|Kirin / Qilin|
In follow-up to a dream I had and posted this past May (Beyond the Boundaries of the Universe - The Master Game - Able), a friend from a forum I participate in just answered my query as to whether or not Sleipnir is ever portrayed as a dragon in folk myth with this awesome tidbit:
What you've described actually IS an existing creature of Chinese/Japanese mythology called a Kirin (Japanese) or Qilin (Chinese). It is considered one of the three most powerful creatures in Chinese/Japanese mythology, along with dragons, and phoenixes. While the dragon is usually associated with water, and the phoenix with fire, the kirin is associated with thunder and lightning. It is usually depicted as a bearded deer, or horse like animal, with a (usually) curved horn (the Chinese version usually has two horns) and dragon scales instead of horse hair. It has been affectionately referred to as "The Japanese Unicorn", and has been said to be a guardian, and omen of extreme good luck for virtuous people.
I am really excited to discover this. Since so much of our own Northern European lore has been lost through the ages, perhaps this evidence from Oriental lore, coupled with my own dream, makes it conceivable then that there is some similar archetype in our own native mythology - and importantly, that it is recoverable!