For those of you unaware, I have stepped away from everyday life and, like a hermit, locked myself in a room to do nothing but edit my manuscript for five days straight. The only thing I can think of that’s better than that is MORE DAYS! While I’m away the kids have been enjoying some wonderful bonding time with their grandmas and the husband has been catching up on some necessary work.
Oh, wait. Things didn’t go down exactly that way.
Last week I brought home the entire first season of Game of Thrones on DVD. Now… said husband had not given in to watching the show up until this point. He’s a busy guy and already has a few select shows he likes to tune into. Do you know what he did Saturday morning while eating breakfast? You guessed it! He popped the first episode in. Needless to say his butt was glued to the sofa for the rest of the day.
The text he sent me : “This show is f#@&ing awesome.” Damn straight!
[Turn your eyes away NOW hubby as you have not seen the last episode!]
In honor of Game of Thrones Immortal Monday is visiting a land of myth and legend to take a closer look at where dragons came from. Why dragons? If you watch the show then you shouldn’t have to ask. If you don’t watch the show, you should.
We’ve all seen them in the movies or on television. We’ve read about them in books that have taken our imagination on incredible journeys. Dragons are practically universal and they’ve captured our fancy. They’ve been a part of our history in the form of folklore and art quite possibly from the start of human existence.
The word “dragon” is derived from Greek, meaning “dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake”. That pretty much describes the two most distinct cultural dragons celebrated. The European dragon is what we traditionally see as the large armored reptile type creature. They are often depicted with wings but rarely described as flying. Sometimes they don’t have front legs, but use their wings as legs much like a pterosaurs. They are often described as living in rivers, caves or large underground dwellings.
In contrast, the Chinese dragon resembles large snakes (no wings). Their legs may vary from none, to four, or more. The dragon is recognized and revered as the highest ranking animal in the Chinese animal hierarchy. Many of the Asian cultures believed them to represent the primal forces of nature, religion, and the universe. Often associated with wisdom, they were said to be wiser than humans, with the gift of longevity. And let’s not forget the magic. It’s hard to see a picture of a dragon and not think of magic. Dragons have long been associated with magic or some other form of supernatural power.
Images thanks to Wikipedia and Wikia
But all these cultures – continents apart – how did they all create myths, legends and folklore so similar?
World mass delusions? Highly unlikely.
It is speculated that original myths may have been born from the discovery of dinosaur fossils. That’s one very plausible theory. Adrienne Mayor wrote a book on the subject titled The First Fossil Hunters. Imagine these early excavators unearthing massive dinosaur bones without any knowledge of a dinosaur? What were they to think? Likewise, without such knowledge, where did the idea of a dragon come from to apply to the discovery of the bones?
The anthropologist David E. Jones would argue in his book An Instinct for Dragons that humans have inherent reactions to creatures such as large cats, snakes and birds of prey. Note that dragons are often made up of features from these creatures. His hypothesis is we, as a people, created a beast to include all these things out of fear. In other words – a creation of the mind.
But globally? Possibly – when you look at it coming from a source such as say… the Bible.
Dragons are mentioned approximately 22 times in the old testament. The majority of these are easily discounted when we see how it is used. For example, comparing cities to waste or dwellings for dragons. Egypt was commonly referred to as the mighty creature Rahab (also a dragon?) (Isaiah 51:9), adding to confusion for today’s reader attempting to root out the dragon’s origin. But in Isaiah 27:1 when see the Lord slaying the mighty sea dragon. Is this our one and only reference to a true dragon? Or does it refer to something else? Job is considered the oldest book of the Bible and there you may find references that sound similar to dinosaurs. It depends on your take.
In 1977, when Carl Sagan published his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, he suggests that dinosaurs weren’t completely wiped out by the great ice age and for a period the survivors co-existed with humans. Actual visual sightings of pre-historic dinosaurs spawns the birthing of the dragon. He is not alone in thinking this way.
We were raised schooled in the notion that dinosaurs were long since extinct before man walked the earth. But if Carl has his facts correct, he makes a very interesting point…
“The most recent dinosaur fossil is dated at about sixty million years ago. The family of man (but not the genus Homo) is some tens of millions of years old. Could there have been manlike creatures who actually encountered Tyrannosaurus Rex? Could there have been dinosaurs that escaped the extinctions in the late Cretaceous Period?” – The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
What do you think? Where did the original myths and legends begin and what inspiration sparked their creation?
