Creatures of Folklore part 5: Dragons, Pangea and Ethics (Dragon Blood)


“In legendary Hsia dynasty ( c. 2205 to 1557 BC)… One of the kings collected foam from the mouths of two ancestors who appeared in his palace in the form of dragons. He put the foam in a box. No one in succeeding generations dared open the box. At the end of the reign of tenth king of the Chou dynasty (c.110 to 221 BC) the box was opened. The foam spread through the palace. The king made his wives appear before it. It became a black lizard and entered the women’s apartments. An extraordinary pregnancy occurred.”

“Larousse encyclopedia of Mythology”

Here, even more than with the extract from Jordanus, we are in the realm of almost-legend – fact and fantasy so intwined as to make something which is not quite either. The story is normally explained as an attempt by the Chou kings to renew the legitimacy and power of their rule by claiming to incorporate into their blood- line the dragon- ancestors of Hsia. Or the details about the lizard and the pregnancy could approach. But even fantasy has to be fuelled with a small amount of fact, and often it is the bizarre detail which shows where this fact is buried. Truly I believe it was a corrupt king trying to inpregnant mutlitple women by other means then sexual intercourse. The dragon can be representative of an evil trying to be birth to the world by a mans intention, or a literal dragon which as people can be good and or evil. So can a dragon. The fact being buried under conceivable circumstances and understanding a mans intention through his natural thought process.

“for instance, take dragon’s blood. You know that it is banned… An ordinary necromancer like myself can only get it at great risk and expense, and our exotic suppliers have to endanger themselves to get it for us.”

Diana Wynne Jones Charmed Life

Suppose cause and effect really operated in the other direction. These noxious clouds have been released and are fuming through the building, and their touch is corrosive enough to rot delicate fabrics. Not all the people escape. Some are overcome and when at last the fumes clear their bodies are found, naked and charred. An ancient story teller, the Chinese equivalent of Jordanus, hears the tale after many repetitions and tries to make sense of it on his own terms. The substance was known to emanate from dragons, and just as European monarchs have tended to take the most powerful beast they know of, the lion, as their symbol, so Chinese emperors laid claim to dragons. The substance frothed when the box was opened and lips froth, so it must have come from the lips of two very powerful dragons, the imperial ancestors. ( Or could it conceivably be one of the chemicals which ignited the dragon’s breath, in which case it could really have come from the lips, and might react violently with air when the box was opened?) The king in his wisdom knew how to placate these ancestors… And so on.

I have chosen this episode because it is both strange and farmiliar. The strangeness because of the cultural background differing from ours, and the familiarity from the recognition of the terrifying properties of substances emanating from the dragons metabolism. In Europe legend we tend to describe all these substances as “blood”. When Hercules slew the Hydra he dipped his arrows in its blood to make them poisonous. One of his victims was his centaur Nessus who, dying, told Deianira to soak a shirt in his blood. Eventually Hercules put that shirt on, and the poison of the Hydra was still so strong in it that he too died, howling.

I could list a hundred such episodes, all pointing to the same thing –

“There was a man of that Town whose name was winckelriedt, who was banished for man-slaughter: this man promised, if he might have his pardon, and he restored again to his former Inheritence, that he would combate with that dragon, and by God’s help destroy him: which thing was granted unto him with great joyfulness. Wherefore he was recalled home, and in the presence of many people went forth to fight with the Dragon, whom he slew and overcame, whereat for joy he lifted up his sword imbrued in the Dragon’s bloud, in the token of victory, but the bloud distilled down from his sword upon his body, and caused him instantly to fall down dead.”

Edward Topless The History of Serpents

make their bodies weightless, in air. To do this they need to fill large cavities – which in fact composed the major part of their body- structure – with a lighter than air gas. (The possibility of their producing near vacuums in these cavities is not worth considering – it would demand huge strength…

Ca (s) + 2HC1(aq) : H2 + CaC1 squared + CaC1 squared (aq)

~  The Flight of Dragons 1979 ~