Dragons: Evidence They Existed

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Anonymous

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The story about the amphibian skull in the Irish church is in David Drake's novel "The Dragon Lord". Don't know if he got the idea from someplace else, though.
 

athyra

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Never read that book, but I don't remember where I heard it. Salamander, btw, can either mean a dragon, a fire lizard, or a salamander... not sure which this meant.

**EDIT**

A link that ties into this,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/312888.stm

Do a google search on giant salamanders, and you'll find lots of links for pacific giant salamanders, hellbenders, but also cryptid salamander reports from all over the world
 
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Anonymous

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living dragons

In the Indonesian language the word "Naga" refers to either a snake or dragon as does the (Swahili)? word "Joka".
It seems very likely the flicking tongues of serpents and monitor lizards gave rise to the imagery of flickering flames.
The Komodo dragon has a tongue which is yellow,not pink,blue or black as in most tongue flicking reptiles.
This combined with their constant drooling may have given rise to the appearance of some of the whiskered dragons featured in Asia. Their bite is also toxic due to several types of bacteria inhabiting the drool.
The flying agamid lizard of Asia--- Draco volans was at one time mistaken for baby winged dragons.
Crocodiles and some lizards also expel water and mist from their nostrils appearing possibly as smoke,another common depiction.
 

mendhak

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I'm also wondering how come nobody has brought up the issue of the body structure of these supposed dragons? With a body like that, flight would be impossible, as would be concealment.

The descriptions given in whatever documents were passed down simply cannot occur (but that you already knew). Some Chinese descriptions include things like "head of bull" and "belly of frog". Other descriptions go for "snake head", and it varies from place to place.

I believe two things:

1. The need for something supernatural or beyond reality to believe in has always existed with us. The manifestations of these are very likely being dragons, werewolves, and visions of Saints and Prophets in nacho chips.

2. An obvious exaggeration of existing creatures in the area. For reasons of lack of knowledge, and also to strike fear into the hearts of some, and to demonstrate the valor of the "knights" who slayed them.
 

Kondoru

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I remember reading somewhere that dragons were just an exxagerated account of spitting cobras (a scary creature in itself) it seems a bit far fetched

I also remember P Dickingsons theory from a programme we watched at school, very nice but not credible.

events such a meteors, earthlights and the like in mediaval times were called dragons.

But I do feel that the fear of snakes is instinctive. I myself would never harm a snake unless in self defence or for food. (they reputedly taste like chicken) but I have seen so-called animal lovers kill grass snakes found in their garden.
 

mendhak

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Re: living dragons

Lizard said:
In the Indonesian language the word "Naga" refers to either a snake or dragon as does the (Swahili)? word "Joka".

In India, "naga" means snake. (very relevant, no?)

And let's not forget that a lot of the Indonesian culture and language were influenced by ancient Indians who travelled there.
 
A

Anonymous

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There is an old legend about a Lindwurm in the Austrian town Klagenfurt, a Lindwurm being something like a dragon/ serpent with only two rather short legs and a very long tail.
In fact the Lindwurm even turns up in Klagenfurt's city arms, and the town's landmark is a Lindwurm monument.

The legend about some kind of dragon haunting the surroundings of Klagenfurt dates back to the Middle Ages, when floods and mudflows repeatedly destroyed the crossings over the river Glan and the area around Klagenfurt and caused the deaths of many people.
In medieval times, dragons as such were usually associated with the Devil - inspired by the biblical images of the evil serpent, the Revelations' draco magnus rufus , and so forth - so when something bad like floods, crop failures or storms happened, it was sometimes blamed on the evil doings of some sort of leviathanic creature.
Soon the people of Klagenfurt started to believe that some kind of water dragon, the Lindwurm was responsible for all their misfortune.
In the 14th century, when the legend of the Lindwurm was already a part of common folklore, a mysterious "dragon skull" was unearthed, and the belief in the Klagenfurt dragon deepened.
It was not until 1840 that a paleontologist discovered that this "dragon skull" actually was the cranium of a woolly rhinoceros from the Ice Age.


The Lindwurm of Klagenfurt
 
A

Anonymous

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More about the Lindwurm...

