Guest post by Deborah Cooke (also writing as Claire Delacroix). Comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Firestorm Forever.
I write about dragon shape shifter heroes in my paranormal romance series called Dragonfire. This series partly came about because I really like dragons. This is partly because of their symbolism, which works on a number of levels.
First off, for me, dragons epitomize masculinity. Dragons are male, in my world view, so they symbolize all those male traits that work in a really big way. They’re loyal and noble, defending those weaker than themselves and protecting what they perceive to be valuable. They’re strong and excellent warriors. They’re also good strategists, because they’re clever. They’re good at solving riddles, which is a sign of intelligence, and they have long memories. They also tend to rich, because they gather precious items in their hoards, and because they’re long-lived, they have a lot of time to build up that collection. Plus, they’re just generally magnificent to look at.
In human stories, though, dragons symbolize more than that. In the western tradition, dragons have come to symbolize ancient and natural forces. Since the time of Babylon and their Creation Epic, dragons have symbolized chaos and the natural earth. They’ve represented a wild force than humans had to tame—the first dragon to be so tamed was Tiamat in that same epic, although interestingly enough, she was a female primordial serpent with wings. Dragons have had bad PR in the west for a long long time.
Another dragon who symbolized the forces of darkness was Apep, the dragon who consistently tries to drag the sun-boat of the god Ra into night. Here there’s an idea of good against evil, with dragons getting the evil side. It was said that Apep was dominant during a solar eclipse, because the sun was plunged into darkness during that interval, although Ra and the forces of good triumphed when the eclipse ended. We have our first dragon slayer here with Seth, who destroys Apep to defend the gods, but then becomes a monster himself. The evil of dragons would seem to be contagious.
It’s probably not a surprise that by the Classical period in western culture, dragons became not only the sum of all evil, but a means of a hero to prove his worth. Heroes from Hercules to Bellerophon to Cadmus attacked dragons—which represented chaos, unnatural desire, or animal urges—and slaughtered them for the good of the rest of mankind. Perseus was one of the first to save a damsel in distress from a ravaging dragon, giving a sexual tinge to the conflict. Dragons also then represented unbridled desire. In the Norse tradition, both Beowulf and Sigurd were dragon-slayers, fighting evil for the benefit of everyone else, keeping the forces of nature, lust and greed at bay.
The notion of a dragon slayer was very appealing to the medieval mind, in which dragons became associated with pagan religions. These nature-based faiths were supplanted by Christianity—while dragons were associated with paganism and the natural world, dragon slayers like St. George were associated with Christianity and civilization. Dragons were not only wicked—they were sighted everywhere. Medieval chronicles are thick with reports of dragon sightings, which might have been indicative of uncertain times, peril at the door, or Viking ships with drakkir figureheads on the horizon. The association of the raiding Vikings with dragons didn’t help the public view of dragons in the west at all.
Interestingly, dragons also become guardians in the west in the Middle Ages, and are carved into gargoyles on the eaves of churches. They also became linked with Satan and the Apocalypse, the final judgment of all men and the final battle between good and evil, because of the writings about dragons in the Book of Revelations. Representations of Lucifer or Satan “that old serpent” often look like dragons in this era, and certainly, many saints—like Saint Margaret—were challenged in their faith (or even eaten) by dragons. The association of dragons became so strong that even the archangel Michael became a dragon slayer.
We, in the west, still often associate dragons with negative attributes, like greed, selfishness, pride, and even evil. What is interesting to me is that in the eastern tradition, dragons symbolize goodness and benevolence toward mankind. The Chinese Lung Wang or Dragon Kings are water gods: they can ensure that rains come or withhold it, and they are associated with lakes and rivers. They also guard precious treasures and hatch from eggs. Chinese dragons, because they have keen eyesight, represent perceptiveness. Their long lives can make them a symbol of immortality and their hidden riches, a sign of wealth and prosperity. They were said to be able to see the future, so could give the gift of foresight, or could reveal the future to a careful observer through their movements. These dragons are also often shape shifters.
So, for me, there had to be two kinds of shape shifting dragons: the Pyr, who are benevolent toward mankind and protective of women, as well as good, noble, loyal and strong; and the Slayers, who are seek to destroy humans and the Pyr, and are selfish, wicked and greedy. The Dragonfire novels take place during the final confrontation between good and evil in the realm of dragon shifters, between Pyr and Slayer. FIRESTORM FOREVER, my current paranormal romance release, is the final book in the Dragonfire cycle, and it contains three romances instead of just one. It’s a big book, because it’s a big finish, but it’s probably not a spoiler to tell you that the good dragons win. 🙂
Firestorm Forever excerpt and buy links here: http://deborahcooke.com/deborah-cooke-books/dragonfire/firestorm-forever/
About the Author
Bestselling and award-winning author Deborah Cooke has published over fifty novels and novellas, including historical romances, fantasy romances, fantasy novels with romantic elements, paranormal romances, contemporary romances, urban fantasy romances, time travel romances and paranormal young adult novels. She writes as herself, Deborah Cooke, as Claire Delacroix, and has written as Claire Cross. She is nationally bestselling, #1 Kindle Bestselling, KOBO Bestselling, as well as a USA Today and New York Times’ Bestselling Author. Her Claire Delacroix medieval romance, The Beauty, was her first book to land on the New York Times List of Bestselling Books.