Since the days of the cave man home has been more than the
structure that gives us shelter from the elements. We abhor the emptiness of
bare surfaces and strive to make our living space into something that expresses
our individuality, a place that defines us as much as it displays our tastes
and accomplishments. Sometimes what has started as decoration, or as a means of
passing on our tastes to our descendants, becomes a tool of a man’s pride and
takes on a life of its own. Mankind’s pride is limitless and his expression of
his self-worth is only limited by his riches. Buildings become a measure of a
man’s achievements and the expression of his own taste.
Here’s a perfect illustration, the amusing ancient tale of
Duke Yeh retold (as Duke Coquaigne, with certain liberties taken):
Long after Rome had fallen, when Europe was beginning to dig
itself out from centuries of barbarism, the continent was split up into a
multitude of feudal states, each under the control of its local ruler. One of
these states was the fiefdom of the Duke of Coquaigne, a strong leader who had
increased the agricultural production of his estates, traded successfully with
his neighbours and vanquished other, less amenable, nobles with his
well-trained army. He rebuilt his ancestral castle and gathered a small army of
the most skilled artisans, stonemasons, carpenters, cooks and blacksmiths;
setting them to work on monumental structures that vastly improved his
The Duke held an unusual fascination for Dragons ever since
he was a child and had spent many an hour perusing the scrolls of heraldry. Every
night before going to sleep, at his urging, his nanny had filled his head and
imagination with wondrous accounts of the regal Dragons that had once roamed
the world. In the time before they had been chased away by the present Religious
hierarchy, who had also succeeded in permanently abolishing the
last vestiges of the Old Religions.
During this successful reign, as the Duke Coquaigne’s prestige
and wealth grew he began to identify with the Dragon and so began collecting
anything and everything to do with the fearsome beasts. He filled his entire castle with Dragons: illustrated manuscripts and scrolls, statues,
tapestries and frescoes. Every nook and cranny was soon adorned with images of
Dragons; bejewelled Dragons guarding their hoards, fire-breathing Dragons
despoiling villages and terrifying maidens, countless depictions of various
Knights fighting a Dragon, ships menaced by Water Dragons, and even paintings
on rice paper from far-off Cathay of their Serpent-Dragon coiled across the
sky. Dragons were embroidered on his court clothes and carved on his furniture,
each one carefully crafted to inspire awe in anyone who beheld them. He even acquired
stone Dragon eggs from traders who had discovered them lying in the rock of the
Great Desert, along with the bones of their mother. The Duke had dispatched several
expeditions to retrieve those bones, but none had ever returned from the
The eccentric Duke even began to imitate the Dragon’s roar
(or what he imagined the roar to sound like) whenever he was enraged, and lived
his life the way he thought a Dragon would.
So enthusiastically did he carry out this Dragon worship,
for he did view it as an almost Holy quest, that he became famous throughout
Europe for being a Dragon lover. People would comment, ``the Duke loves
Dragons, `` with as much veracity and nodding of heads as if they had said,
``the sky is blue.”
It was bound to happen that the story of the Duke who loved
Dragons would finally reach the ears of the last colony of Dragons left in the
world. On the highest mountains, far away from even the remotest trails they
had sought refuge where their roars and fiery breath were often mistaken for
mountain storms. Such adulation that the Duke espoused stoked their curiosity
and they decided to send out one of their number, a youngster only eleven
centuries old, to visit the Duke and discern the truth. ``Perhaps mankind has
matured over these past centuries and may once more welcome us among them.``
they speculated. With this, the young Dragon took flight and headed towards
On a rather sweltering afternoon, the Duke was sipping cool refreshments
after his extensive lunch as he admired his latest acquisition; an exquisitely
carved marble Dragon perched atop a model of his own castle.
Suddenly an explosive roar was heard that shook the palace down
to the deepest dungeons. A blinding flash of lightning lit up the room just
before clouds of roiling smoke obscured the view. The Great Dragon had just
crashed through part of the roof and, with a small twitch of his mighty tail,
demolished the outside stone wall. When the dust and debris settled the Dragon
looked out over the fallen tapestries, broken statues and splintered furniture
trying to find the Duke.
``I have arrived, oh Duke! ``, he roared.
The Duke was nowhere to be seen. In his terror he had
scuttled under his throne and remained there frozen, shaking like a leaf.
“There you are!” The
dragon puffed the throne aside, uncovering the paralyzed, cowering Duke among
the shattered remains of his Dragon treasure, his face hidden and eyes averted from the real Dragon that towered over him.
The Dragon sighed, as much as Dragons could sigh, let out a
mighty roar, and then took to the air. Mankind had not changed, the Duke`s
admiration was but a sham. He loved the idea of Dragons, the hollow tales and
images of Dragons, but he panicked when presented with the real thing. He was
unmanned and his pretense exposed.
Despite all his efforts to suppress the story, the news of
the Dragon`s visit and its unfortunate effect upon the Duke spread like
wildfire. There were whispers in the dark corners that spread to the alehouse
and then out into the street where laughter at the Duke`s folly ran rampant.
People still said, ``The Duke Loves Dragons. `` But now they used it to refer
to a poseur or someone who puts up a false front. His riches and army were
still with him, but the Duke was no longer respected in his own country, or
abroad. Soon an invading army put an end to his reign and their cannons
completed the devastation the Dragon inflicted on the castle.