As I've already mentioned before, the Lindwurm usually is depicted as being a serpentlike creature with two short legs and a very long tail, but (unlike the Klagenfurt Lindwurm, which seems to be an exception) with no wings.
The dragon Fafnir from the Germanic/ Norse mythology would be a Lindwurm, to add some trivia. ;)

But back to cryptozoology: After I'd finished writing my earlier post I suddenly remembered that the description of the Lindwurm sounds a bit like that of another reptile-like creature I've been reading about, the Tatzelwurm ("worm with feet" or "worm with claws"). This cryptid animal is said to be at home in the Swiss, Bavarian and Austrian Alps and supposedly resembles a rather big lizard with only two short front legs and a somewhat cat-like head. The Tatzelwurm is thought to be able to jump several meters, to be rather venomous, to make hissing sounds, and to be quite aggressive for a lizard.
 

MrRING

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The descriptions seem so specific that it seems to be something more than an excuse to call a wooly rhino head a dragon head...

Biologically, could there be a reason for such a creature developing only two feet with a long body? Maybe a burrowing creature? Fascinating stuff, Fledermaus!:)
 
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Anonymous

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1. Fledermaus your, er, Flerdermaus is very cute.
2. the Linworm on hte crest looks like a wyvern.(probably artistic license)

Have you any idea what inspired the tatzelwurm stories?

Here is a link to the Lambton Worm story.Worm
 
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Anonymous

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here's some links to worm lizard pix
http://www.digimorph.org/specimens/Anops_kingii/
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/media/herp/089.herp.jpg

There are indeed two legged lizards that look like worms,perhaps this contributes to the myth,along with monitor lizards,crocodiles and the tropical Asian species of flying dragon--Draco volans

The picture of the skull in the first link reminds me of the skull in the movie "Lair of the White Worm"....an unusual movie dealing with an ancient legend of a great white worm/dragon.
 
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Anonymous

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Actually, the German translation for "wyvern" would be "Lindwurm", and in common mythology those two creatures are virtually the same, except for the wings. :) Artistic license sounds like a very likely explanation for the Lindwurm's wings as depicted on the Klagenfurt crest - just like the number of the Lindwurm's legs changing from two to four some centuries ago.

As to the Tatzelwurm stories: The first scientific work mentioning this lizard-like creature was the Historica animalium by the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner, written in the 1550's. Even though Gessner's writings became standard reference works throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and are now seen as the starting-point of modern zoology, the Historica animalium also featured animals like the unicorn and the griffin and therefore can't be seen as a proof for the existence of the Tatzelwurm.
But especially between the 19th and the early 20th century there have been dozens of people who claimed they'd seen something like a Tatzelwurm.
The creature is usually described as being between 30 and 90 cm long, with a somewhat cylindrical body shape, and a short and thick tail.
The creature's "cat-like" head is heavy and blunt-nosed, and there's no narrowing at the neck. Note that the word "cat-like", as it is used by some of the witnesses only refers to the rounded shape of the Tatzelwurm's head - as opposed to the long nose a lizard's or snake's head usually has.
The Tatzelwurm has no ears, round "evil" eyes, and seems to have scales, the colour ranging from a greyish white to greenish to black. The creature has only got two small, short front legs (even though some say they saw two even smaller hind legs).
A lot of people said that they heard the Tatzelwurm hiss like a snake, and that it was so aggressive it attacked several times before disappearing somewhere.
(In Tatzelwurm legends it is said that the Tatzelwurm can jump a few meters, and that it's so venomous "its breath alone can kill you" - but these "facts" sounds like exaggerated superstitions and have never been reported by any of the witnesses).
There are theories that the Tatzelwurm is some kind of burrowing lizard or maybe even an amphibian, because it is said that the Tatzelwurm is most likely to be seen in the first rain storm after a long drought.

Needless to say that nobody ever captured a live specimen of the Tatzelwurm, and no skeleton has ever been found. The last sightings were reported around 1930, which has lead to the belief that even if there really was such a big reptile-like creatures in the Alpine regions, it may be extinct now.

There have been lots of theories trying to explain the Tatzelwurm phenomenon, for example that maybe the Tatzelwurm sightings really were about stray otters or mangy badgers and not lizards.
Other, more cryptozoological theories about the Tatzelwurm link it with animals such as the Gila monster (heloderma suspectum), some burrowing worm lizards, the skink (tiliqua rugosa, for example) or two-legged amphibians such as the Greater Siren (siren lacertina).
 
