Dragons Part III

If you look up Chinese dragon, do you know the first thing that pops up?  Menus.  Many, many Chinese menus.  And trust me, I love Chinese food!  But I’m pretty sure there aren’t real dragons being sautéed with garlic and broccoli in all those woks.  But it does show the prevalence and the importance of this great mythological beast.

Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations, enjoying some marshmallows with his cousin, Chang, who is visiting from China. Original art by Julia Ruprecht. @julruprecht on Instagram

One of the earliest mentions of the Chinese dragon originates with their creation myth.  After a massive flood, Fu Xi and his sister, Nuwa, were the only survivors.  They went to the mythical mountain of Kunlun and prayed to the Divine Being.  The Divine Being blessed them.  They married then set about populating the earth.  In order to speed things along, they formed people out of clay and then made them live with the power entrusted to them by the Divine Being (www.nouahsark.com).  Where are the dragons in this story, you might ask?  Fu Xi and Nuwa are most often depicted with human torsos and heads, but with the bodies of dragons (though sometimes Nuwa is part fish or part snake…so, Medusa’s cousin or a mermaid?) (www.britanica.com).  Many Chinese people today still consider themselves descendants of the dragons (www.chinahighlights.com).  

Fu Xi and Nuwa with their dragon tails

Since then, the Chinese dragon has seen some evolution.  It is now considered the compilation of several animals—the head of a dog, the body of a serpent, the talons of an eagle (www.culturachina.net).  However, its place in Chinese society has remained steady over vast centuries.  It was considered the national symbol of China until a more recent move by the Communist party moved away from Imperialism and instituted the Giant Panda as China’s national symbol.

Traditional Chinese Ceremonial Dragon

Chinese dragons often fly, are givers of wisdom, and bringers of rain (which is pretty important when the livelihood of many depended on rice pads in ages past).  But did these great beasts actually exist?  Could they be the creation of a discovery of a giant serpentine creature?  Check out the Titanoboa remains out of South America for comparison.

Titanoboa fossil discovered in South America

For years, Chinese apothecaries have ground up the bones of dragons and sold them as cures for a variety of ailments.  Even today, you can go in and order some dragon capsules to calm your angry bowls or to calm your shen (spirit) (www.acupuncturetoday.com).  Obviously, these bones come from somewhere, right?  

These “dragon bones” are literally the fossilized bones of long-dead animals.  We’re all familiar with dinosaur bones.  It stands to reason that before the term “dinosaur” was coined, dragons were simply the giant fossilized remains of what we now call dinosaurs.

Is it Dragon or Dinosaur?

I find it particularly interesting that in so many different cultures, dragons were (or are!) a serious force to be reckoned with—both good and bad.  Sometimes both.  The Chinese have dragons in their creation story.  European history is peppered with valiant knights slaying marauding dragons.  Is it just coincidence or the discovery of fossilized remains that have fueled ALL of these vast dragon myths?  What if people and dragons really did live alongside each other?  

Join me again next week for a last look at dragons (for now) and we’ll examine one other well-known creation story with a slightly different twist and how dragons may have roamed the earth with humans.

Do find European dragons or Chinese dragons more interesting?  Go to the top of the article, click the grey comments, and tell me why!

Book Recommendations

Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Drawing Dragons: Learn How to Create Fantastic Fire-Breathing Dragons by Sandra Staple

Creative Writing Prompts

I knelt on the ground near the sacred springs, hoping the dragon would show itself and hear my pleas for help.  There was a ripple over the surface of the water…

Sir Reginald III blew a burst of flame from his right nostril, toasting my marshmallow to perfection.  “You still haven’t answered my question.  What do you think about my proposition?”  His cousin, Chang, watched me with unwavering eyes.

“There!” I shouted as I just made out a glimpse of flashing, shimmering scales in the sky as the dragon wove in and out of the clouds.

Chinese Dragons
Chinese Dragon Boat Racing
Chinese Dragon Dance

Additional Sources

www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Chinese_mythology

www.reddit.com/r/photoshopbattles/comments/1u0gfq/titanoboa_skeleton/

www.dreamplango.com/article/5250/5-strange-beautiful-rice-terraces

www.traditionalchinesemedisave.com

www.artwithmsk.com

www.bigfootevidence/blogspot.com

Dragons Part II

The sun glinted off George’s helmet as he readied his spear.  Aiming at the dragon’s heart, he spurred his horse forward.  The princess screamed and flames engulfed George as the dragon reared back its head.  Armor heating, George flung a prayer heavenward and plunged his spear into the dragon’s breast, rescuing the princess and defeating his mighty foe once and for all.  

