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Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
chaitea
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Post: #1
Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
Cause I can be a self hating draconic otherkin, I always seem to stumble upon things that prove just how wrong it is for me to believe in dragons (at least in the physical sense that they were apart this planet on this plane).
I have here one such example:
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.livescience.com/animals/top10_dragons.html">http://www.livescience.com/animals/top10_dragons.html</a><!-- m -->

[Image: ls_top10_dragons_465x261.jpg]

Ker Than Wrote:Dragons are awe-inspiring patchwork creatures found in the myths and legends of cultures all around the world. In Europe, they are nightmarish fire-spewing reptiles, large and lizard-like, with the forked tongue of a snake and wings like a bat. In the legends, they are reviled and feared because they liked to imprison maidens, destroy villages and hoard over mountains of gold.

In the ancient cultures of Mexico and South America, a divine feathered serpent known by various names was believed to renew the world after each cycle of destruction.

In China, dragons are amphibious creatures that dwell in oceans, lakes, rivers and even raindrops. They are revered as life-giving symbols of fortune and fertility, capable of unleashing rain in times of drought. They are animal mosaics, possessing the body of a snake, the scales of a fish, the talons of an eagle, the antlers of a stag, and the face of a gilin--another mythical creature that resembles a deer but whose body is wreathed in flames.

Despite their differences, many of the mythical dragons found throughout the world all began as vague serpentine ideas modeled after real creatures, beginning with a snake or some other fearsome reptile. Over time, they acquired more definite and exotic shapes as they absorbed the hopes and superstitions of the local people and borrowed the traits of local animals.

Our short list of creatures and natural phenomenon reveal what may have inspired the look of dragons as well as creatures that are truly dragon-like.


[Image: top10_dragons_alligator.jpg]
10. Chinese Alligator
Quote:Chinese alligators may have been one of the inspirations for the Asian dragon. In Chinese mythology, dragons were closely associated with water: They were the guardians of life-giving rain, but in times of fury were also capable of unleashing punishing floods. Chinese alligators can grow to a length of about 6 feet, and can often be found floating just below the surface of the water, where they stealthily await their prey. The Chinese alligator is one of the most endangered reptiles in the world.

[Image: top10_dragons_frilled_dgn.jpg]
9. Frilled Dragon
Quote:The frilled dragon is a small lizard found in the forest and woodlands of northern Australia. Like its name suggests, an expandable frill surrounds the dragon's head and neck, which it can open like an umbrella when frightened. If this isn't enough to scare off an enemy, the frilled dragon will rear up on its hind legs and run away-- but rather than fleeing with its tail tucked between its legs, the dragon can simply leave it behind to distract a predator.

[Image: top10_dragons_bearded_dgn.jpg]
8. Bearded Dragon
Quote:The bearded dragon is also native to woodlands of Australia. It has numerous spiky appendages protruding from the skin around its head, and can inflate a pouch under its chin to make itself look more menacing. The bearded dragon can change shades of color, from light to dark, to reflect certain emotional states or to help regulate its body temperature. Like the frilled dragon, it can also rear up on its hind legs and run away.

[Image: top10_dragons_python.jpg]
7. Python
Quote:Pythons are among the largest snakes in the world, and the reticulated python of India may have been one of the inspirations behind dragon lore in ancient times. Pythons are constrictor snakes, which means they squeeze to death the birds and small mammals that they feed on. While traveling through India, the Roman naturalist, Pliny, claimed to have seen a dragon so large it could strangle an elephant. Pliny was most likely describing the reticulated python, a snake that can grow to a length of more than 30 feet. In Pliny's tale, the dragon also dies because it is crushed by the defeated elephant.

[Image: top10_dragons_flyingdragon.jpg]
6. Flying Dragon
Quote:The flying dragon of Southeast Asia are small lizards that can glide between trees using wing-like folds of skin. They can grow up to 7 inches and they eat mainly ants and other small insects. Their wings are supported by five to seven ribs that extend from their bodies, and they can glide for distances of up to 30 feet. The wings are often brightly colored and patterned with stripes and dots, but they can fold their wings and blend into their surroundings when they want to remain inconspicuous.

[Image: top10_dragons_komodo.jpg]
5. Komodo Dragons
The Komodo dragons of Indonesia are the world's largest living lizards. They can grow to 10 feet long and can run as fast as a dog for short stretches. Komodos hunt live prey and are capable of ambushing creatures much larger than themselves. They have a thickly muscled tail and a strong bite. Even a slight graze can be lethal and cause severe infection because of the septic bacteria that live in their saliva. Komodo dragons would have been a great candidate for the inspiration behind the mythical dragons in Europe -- except that Europeans didn't discover them until 1910.