40 thoughts on “Immortal Monday – A Dragon’s Birth Revealed”
I have no idea where they came from but every culture has them. it’s always interesting to me to see the difference in Oriental dragons to celtic ones. thanks for a great post.
Yes, there are various looks which make it very interesting. You are right, almost every culture has them. That’s part of what makes it so interesting.
Dinosaur fossils are certainly a possibility, and add in Biblical mentions, it’s no surprise that dragons have become part of global culture. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler, either, but nice of you to warn people. 🙂
The spoiler was fun anyway. I thought he got all the way to the end and I sent a text about fire. He thought I was in trouble. LOL
I can easily see early man spying a dinosaur and through stories turning it into what we know now as the dragon. That would explain the various types of dragons.
Interesting. In Old English, dragon and a very large snake were synonymous, and dragons in ancient English texts (Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) are large snake-like creatures with exaggerated scales, no arms or legs. The Old English word is ‘wyrm’ – it’s a fun study in etymology – you know, whenever you have a block of free time on your hands lol
Yes! I did read up on them a little bit. But posts on creatures such as these can easily get out of hand if I include everything. 😀 I found their theories over the speculation of the dragon’s treasure interesting.
Free time? What is that? Do you have any that you can spare? LOL
I wonder if ‘dragon’ is another word for ‘alien’… 😉 Regardless, such a thought provoking post. Sounds like good dinner table chat with the hubs. I’ll keep you updated of any epiphanies!
That is a curious thought, August. If you and he hubby came up with any juicy epiphanies I’d loveto hear them. 😉
I think there’s a little bit of truth behind all legends and myths. If you think about someone encountering something like an anaconda, they wouldn’t know what they’d run in to and that could have easily grown into the idea of dragons.
I tend to agree with you Marcy. How much truth and and which truths is the big question. I love Melinda’s idea of the telephone tag, yet, where did all the wings come from?
I’ve always thought that somewhere back in early human time there was something real that gave rise to the stories and legends. Whether they were aliens who went home or dinosaurs which died out, I like to believe in dragons.
There really is so much about our planet that we don’t know, isn’t there? How cool would it be if we could step back in time and find a real dragon? Well, maybe, if we could step back real quick and not get eaten or burn by fire! LOL
I think there’s a little bit of truth in every legend and myth. It’s like a giant game of telephone tag. If I saw a lizard, then described it to you, and you described it to someone else…I could see how that could get blown into dragon size lore eventually! And imagine that same game of tag over thousands of years. Besides, dragons are cool! At least, mine are 😉
You make a great point. That game has been going on a very long time. It could have gotten very distorted. You know how we like to exaggerate the stories our parents tell us? Well just imagine how it could have happened so very long ago with stories of such creatures.
I love dragons. I like to think all mythical creatures existed at some time and either died or left this realm. But I write fantasy and paranormal so that may be part of my mental makeup. 🙂 good luck with the revisions!
I love your way of thinking Kourtney! I also write fantasy and paranormal. (Hence the Immortal Monday) That’s something we have in common! It’s funny, this particular storyline has the potential to run long. When I started I said No Dragons! But a while ago I started feeling a restless one deep beneath the surface. Hmm. But, the books would have to get that far for it to make a difference.
Great post, Debra! Dragons have always been special to me. I’m revising a YA paranormal that features dragons of the Ancient Near East. A short story/prequel is coming out in a YA anthology this spring. Before Biblical times, in Sumer and Babylon, dragons were considered wise and powerful as well as dangerous. I guess I’m like Kourtney and believe all mythical creatures were once real. Luv your Immortal Mondays!
Oh, yes. Very wise and powerful. Your book sounds interesting. You’ll have to keep me posted. Everything I’ve read definitely makes them appear pre-Biblical. Thank you so much for the wonderful compliment Alicia. 🙂
Your husband’s affliction seems to happen to anyone watching more than 5 minutes of G of T!
