Here Be Dragons...
Some notes on East Anglian Folklore for Ars Magica
partly for those running Libellas or Nigrasaxa based stories
and partly to celebrate the release of the Bestiary (anyone seen it yet?)
here are a few genuine East Anglian Dragon Legends.
of the favourite East Anglian Saints was Margaret of Antioch. I know
little about her cultus, not even her day, but she was venerated in many
churches. She was swallowed by a huge dragon in Syria, but after praying
to the Lord the Dragon burst open and died and she stepped forth unharmed.
Shades of Jonah and the Whale?
In the late
twelth century a dragon reportedly terrorised the area
surrounding St.Osyth, Essex. Guessing from the map, and also the
illustration of Nigrasaxa fits perfectly, Nigrasaxa ia probably at Mistley
about 6 miles up the coast. If you move the 'fiery' dragon forward to the
early 13th it coluld make for a spectacular demise for the covenant!!! We
have some description 'it was of such marvelous bigness' it demolished
houses in it's path. There is no description of how it was despatched or
finally departed, leaving you free to decide...
a dragon with a huge body, crested head, sharp teeth and a long tail appeared
on the lands of Sir Richard de
Waldegrave at Bures. The Beast began killing sheep, was fired on by
archers but to no avail as it's hide was impervious to all arrows (high
soak - this is longbows we are talking about here). Bures is located about
8 miles south of Libellas and 25 miles west of Nigrasaxa (assuming Libellas
to be just north of Long Melford) and can be located on the SW of Bury map
on my website - www.falster23.freeserve.co.uk. Obviously out of period but
nonetheless it may well be a recurrence of an earlier event - in fact there
may be a breeding population becuase of a second story from the same area.
this time is Great Cornard (well actually Little Cornard but
the two villages have long since merged...) in 1449. This is all of maybe
a mile and a half or at most two miles south from Libellas, and maybe just
under 30 miles from Nigrasaxa. (Once again, there is a map you can print
off on my website...) On September 26th, the feast of St. Cyprian (who as I
recall is patron saint of Magi who reform in Catholic hagiography!) and St.
Justina, the whole area was roused by not one but two dragons. From
Kedington Hill issued a huge black sinous dragon, and from Ballingdon Hill
issued forth a similar balck beast but with crimson mottling all over it's
scales. Then the two dragons net in the marshy field known as Sharpfight
Meadow, and for an hour the ground shook as the two beasts were locked in a
titanic struggle watched by the amazed villagers from miles around.
Finally, the black dragon was defeated and fled back to it's hill, and the
red dragon triumphantly marched back, not fortunately deigning to snack on
the brave spectators. The hills in question are barely that - one is 60'
high, the other 65', more low rolling undulating terrain than hills!
The story is recorded in a ms. in the collection of Canterbury Cathedral.
There has to be some mileage in this story for Libellas based sagas...
miles south of Cambridge and Schola Pythagoranis is the town of
Saffron Walden (30 miles due west of Libellas). The town has strong
associations with witchcraft and a bizarre modern faerie story, but I'll
leave those for another time. It was terrorised by a venomous flying
serpent; obviously not the fire breathing dragon of St. Osyth, could it be
the Stour family were equally venomous? The reason for it's sudden descent
on the town was never established, giving plenty of scope for you to
develop a story, but it swooped on and carried off townsfolk, poisoned
others, and was finally slain by the taxman, no, I jest, it was slain by,
you guessed it, a Knight... (yawn!).
south of Saffron Walden, near the modern Stansted Airport can be
found Henham, and it was in a wood here that a traveller encountered a
sunbathing dragon in the 17th Century. It just looked at him with drowsy
eyes, yawned and docilely lumbered off in to the trees. It is amusing to
speculate on the havoc that will ensue when he wakes and becomes a blip on
Air Traffic Control at Stansted... This is BA flight 603, are we cleared
for landing? Tower here, negative - we have a large pink dragon blocking
flightpath at 3000 yards... This story may however suggest that the area
has a fairy regio ( and by the way the dragon wasn't really pink - I chose
it's colour.) Perhaps it's the faerie wood associated with Schola
Pythagoranis in the introductory story in Am 4th???
a tale from the Norfolk Broads, which have so much folklore that I
will dedicate a whole section of my website to them. The village of Ludham
lies inland between several broads, and is home to a dragon. The dragon
lived in a cave on the river side, and would spend its days each summer
basking in the sun, and snacking on the locals. They tried many times to
block the entrance, and trap the dragon within, but it always escpaped. One
day while it was dozing and happily digesting a few merchants and a wagon
load of herring (with a carthorse chaser) the villagers rolled a huge rock
over the entrance to it's cave. It roared in anger and frustration on
seeing this, and flapped it's way to St. Benet's Abbey where
it vanished, presumably having used the backdoor in to it's cave.
baleful beasties showed any ability at speech or intelligence... perhaps
they are drakes, wyrms, wyverns or some such not true dragons?