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January 31, 2012 / dragonscorner

Perault’s Dragon

Source: Summa vitiorum (mid-13th century)

Perrault’s dragon appears not in a work of fiction or a legendary tale, but in a medieval bestiary compiled by Dominican preacher William Perault. The dragons, unicorns, and other fantastic beasts in this manuscript are mixed in with mundane animals such as dogs and roosters, suggesting that these creatures were widely perceived to exist in some part of the world.

This particular dragon is interesting because it possesses two pairs of wings, a trait that is extremely rare in other dragon images. One possible explanation for this anomaly is that, prior to the 13th century, most dragons were depicted with only two legs and two wings. Perrault’s dragon may therefore represent a duplication of limbs, and I’d like to speculate that it is also a visual ancestor to modern four-legged, two-winged dragons, who have lost the second pair of wings.

Image: Original illustration from Summa vitiorum, Harley MS 3244, available at the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.


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