Dragon European

Snakelike animal of Europe; see SeMIMYTHICAL Beasts.

146 dragon (european)

DRAGONS, both winged and wingless. From Konrad Gesner, Historiae animalium (Zürich, Switz.: Christ. Froschoverum, 1551—1587). (From the original in the Special Collections of Northwestern University Library)

Etymology: From the Greek drakon ("serpent" or "sea fish") or, more literally, "that which kills at a glance."

Variant names: Draco (Latin), Dragonet, Drake, Firedrake, Gargcuille, Lindorm, Lindwurm, Peluda, Python, tarasque, vouivre.

Physical description: Serpentine. Scaly or slimy. Black, red, yellow, or white. Crest on the head. Red eyes. Small mouth. Lion's limbs. Sometimes winged. Eagle's claws. Strong tail.

Behavior: Leaves a putrid slime behind when it moves on land. Said to be capable of flight. Extremely venomous, toxic, or contagious. Inflicts injury with its tail. Can also kill by constriction. Said to herald the beginning of wars or other disasters. Causes floods.

Distribution: Throughout Europe.

Significant sightings: To the ancient Greeks, the Dragon was a large snake found near tombs.

In 714, the Basque hero Don Teodosio killed a bat-winged Dragon on Mount Aralar, Spain.

In either 1410 or 1420, a man was lost in a cave on Mount Pilatus, Switzerland, for five months. It was the lair of two flying Dragons, and he escaped by grabbing the tail of one as it flew away.

Ulrich Vogelsang, who sculpted the winged Dragon of Klagenfurt, Austria, in 1590, based his design on the skull of a Pleistocene Woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) dug up in a nearby quarry in 1335. The legend of a Lindwurm that caused floods in the River Glan is much older, however.

dragon (european) 147

On July 26, 1713, a giant serpent, 17 feet 4 inches long, was killed by a forester named Zander near Wroclaw, Poland. Possible explanations:

(1) Windsock banners carried by medieval armies. At the Battle of Liegnitz in 1241, Kaidu's Mongol army carried Dragon banners that flamed and fumed. See also Dragon (British).

(2) Viking or Byzantine ships in the shape of Dragons may have popularized the myth.

(3) Such astronomical events as comets or meteors were thought to be flying Dragons.

(4) A union of the more disagreeable aspects of the Egyptian gods Isis, Osiris, and Horus, with a large amount of snake, crocodile, and lizard mixed in, suggested by Grafton Elliot Smith. From the Nile, this Dragon prototype spread north, east, and west, where it was transformed and assimilated by other cultures, symbolizing the personification of evil.

(5) Based on dinosaur or pterodactyl fossils.

(6) In the seventeenth century, the Olm (Proteus anguineus), a cave-dwelling, aquatic salamander of Yugoslavia and northern Italy, was thought to be the offspring of a Dragon. It has an eel-like body, white skin, three pairs of external gills, four tiny legs, and vestigial eyes. It grows to about 12 inches long. When washed out of their caves by heavy rainfall, Olms gather in deep pools, but they will not voluntarily leave the water. Sources: "Hymn to Apollo," in Hesiod, the

Homeric Hymns, and the Homerica, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 339-351; Ulisse Aldrovandi, Serpentum, et draconu historiae libri duo (Bologna, Italy: C. Ferronium, 1640); Athanasius Kircher, Mundus subterraneus (Amsterdam: Joannem Janssonium, 1668); Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, Helvetica (Leiden, the Netherlands: Petri Vander Aa, 1723); Johann Heinrich Zedler, Grosses Vollstandiges Universal-Lexikon allerWissenschafften und Kunste (Halle, Germany: J. H. Zedler, 1732-1750), vol. 34, pp. 1793-1796; Grafton Elliot Smith, The Evolution of the Dragon (New York: Longmans, Green, 1919); Ernest

Ingersoll, Dragons and Dragon Lore (New York: Payson and Clarke, 1928); Wilhelm Bölsche, Drachen: Sage und Naturwissenschaft (Stuttgart, Germany: Kosmos, 1929); Othenio Abel, Das Reich der Tiere: Tiere der Vorzeit in ihrem Lebensraum (Berlin: Deutscher Verlag, 1939), pp. 82—83; Ludwig Bechstein, Märchen und Sagen (Berlin: T. Knaur, 1940), p. 209; Joseph Fontenrose, Python: A Study of the Delphic Myth and Its Origins (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959); Sidney Bernard, "Swiss Terrors of the Past," Contemporary Review 209 (1966): 293-295; Erich Thenius, Fossils and the Life of the Past (New York: Springer-Verlag,

1973), pp. 37-38; Julio Carlo Baroja, Ritos y mitos equívocos (Madrid: Ediciones Istmo,

1974), pp. 167, 205; Paul Norman, The Hill of the Dragon (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1980); Michel Meurger, Histoire naturelle des dragons (Rennes, France: Terre de Brume, 2001).

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