This description is how I love dragons to be portrayed.. Not just a huge monster, not a flock of them with dude's riding them, etc. But majestic and awesome in their own right..
"By the end of the poem, gold has suffered a radiation from the Christian vision. It is not that it yet equals the riches in the medieval sense of worldly corruption, just that its status as the ore of all value has been put in doubt. It is lne, transitory, passing from hand to hand, and its changed status is registered as a symptom of the changed world. Once the dragon is disturbed, the melancholy and sense of displacement that pervade the last movement of the poem enter the hoard as a disabling and ominous light. And the dragon himself, as a genius of the older order, is bathed in this light, so that even as he begins to stir, the reader has a premonition that the days of his empery are numbered.
Nevertheless, the dragon has a wonderful inevitability about him and a unique glamour. It is not that the other monsters are lacking in presence and aura; it is more that they remain, for all their power to terrorize, creatures of the physical world. Grendel comes alive in the reader’s imagination as a kind of dog-breath in the dark, a fear of collision with some hard-boned and immensely strong android frame, a mixture of Caliban and hoplite. And while his mother too has a definite brute-bearing about her, a creature of slouch and lunge on land if seal-swift in the water, she nevertheless retains a certain non-strangeness. As antagonists of a hero being tested, Grendel and his mother possess an appropriate head-on strength. The poet may need them as figures who do the devil’s work, but the poem needs them more as figures who call up and show off Beowulf’s physical strength and his superb gifts as a warrior. They are the right enemies for a young glory-hunter, instigators of the formal boast, worthy trophies to be carried back from the grim testing-ground – Grendel’s hand is ripped off and nailed up, his head severed and paraded in Heorot. It is all consonant with the surge of youth and the compulsion to win fame ‘as wide as the wind’s home, / as the sea around cliffs’, utterly a manifestation of the Germanic heroic code.
Enter then, fifty years later, the dragon – from his dry-stone vault, from a nest where he is heaped in coils around the body-heated gold. Once he is wakened, there is something glorious in the way he manifests, a Fourth of July effulgence fireworking its path across the night sky; and yet, because of the centuries he has spent dormant in the tumulus, there is a foundedness as well as a lambency about him. He is at once a stratum of the earth and a streamer in the air, no painted dragon but a figure of real oneiric power, one that can easily survive the prejudice that arises at the very mention of the word ‘dragon’. Whether in medieval art or modern Disney cartoons, the dragon can strike us as far less horrific than he is meant to be, but in the final movement of Beowulf he lodges himself in the imagination as wyrd rather than wyrm, more a destiny than a set of reptilian vertebrae.
Grendel and his mother enter Beowulf’s life from the outside, accidentally, challenges which in other circumstances he might not have taken up, enemies from whom he might have been distracted or deflected. The dragon, on the other hand, is a given of his home ground, abiding in his under-earth as in his understanding, waiting for the meeting, the watcher at the ford, the questioner who sits so sly, the ‘lion-limb’, as Gerard Manley Hopkins might have called him, against whom Beowulf’s body and soul must measure themselves. Dragon equals shadow-line, the psalmist’s valley of the shadow of death, the embodiment of a knowledge deeply ingrained in the species – the knowledge, that is, of the price to be paid for physical and spiritual survival."
addendum: sorry for the nonstandard characters, it apparently can't display them. meh
Edited by tid242, 14 February 2017 - 09:18 PM.