•  
  •  
 

DOI

https://doi.org/10.34068/IYS.04.01.09

Abstract

Dragons, being imaginary creatures, escape the umbra of extinction shadowing multiple species on earth today. We can trace their lineage from Homer (at least in the European tradition) to the personal mount of of Daenerys Targaryen, Drogon, in Game of Thrones; or, from Beowulf to J. R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Because they are textual creatures, dragons display a re-silience and capacity to mutate that makes them eloquent ontological signifiers in mythic narratives, as motifs of epistemological uncertainty in folklore and cultural memory, and as embodiments of extra-human/pre-modern intrusions in the workings of history. Whereas Chinese dragons are often beneficial to the human species, European variants (including those found in Celtic folklore) are not. Dragons spell death and destruction; they demand human sacrifices, as in the legend of St. George. Their appearance suggests power and menace of extraordinary dimensions, as in Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwock. (The Jabber-wock was first illustrated by John Tenniel in 1871 as a dragon, and the tradition continues well into the present day, in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, for example.) Dragons collude with destructive forces; their power to annihilate everything that stands for “human” is unwittingly referred to in Kanye West’s words above.2 I suggest in this essay that the image of the dragon offers us a portal into the highly ornate symbolic structures of W. B. Yeats’s historiography and his vision of the apocalyptic.

Share

COinS