Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dragons: A Symbol of Ultimate Avarice

To many during the Renaissance Dragons were a creature of utmost might. So it was natural for a feeling to develop that illustrated the dragon as a being that due to its great power, had strong tendencies towards greed and avarice. This is a good example of a negative connotation that existed towards dragons amongst popular beliefs, for no one liked the idea of something with near unconquerable abilities holding what they desired.

The earliest accounts of dragons, predating the Renaissance, as being greedy come from an entirely mythical viewpoint where dragons were guardians of the Earth’s natural bounty of riches like gold and silver. This may only show, however, that people had to work hard figuratively to overcome the dragons that guarded Earth’s riches. We later see accounts of this idea of dragons being symbols of avarice all throughout Renaissance literature and arts.

If one looks at the Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene they see in the first book the dragon possessing and guarding Una, Red Crosse’s ultimate prize, and Crosse must fight this dragon to reclaim his prize of Una. Also, on a more drastic scale, in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress the reader sees Apollyon, or Satan, in the form of a dragon guarding and keeping the protagonist Christian’s heart and soul. For Christian desires to leave the land of Appolyon, but this dragon will not let Christian’s soul, or allegiance pass to another.
“ Apollyon - By this I perceive thou art one of my subjects; for all that country is mine, and I am the prince and god of it. How is it, then, that thou hast run away from thy king? Were it not that I hope thou mayest do me more service, I would strike thee now at one blow to the ground.
Christian - I was, indeed, born in your dominions, but your service was hard, and your wages such as a man could not live on; for the wages of sin is death, Rom. 6:23; therefore, when I was come to years, I did, as other considerate persons do, look out if perhaps I might mend myself.
Apollyon - There is no prince that will thus lightly lose his subjects, neither will I as yet lose thee…” - John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.
As is obvious from this piece Apollyon will only allow his greed to be overcome by a fight that Christian will ensue.

Also, it is interesting to note that this idea of a Dragon having strong greed is still present in today’s society. A good example of this is in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. For at the end of the story the group of dwarves, along with the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, must defeat a dragon to reclaim the bounty that once belonged to the dwarves.

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