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Anonymous

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Fledermaus, I recall seeing a 19 c. B&W illustration of a Tatzelwurm attacking a frightened Swiss (pretty sure he was not an Austrian) peasant. (I believe it was published in the UNESCO Courier magazine). Quite a large animal, as I remember. I'm sure there's plenty of cracks and caverns in the Alps for them to hide in. ;)
 

Kondoru

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you know, the first time I saw an otter, -I hade never seen one before, I knew it was an otter, and not a tatzelwurm...

<shrugs>
 

Melf

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slightly off track

didnt some scientists from different disciplines, work out that dragons (with wings) portrayed in "mediaeval literature" flew "backwards" in short hops?
 

MrRING

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These are incredible examples of things that would fit somewhat the medaevil look of dragons. Of the creatures you have linked to, is there any larger versions extant in the fossil record?
 
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Anonymous

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Homo Aves said:
you know, the first time I saw an otter, -I hade never seen one before, I knew it was an otter, and not a tatzelwurm...

The otter theory isn't that far-fetched, it has a few good points:
1) The otter's long sinuous body and short legs are a big advantage when in water; but out of its aquatic habitat, when travelling on land, it walks with a slightly arched back, moving in a way that to some people may seem lizard-like or snake-like, especially since otters sometimes use a combination of running and sliding to move faster.
2) Otters are semi-aquatic animals, sometimes they travel several kilometers over land from one river or lake to another.
3) They can make all kinds of whistling and hissing noises.
4) Otters are more active at night, especially at dusk and dawn, so you'll most likely encounter them in low-light conditions.
5) When wet, an otter's fur doesn't look that fluffy, but somewhat spiky and shiny.
6) I've been told that centuries ago, the name Tatzelwurm ("worm with claws/ legs/ paws") was also used to describe the otter. I'm sure it caused at least some confusion to have the same word applied to both a well-known mammal and a legendary beast.
Even though an otter doesn't look like a worm in any way, there are people who'd call almost anything with an oblong body a "worm" - just ask my granny about caterpillars, snakes and shrimps :D

So at least some of the reported Tatzelwurm sightings could have been cases of mistaken identity. Just imagine you're somewhere in the mountains, walking there lost in thought or enjoying the view, the light conditions are poor because it's near sunset, and you're aren't close to a lake or river so you wouldn't really think of otters being anywhere near, and then you suddenly hear a hissing noise, something's rustling in the undergrowth, and you see the shape of a long animal running or maybe even sliding away. I'm not sure how many people would recognize an otter under such conditions. Especially not when it was the first time or second time they've ever seen a real one - mind you, people didn't have TV wildlife documentaries then. ;)

On the other hand: It doesn't sound very likely that all the people who claimed they saw a Tatzelwurm confused an actual and well-known animal with a legendary beast.
Especially since mistaken identity usually works the other way round: You see something you don't know or you know but don't recognize as what it is, and instead think it's something else, something you know - you usually try to find a logical and rational explanation. Except maybe if you've got a really vivid imagination or are a very, very keen cryptozoologist :p
 

lindseyinstereo1

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who knows?

What if whales become extinct in the next few centuries and the word "whale" then comes to mean "crazy sea monster" like "dragon" has been turned into "fire breathing scaly thing" when maybe back then it just meant "snake" ?

Maybe the translation has changed and the names make us have a different image in our heads than what was meant at the time.
 
A

Anonymous

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Well, imagine seeing an otter slither along the ground at night with it's wet fur glistening in the moonlight. Could well scare me, even if I know what an otter is.

Now the mention of Lindwurm got me all excited. I`ll remember some stuff about that from Nordic mythology but I want to go check my facts.
 
A

Anonymous

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Well, the name Tatzelwurm doesn't really mean anything to me. But I do remember Lindwurm from the nordic mythology. In my language it is known as lindorm, and I can't really remember if it was one specific creature or a name for a kind of animal. Orm meant snake in the viking language. They still use that word in Sweden, though in Denmark we use it now for worms. I imagine it is the same with England. We did rule your country once after all ;)

One story I can remember is of a young women who was trapped in her castle, because a lindorm had curled itself around it. Says something about the size of the thing. Also I think Freya's necklace Brissinggammen, a piece of jewelry able to reproduce was guarded at some point by a lindorm. I think there was quite a few stories about lindorme. Though the description was more like snakes than traditional dragons. I don't think they had any legs at all.

