We all know the story or are familiar with a variant of the theme. Brave knight fights the dragon to save the damsel in distress. On the surface this could be, merely, read as a bit of a macho man thing, striding in, slaying the beast and saving the defenceless woman. I like to look at it differently.
Stories like this always fascinate me because they deserve a little more attention than we sometimes afford them. Plus, they have always bugged me a little because I could not help feeling the old dragon, not to mention the damsel, got a raw deal.
I was reading a few books recently about the limbic part of our brain. It was referred to as our lizard brain, because it consists of the oldest and most primitive part of the brain.
Possibly, the part that generates dreams, it is concerned with basic drives, connected to the nervous system and has an emotional aspect to it. It would take too long to describe its full make up here. The point being that Lizard, Serpent and Dragon really represent the same thing. So we have a starting point with our story: the dragon may represent the lizard part of our brain.
So why do we need to “slay” it.
This caused a few problems for me. I have spent a lot of time seeing the need for us to develop and listen to this very aspect of our minds. As humans we spend too much time in our rational, cerebral mind and suppress a lot of what the cerebellum creates for us. Recently, I realised that, maybe, the Lizard/Limbic and the Cerebellum are not quite identical, or that there two sides to this portion of the brain too. It is the fearful, selfish, spoilt child part of us, the do as I please, want things my way, throw the toys out of the pram aspect in each of us…a shadow side to the cerebellum’s creative, nurturing aspect which is the part that has the potential to give birth to dreams and creativity.
So, perhaps, the dragon represents this shadow aspect. It does not have to be slain but it does have to be tamed. This is done with the rational, organising, logical aspect of our brain; the cerebral, thinking part. Rational thought, logic, etc, are qualities often attributed to the male, or masculine energy. The masculine aspect of the brain, in other words: The brave knight.
So, why does he save the Damsel?
We have already brushed upon it. The emotional and creative aspect of the cerebellum, where ideas and creativity are born and nurtured. These can be seen as feminine attributes. The damsel is a woman and a woman can bring forth new life. The damsel in the story is the positive manifestation of the limbic system that needs to be separated and rescued from the negative aspect (the dragon) by the cerebral aspect of the mind (the knight). Once the cerebellum is protected from the dragon of selfishness, fear, anxiety, stagnation and denial, the damsel of nurturing, creativity and love can be unchained.
This is just an interpretation and one I am not entirely content with from the point of view that it still has the Dragon as a negative, unwanted aspect.
Personally, I think Dragon mythology is a positive theme, particularly when understood in reference to Earth energies but, perhaps, that is a subject for a future post.