It still boggles my mind that our LCMS Mission Headquarters is literally overlooking the Dragon of Heaven Temple and Monastery. Here is one of the dragon statues that looks to me like a cat, but immediately behind it is the mission center. So I was in the center preaching every morning and evening and attending meetings and a theological symposium during the day. Every break was an opportunity to look over the balcony and study the temple grounds and it is fascinating. I was there for over a week and I never saw a human being inside this huge compound. There is a beautiful vegetable garden, never saw it watered or weeded. It was a beautiful place and a little creepy. One of the missionary children of college age was ruminating with me on dragon imagery and tying it in with the dragon imagery of Revelations which is creepy too.
I thought about this the other day and started trying to list the dragon imagery that we have all around us and maybe do not even remember or think about them. You cannot wander around the villages and cities of Europe without the St. George and the Dragon Statues that seem to be at every corner and courtyard. Many of the gargoyles on churches seem to be dragons. My first conscious image of a dragon was the one that the mad Queen Malificent turns into in the classic Disney rendition of “Snow White”. It was quite terrifying to my 7 year old brain. It is interesting that some of the terrifying images that have stuck in my brain have been in Disney cartoons. The eyes of the witch in “Sleeping Beauty” haunt me to this day. But back to dragons. There are dragons in Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, the Train Your Dragon movies, The Hobbit, Mushu in Mulan, Drago in Dragonheart, Falkor in the Neverending Story.
“Red Dragon” was the first book in which Dr. Hannibal Lector is a character and it comes from William Blake’s series of paintings that he did over a decade and all of the images are based on the book of Revelations. And of course that is just the tip of the iceberg. There seems to be a race memory of dragons as the “serpent” in the Garden. Remember his promise that Adam and Eve would be like God brought about the FAll. Interesting to me is that the East seems to see that promise as one of prosperity, luck, wealth, etc, while the West reaction to dragons is one of wickedness, sin and ferocity. Despite the change in dragon temperament in recent cartoons and movies (Spike in “My Little Pony”), the difference between the East and the West concepts of dragons cannot be any more different. In fact they are completely opposite. Why would that be?