, but here, in rolls of a much larger size.

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Obviously there are some elements of hyperbole here ("like nothing else in heaven" forsooth!), and reports are not always consistent, the shape of the ears, for example, seeming to vary widely, but all observers tend to agree that the wings of the dragon are similar to those of the bat. The long ribs of the wings stretch from the wingtips down to the roots, and are very obvious, boasting of their strength. The tail, as also the long tongue, ends with a sharp barb, but this appears to be a recent mutation, for until the sixteenth century the tail was described as being long and smooth and ending in a blunt point. (Freud is understood to have composed a controversial monograph on this bizarre mutation, but sadly it has been lost.)
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The Dragon (continued) ~ the Rain Dragon and the Opinicus and the Wyvern and the Gryphon (or Griffin)
© 1999 The Baronage Press and Pegasus Associates Ltd