I am a huge fan of cryptozoology, partly because it fills my need for story and marries it to the real world. I enjoy asking how something could be true. What background pieces would need to be true for a (blank) exist. Dragons are one of those creatures. As a kid, I remember realizing dragons, like the phoenix, are multi-cultural. If something existed in disparate locations, it must have existed. I mean, we have tigers in Africa, Asia, and appearing in the menagerie in the Tower of London, right? Same, same.
So you’re coming with me on that train of thought, right? Good.
So where are these incredibly disparate regions all touting dragons?
Dating back to the 2000 BCE, the Babylonian epic, Enuma Elish details their creation myth. In their genesis story Tiamat, a dragonlike personification of saltwater mates with Azu the freshwater god. This union births dragons with only poison coursing through their veins.
So, eat your heart out, Khalessi, Tiamat was the OG mother of dragons.
Back in the toga-wearing-times (8th century for those not going to Google this), the Greek hero Jason popped into notoriety. You don’t remember him? Let’s jog that memory. They Might be Giants sings that if they were in charge of Grecian lighthouses, they’d be fired, “After killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts.” Before that, there was the 1963 classic retelling Jason’s adventures.
In the story of Jason and the golden fleece, King Aeëtes demands Jason plow the god Ares field with two fire-breathing bulls using dragon’s teeth before leaving with the fleece because, reasons. Later in the tale, Jason and his Argonauts end up drugging the local guardian dragon to escape. I only have more questions at this point in the story, but I am stifling those and moving along.
As a Westerner, I feel like this is low-hanging fruit. We’re heavily indoctrinated in knights slaying dragons and rescuing princesses. Smaug in The Hobbit is a shining example of a European dragon. This greedy monster is able to talks, hordes gold, spits fire — the whole nine yards. In Europe, when dragons are mentioned, they are shackled to fire and destruction.
It’s me, of course, I am heading to Eastern Asian mythology any chance I get. In both myth and religious traditions, they are counter to their European counterparts. They are credited for bringing rain to ensure good harvests. They live in deep water like rivers, lakes, and oceans.
One source of an Eastern Asian dragon is Lu Dian, a scholar from the Song Dynasty, dating from AD 1042-1102 credits dragons as the wisest of all animals and with incredible power. Interestingly enough, he says they can be, “smaller than small, bigger than big, higher than high, and lower than low.” I can’t help but think of Mushu from Mulan.
Possible Real Life Ones
Veering away from my love of cryptozoology, one father-daughter combo decided to see what it would take to bio-engineer one of these scaly-firebreathers. Looking across the animal kingdom they sought to create their own dragon for a science fair and ended in writing a book. They studied electric eels, how cow stomachs produce methane, and how Komodo dragons can reproduce through parthenogenesis – meaning without a mate.
Here they explored the theories in what it would take to breathe life into a monster.
While I am not suggesting someone buy the book and Jurassic Park these creatures into existence, I’m not not saying that.