50 objects 17: Meet the Dragon

Bill Griffiths (1948-2007) was, amongst other things, a scholar of medieval literature. For more information on him and his wide-ranging work in other areas, see this post . You can see a description of Brunel’s whole Bill Griffiths collection via the archives catalogue.

The material held in Special Collections here includes his work on Old English poetry, notably on the epic Beowulf in which the hero slays two monsters and a dragon. The section on Beowulf features research notes including translations and articles, and related material such as MJ Weller’s Beowulf Cartoon (Writers Forum, 2004) for which Griffiths wrote an introduction.

Dragon drawn by MJ Weller as part of his Beowulf Cartoon.

Dragon drawn by MJ Weller as part of his Beowulf Cartoon.

Meet the dragon: an introduction to Beowulf’s adversary (Heart of Albion Press, 1996) arises from

Meet the Dragon cover

Meet the Dragon cover

the author’s study of Beowulf but delves into the history of dragons in a much broader way. The history of dragons, beginning with ancient Egyptian and Sumerian beasts, and their development into the later winged, fire-breathing animals we think of today, is outlined, and references are made to named dragons and dragon-slayers from various cultures, from the Norse legend of Sigurd and Fafnir  to the Hindu mythology of Indra and Vritra.

The work also covers the etymology of the name “dragon”, and the relationships between dragons and other mythical beasts such as griffins and wyverns. There are sections covering benevolent and protective dragons, and discussing the dragon as a representation of negative human characteristics, notably greed.

It is intriguing to read this pamphlet alongside the research notes and correspondence underlying it, to see the evolution of Griffiths’ ideas and the process of editing.

Handwritten letter from "John" to Bill Griffiths dated 16th January 1991, discussing roots of the word dragon.

Handwritten letter from “John” to Bill Griffiths dated 16th January 1991, discussing roots of the word dragon.

A selection of Griffiths' notes on dragons.

A selection of Griffiths’ notes on dragons.

Annotated typescript draft of part of Meet the Dragon.

Annotated typescript draft of part of Meet the Dragon.

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One thought on “50 objects 17: Meet the Dragon

  1. Pingback: Special Collections: 50 Things | Bookmark Daily

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