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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Still More Gargoyle Dragons and Guivre of France, Including Giant Eels This Time

Gargouille or Langen-Nacker from German website on dragons. 'The Gargoyle has a scaly head, which is supported by a long neck. A slender snout and a large gullet. Pronounced eyebrows, surrounding a pair of glowing eyes like moon rocks. He is a water-snake-like dragon of colossal size. Encased in a fine gray-green scallop-shaped scales, and instead of legs he has two pair of fin membranes. Can spit out of his mouth, he flooded an enormous jet of water, the huge pieces of land. This behavior gave him the name 'Gurgler'. If he has flooded everything, he pushes over the boat of the fugitives, and eats the occupants.'
Below it is a Wasserdrache or water-dragon: a traditional sea serpent but also the type of sighting to be expected in freshwater in Germandic countries, in the larger lakes (mostly in the sea but also sometimes in the larger lakes is specified). We are still talking the pre-1500s period mostly in these instances.

Blogger is playing me the funny little trick of not allowing my comments on older posts through again. No matter: whenever that happens, I can make another blog posting. I had some more comments about the diffusion of the dragon conventionalizationalised images being something different from the real animals involved, but I can save that for another day.

[Wyvern. Public-Domain Clip Art Coloured by DD]

[French Wyvern or Guivre from Wikipedia]

'Typhon' made a remark on my last gargoyle dragons article about the Guivre and I answered the remark to the best of my understanding then, that the name was the same as the Wyvern and not technically the same as the dragon, per se. I then did a little more research and it seems the French at one time were using 'Guivre' where the Germans would say 'wurm' for a serpentine creature without limbs or only with the front limbs. The word has in fact been used to refer to both the French version of the two-legged Tatzelwurm (sometimes with the cat head)

[Internet artwork featuring Tatzelwurm-shaped Guivre]
and sometimes for eel-like water monsters a dozen to two dozen feet long. Both of these are still in contrast to the larger snake-necked quadruped long-necked Gargouille water dragons, which are still some of the more distinctive exemplars of the type. Both of those uses have also continued down to more modern times and sometimes I think the older term has gone out of use but then revived more recently. The use of Guivre as a large serpentine creature definitely seems to be a more modern revival in some of the instances I saw on my recent internet searches.

[Guivre as depicted at Fantasy Artist Liza Phoenix's website]

'Guirve' appears to still be used locally as the name of some eel-like freshwater monsters sighted in France of more recent vintage, presumably including the same sort of sightings that Maurice Burton had mentioned. One comedian had even said that the Loch Ness monster was an old-time Vourive on vacation from France.

[This Boa at the top might be indicating short fins located on either side of the body just behind the head]

The large bestiary serpent called a 'Boas' (Boa) from French bestiaries of the mid-1400s

The Boas is a very large 'snake' seen in France, Italy, Monaco and on the Mediterranean islands, said to be fond of eating children. That probably
means that it was used as a nursery bogie to frighten small children into behaving better. This one looks very much like a large conger eel and is showing what looks like a lateral line. It is indicated as being 'As big as a tree.'

There is a very famous family crest for the Viscount family (various spellings) that shows a very large snake (called a Guivre but presumably the same as the Boas) swallowing a child (always feet-first). An older version of this is depicted on a stone wall and a more recent re-drawing of the family crest follows after that. Both images are from Wikipedia. 'Boas' alone is of course also a well-known family name, including in Latin America.

More commonly-printed depiction of The Boas also depicted as eating a child. From A Fantastic Bestiary and a public-domain image. There are still occasionally sightings of very large 'snakes' in the area, including a 30-foot-long 'Brontosaurus'-headed 'snake' seen on Sicily in the 1930s. That also sounds like the same sort of giant eel.

If this is actually a giant eel of the Megaconger sort, it is actually scaleless and the scales as shown on the artwork would be imaginary.

The Dragon being slain by Saint George is also shown as a large 'serpent' in Italian and French depictions from the 1100s. Legs and wings were added in later versions because they were 'expected' to be there from other, more contemporary depictions.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. "There is a very famous family crest for the Viscount family (various spellings) that shows a very large snake (called a Guivre but presumably the same as the Boas) swallowing a child (always feet-first). An older version of this is depicted on a stone wall and a more recent re-drawing of the family crest follows after that."

    The snake in this crfest is not swallowing the child but rather the child is coming out of the snake. It alludes to the legend of the prodigious birth of Alexander the Great of Macedon, from whom the Visconti family supposedly descended, according to which his mother had been deceived by Jupiter in the form of a snake, so Alexander was a son of Jupiter. The child emerges from the mouth because this is the place through which some snakes are born.

  2. After reading the part II about alpine lake monsters I actually managed to get my hands on a source of Eberhart's beast in the "Vierwaldstättersee" in Switzerland. Interestingly, the author tries first to prove that there are dragons in nature and mentions pretty much every sighting and account he got hold off. Now, he also goes into details about the "Boae" (translated to English):
    "Boa is also the genus of a dragon/but in my opinion a Lindwurm/as they are called in these regions/and therefore named Boa/"...He goes on to mention that they are called Boa from the latin word "bos" because they like to prey on and eat oxen and cattle. Furthermore he mentions that in the kingdom of Naples and the province of Calabria they grow especially big. Also in Dalmatia. He mentions that they feed on milk when they are young (Lambton worm anyone?). Then follow incidents with the "Boae". Here is the source text:

    Havent read the whole chapter on dragons yet, but it seems, Switzerland and especially mount Pilatus and Lucerne were dragon country back in the day...


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