Thursday, January 19, 2017

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - 1100's and 1200's AD: Dragons in the early Medieval Ages

For our next entry in DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - the Medieval Times:

Medieval Times: 1100's and 1200's AD
Dragons in the early Medieval Ages

Even though much writing and other information has been lost from the Medieval Ages, there is still some sources available about what people thought about dragons during that time. During this period it is unclear though if the myth of dragons had stemmed from the discovery of more dinosaurs, or had slowly been evolving on its own, building upon itself as time went by. 

A good website to find information on Medieval beasts is The Medieval Bestiary though.  Another good source is the British Library, which has some crossover between the sources and is a good check on the sources. Images below can be found at this link: http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beastgallery262.htm#


Dragons in the 1100's
I cannot find many examples of dragons in the 1100's or earlier. But the dragons during this time period are depicted in the one work I found to be rather small. They kind of have a dog appearance, however they only have hindlimbs (no front limbs) and large wings (compared to their body size). 


The images above were found in the Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462(De medicina ex animalibus).


Dragons in the 1200's


As time continued into the 1200's, a feature of dragons that was common during this time was their morphological characteristics. More often than not, they were portrayed with large wings, large rear legs, no front limbs at all, and large ears. Their general body shape was elongate/worm like with enlarged torsos. The one thing that has evolved in them since the 1100's is that they are now depicted much larger, often depicted in association with elephants to emphasize this. Their ears and hind legs have also grown in proportion to the body, as compared to the previous century.

This image can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 14429.

In some myths, the dragon took on the embodiment of Satan, where in this instance the doves are Christians trying to be protected from being devoured. The tree is referred to as a Peridexion tree and can be seen a few times in the literature. The image on the left can be found in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Douai, MS 711 (De Natura animalium) and the one on the right from the British Library, Harley MS 3244.


 Some more dragons near some Peridexion trees. The image on the left can be found in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, MS P.A. 78 (Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc) and the image on the right can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1444b (Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc).

Another version of the dragon showing the "standard" morphological features. This image can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 6838B,


 Another version of a dragon with two sets of wings and legs. I assume, based on the preponderance of only legged dragons during this time, that the front set it not meant to represent front limbs, rather another set of hind limbs. This image can be found in the British Library, Harley MS 3244.

 Another dragon, presented much the same as those above except this one is shown in comparison to an elephant to illustrate its size. This image can be found in the British Library, Sloane MS 278 (Aviarium / Dicta Chrysostomi)


This image I found to be rather peculiar compared to the previous ones. The hind limbs have almost taken on a front limb characteristic, and the illustration seems to have much more detail and colors than the others. This image can be found in the Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 167.


Next time we will continue through the Medieval Ages with the 1300's and 1400's.

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