Also Thor, god of thunder, had an arch enemy. The Midgaardsorm. Translates to something like Middle Earth Worm. It was a worm so big it was curled around the earth itself. And Thor really wanted to catch it, it lived in the ocean. He once did an attempt on it using an achor as hook, and the head of a bull as bait. Didn't succeed though.

Also I think there was a dragon/orm known as Fafner. But I have difficulty remembering the details. It seems to have some connection to the Ring of the Nibelung as well.
 

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I dont know much about dragons, but I do seem to recall that whales were thought of as sea monsters and only half believed in.
 
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Anonymous

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Well, sea monster just means something monstrous living in the sea. I would say whales and squids do still fit that description. They didn't stop being sea monsters when we identified them.
 
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Anonymous

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Fossil Dragons

http://www.daily-tangents.com/Aves/Archaeop/
http://www.mathematical.com/dinosarchaeop.html
http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/archaeo.htm
http://www.senckenberg.uni-frankfurt.de/lecture/urvogel/urvog.htm

IMO,I believe a lot of the really big dragons were probably based on dinosaur bones being mistaken for modern animal skeletons then people filled in the "sightings" based on rough similarities with modern,yet much smaller creatures.
Large therapod, prehistoric crocodile and zeuglodon skeletons could be likely candidates.
One creature---archaeopteryx,a feathered creature with a long tail,claws on its wings and teeth in its beak was found in stone impressions and could possibly been mistaken for a flying dragon.
Pterosaurs also made a few stone impressions and skeletal remains.
 
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Anonymous

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Re: Fossil Dragons

Lizard said:
IMO,I believe a lot of the really big dragons were probably based on dinosaur bones being mistaken for modern animal skeletons then people filled in the "sightings" based on rough similarities with modern,yet much smaller creatures.

...or simply by using their imagination, plus a few wild guesses. :D
Like, in ancient times, when the first fossil elephant bones were found, people thought the gigantic skulls were cyclops skulls, because to them the hollowed nasal cavity in the middle of the "forehead" looked just like one big eye socket.
Anyways, to say the fossil bones of a dinosaur (big, reptile-like creature) are the bones of a dragon (basically a big, reptile-like creature, too) would be a quite close and accurate guess for somebody from, let's say, the Middle Ages who has never heard of anything like paleontology or evolution.

You have to bear in mind that it's enourmously difficult to reconstruct a whole animal you've never seen before and have no idea about, even if you had discovered an almost complete fossil skeleton, and even with advanced scientific methods.
An example: The Iguanodon was one of the first dinosaurs officially classified as such. The first fossil remains of Iguanodon were discovered in the 1820's or so. Along with some teeth and bones, the paleontologists also found something like a horn, which reminded them of a rhinoceros horn and the iguana's nose horn, and so they decided to place that horn on the Iguanodon's nose. It was not until the late 1870's that scientists discovered that the nose horn was actually something like a thumb spike.

Here are some examples of how the Iguanodon supposedly looked like:
Iguanodon, 1859
Iguanodon and Megalosaurus, 1867
Reproduction of skeleton, 1895
Modern iguanodon
 

allicorn

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The tiny village of Low Ham in the so-called Athelney Fens on the Somerset Levels is quite near me. I once went out to the tumble-down old church out there to see a very long, old spear hanging on the wall. The spear is supposedly the weapon used to slay the Dragon Of Aller by a local knight.

Seems somewhat unlikely to me that there was really a fire breathing dragon flying around the area, to be honest, but a fascinating experience to look at this spear and wonder how the story came about.

I found a little bit of information about the story at:

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/5088/Fire_Dragon.html

Alli
 

phi23

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Xanatic said:
Orm meant snake in the viking language.

Interesting point. There are several place names in the UK that spring to mind - most notably Ormskirk (Church of the Worm?)
 

Soong2

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Mr. R.I.N.G. said:
I just think that it could have been some kind of reptile snake offshoot that so scared people that they hunted it to extinction, like the wooly mammoth or that ostrich-like bird whose name escapes me.

I don't think (unfortunately) there were any Smaugs sitting on treasure troves waiting for a litle invisible hobbit to rob them, but it just seems so likely there would have been large, constrictor style snakes all over the world at some point...

Moa?
 
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