Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dragon Tails

The other day I was working on a set of Deities for my campaign setting and wanted to include my version of Asmodeus. When building the description I looked at historical sources that described Asmodeus as having three heads ,one of a bull, one of a goat and the other of a dragon. This eventually led to the classic humanoid devil made up of these three creatures, having horns, hoofed feet and a barbed tail. Its that last characteristic I want to focus on because that’s what got me thinking. A dragon’s tail is barbed. I know of no real creature that has a barbed tail i.e. shaped like a spade or spear-head on the end. This detail, like the horn of a unicorn, denotes it as a magical and unique creature (and probably why these creatures are both used in heraldry). What I noticed is that its been a long time since I noticed any dragons appearing with barbed tails in any contemporary RPG art. The barbed tail is only seen as a demon or devil characteristic (and thus of the annoying tiefling as well) these days but any research will show that descriptions of devils with a barbed tail indicate that they have a dragons’s tail. At some point the dragon has evolved into a spell-casting dinosaur and lost its defining physical characteristic, the barbed tail. Although there are several images from the past that show dragons with un-barbed tails, from what I have been able to quickly research, medieval drawings and paintings appear to have a greater frequency of barbed tails than renaissance and especially modern and specifically contemporary depictions of dragons. If this trend continues then the dragon may lose its tail altogether and become a kind of hornless unicorn.

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