[Image: top10_dragons_megalania.jpg]
4. Megalania Prisca
Quote:Although stockier and shorter than the Komodo, megalania prisca was a much larger animal. It grew to lengths of up to 30 feet and weighed nearly 1,000 pounds, making it the largest lizard the world has ever seen. Megalania roamed the Australian wilderness during the last Ice Age, and could ambush creatures twice its size and 10 times its own weight, killing them with its curved serrated teeth and large claws. It is very appropriate then that in Latin, its names means "ancient giant butcher."

[Image: top10_dragons_quetzalcoatlus.jpg]
3. Pterosaurs
Quote:Of all the creatures that ever lived, pterosaurs probably most closely resemble the dragons of European legend. Reptilian and featherless, pterosaurs flew on wings of hide that were supported by a single long and boney finger. The smallest pterosaur was the size of a sparrow, while Quetzalcoatlus -- named after the Aztec god -- had a wingspan of more than 40 feet, making it the largest flying creature ever. Quetzalcoatlus is shown here.

[Image: top10_dragons_seadragon.jpg]
2. Sea Dragon
Quote:The sea dragon is a close relative of the sea horse. It can be found on the cool rocky reefs of southern and western Australia. While technically a fish, the sea dragon does not swim so much as sway as it imitates the movement of the seaweed and seagrass among which it makes its home. The sea dragon possesses leaflike fins and appendages that are nearly transparent, and a tube-like mouth that it uses to suction in the larval fishes and small shrimp-like crustaceans that it feeds on.

[Image: top10_dragons_comet.jpg]
1. Surprise Entry: Comets
Quote:Dragons were often depicted as winged serpents with long tails, and they were often viewed as harbingers of doom or fortune. The name of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl literally means "feathered serpent." To people living in ancient times, a comet streaking through the skies with an icy tail millions of miles long would have closely resembled such a creature. This image is of comet Hyakutake. If comets were the inspiration for some dragons, it could help explain why dragons are ubiquitous in the myths and legends of so many different cultures in all corners of the world.

In conclusion: <!-- s:sad_dragon: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/sad_dragon.gif" alt=":sad_dragon:" title="sad dragon" /><!-- s:sad_dragon: -->

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2008-02-13 16:17
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Malakoi
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Post: #2
Re: Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing. =]

Reptiles, real or mythical, make me happy.

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2008-02-13 19:52
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Silyon
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Post: #3
Re: Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
The big thing to remember is that people make whatever rational they want for something they don't want to believe in, just like they can for things they do. JUst because a group of people offiers this loose evidence for inspiration behind dragons, it doesnt mean that these animals were the root of dragon legends.

Quote:Image
5. Komodo Dragons
The Komodo dragons of Indonesia are the world's largest living lizards. They can grow to 10 feet long and can run as fast as a dog for short stretches. Komodos hunt live prey and are capable of ambushing creatures much larger than themselves. They have a thickly muscled tail and a strong bite. Even a slight graze can be lethal and cause severe infection because of the septic bacteria that live in their saliva. Komodo dragons would have been a great candidate for the inspiration behind the mythical dragons in Europe -- except that Europeans didn't discover them until 1910.

That in particular stands out to me. Komodo dragons are almost instantly disregarded due to the fact that they don't live anywhere but in five islands in Indonesia, and as they acknowledge, Europeans didn't know of them till fairly recently. Similar would apply to about half the list, biased on Europe alone.

The big thing is that most of the list includes animals that no more than one or two cultures had contact with at a time, and none of them even remotely resembles the conventional dragon (Four-legged, winged reptiles). Theres more to it, I'd insist, and ones that don't agree with that veiw offer this kind of stuff as evidence, without looking at the practicality of it.
2008-02-13 21:22
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Post: #4
Re: Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
Quote:[Image: top10_dragons_comet.jpg]
1. Surprise Entry: Comets
i am not nor every will be a comet

<!-- s:happy_dragon: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/happy_dragon.gif" alt=":happy_dragon:" title="happy dragon" /><!-- s:happy_dragon: --> <!-- s:lol: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_lol.gif" alt=":lol:" title="Laughing" /><!-- s:lol: -->

do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.
2008-02-18 18:23
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Shiari
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Post: #5
Re: Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
While europeans never saw komodo dragons, they WOULD have encountered crocodiles. Anyone who has EVER played the telephone game can understand how stories get exagerated over time. And especially during the Roman era, tales of 'dragons' would have spread like mad all over europe.

Equally, europe is where a great many of the pterosaur fossils and whatnot are found. Those alone are ideal to create the dragon mythos.

