Sunday, 7 June 2015

Mythbusters!

"If it's somethin' weird an' it don't look good
Who ya gonna call?
Mythbusters!"

Dragons:
Fire-breathing, maiden-munching monsters?
Winged empyrean beasties?
Cave-dwelling, smoke-wreathed marauders?
Snorting, miserly gold-hoarding middle-earthers?
Tail-munching, tear-jerking world circlers?

Come off it, I don't think so! In your heart of hearts you know that's all fabulous invention. So let's get down, dirty and etymological, a little prosaic and puncturesome. It's Saturday night and we're gonna bust this dragon myth apart...


In reality, as the dust settles, our fellow appears to descend from quite humble origins, most probably Greek, like so many good things (the computer, democracy and hummus among them). The word dragon is ultimately derived from the Greek δράκων (drakon) meaning "serpent or giant sea-fish" as depicted in the lovely Hellenic mosaic above, dating from times BC.

In other words, it's an early example of the angler's tall tale, originated no doubt by Mediterranean seafarers but based on real encounters with sharks, huge eels, whales (possibly spouting) and natural phenomena like whirlpools and underwater volcanoes. Over centuries of the oral tradition, the monster not only grew, but evolved, with the telling - making the transition from wine-dark sea to scorched earth, sprouting legs and wings and acquiring the ability to breathe fire in the process; quite some transformation. There was even a variety of dragon, the Wyvern, that possessed two heads - useful for looking in both directions when crossing busy intersections.

Nor is the dragon confined to Greek and Middle-Eastern mythology. Similar fabulous beasts exist in folklore from China to Mexico (as the sun moves) and probably all originated in the same way and for the same reasons; a testament to the consistent workings of the human mind across all cultures and terrains.

The fact is, gentle reader, that the enduring attraction of dragons to captivate, intrigue and scare children (of all ages) demonstrates both the enduring power of these imaginative archetypes and our  predilection for the fantasy they represent, so I'll understand if you choose to disregard my debunking of the myth.

Dragons rule, OK!

PS. I was born at the tail-end of the Chinese year of the dragon.
PPS. I note that Dragon's Fury at Chessington World of Misadventure has been closed until further notice.

Thanks for reading. Have a fabulous week, S ;-)

Reactions:

0 comments: