D is for dragon: So, there we are; you and I, walking, out late one night in the middle of the wilds of North Wales, or wherever you live, and we hear the sound of the air above and behind us being pounded as if by wings. We look around, start to run, take cover in some trees and watch as a huge flying creature, the size of a London double-decker bus, and with serpentine or reptilian traits, and huge wings, flies by.
A mythological dragon?
Crests on civic flags and emblems, old building and even in some churches in the UK can be found depicting dragons, and especially in Wales (where, of course the Red Dragon emblem, Y Ddraig Goch – which literally means ‘red dragon’ – and was first mentioned in 830AD, forms part of the flag of Wales, and comes from the myth of the two dragons fighting).
The word dragon originates from the Latin word draco or draconium and means ‘huge serpent’, and the word entered the English language in about the thirteenth century.
We look out from the shelter of those trees, counting our blessings that we’re safe.
In some cultures dragons are fire-breathing, and on many occasions they possess the gift of speech. Indeed, there is a myth that it was dragon-kind that taught humanity to speak in days of old, when the two were closer than nowadays.
In many religions around the world such mythical dragons have high spiritual significance and are often associated with wisdom. If you ever saw the awesome BBC tv series ‘Merlin’, starring Colin Morgan as the boy Merlin, and Richard Wilson as Gaius, you will remember that on many occasions Merlin visits the cave where the Dragon is tethered, to obtain an answer to a tough question, for advice on what to do next, or for some other much-needed wisdom.
You ask me if it’s gone. You’re in shock, not having seen such a creature before. I try to assure you it’s alright. Having lived in these parts for years, I try to convince you that I’ve seen many such creatures on the walk back home, after having downed several pints of beer at the local pub, and survived. You give me a strange look.
Dragons are said to have thick skins, skins thicker than cowhide, almost ‘armoured’, and live near rivers, living in underground caves etc, and have an incredibly long life-span.
Most dragons, left to themselves, are peaceable creatures. But, they are huge, powerful beasts, and so it is best to be careful in their presence – hence the fact that we are hiding in those trees for that one, described earlier, to fly pass.
As it passes, you step out of the trees and look at it as it rises higher into the night sky. Heart pounding, and feeling a little braver, you pull out your mobile phone, and key in 999 for the police.
And wait some more!
The police operator responds and engages you in conversation, trying to calm you, and you describe what has just happened.
The Police operator, with an air of authority, asks, ‘Are you sure it was a dragon?’ And you reply, ‘But, of course, what else could it be?’
The Police operator asks, ‘Well, how many limbs did it have?’. ‘Ah, that’s easy,’ you reply, ’It had four…no wait, it had six limbs! Ummm, does it make a difference?’.
‘Oh, yes’, the Police operator replies’, ‘If it has six limbs, say two front legs, two back legs and two wings, then it’s definitely a dragon. And, they’re generally peaceful creatures, so you’re in no real danger. If it had two back legs, and a pair of arms which doubled up as wings; and so if it had four limbs, then it’s a wyvern, and they are violent, nasty creatures. If it’s one of them, then you’re in great danger. So, how many limbs did it have?’
You explain that it had a pair of front legs, a pair of back legs and a pair of wings – a dragon! And, so nothing to worry about.
So, you and I leave the covering of the forest, and as we walk home, in front of us, from about fifty feet up, comes that familiar air-pounding noise of wings flapping.
‘Quick,’ you shout,’ count the limbs. Six limbs good, four limbs (when it comes to mythological flying reptilians) bad’.