Let us also remember that the human imagination is an incredible thing, and certainly if we can see objects in clouds and inkblots, people could see a 'dragon' in a commet.

Furthermore, the concept of 'dragon' as a six (or four... or two) limbed, winged beastie is entirely just european. The eastern "dragon" resembles, oddly enough, a crocodile/serpent/giant carp. Let us acknowledge that koi and carp are thought to have the potential to be baby dragons. The typical "dragons" of africa, of australia, and of the americas were *serpents* and snakes are everywhere. Dragon was only placed upon them because that was the european way of describing anything monstrous.
2008-02-19 20:27
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Silyon
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Post: #6
Re: Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
Shiari Wrote:While europeans never saw komodo dragons, they WOULD have encountered crocodiles. Anyone who has EVER played the telephone game can understand how stories get exagerated over time. And especially during the Roman era, tales of 'dragons' would have spread like mad all over europe.

I'm one that's seen very little connection between dragons and Crocodiles, myself. Beyond both being reptilian, either in appearance or in actuality, I don't see many other combining features. Have to be very vage, I imagine. Komodos and other actual lizards hold more similarities, from what I can see. Snake only when it comes to body shape, as that's about all a snake has.

Quote:Equally, europe is where a great many of the pterosaur fossils and whatnot are found. Those alone are ideal to create the dragon mythos.

I'll agree with that one. Giant bones would only naturally spawn myths of rather large beats wandering about. Wing bones would suggest either large birds or dragons, and last I knew Europe had both.

Quote:Let us also remember that the human imagination is an incredible thing, and certainly if we can see objects in clouds and inkblots, people could see a 'dragon' in a commet.

Inkblots have never made sense to me; All I ever see with those is random splats and shapes. Far as clouds go, They're puffballs that hold one way to pass time while resting outdoors. I guess I'm just overly literal minded.

Quote:Furthermore, the concept of 'dragon' as a six (or four... or two) limbed, winged beastie is entirely just european. The eastern "dragon" resembles, oddly enough, a crocodile/serpent/giant carp. Let us acknowledge that koi and carp are thought to have the potential to be baby dragons. The typical "dragons" of africa, of australia, and of the americas were *serpents* and snakes are everywhere. Dragon was only placed upon them because that was the european way of describing anything monstrous.

When someone says dragon, you're going to think of the European version firstly, unless you happen to have been raised in the orient or among one of those older ways. It's just the way America has become, largely European based. I'm one of the first to acknowledge other types of dragons, but let's face it: Dragons not of the six limbed variety are something of a minority, in this country at least. For simplicities sake, I just don't always include the redundancy of the other kinds.

In any case, as far as oriental dragons go, I agree the snaky body, as that's one of the defining characteristics of an oriental dragon. Beyond that, I once again fail to see much resemblance to anything else. Crocs once again hold little similarity to dragons I can discern, and Carp similarities halt as the whiskers, which are both so much longer proportionally than the fish's and may not even be present on some.

American dragons I can see, being rather plainly a snake with bird wings. Quetzalcoatl is about the only one that comes to mind however. African dragons, from what I can glean, are kinda Wyvrens, which are essentially European dragons minus the front legs. Once again, something that's rarely heard about. And in the case of Africa, it's entirely possible that there has been trade between the northern areas of it and Europe for as long as boats have existed. If Natives in Indonesia can traverse the ocean in canoes, It stands to reason that coastal areas of Africa can do the same with the Mediterranean. And there is some evidence of it in Egypt, for that matter.
2008-02-19 22:08
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Shiari
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Post: #7
Re: Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.abcgallery.com/B/burne-jones/burnejones12.html">http://www.abcgallery.com/B/burne-jones ... nes12.html</a><!-- m --> 1800's painting of a dragon. Looks rather crocodilian to me. The other depictions I can find look like crosses between crocs and cats (hence the body stance, perhaps?). <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://emptyeasel.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/st.georgeandthedragonbypeterpaulrubens.jpg">http://emptyeasel.com/wp-content/upload ... rubens.jpg</a><!-- m -->
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.spamula.net/blog/i27/aldrovandi18.jpg">http://www.spamula.net/blog/i27/aldrovandi18.jpg</a><!-- m --> this guy is very crocodilian around the head and forelimbs.
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/69/Raphael_-_Saint_George_Fighting_the_Dragon.jpg/525px-Raphael_-_Saint_George_Fighting_the_Dragon.jpg">http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... Dragon.jpg</a><!-- m --> - the webbed front limbs and bulbous nose speak of crocodile to me.
Snakes come into it because some of the paintings I saw have the dragons depicted with viper heads. This comes from the greek and roman dragons, which were incredibly serpentine.