Nice post… thanks for the lesson. Can’t wait for Joffery to meet Daenerys and her friends…
I’m in the same boat as you Ted. I can not wait! The hubby can’t wait for me to get home so that we can watch last week’s episode. I have given explicit instructions not to watch without me! LOL
I was just asking husband if he knew anything about Game of Thrones because it seems everyone loves it. Me thinks I need to watch it. The closest I’ve come to a dragon is Sundance pretending she’s a dragon, morning, noon and night..LOL
LOL Those are the best kind of dragons! I bought dragon puppets for my kids when they were little and they couldn’t care less. I was so bummed. Wizards and dragons, they wanted nothing to do with them. 🙁 Now it’s all Halo and Barbie. *Sigh* Game of Thrones is amazing! But only if you can handle another television addiction. I’m just saying.
your post: “Immortal Monday – A Dragon’s Birth Revealed’
David in Maine USA
Thank you, David. Much appreciated.
Fabulous post and so informative. I just learned a lot about dragons. Thank you, Debra! And even if I don’t write or usually read about dragons (The Inheritance Saga by Christopher Paolini was an exempt!) I am fascinated by this subject.
Thank you, Angela! I’m glad you found it so informative. It was a fascinating way to look at dragons. I saw Christopher Paolini at last year’s Comic Con. He was so funny when he talked about his books. They were simply a test to see if he could write with an outline. Guess so. He hit gold. 😀
When I was young, I wanted to Impress one of Anne McCaffrey’s dragons. Hers is still one of my favorite representations of the dragon, but I’ll read almost anything dragon related. Even got a dragon tattoo, after a very spiritual experience at the Oracle at Delphi. But that’s another story. And, Game of Thrones rocks! So do you, great post!
That sounds like an interesting story you should consider blogging about. Where’s a picture of that tattoo? 🙂 Thank you so much Serena! I really appreciate your word. And yes, GoT totally rocks!
I NEED to watch this show. I skipped over what you wrote, but I’ll be back once I can sit down and watch it! The same thing that happened to your hubby happened to me with Doctor Who. I got sucked right into the show (*so* convenient when it’s all on Netflix) and I haven’t been able to stop watching since. I’ve almost made it through all 6 seasons in less than three weeks (please DON’T do the math on that, I really don’t want to know). I think the 7th season starts this summer or fall, and I’m pumped! So glad I was able to catch up before it started.
I think we have all done that at some point or another with a show. I have been guilty. Just so you know, I didn’t talk about the show in this post. Only something you might see in the show. Which you probably already got by reading the title. 🙂 Thanks for stopping in Karen. If you watch GoT you won’t be disappointed.
I have no idea how to answer your question, but I think dragons are cool! And, because I am a dragon, according to the Chinese zodiac, I think they’re especially cool! Creatures of vast wisdom. I can atest to that. Fire breathing. I can atest to that. No, wait. That’s not right.
Anyway, interesting things to consider. I did not know that dragons were mentioned in the Bible, but I’m going to remember that in case the topic comes up in the future. I like to think that’s the case.
Fun stuff to ponder this morning.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
He he! You don’t breathe fire? I’m not a dragon and my husband would probably say I breathe fire. LOL Do they have fire breathing roosters? Hahaha. My wisdom went out the door when the kids were born. Packed up and left. I’m not sure where it went and who it went to live with, but I sure do miss it. *sigh*
Yep, dragons are mentioned in the Bible. Of course, when they are mentioned in the new testament it is in reference to Satan, but in the old testament that is not the case.
This is so interesting. And I never thought about the difference in the European dragon and the Chinese dragon. I have no idea how all cultures came to believe in dragons. I could play enee, menee, minee, moe (sp?) and pick one of the above theories. They’re all interesting. And that slide show rocks! So cool!
Thanks, Lynn! The slide show is a lot of fun, isn’t it? It’s neat to try new things.
Loved this, Debra! I’ve not read Sagan’s book, but now it’s on my list. I think it’s entirely possible that we have some kind of ancestral memory of dragons. Of all the knowledge in the world, we must only know the tiniest bit.
I’m with you there Debra. We probably don’t even have the slightest clue as to the big BIG picture. 😀 There is so much more for us to learn.
Never thought much about dragons until, I read your post. Then I thought about Kimono dragons. How it is still alive and will kill and eat a human. I guess all things are possible. If science can try to bring back dinosaurs, why not dragons.
Why not? But do we really want science to bring back a dinosaur? Don’t they learn anything from the movies? LOL I saw a great documentary on the Kimono dragon a couple years ago. Imagine that puppy several times larger! Goodness! Thank you so much for the comment and stopping by David.