Dragons are the greatest of all the serpents. Emerging from their lairs, and taking flight, they disturb the air around them, making it shine. Hidden in their brains is a stone called draconite, precious only if it is taken while a dragon is still alive. Wizards, desirous of these gems, steal into dragons’ caves at night to scatter medicated grains. Thus having made the dragons sleep, the wizards cut off their heads and remove the treasure they seek. The strength of dragons is in their tails, not in their teeth: they kill by beating, not by biting. In India, dragons hide in places where elephants walk, lying in wait for their prey. When elephants pass, the dragons pounce upon them, and striking them with their great tails, they smite them.
This tiny dragon doesn’t have the sort of tail that could smite an elephant, but he does have a mouth full of saw-like teeth. That his appearance differs from the dragons described above is a reminder that the sculptor who carved the capital he adorns was not likely to have consulted bestiaries. Despite his diminutive size and relatively unthreatening appearance (he even allows a human figure to grab his wing,) he would have been seen as a symbol of evil. Dragons were long associated with Satan, an identification that appears in the Book of Revelation: “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world– he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Rev 12:9)*
*Revised Standard Version