Friday, 3 July 2015
Its official, dragons are getting bigger. Look at medieval woodcuts of the fabled beastie and you'll notice they were about the size of a spaniel, but now they've grown to the size of a house, or even a jumbo jet, and with every passing year they get bigger. At this rate they'll be the size of the moon by the time Apple have invented the iFingernail, and there's no sign of them stopping there.
Dragons are also (and we're talking here about the European dragon rather than the Asian one) scaly and often come, Dungeons & Dragons style, colour coded. Red ones breathe fire, blue ones electricity, green ones poison or just a lot of snot. There's silver ones (really important) and gold ones (even more important) and platinum ones (a dragon king), but the poor bronze ones get the cold shoulder and the less said about the tin one the better. They have long tails and snouts, long leathery wings and sly yellow reptile eyes that can see in the dark.
Dragons are really really brainy, but they're also really really greedy, which means they can easily be tricked, just so long as you're good at playing tricks and doing riddles and such. If you're bad at tricks and lousy at riddles...well, let's just say if you can't do the Times' cryptic crossword in under fifteen minutes then you're as good as lunch. Brainy dragons can often speak numerous human tongues and Mensa-level dragons are usually telepathic, which makes it easier for them to speak because dragons find forming human words difficult and often sound like they're speaking while chewing on a mouthful of bowling balls.
Dragons (at least post-cocker-spaniel age dragons) eat herds of cows or sheep, and sometimes even chickens or flocks of ducks straight out of the sky, but what they really like is a nice juicy maiden. Oh, they go crazy for that finger-licking maiden taste; but every meal has its expiry date, and when the maiden is no longer a maiden the dragon quickly loses interest in eating her, which is good news for the ex-maiden. The trouble is finding a maiden in the first place, so the wise dragon will usually resort to harassing the nearest town or village until they do the job for him and give up one of their own. Said poor damsel is then usually tied to a stake or rock outside of the town, where the dragon then usually takes the time to "air-out" the damsel somewhat (all the blubbing and crying makes them quite bitter), by which time a gallant knight has ridden past, killed the dragon and rescued the damsel from both her bonds and her maidenhood.
Some have theorised that dragons aren't actually after the damsel at all, but after the knight, using the hapless maiden as nothing more than bait to lure the knight to him, desiring the tasty novelty of tinned meat. After all tinned meat keeps for a long time. Some have also postulated that maybe the dragons aren't male at all, but mostly female, which means they are more attracted to male virgins than female. This cannot be proven as nobody has yet managed to look under a dragon's tail and live to tell the tale.
Not all dragons are evil, some have given up eating maidens (or tinned meat) and gone veggie. A few of the really dumb ones allow stupid humans to ride on their backs they like they were some sort of winged taxi, but in truth any dragon with a shred of pride wouldn't allow a semi-evolved ape to ride on their back, let alone tell them where to go, even if they paid them all the compliments in the world, and gave them all the treasure too.
But where do dragons come from? From whence did they spring? Did ancient man come across the bones of dinosaurs and summoned up dragons by wondering what sort of beasts they belonged to, or did some mariner tell tall stories about the strange beasts he saw in far off lands? Of course in olden days dragons were often called wyrms, so maybe they're the projection of the reptilian parts of the human brain, or could it be that a grass snake gave someone a fright, and as every fisherman knows, no story would be complete without at least a little exaggeration.
Or are dragons something completely different? Maybe they were never real to begin with, but are simply metaphors for all that is powerful and uncaring in the world: huge, incredible strong, inhuman, reptilian, consuming all and breathing fire that destroys everything it touches. They lay the ground waste, reduce whole towns to ash, eat the young and the innocent without remorse and enslave all that they can bend to their considerable will. Does these not sound like the attributes of certain persons who desire power, and will do anything (and sacrifice anyone) to gain it and then keep it? We shouldn't be surprised that dragons are often associated with kings and rulers and the very powerful, even to vampires, who are themselves metaphors for the rich and powerful. As the anxieties and pressures of the modern age grow, so does the popularity -- and size -- of dragons. They're almost neck-for-neck. In all good stories the hero slays the dragon, or tames him and flies off into the sunset on his back, and maybe this is the wishful thinking of the common folk: that every dragon can be tamed, or if not tamed, slain. But as we all know, dragons can slumber for thousands of years, and they will always awaken when we least expect it. And they are always hungry.