Readers of The Gemstone Chronicles know that I didn’t use any sparkly vampires, werewolves, or zombies for the guardians of the stolen Elven Bow gemstones. I wanted different monsters. In Book One: The Carnelian, a kelpie guarded the gem. Book Two: The Amethyst had the most familiar creature, a giant named Brendan. Book Three: The Emerald had a strange combination creature, the cockatrice. The final book of the series, The Ruby, the cherufe, a fearsome lava monster, protected the gemstone. But, I like dragons, and had to find a way to get them in the story. I didn’t want the dragons to be necessarily bad or good, and they didn’t even have to be a major player in the books, but they had to be there!
First a little background on dragon lore and history. Dragons have been in the mythology of the world for thousands of years. They permeate Asian and European stories and literature. Who hasn’t seen the dragons as part of Chinese New Year celebrations? Or St. George slaying the Dragon? So where did dragons originate? According to Wikipedia, the word dragon entered the English language in the early 13th century, but the concept of a serpent being overcome by a heroic figure was part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the mythology of the ancient Canaanites, Hittites, and Mesopotamians. Dragon depictions have been found on artifacts in China dating back to the 16th century BC!
There are two distinct types. The European versions are often winged and the Chinese counterparts typically resemble snakes. Most often, the beasts are snakes or reptilian and hatch from eggs. Dragons are often shown as being wiser than humans, have speech capability, have great longevity, guardians of treasure, and many can breathe fire. Coats of Arms in heraldry incorporate dragons into their motifs. Below is a picture of the Coat of Arms of the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell showing the winged European dragon.
There are tons of examples from other cultures, too. Dragons exist in the legends and myths of Japan, Bhutan, Greece, Russia, India, Persia, Korean, and Vietnam, among others. In the Norse Poetic Edda, the wyrm (dragon) Nidhoggr is wrapped around the roots of the One Tree (Yggdrasil).
Modern manifestations of the beasts abound, too. From Tolkien’s Silmarillion and The Hobbit to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, and the fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons, the creatures have captured the imaginations of millions. One of my writer friends (Colin Rutherford) has a fantasy series called Tales of the Neverwar that features dragons. I’ve read the prequel and the first book of the series and they are great!
In The Gemstone Chronicles Book Four: The Ruby, dragons make their appearance on the side of the Drow. The first dragon in the book is a red dragon, which, in my story, is not the most intelligent of creatures, but does have a penchant for breathing fire (and burning trucks, but you have to read the book to discover how it all comes about). There are a few other dragons in the story, but they don’t play a huge role, except for one, but no spoilers from me!
There you have my homage to dragons! I think they are cool and, in the words of the cartographers of old, “Here Be Dragons!”
What are your favorite dragons? Are they treasure guarding beasties, misunderstood creatures given a bad rap, or truly evil creatures? Leave me a comment and let me know. Share your dragon lore with us!