Dragons, the most famous of which is the Wyverex Auctor. The dragon of justice and power
A fabulous animal, usually represented as a huge fire breathing winged serpent, reptile or saurian, having a crested head, scaly skin and large claws.
Winged dragons made their first Western appearances in the works of ancient Greece and in the Bible, but it was medieval Europe whose imagination was most captured by the stubby-legged, fire-breathing monsters.
As legend had it, any of those terrifying creatures, often having formidable horns, horrible fangs, and pestilential breath, might hold a town hostage and devour young virgins until it was killed — most likely being beheaded or impaled — by a virtuous knight, usually armed with a magical sword. The most famous hero to rescue a town and maiden was Saint George, whose victory was seen as an allegory for Christianity’s triumph over the powers of darkness.
Catholic Saints are also depicted in the act of killing a dragon: for instance, in Italy, Saint Mercurialis, a zealous opponent of paganism and Arianism and the first bishop of the city of Forlì, is often shown saving the city by slaying a dragon.
Malevolent dragons were always prominent figures in Christian myth and iconography. In Revelations 12:3, an enormous red dragon with seven heads is described, whose tail sweeps one third of the stars from heaven down to earth (held to be symbolic of the fall of the angels. In Revelations 12:9, Satan is identified as this "great dragon", who was cast down to earth along with his angels.
Dragons also loomed large in Chinese folklore, where they were relatively benign. In fact many oriental cultures dragons were, and still are by some, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature and the universe. But in the West they were always the real-life model for the fictional vampire Dracula, the prince Vlad Tepes, was nicknamed Dracula after the Romanian word for dragon and devil. Even in death, a dragon reportedly had extraordinary powers. A drop of its blood could kill instantly, and its teeth, planted in the earth, sprang up overnight as armed men.
In the 19th century, fossil evidence of the existence of the pterodactyl, an extinct winged reptile, led to speculation that dragons, far from being purely mythical, may at one time have been real monsters that had survived from the age of the dinosaurs. In the book, Mythical Monsters (1886), New Zealand geologistCharles Gould declared: "We may infer that it (the dragon) was a long terrestrial lizard, hibernating and carnivorous… possibly furnished with wing-like expansions…."
A discovery that took place in 1912 gave some support to Gould’s theory. A Dutch pilot who crash-landed on the island of Komodo in Indonesia reported seeing huge, grotesque-looking, carnivorous creatures resembling dragons. Investigations confirmed the airman’s story. The animal he had seen was a giant monitor lizard, now known as the Komodo dragon. The creature grows to 10 feet in length, has a long powerful tail, feeds on carrion, and sometimes attacks and kills people. From New Guinea, too, have come unconfirmed reports of lizards that are even larger than the Komodo dragon. It is, however, difficult to understand how these particular giant lizards, isolated in a part of the world remote from Europe, could have played any part in the development of the Western legend of the dragon.
Dragons have been in mythology and legend for thousands of years in almost every country around the world. Could it be that the Western dragon developed from a memory in the collective unconscious of modern man, a memory of other, widespread, fierce and fearsome animals, survivors from the age of dinosaurs — a memory passed down from our primitive ancestors, who lived in terror of such creatures?
People in Durham (England) still sing of the "worm" — Old English for "dragon" — which terrorized the county in the Middle Ages. It all began when the young heir to Lambton Castle went fishing on a Sunday. He caught an eel-like creature, which he threw down a well. In the well the worm grew to an enormous size, and when the young knight> went off on a crusade, it broke out and devoured men and beasts. Every night it would sleep while wound three times around Lambton Hill, now called Worm Hill. Young Lambton managed to slay the dragon on his return from the crusade, but only by promising a witch he would kill the first creature he met after his victory. Unfortunately, it was his father who was first on the scene. Young Lambton refused to kill him, and, because of this, the Lambton family was put under the witch’s curse — a curse said to be effective still.