When Jacquie and I started to toss around the idea of faery and dragon legends all around the world, we quickly found out that there were, literally, faery and dragon legends all. Around. The. World. It surprised the heck out of us!
Not only that, faeries and dragons can be found in places and ways you may not expect. The term “faery” itself is definitely of European origin, but the concept of supernatural or elemental spirits who are both of the world and who are not can be found all over the world, while the concept of the dragon plays and has played an important part in cultures around the world, ranging from the legend of Quetzalcoatl to the Chinese dragon.
The names may change, but whatever you call them, faeries and dragons have been both kind and mischievous, good and evil, sometimes a symbol and sometimes one of chaos. In the workshop, we’re going to take you on a quick trip to take a look at them, starting with faeries and finishing up with dragons. The Silk Road we’ll be traveling goes all the way around the world, and we’re going to start in the most unlikely of beginnings: Hollywood, hopping across the Americas and continuing on to Europe and beyond.
Just a peek at the faeries and dragons you’re going to encounter along the way:
The dragons we find by the time we get past the Mediterranean have less and less in common with the dragons we encounter in European culture. In classical Greek culture, one of the earliest mentions of a dragon is from the Iliad, where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and a three-headed dragon emblem on his breast plate. And of course, the references to the “sea-monster” or “pole serpent” in the Bible, the “leviathan” of the Biblical stories, seem to be very close to the idea of the dragon we see elsewhere.
Persia, the earlier name for Iran, has in many ways more in common with its neighbors to the east, which includes China and India. Unlike its Arabic-speaking neighbors – because Iranians/Persians speak Farsi, not Arabic – Persian mythology refers to angels as its nature spirits, although there are references to demons as well. One example is the Peri, a Persian faery referred to as a fallen angel, who can’t achieve paradise until they do penance.
Then there’s the Persian version of dragons, mentioned in Zoroastrian scripture, in which stories include both positive AND negative stories – remember, Persia is a gateway culture, with influences from both East and West, with very close ties to the Hindu culture. But I found a curious inversion, commented on by comparative linguistic and folklore academics: Many things that are viewed as negative in Persian mythology is topsy-turvy positive in Hindu mythology, with names that are clearly connected, very close, but usually not exact, so their roots in Indo-European myths are pretty apparent.
As opposed to the dragon legends of the West, the dragons of the East are usually water-based, associated with rainfall and bodies of water as well as fertility, usually wingless, serpentine, often positive, often seen as an authority figure, and still very much part of contemporary culture. The Vedic version of the dragon, also known as a naga, is the personification of drought and enemy of Indra, the hero of Hindu sagas. Naga, also known as a snake-spirit, guarded great treasures, just like so many stories in Western myths about dragons. These forms of dragons can take human form and many ancient tribes claim to be descendants of nagas, especially from a union between a human hero and a feminine form of the snake called Nagini. Today, there are even tribes that are called Nagas. The Japanese word for long is “nagai.” Coincidence? You decide.
Going south, the earth spirits in Polynesia are also still going strong. The menehune are some of the most popular faeries of the region and are said to live deep in the forests and hidden valleys, granting wishes and helping those who are lost. Local legends say that the menehune built temples, fishponds, roads, canoes, and even houses. They are said to have lived in Hawaii long before the human settlers arrived, many centuries ago – which may remind you of the stories about the fae of the British isles.
And there’s much, much more in the workshop. Come on by and realize that dragons and faeries are everywhere!
Faeries and Dragons Along the Silk Road and Beyond, presented by Eilis Flynn and Jacquie Rogers, runs from April 16, 2012 through April 29, 2012.
Eilis Flynn has spent a large share of her life working on Wall Street or in a Wall Street-related firm, so why should she write fiction that’s any more based in our world? She spends her days aware that there is a reality beyond what we can see … and tells stories about it. Published in multiple genres, she lives in verdant Washington state with her equally fantastical husband and spoiled rotten cats. Her latest works are The Riddle of Ryu, in which dragons play a part, and Static Shock, in which dragons play no part, but it’s still an exciting adventure story. She can be reached at eilisflynn.com.
Jacquie Rogers’ first burning desire was to be a baseball announcer, but that didn’t work out so she decided to write romance novels. She has several novels out, the latest is the second in the Much Ado western romance series, Much Ado About Madams. Faery Merry Christmas is her latest fantasy release. She also writes non-fiction with Ann Charles, including Nail It! The Secret to Building an Effective Fiction Writer’s Platform, and Growing Your Audience. Jacquie is owner of Romancing The West, a popular western blog, and teaches online classes on various writing topics. You can reach her at jacquierogers.com.