Thursday, April 23, 2009

George,Quijote and the Dragon

To-day is Saint George’s, and the traditional date of the death of Miguel de Cervantes. Heroism of the struggle, with the ardor of a chivalric, christian heart ties these two together. The dragon is symbolic of a fearsome adversary. Saint George defeated him. In Cervantes Don Quijote, our befuddled caballero was, in spirit, the perfect christian chevalier. I could write a book on this, but I have not the audience, nor the support...
Jurij Zaninović. Bridge with four dragons. 1900-01. Ljubljana.
I am also fascinated with the word for the creature: draco, drakon, zmaj, aždaja, smok. There are particular dragons, and there are types of dragons, and the general dragon. (The east asian dragons have a different ethos, from the indo-european dragons.) These dragons share with the biblical dragon an interchangeability with the serpent, but with wings and fire, which greatly increases their fearsome mythology. There are exceptions to their rapacious, evil ferocity, some are guardians. This is surprising and interesting. The dragon of Ljubljana, ljubljanski zmaj, supposedly guards the bridge, and the city; yet in the small town of Sveti Jurij (Saint George) not far off, the traditional heraldic depiction of the armoured and caped saint dispatching the fearsome beast with a lance is the coat of arms, shield, and flag. A similar Jurij serves Moscow. Now, the serbs also love George, as the english once did, but in addition to the generic slavonic zmaj, they also name aždaja. This dragon came from Persia and the zoroastrians, but not directly. The barbarian turks picked up words from conquered civilisations and were linguistic vehicles.

To further speculate, wildly, and most uncertainly: there is the less common words 'pogoj' dragon, and, in srpskohrvatsko, 'pakoa', hell, perhaps suggesting sulfurous pitch*. In addition the greek 'hades', '
aidelon', and 'άδης', fires of hades, and in Plato, the house of hades. From the greeks the russians got 'ad' in addition to their variation of peklo, pekel, pakao, pekla. There is the persian 'aži dahāka'. Is there a multi-lingual convergence of creature and locale? of dragon and hell? Or am I like the father in, My big fat greek wedding, creating fanciful etymologies?
*Jakob Grimm noted the fire and stench of slavonic hells, and modern greek hell. The hebraic 'gehenna' has often been translated into hellfire, and fire and brimstone means fire and sulfur.

No comments: