Saturday, June 16, 2018

Origins of Dragons

A dragon statue in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Wikicommons)
I can't leave the theme of mythical creatures and paranormal others behind without discussing the bedrock of some of the best fantasy series ever written -- enter the dragon!

From Tolkien's Smaug the Calamitous to McCaffery's Mnementh, a bronze dragon in the Benden Weyr, Eon's mirror dragon to the Hungarian Horntail faced by Harry Potter, some of the best stories feature the mythologies and histories of dragons. 

Friend or foe, dragons are usually ancient, sentient and wise, but also dangerous, a deadly beast of enormous strength and power. Some have a penchant for gold or young maidens, others a telepathic link to a bond mate or extraordinary powers of luck. No matter the role they play, you have to wonder where in the world they all came from. 

I mean, what corner of our ancestors' minds created dragons? Or, were they once real?

The Archetypes

According to Jung, the notion of dragons is archetypal, ie. it appears in all places, all peoples, and all times.  

Archaeopteryx fossils
For example, we have the European dragon, derived from folk traditions that filtered down from Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies. Then there's the Chinese dragon, with counterparts in Japan, Korea and other East Asian countries. 

Of course, the Americas have their feathered, winged serpents, Australia the Rainbow Serpent. Dragons of Africa include the Great Healing Serpent Masingi to the dangerous Wadjet, who ate the souls of the unjust. It's hard to imagine every culture in the world thinking up these creatures long before there was any kind of trade, exchange or internet to share ideas.

The Theories

One theory behind the global myth of dragons is based on dinosaur remains. If an ancient shaman or storyteller came upon the fossil of, say Qijianglong, they could have understandably mistaken them for dragon bones. 

Another theory, detailed in the book An Instinct for Dragons, by anthropologist David E. Jones, states evolution "embedded an innate fear of predators in the human mind." Just as monkeys exhibit a fear of snakes and large cats, Jones thinks that fearing large predators—such as pythons, birds of prey and elephants—has been selected for in hominids." 

"These universal fears have been frequently combined in folklore and created the myth of the dragon. "

Maybe, but that doesn't explain why many stories, especially from the Eastern myths, are of dragon companions, dragons as healers, or the luck and benevolence one receives from befriending one.

Our stories

Whatever the origins, dragon stories are some of our richest in the speculative fiction genre, including films like How to Train Your Dragon to Game of Thrones, and many other narratives we know and love.

Do you have a favorite dragon story? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. I think mine has to be The Dragonriders of Pern

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Kim Falconer's latest release comes out in 2019 - The Bone Throwers, book one in the Amassia series, writing as A K Wilder. Find her new page on Facebook - AKWilder Author and on Twitter as AKWilder.

Her latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Learn more about Kim on Facebook and chat with her on Twitter. Check out her pen name, @a.k.wilder on Instagram, or visitAKWilder on FB and website.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 


Helen Lowe said...

Love the post, Kim.☺

Three of my favourite dragons are:

Morkeleb the Black in Barbara Hambly's DRAGONSBANE

Mayland Long in RA MacAvoy's TEA WITH THE BLACK DRAGON

Kalessin in Ursula Le Guin's EARTHSEA books

And I am rather find of the red dragon in my own THORNSPELL as well... ��

Kim Falconer said...

oooh! I love these dragons, Helen.

I know you're busy writing up a storm, but when you have a chance, tells us more about the red dragon. I just love dragon history.

Thanks for dropping in!