When one usually thinks of a dragon, one thinks of dragon-slayers, adventure, damsels in
distress, and cheap fantasy novels. Dragons in literature have not always been used for such meaningless
entertainment. There are many precedents for dragons in medieval literature, two of the most prominent
being in the Old English poem Beowulf and in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. In both of these
epic poems, dragons play major antagonistic roles. The foe of Beowulf and the two dragons in The
Faerie Queene serve as important symbolic parts of the story and as reflectors that bring out the good, or
bad, qualities of the hero. Although each dragon represents specific things in its particular context, all
three are used in the same manner to effect a meaning from their symbolic existence. The three dragons
serve to point out the negative aspects of humanity, or those that plague humanity, and thus function as
critical turning points in each story.
In these two poems dragons are featured as negative creatures and are associated with the evil
side of the good vs. evil battle. In both Beowulf and The Faerie Queene, all three dragons are shown
with images of fire surrounding them constantly. This is evocative of evilness, hell, and thus, of Satan.
By using the fiery imagery, the dragons automatically become evil and threatening to the heroes of the
various plot-lines. In Beowulf, our hero is called upon to defend his helpless people from a dragon that
has been awoken by a thoughtless peasant’s theft of a golden cup. The dragon is then enraged with greed
and goes on a rampage, destroying village a...
... middle of paper ...
...s present in both epic works..
“Beowulf”. The Longman Anthology of British Literature 2nd Edition. David Damrosch, ed. New
York: Addison-Wesley Pearson Education, 2003.
Brent, Jandi. “Redcrosse Knight vs. The Dragon”. 6 November 2004.
Hale, John K. “Spenser’s Faerie Queene, 1. 11. 52 and 53". Explicator. 53.1 (1994): 6-8.
Rauer, Christine. Beowulf and the Dragon: Parallels and Analogues. Rochester, NY: D.S.
Spenser, Edmund. “The Faerie Queene: Book One”. The Longman Anthology of British
Literature 2nd Edition. David Damrosch, ed. New York: Addison-Wesley Pearson
Tanke, John. “Beowulf, Gold-Luck, and God’s Will”. Studies in Philology. 99.4 (2004): 356-80.
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