Saint George and the Dragon, by Paolo Uccello 1470

St. George is arguably the most famous of all medieval saints associated with a dragon.  He is the patron saint of England (also of Portugal, Greece, Georgia, and Lithuania!), credited with slaying the mighty dragon, and in Christian terms, he slew the devil, freeing England from the clutches of Satan, turning the country to the true religion and saving it from eternal peril (https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/exploring-famous-legend-st-george-and-dragon-005794).  

Stained glass St. George from St. Marys Painswick
Church dates to the late 1000’s

This story is recorded in infamy, but what if it’s not just a story?  What if there really was a knight named George and he really did slay a dragon?  Is it possible that dragons didn’t all die out millions of years ago as modern science tells us?  There are an awful lot of depictions of St. George killing the dragon that match up superbly well with known dinosaurs from the fossil record.  How could these medieval artists have matched these animals so completely unless they’d seen them for themselves? It’s only been in the past century or so that dinosaur skeletons have been recreated with any amount of accuracy with the further knowledge anatomy. Let’s take a closer examination.

The Temple-Bar Dragon that guards the separation of the cities of London and Westminster

In the middle ages, it is important to note that when the word “dragon” was mentioned, everyone knew what the storyteller was speaking about—without description.  This ideal of a dragon was prevalent enough, that even when crucial to a story or legend, often very little description is spent on the beast itself, as everyone was already familiar with this phenomenon (https://www.medievalists.net/2017/04/seven-things-didnt-know-medieval-dragons/).  How do multiple societies become so familiar with this central idea without ever seeing such a creature?

The Welsh Flag
Dragons have been historically prevalent enough to still be featured on this nation’s flag

Let’s take a momentary rabbit trail.  Did you know that the word “dinosaur” was first invented in 1842?  Sir Richard Owen, an English paleontologist who was part of Darwin’s well-known Beagle expedition, discovered giant fossil remains of what he called “terrible lizards.”  He called them dinosaurs (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-31623397).  Any guesses as to what these creatures were previously termed?  Ah, yes.  Dragons.  Do you think the world’s dinosaurs, proven in the earth’s fossil records could be the same creatures that roamed the earth and terrorized villages and were called dragons?  Could they have lived alongside humans?  We’ll look at this more in a later post.

Sir Richard Owen

Did you know that a bone belonging to a Tyrannosaurus Rex was found in Montana—and that there were blood vessels and soft tissues preserved inside it???  If these bones were millions of years old, these tissues wouldn’t be present.  It stands to reason that these giant beasts may have actually walked the earth with humans.  And given rise to the world-wide phenomenon of the dragon (https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2013/08/17/dragons-everywhere/).

Soft tissues found in the T-Rex bone discovered in Montana
Below: The “young” Montana T-Rex bone

By the time of the medieval age, these giant lizard-like beasts seem to have faded largely into symbolism to show good defeating evil.  But what about Bishop Bell’s tomb?  He died just before 1500, and his tomb clearly depicts dinosaurs (www.creation.com/bishop-bells-brass-behemoths).  Or what about the newly discovered temple remains of Ta Prohm deep in the Cambodian jungle (not quite European, but still compelling)?  With a coinciding date of 1186 and a clear depiction of a stegosaur, as well as carvings of swans, monkeys, a water buffalo—all clearly known animals.  Was the stegosaur a contemporary of this temple and the people who built it (www.icr.org/article/jungle-covered-ruins-may-hold-surprising/)?

The Ta Prohm Stegosaurus

Regardless, the European dragon has reached far and wide and still shows itself in modern fantasy and imagination world over.

Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations. The quintessential European Dragon enjoying a nice cuppa. Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht. @julruprecht on Instagram

Let’s have some fun in the comments (go to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” button)!  What’s your dragon name? 

Book Recommendations

St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine

The Dragonslayer’s Sword by Resa Nelson

Creative Writing Prompts

 

Smoke curled from the beast’s nostrils, floating up and turning the air acrid.  I readied my sword.

 

Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations was the most genteel dragon I’d ever had the pleasure of meeting.  He sat opposite me; his steaming cup of tea held delicately in his claws.  “What do you think of my proposition?” he asked me.  I gulped.

