Animals > Wyverns
The wyvern is a two-legged dragon, just as evil as its four-legged counterpart but more popular with woodcarvers. This carving is from the south of England, once forming part of a frieze in a Sussex house. Like the dragon it is winged, has a powerful tail and, in this case, a strong set of teeth. In its left paw it grips a bunch of grapes torn from the vine whose leaves are in the background. The vine stands for Christianity and the devilish wyvern is stealing what it can, clearly bent on creating havoc.
Although this example looks relatively friendly the barbed tongue is ready to inflict damage and the serpentine tail could uncoil at any moment. In the interests of artistic design, perhaps, it seems to have only one wing.
The wyvern and its four-legged dragon counterpart were considered evil, fierce, rapacious and deadly, warning the wrongdoer of the fate awaiting him.
The word wyvere is late Middle English for a viper while the Latin draco means serpent as well as dragon. The wyvern is, however, frequently found as a heraldic emblem where it represents strength and valour. It is used on several medieval coats of arms in Cheshire in a punning reference to the River Weaver and the similarly-pronounced wyvere. Elsewhere in England the word wyvern is associated with Hereford and Worcester as the rivers Wye and Severn run through both cities. Here the wyvern is viewed favourably.
This late 15th-century English oak panel is reminiscent of Gothic oak tracery panels of the period. It shows a wyvern chewing at the stem of a thistle, while above a snail sucks on the leaf. The companion panel is listed under Foxes and is set against a background of oak and acorns, so the two panels are probably making reference to Scotland and England.