Monday, February 7, 2011

Dragon Lore: Nagas and Serpents

These Nagas guard the entrance
 to a Buddhist temple in Thailand.
I spent the day reviewing my Dragon books, remembering the different types of dragons and the many many different stories about them. There are the usual stories of heroes killing dragons who are eating beautiful maidens and devastating the country side. There are stories of Dragons fighting each other, stories of Dragons becoming people and people becoming Dragons. There are the saints (and not so saintly heroines like Medea) who defeat the dragon with Divine Love or it's symbols.

I'm teaching Dragon Lore to first graders; we will make clay dragons and dioramas for them to live in. Which of the hundreds of Dragons shall I tell them about?

I promised their teacher three types of Dragon body types for them to create. The most common body type in stories seems to be serpentine.

Serpent Dragons

The Lambton Wyrm
The Lambton Wyrm, caught by young lord Lambton when he played hooky from church one Easter Sunday in 1420, unnerved him so, he changed his ways and became one of the faithful. He threw the Wyrm--about 3' or 4' long--into a nearby well and went on a pilgrimage. When he got back, he found that the Wyrm had grown so long it circled the hill nine times, and was eating sheep, cattle, and even occasional people.  On the advice of the local witch, he had special armor made, all covered with spikes, and lured the Wyrm into the fast flowing river. Here he chopped it up into tiny bits, which the river carried away before they could reunite and make that dragon whole again.

Jason and the Golden Fleece
You've heard how Jason and the Argonauts captured the golden fleece from the serpentine dragon guarding it? You may not have heard that Medea, a woman he picked up in his travels, sang to the Dragon and splashed juniper and other herbs into his eyes until he fell asleep. When Jason grabbed the fleece and fled to the ship, Medea stayed behind long enough to rub a healing salve in the dragon's eyes. Later, when she needed to flee her enemies, the dragon carried her away on his back. Medea was the first Dragon Rider I know of.

When I traveled to Thailand and Laos, I learned of the Naga. These great serpents live in sumptuous palaces in lakes and rivers. They are guardians of Knowledge, and they guard the stairs to the Heavenly Palace. They frequently give gifts to humans. When the Buddha was meditating under a tree and about to be drenched by a heavy rainstorm, a seven headed Naga spread his seven hooded heads over the Buddha to protect him.

As I learned more about the Naga, I realized that they were not just snakes; they are considered the same or relatives to Dragons.


  1. Dragons - yum! I loved "My Father's Dragon" series by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I know I'm showing my age! Do the kids still read them?
    Dragons are soooo much fun!

  2. Kids have a whole new generation of dragons! They are mostly unfamiliar, though, with the older tales like St George and the Dragon.