[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
THIS is also a fabulous animal, and much in shape, as generally represented, like the dragon, except that instead of four, it has only two legs, which are armed with claws, and webbed. There is no doubt that this imaginary being was originally conceived in the brains of poets, of romancers of old, and especially in chivalresque times, when the Crusaders overflowed the plains of Palestine and Assyria. The heat of the climate in some vales at the foot of the mountains which intersect the deserts of those countries, bred naturally all sorts of serpents, and some of an immense size. The European soldiers of Godfrey and Richard, unaccustomed to such sights, whenever they met those monsters on the sedgy banks of small lakes, under the shades of cedars and palm-trees, where they appeared as if posted to guard the sacred waters, so precious in a country so hot, were easily frightened; and swelled, in their idle tales, when inactive in the camps, the bulk of the serpent they had seen. The castle of Lusignan; in the province of Poitou, was supposed to contain one of those winged serpents, and surely the story must have originated in the Levant, where the noble family of that name had long been so conspicuous for their exploits and bravery. It is a very ancient armorial bearing, and is now standing as supporter to the arms of several illustrious houses.
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