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

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/

Centaurs

I’m pretty sure that centaurs were the original poster children for naughty drunken Greeks.  These half human—half horse creatures were known for being wild, barbarian, lustful lushes.  However, when sober, some were upheld for their wisdom, self-sacrifice, and strength (https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/myths/centaurs/).

Even their origins suggest their baser natures—Centaurus (the first centaur) was born when a fiendishly wicked king had an affair with (who he assumed was) Hera—the queen of the Greek Pantheon.  Hera actually turned out to be a cloud Zeus had formed to look like his wife (https://www.ancient.eu/Ixion/).  Anyone else get totally lost trying to follow the convoluted love triangles (quadrangles?!) of the Greek gods?  One possible origin for the centaur is from cultures that did not have horses seeing riders fluidly moving on the backs of their mounts for the first time.  It could also be a reference to traditional ancient bull-hunting.  (https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/myths/centaurs/).    

Centaur from Greek Pottery

Centaurs perpetuate Greek mythology and seem to represent the two sides of man.  Chiron, arguably the most famous centaur (and Percy Jackson’s instructor for my book-loving friends), was wise and brave.  He tutored famous Greeks such as Hercules and Achilles (keep that heel covered!), and he embodied the classically tragic noble death.  Though he was immortal, when Chiron was accidentally wounded by an arrow dipped in the blood of the Hydra (um, gross), he suffered great pain.  When Zeus demanded a sacrifice to free Prometheus, Chiron volunteered—both to be finished with his pain, and to heroically liberate Prometheus (https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Centaur/centaur.html).  

The Hydra…poor Chiron!

On the other side of the metaphorical coin, centaurs were often known to pull the chariot of the god Eros (I’m pretty sure they picked up their relationship advice from him).  For those of you who aren’t into root words, the word erotica comes from the same root as Eros.  I’ll just leave that there.  Frequently drunk and slaves to their animalistic lusts, I’m sure the race of centaurs was procreated with great fervor.  For this reason, the Greeks seemed to look down on the mythical race of centaurs in general (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Centaur-Greek-mythology).

Mosaic of centaurs pulling a chariot

Many conflicts surrounding centaurs seem to feature the human struggle between civilization and complete savagery.  It poses an interesting question about the internal struggles of humanity.   

On which side of the centaur coin do you think man most frequently falls?  Why?  Leave your comments below! 🙂 

 

Writing Prompts:

You are a centaur.  Are you the wizened sage, or the lascivious lush?  Why that one?

 

The wind whipped my tail against my chestnut-colored flank.  I crossed my arms over my chest as the wind teased the hair on my nape from its warrior’s knot.  The decision before me would change the fate of man forever.  Using all in my wisdom, I must choose to…

 

Book Recommendations:

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by: Rick Riordon

Ella Enchanted by:  Gail Carson Levine (okay, so there’s only a few brief mentions of centaurs in the book, but it’s one of my all-time favorites)

The Chronicles of Narnia by:  C. S. Lewis (Glenstorm is my favorite centaur!)

 

Who remembers this gem from the 1940’s?

 

Sources:

https://www.cgtrader.com/3d-print-models/miniatures/figurines/centaur
https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Centaur/centaur.html
https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Hydra
https://www.globalgayz.com/tunisia-bardo-museum/