 

Why do you think European dragons have achieved such wide-spread popularity?

Additional Sources:

www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g297390-d325222-i55451792-Ta_Prohm-Siem_Reap_Siem_Reap_Province.html

www.biblescienceforum.com/2016/07/05/dragons-are-not-mythological-creatures/

www.historytoday.com/history-today/st-george-and-dragon

www.pinterest.com/pin/122441683592675007/

www.royal-flags.co.uk/cheap-wales-cymru-flag-2807.html

www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/the-whale-story-richard-owen.html

www.sfgate.com/news/article/T-rex-soft-tissues-recovered-in-Montana-2690216.php

westerndigs.org/magnificent-t-rex-found-on-montana-ranch-museum-reports-with-pictures/4/

www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g186289-d3161461-i130429485-St_Marys_Painswick-Painswick_Cotswolds_England.html

Dragons Part I

Dragon.

Fire-breather.  Scales.  Wings.  Terror.  Gold.  Monster. 

All these things describe the age-old King of Mythology, the Dragon.  Nearly every country in the world (yes, dragons are a world-wide phenomenon!) has legends of dragons going back to time before memory.  These great beasts of the air and creatures of the deep crevices populate legends and myths from practically every major recognized culture (https://www.dragon-history.com).  

Meet Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations
Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht
Follow her @julruprecht on Instagram

Most people picture a large, flying reptile spouting flames, ravaging towns and sacking castles when they hear the word “dragon” (Smaug, anyone?).  However, many dragons seem to have their roots in a more serpentine nature.  The English word for dragon derives from drakon—a Greek word originally meaning large serpent (www.britanica.com).  Many legends, particularly in Asian cultures, still show dragons with snake-like bodies and benevolent attitudes.  

Smaug and Bilbo from the Lord of the Rings books
(Check out the Elves post for more info on Tolkien’s creations)

Additionally interesting regarding the serpentine-ness of early dragons are the medieval Christian associations of dragons with the devil (more on European dragons coming soon!).  In Genesis, it is Satan masquerading as a serpent that tricks Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, thus causing pretty much all of humanity’s issues thereafter.  Is it possible that dragons and serpents have this common ancestor and that there may be more authentic cause for the similarities between the two?

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the Serpent

So, the big question…were dragons real?  There seems to be a lot of world-wide hype about a purely mythical creature.  What about ancient texts that refer specifically (and in most cases, give very vivid descriptions!) to giant serpents, great beasts, Leviathan, and Behemoth?  Some of these texts include the Bible, the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh, pieces written by Aristotle, Beowulf (what if Grendel and the Great Dragon were real, not just depictions of a pagan society recorded by Christian monks?), as well as several other solid historical sources (www.answersingenesis.org).  Ancient historians and the earliest writers don’t seem to have any problem with a staunch belief in dragons.

Carving of the Gilgamesh story

Tell me, what other creatures do we know for certain existed that may seem like dragons? 

Join me next week and we’ll look more into this phenomenon that swept Europe in the middle ages…the dragon-slaying knight.

Tell me in the comments, do you think dragons were/are real?  Why or why not?  Go to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” and you’re good to go!

Book Recommendations

Siersha of Errinton by Shari L. Tapscott

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Dragon Rose by Christine Pope

CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS

Smoke drifted from the beast’s nostrils as I stood, frozen in time and place.  Giant orange eyes gazed balefully at me.

Dragons were/were not real.  Here’s why:

The dragon motioned with its scaly arm.  “You may take one item from my treasure horde.  But be wise in what you choose.”  I stared at the vast pile of riches before me.  What would best aide me in my quest?

Trailer for I Am Dragon–the original is in Russian.  And it’s on Prime.  I highly recommend watching in the original language with subtitles. 😉

 

Mythological Bestiary: Dragons

And no self-respecting blogger would do a post on dragons without including Smaug. 😉

Smaug “I am fire!”

Additional sources:

www.designbolts.com/2012/12/05/20-amazing-beautiful-digital-art-desktop-wallpapers-in-hd-quality-2013-edition/

www.theverge.com/tldr/2015/3/4/8150917/smaug-the-hobbit-virtual-reality

www.tattooforaweek.com/en/Serpentine-Dragon-Temporary-Tattoo

wonderfulgraceofjesus.wordpress.com/tag/in-christ/

www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/myth-gilgamesh-001927

hk.asiatatler.com/life/dinosaur-fossils-collectors