Dragons Around the World: Wyverns

Hello and welcome to the next installment of dragons around the world! Today we will be talking about Wyverns, another common dragon type from western Europe. They first appeared in Medieval bestiaries, which are essentially books that record different types of animals.

The term wyvern derives from the term wyver, which comes from an Anglo-French word, which comes from a couple of French terms (one of which is guivre, which comes from the Latin word for viper (phew). This is why I’m not a linguist, although I guess it would be kind of like detangling yarn, which can be weirdly enjoyable. Anyway. It’s related to words that mean “venomous snake;” however, they may also be the terms for “light javelin,” at least in French or Anglo-French. Soooo, yeah. Complicated.

They aren’t as commonly found in literature or legends of old, but many modern fantasy tales have wyverns. However, wyverns are very common in heraldry, which is the system of symbols used to represent noble houses. Think coat of arms, insignias, and so on. Every notable family had their own coat of arms with different symbols on them, and wyverns were very popular. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Where can wyverns be found? Where do they like to live? What do they look like? Let’s find out.

Where Are They From?

So, if you haven’t guessed already, wyverns are mostly located in Europe, usually Western Europe. Most heraldry relating to Wyverns is found in places like Ireland, England, and Scotland. However, there are some tales of Wyverns in France. There, they are called guivre or vouivre. They were primarily found in the countryside.

It has been theorized that the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie, as she prefers to be called), is a guivre that made it’s way to the Loch in Scotland, but who can say for certain? Nessie does not appear to have wings, but it’s possible that they may be hidden under the water.

Where Do They Dwell?

According to French lore, Wyverns would usually live by small bodies of water, like pools or lakes. Sometimes, they would reside in forests, as long as it was damp.

What Are Their Characteristics?

The primary difference between Standard Western Dragons and Wyverns is that Wyverns have only two legs, which are less like a lizard’s and more like bird’s legs. They also tend to be more serpentine and smaller than their cousins.

Another distinctive characteristic of the Wyvern is a barbed tail. Although most dragons have a deadly tale due to their strength, Wyverns have that extra bite. Some texts suggest that Wyverns have developed a more fishy tail that helps them in their aquatic life. They may also have horns upon their heads.

Like other dragons, Wyverns typically have two wings. They tend to be scaly. There are some Wyverns, although they are usually referred to as vouivres, that have green scales that can make sound as they fly. These are usually female dragons though.

Other legends say the vouivres wear rubies on their forehead that they can use as another eye.

What Abilities Do They Have?

Standard Western Dragons are known for their fire-breathing, but Wyverns are more closely associated with poison. It’s theorized that their barbed tails contain venom, although it’s not proven (which, I mean, would be kind of difficult). Some say that they spread contagious illnesses. They were actually blamed for the Balck Death.

No one is sure whether or not Wyverns should be classified as fire-breathers. They can shoot small fireballs at their desired targets, but they do not have an inexhaustible supply of fire. However, this characteristic is only found in a few texts.

They are not typically as cunning as Standard Western Dragons, but they are very fierce and prefer to attack rather than avoid confrontation. They aren’t as lazy as their cousins, who try to get out of a fight if they can.

What’s Their Personality Like?

Like most dragons, Wyverns are usually described as greedy. They too, like to collect shiny things, although their hordes aren’t as big as those of the Standard Western Dragon.

They are also considered to be evil, like most dragons in Western culture. They aren’t typically very smart, so it’s highly unlikely that they can speak.

The oddest thing about the French Wyverns is that they are very uncomfortable with nakedness. If they see someone who is naked, they’ll blush (however a dragon manages to do that) and look away.

Heraldry

In heraldry, Wyverns are usually depicted resting on their legs and tails or just on their tales with their claws up in the air. The most famous crest with a wyvern is the one for Leicester, which has been around since the time of the 2nd Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, Thomas.

What’s Next?

So, since it’s Advent season, the time we prepare for Christmas, I thought I might press pause on the dragon articles and instead write about Christmassy things. I’m hoping to post an article of My Favorite Things: Christmas Hymns Edition, because I love Christmas Hymns.

Once January rolls around, I will continue the dragon series with a discussion of Gargoyles. Hopefully, later in the series, we will be able to find more information about other dragons. Until then, we will have to live with what little I can find.

Until next time!

Sources

“Bestiary.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestiary

“English Heraldry.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_heraldry

“Guivre.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guivre

“Wyvern.” Dragons: Fandom, https://dragons.fandom.com/wiki/Wyvern

“Wyvern – Legendary Creature with Dragon Power.” Mythology.net, https://mythology.net/mythical-creatures/wyvern/

“Wyverns.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyvern

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