Janet Hoult: Dragons – Their History and Symbolism

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Dragons are as alive and well as they used to be a thousand years ago. Popular culture is steaming with dragons in books, movies and games. There are terrifying dragons as well as kind dragons. Even dragons hiding themselves in human form.

Dragon

What is it that makes this legendary creature so intriguing to us? Janet Hoult’s small book on the history and symbolism of dragons is filled with examples on the ways dragons have been a part of the folklore and history of mankind since the earliest of times.

Author: Janet Hoult
Publisher: Gothic Image Publications 1987
Category: Non-fiction
Original language: English
Rating: 4/5

Dragons are known everywhere, but there are certain areas more prone to this imagery than others. In Europe the British Isles seem to be the main stronghold of the dragon-lore. There are numerous places, whose names reflect their history of dragon legends – either with the word dragon or worm included in the name. Most often this seems to come in the form of a “Worm Hill” in the place where a dragon was supposed to have been killed by a local hero, usually sometime in the Middle Ages or before.

I wonder if the word worm has come to signify dragon for the same reason as in Finland there are numerous nick-names for a bear – it was believed that saying aloud the word bear would bring the feared beast to the speaker, thus it was better to use some kind of euphemism.

Janet Hoult presents in her book the history and ceremonies related to dragons, their different shapes and types around the world, British dragon legends, which are plentiful, especially the ones related to St. George and St. Michael, the ones connected to King Arthur and the use of dragon symbol in alchemy and so on.

Hoult’s book contains several drawings of ancient art works depicting dragons. These are wonderful, but some of them even more intriguing than others. One of the pictures illustrates South-American elephant-headed rain god and a dragon. A South-American elephant? This had to be checked, and it turns out there has indeed been elephants in South-America.

However, the conservative science places them in much earlier times that obviously was true, based on the art works created by South-Americans. A bit more cross-boundary science would be beneficial for all, one might think. Art historians specialized in South-America could tell the paleontologists right away that their assumptions can’t be true.

Susan

Dragons: Their History and Symbolism:

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