The carp inferences in eastern dragons include the scale pattern, and the mane/tail poof. Having owned koi, the resemblance is there. Eastern dragons are described In the very stance however, the sprawled legs and low body, plated underbelly, scaled sides, ridged backs and bulbous upturned nose, of a crocodile. They're just really fragging long, bringing in the serpent that seems an integral part of all the dragon appearances.

Having a particularly literal mind would not be helpful when trying to see hints of extant creatures in mythological ones. <!-- sTongue --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_razz.gif" alt=":P" title="Razz" /><!-- sTongue --> I enjoy my mental status of being able to see both at the same time. I like to draw, as such I've trained my mind to look at things as basic shapes, and so basic shapes in turn can become things. <!-- sBig Grin --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- sBig Grin -->
2008-02-21 22:26
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chaitea
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Post: #8
Re: Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
Silyon Wrote:JUst because a group of people offiers this loose evidence for inspiration behind dragons, it doesnt mean that these animals were the root of dragon legends.

I’m not saying I agree with it, more that I find realistic conclusions to a phenomenally out there creature to be entertaining (and entertainment can go either comedic or tragic).

I actually found a theorist who I believe has a more reputable root to the concept of dragons. An Instinct for Dragons is a book by University of Central Florida anthropologist David E. Jones. The mainv theory he is pushing in the book goes along the lines of:

Wikipedia Wrote:[The book] seeks to explain the alleged universality of dragon images in the folklore of human societies.
Jones then argues against the common hypothesis that dragon myths might be motivated by primitive discoveries of dinosaur fossils (he argues that there are widespread traits of dragons in folklore which are not observable from fossils), and claims that the common traits of dragons seem to be an amalgam of the principal predators of our ancestral hominids, which he names as the raptors, great cats (especially leopards) and pythons.

The hypothesis to which Jones conforms is that over millions of years of evolution, members of a species will evolve an instinctive fear of their predators, and he proposes ways in which these fearful images may be merged in artistic or cultural expression to create the dragon image and, perhaps, other kinds of hybrid monster.

Finally he suggests sociological reasons for why such images may be perceived differently at different stages of a culture to try to explain Chinese dragons are considered basically good and representative of government, but the great majority (although not all) European dragons are evil and often represent chaos.
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://cc.msnscache.com/cache.aspx?q=72830062789076&mkt=en-US&lang=en-US&w=8a1a46de&FORM=CVRE">http://cc.msnscache.com/cache.aspx?q=72 ... &FORM=CVRE</a><!-- m -->

Another reason I like it so gosh darned much is that it can be applied to different cultures based on the mix you come up with when combing the local big cat, bird of pray, and reptilian sort located in a societies general vicinity. It also can explain (to an extent) the diverse appearances of dragons in different regions based on that of the varying predatorily creatures that roamed around (and actually leaved physical evidence to go by)

In different ways this concept buth utterlu disproves and strengthens the question of my kinship. So (as one who has come to know me can imagine) playing with his concepts tickels my fancy to no end.

Silyon Wrote:I'm one of the first to acknowledge other types of dragons,

Bold statement you got there (thus, prepare to be teasedSmile, and depends highly upon what group you’re the “first” out of in the U.S.
Just cause I’m as stereotypical a European dragon can conceivably get doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge that that’s not the only sort of dragon about these days or ever before (and I’m sure several others born before you have had similar sentiments).

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2008-02-22 10:47
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Silyon
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Post: #9
Re: Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
Shiari Wrote:Having a particularly literal mind would not be helpful when trying to see hints of extant creatures in mythological ones. <!-- sTongue --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_razz.gif" alt=":P" title="Razz" /><!-- sTongue --> I enjoy my mental status of being able to see both at the same time. I like to draw, as such I've trained my mind to look at things as basic shapes, and so basic shapes in turn can become things. <!-- sBig Grin --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- sBig Grin -->

Yes, you'd be right there. Still can't really see it, even with the help. *Shrug* Always been bad with symbolism as well. Straightforward and to the point for me.

chaitea Wrote:Bold statement you got there (thus, prepare to be teasedSmile, and depends highly upon what group you’re the “first” out of in the U.S.
Just cause I’m as stereotypical a European dragon can conceivably get doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge that that’s not the only sort of dragon about these days or ever before (and I’m sure several others born before you have had similar sentiments).

Too right that's a bold statement. In that particular statement I was referring entirely to body type, specifically those dragons with a body type differing from the traditional European "four legs, two wings" shape. Yes, they are out there, just hiding. >_>

That book would be an interesting read, I'm sure, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I'll just end up disagreeing with every other word, like I do with most books. Mine is a very disagreeable mind.
2008-02-22 22:52
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