Monday, March 21st, 2011

Dragon or Wyvern?

WyvernCan I assume everyone knows what a dragon is?

A wyvern is a similar creature to — some say a sub-species of — the dragon. It stands on two legs instead of four, and its tail is often seen as arching over its head, scorpion-like, so that it can use the spade-shaped tip to poison it’s enemies.

They’re often depicted in English heraldry on flags and shields and coats-of-arms (such as this flag of the Ancient Kingdom of Wessex, located today in England).

Some people feel they’re interchangeable creatures – but wyverns lack the intelligence of dragons – so you won’t find them starring in any thoughtful stories. In fact, it’s pretty rare to see them “starring” at all.

I’ve written both dragon stories and wyvern stories. I tend to use dragons for “intelligent” tales and wyverns when I need a fierce creature who acts on base instinct…but it seems a shame to me that such a fine (if evil and nasty) creature gets pushed out of the limelight by its more intelligent cousin.

I’m sticking with the intelligence theory: that it’s this lack of smarts that makes the wyvern so unattractive in stories, though it could easily be that it’s not popular because a wyvern has less versatile “artillery” than that of various dragons (and is therefore less useful, in a story).

Or, maybe the wyvern is not used as much because fewer people are aware of the myth.

What’s your take? And which do you like better: dragons or wyverns?

2 comments to Dragon or Wyvern?

  • Kelly,
    Since both dragons and wyverns are imaginary, seems to me we shouldn’t get stuck on someone else’s idea of which creature is more intelligent. One could write a story about a wise wyvern, or a dunderheaded dragon.
    Besides, dragons violate one “rule” of higher-order animals on Earth–they have six limbs to control. Most higher order land animals have no more than four, like a Wyvern. The wyvern in the graphic is hopelessly out of balance, but one could imagine a more bird-like (or bat-like) form. Probably lighter and more maneuverable than a dragon, wyverns might even be smarter than dragons since they have two fewer limbs for their brain to coordinate.
    Plus there’s just something cool about the word “wyvern” with that “wyv” beginning–making a wyvern worth much more than a dragon in Scrabble!
    I’d say it’s high time someone established a new, better reputation for wyverns. Maybe write a story in which a lone wyvern bravely faces down a group of dragons. There’s a prompt for you!

    • Hi Steve! I can think of only one other animal that violates the “higher order” issue of limbs: the octopus, which is extremely intelligent, though it doesn’t talk, like, say, a dragon.

      Wait! Did you say dragons are imaginary?

      I like the idea of a dunderhead dragon versus an intelligent wyvern…. thanks for the prompt!

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