In both the East and West, dragons are a symbol of power. A wizard who can control a dragon or a warrior who can conquer this great creature will command the power of his world. It is sometimes the evil power, other times a protector’s. Hence it is a really popular theme for men’s canes. With an antique dragon walking cane, you can hold that power in your hand, and it is very suitable as a gentleman’s fashion accessory.
Although many dragon legends are found all over Europe, several of the most famous ones are from the British Isles, and some cane-makers created beautiful cane handles after these dragons. Here are some of the most famous “named” dragons that are currently available as canes:
St. George’s Dragon
One of the most popular dragons is St. George’s. It appears in many art forms, including the walking canes. There are several different versions of St. George’s dragon stories, but the most famous one is of the dragon attacking the city of Selene in Libya. This dragon demanded a child each day for its meal, and one day the king’s daughter was chosen for the sacrifice. Just as the dragon was about to eat her up, a European knight came to rescue her. After a long fierce fight, the knight finally killed the dragon, and freed the city. People were so grateful that they converted to Christianity under St. George.
In the old English legend of St. George, the dragon named Dadianus is an evil sorcerer who can change himself into a serpent. St. George trapped the evil spirit of Dadianus in the walking cane he carries for eternity to commemorate the victory of good over evil.
There are a few different artistic representations of St. George’s dragon, but the dragon wrapping around the cane is most popular.
Another famous dragon in England is Lambton dragon from the legend of the Lambton Worm and Penshaw Hill. It was during the time of the Crusades that John Lambton caught a hideous, black, worm-like creature while fishing. He did not know what to do with it, so he threw it into an ancient well and forgot about it. The years passed, and he was gone on the Crusades for a long time. When he returned home, he found his village devastated by the worm, which had now grown into a monstrous dragon. With the help of a wise woman, he managed to kill the dragon, but his house was cursed and for nine generations no lord of Lambton would die in his bed.
Although a currently available reproduction cane with Lambton dragon looks like an Asian dragon, many older illustrations show that Lambton dragon is more like a sea serpent monster without legs or scales.
The Henham dragon was first sighted in 1668 in the British village of Henham, Essex. It was described as being nine feet long with small wings. The eyes were surrounded by strange feathers. Numerous sightings of the dragon were reported over the next year. Some just caught a glimpse of it in the distance, while others said it flew overhead. In 1669, a pamphlet called “The Flying Serpent or Strange News Out of Essex” was published and a copy of the pamphlet still exists at Saffron Walden library. This dragon was actually a hoax known as the “Henham Dragon Hoax of 1668.” Still, it stimulated the imaginations of many artists and craftsmen, who designed some very nice walking canes.
This dragon lived in a well in Duck’s Pool Meadow in Brinsop. It was killed by a local knight, but some insist that this knight was St. George. Yes, he was a busy guy! Most illustrations found for this dragon show large wings which is typical for modern-day images. The dragon sculpture on the current reproduction cane is actually quite nice looking, although probably hard to carry around.
Although they are not British, it is worth mentioning Asian dragons. Unlike in the Western equivalent, in Eastern-world legends dragons are usually in pairs, one good and one evil. If a good dragon wins, the village will prosper. If the evil one wins, the village will perish. They are a sort of symbol of the yin-yang relationship. One of most famous dragon tales from China is of a black and a white dragon. A famous wood carpenter was traveling with his son to a distant city. They passed one side of an ominous lake, with an island in the middle covered by a dark cloud. The son was thirsty and drank water from the lake when, suddenly, a black dragon appeared from the cloud, snatched the son, and disappeared. The father ran to the nearby village for help but no one could do anything. Half-crazed, he started carving a dragon from white wood laying around the side of the lake. He carved and carved without food, without sleep. When he removed the last chip from the dragon’s eye, suddenly the wooden dragon came alive, flew to the black cloud, and started fighting with the black dragon. After many hours of fighting, both dragons disappeared under water, the black cloud cleared from the island, and the carpenter found his son sitting on the island.
The Asian dragons have no wings, but always have four legs, a pair of long whiskers and often a beard. It is quite easy to distinguish one from the European dragons.
A dragon-claw cane is a more recent creation from fantasy novels and films. A dragon claw holding a crystal or silver ball is quite popular. According to stories, the hand of a dragon was a talisman for many wizards. The sphere held in the dragon’s claw represents the world, and he who owns this talisman will conquer the world. You can find several reproductions in this category. These canes are very popular among women interested in goth and/or vampire fashion than men and may not be as suitable as a gentleman’s fashion accessory.
Although many original dragon walking canes from the 19th century or earlier were made of wood, bone, and ivory, the currently available dragon canes are usually made of pewter, and often made in Italy. Some no-name cheaper dragon canes are made in China and India. (Don’t discount Indian craftsmanship, however. They make really nice canes at a reasonable price.) None of these canes are for orthopedic use. They are meant only as a gentleman’s fashion accessory, and cheaper ones are for home decorations.