Swa giomormod ● giohðo mænde
an æfter eallum, ● unbliðe hwearf
dæges ond nihtes, ● oððæt deaðes wylm
hran æt heortan. ● Hordwynne fond
eald uhtsceaða ● opene standan,
se ðe byrnende ● biorgas seceð,
nacod niðdraca, ● nihtes fleogeð
“So the sole survivor, in sorrowful mood,
bewailed his grief; he wandered cheerless
through days and nights until death’s flood
reached to his heart
The Ravager of the night,
the burner who has sought out barrows from of old
then found this hoard of undefended joy
The smooth evil dragon swims through the gloom
enfolded in flame…” Beowulf, Alexander
The nameless dragon of Beowulf is the last survivor of an ancient race who has gathered their treasures and hidden them. Consumed by the grief of his loss, he becomes undying; twisted and transformed; consumed by the need to guard the treasures of his people while he awaits the same fate.
The dragon terrorises the local people for over 300 years before one dares to steal from him, thereby unleashing his terrible wrath…
In a society where status is increased by the bestowing of gifts and wealth upon others, dragons, who are traditionally the guardians of hoards, represent a distorted notion of the wrongness of greed. The dragon also represents the fear Anglo-Saxons had for being an exile, leaderless or alone without kin. Poems such as The Wanderer deal with this topic in detail.
The items in the hoard are from the 5th-9th century AD Anglo-Saxon examples of hoard and burial items.
You may recognise in this Tolkien’s Smaug and the stories of Fafnir.
Date: commenced 1996 completed 2013
Media: Watercolour on paper
Software: Scans stitched and colour corrected in CS5.5