I loved it when Merlin, played by the elfish Colin Morgan (those fabulous ears!), would command the presence of the scary-but-wise dragon. We need a few more old fire-drakes in our lives ... yes we do!
I watched BBC’s Merlin pretty religiously – I am a monk in all I do. Alas! Early Saturday evenings have never quite been the same since it finished. We monks don’t get out much, you know.
So to brighten up the gloomy cloisters of my mind, I thought I’d do a little something on dragons this weekend. This has nothing to do with the fact that I’m being intellectually lazy and just want to post a few pretty pictures from the British Library. No, nothing at all to do with that.
Actually, I’ve been working very hard this week, and my studies have brought me into contact with a number of dragons – all new to me – and so I thought it only proper to share them with you.
But before I do, just one more thing about Merlin ...
Are you wondering why at the beginning I spelled dragon with a ‘c’ in the middle? Of course you are! Well, I’ve always been convinced that Morgan’s Merlin was using a Latinized version of the word. (You can disagree with me if you want – but you must leave a comment if you do.)
He was always ready to use a few words of pseudo Old English whenever a bit of magic needed to be done. But I reckon when the script writers took advice (from some very lucky academic, no doubt), they decided not to go with the strictly Anglo-Saxon wyrm (from which we get the modern English ‘worm’).
It would not have had quite the same ring to it, would it? I tried it myself in my back garden. My neighbours reported me.
To the dragons/dracons/wyrms/worms!
All images have been identified by the British Library as free from known copyright restrictions. l
The heads of medieval dragons are quite variable. Some look like lions, some are almost cute like a puppy. This one is a bit duck-billed, wouldn't you say?
I like his knobbly, green spine which sprouts into a foliate terminus, posh words for a leafy end.
His friends, by the way, are griffins.
I think he (are dragons necessarily male?) is quite cute, puppy like. He seems a little in awe of the biting beasty at the top of the upright.
He's also from Rochester, though from a different manuscript, which we can date to between the years 1108 and 1122.
This is a northern English dragon, or possibly from central England. He's from the first quarter of the thirteenth century.
He (we'll definitely go 'he' this time) is from Canterbury and dates to the third quarter of the twelfth century.
This chap probably hails from Oxford and the first quarter of the thirteenth century. He's found in a Psalter. Dragons are almost ubiquitous in medieval liturgical books.
He is from Rochester and dates to the second quarter of the twelfth century. He has quite big ears, don't you think?
This fella, as you can see below, is found in a medical miscellany of a pharmocopeial compilation -- a herbal medicine book to you and me.
Well, that was great fun, wasn't it? There are tonnes more I could have shown you. But I do have a life, you know.
Back to my scriptorium ...