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

The Loch Ness Monster

Urquhart Castle sits a silent stone sentinel, guarding the vast waters before it.  Waiting, watching, for a glimpse of its most famous inhabitant.  The Loch Ness Monster.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Nessie, possibly the most famous mythological marine creature in the world, is said to exist deep in the murky waters of Loch Ness near Inverness, Scotland.  Many people claim to have seen this large, long necked, flippered friend.  Some sightings date as far back as Pictish stone carvings (think back before Rome invaded England!  That’s old!).  A 565 AD biography of St. Columba contains the first written mentions of Nessie.  It’s said that our mysterious beastie chomped a swimmer and was poised to go after another, but St. Columba commanded it back, and the creature obeyed (www.britanica.com).

St. Columba rebuking the monster

Loch Ness, with a depth of close to 800 feet, and a length of nearly 23 miles, has plenty of places for a giant marine creature to hide.  The loch is filled with fresh water and holds a larger volume of fresh water than any other lake in Great Britain (www.history.com).  What if Nessie really has been hiding for centuries?  Could it be possible?

Ariel view of Loch Ness

Let’s look for just one minute at a real creature that has indisputable proof of existence in the fossil record.  Meet the plesiosaur.  Plesiosaurs had a small head, long willowy neck, a plump, rounded body, and four flippers (www.britanica.com).  Sound a bit like the common description of our favorite loch-loving friend? 

 

Plesiosaur Skeleton

What if dinosaurs didn’t all die out however many years ago?  What if some of them survived?  Maybe even secretly thrived?  Could Nessie be one such creature?  Scientists are still discovering new land and marine animals every year.  Why couldn’t Nessie have escaped notice?  Especially in the deep shadowy waters of a giant lake, or if the Nessie population is small.

Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht
Follow her @julruprecht on Instagram!

The most famous Nessie photograph, captured in the early 1930’s, was proved to be a hoax in 1993. However, it’s important to note that of the three men who concocted the toy submarine-based photo, one of them claims to have seen the Loch Ness Monster and remains a believer (http://www.unmuseum.org/nesshoax.htm).

The “Original Sighting” of Nessie

What do you think?  Is Nessie real, or has she always just been a hoax? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Go to the top of the post, click the grey “Comments” and it’ll take you right there.

Book Recommendations

Dragons of the Deep by Carl Wieland

The New Answers Book 1 by Ken Ham

The Fossil Book by Gary Parker

CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS

“Look!”

“Where?”

“There!”

“Is that…” the words died away as a head towered out of the water.  Beady yellow eyes fixed on us as the sun glinted off rows of tiny, needle like teeth.

The Loch Ness Monster is/is not real.  Why or why not?

Nessie was my best friend.  Only no one else knew she existed.

 

The Loch Ness Monster Myth

National Geographic on Loch Ness Sightings

The History Channel on Loch Ness

Award winning, professional harpist, Tiffany Schaefer, plays a beautiful rendition of the Scottish song, “Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon”

 
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Loch-Ness-monster-legendary-creature

https://www.visitinvernesslochness.com/property/urquhart-castle/

http://travelinos.com/castles/n22-16194-Urquhart_Castle

 http://anomalyinfo.com/Stories/565-ce-st-columba-and-beast-river-ness

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/loch-ness-from-above-veli-bariskan.html

https://www.britannica.com/animal/plesiosaur

http://livingdinos.com/the-cryptids/marine-cryptids-sea-monsters/living-plesiosaurs/

Werewolves

Werewolf.
The word conjures up all sorts of images.  Blood-thirsty beasts.  Slashings.  Mangled corpses and full moons. Sparkly vampires and nemesis-turned-allies.  London.  Lycanthropy.  But where did the stories of these legendary mythical creatures get started?
No one is completely sure where these terrifying beasts made their entrance into society and into the collective societal fear.  According to History.com, some scholars believe that the first written tales of werewolves were in The Epic of Gilgamesh (at least 7th century BC according to www.britanica.com), but werewolves also make an appearance in early Greek mythology with The Legend of Lycaon.  The Saga of the Vosungs from Nordic histories again provides mythic evidence of these monsters of the darkness (www.history.com).  One could travel up the Nile and see many references to Anubis with his jackal’s head—also notably an Egyptian god of death.
The interesting thing here is that multiple advanced cultures the world over have legends of werewolves—whether they are shifters who can assume the form of a wolf at will, or who only turn under the watchful eye of the full moon, or who are akin to demons sent as a scourge upon mankind. 
What led ancient man to his rivalry with the werewolf? There are several possibilities.  The first possibility, of course, is that werewolves are real, and have walked among us for centuries (the documentary, The Bray Road Beast, makes a compelling case). Another possibility is that as people were bitten by rabid animals, wolves in particular, the consequent infections caused people to think the afflicted was turning into the creature that had bitten them.  Werewolves could be a response to brutal serial killings that looked similar to animal maulings (www.historicmysteries.com).  
Arguably the most famous werewolf account took place in Gevaudan, France in 1764.  It was a miserable time in France.  The Seven Year’s War, in which France had suffered heavily at the hands of Britain and Prussia, was facing economic hardship and censorship in the press.  Because of all the political censoring, the press turned to the sensational to garner more subscriptions.  This is where the beast got its vast notoriety, even drawing hunters from far away Normandy (who were unsuccessful).  Witnesses described a giant beast with features like a wolf, only much larger and much more terrifying.  After 30-35 deaths, at last the great beast was brought down in June of 1767—so it was assumed, as the death rate decreased (www.smithsonianmag.com).  At any rate, the large amount of deaths, the publicity of the press, and the terror of the villagers led to the creation of this particular beast and gave credence to the popularity of the werewolf.
It would be remiss to discuss werewolves without a nod to “legitimate lycanthropy” (Webster’s modern definition states lycanthropy is the belief that one can change into a wolf).  Medically termed hypertrichosis, it is a condition in which a person is covered in excess hair all over their bodies (www.dictionary.com).  This, too, could be fodder for the myths surrounding the werewolf.   
Whatever the case, this undying piece of lore has fitted itself into the fabric of mainstream society worldwide and continues to capture imaginations everywhere.
 

Creative Writing Prompts:

 

Mist rose in the dark night like tendrils of hair floating in water.  Suspended against the black night, a ripe moon rose and cast its watery light upon the silver hair of a creature poised on a rocky outcropping.  With a toss of its magnificent head, a lone howl could be heard all throughout the valley below.  Terror lodged in the heart of the villagers as…

 

Are werewolves real creatures that have perhaps been hunted to extinction, or that survive in the shadows of today’s society, or are they a complete work of fiction?  Why or why not?

 

The shriek pierced the night as the great beast took chase after…

 

You have been turned into a werewolf.  Recount the day you received that fateful bite.

 

 

Recommended books for ages 16 and up:

April White’s series:  Immortal Descendants

Melissa Haag’s series:  Judgement of the Six

 

 

“Werewolves of London”

 

 

www.dictionary.com

www.history.com

www.historicmysteries.com

www.smithsonianmag.com