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Do You Believe In Dragons?

Posted by on July 26, 2013

I am beyond excited to have Robert Mullin, cryptozoologist and author of Bid the Gods Arise, share his thoughts on DRAGONS. Please welcome him!

Do you believe in dragons?

In 2001, I went to Africa in search of a possible living dinosaur. This animal, called “Mokele-mbembe,” or “he-who-divides-the-waters,” by the Baka pygmies, is described as having a long neck, long tail, bulbous body, and four elephant-like legs with clawed feet. When asked to draw the animal, the Bakas invariably produce a quite respectable-looking sauropod. Moreover, they know anatomical details about the animal that only an eyewitness could produce, including some features that the scientific community didn’t know about until the last couple of decades. The pygmies describe sexual dimorphism, mating habits, vocalization structures, and specific behaviors. Since we knew what the native term for the animal was and what it meant, I asked our guide what term the French-speaking Cameroonians used for the animal. The answer, given without hesitation, was dragon.  Western armchair scientists scoff at the notion of a living dinosaur, and claim that the natives must be seeing something else (a notion highly offensive to the natives, I might add), because they can’t possibly be seeing something that has been dead for 65 million years.

I would agree with them there.

But perhaps the time is coming that the textbooks will need to be rewritten. Because quite apart from the anecdotal evidence for saurian relicts in remote parts of the modern world, history is replete with dragon encounters. Generally ignored by historians and scientists, these depictions deserve no less regard than the otherwise undisputed day-to-day content. Many of the animals described are unrecognizable from a modern context, even with the palette of paleontology to draw from. But several are quite familiar. An Irish dragon with a horse-like head, plates on its back, shorter front legs and longer hind legs, and “iron nails” on its tail can only be a stegosaurus.  And multiple sightings of “flying serpents” from across the world sound suspiciously like pterodactyls. Ancient art, spanning continents and centuries, abounds with depictions of animals that seem to fit the general morphology of dinosaurs. From ancient Sumeria to Babylon, China to the British Isles, Africa and Europe to the Americas—no part of the globe is [free] from these creatures. Perhaps most telling (and tragic) is the fact that most often, the encounters lead to the creature’s demise. The myth of the dragon-slayer is firmly rooted in reality; men seem to have hunted these animals to extinction. The miracle is that the sightings (albeit much more rarely, and in the most inhospitable parts of the world) continue to this day.

The dragon is a myriad of things to a myriad of cultures. To the Orientals, it is generally a harbinger of good luck and a master of weather and fate. To the ancient Sumerians, it was a god, and representative of primordial chaos. To the Europeans, it was generally a nuisance and a plague, and best gotten rid of. To the Scandinavians, it was a sea-serpent, and spawned many tales. Biblically speaking, dragons range from mere animals to representing the ultimate evil, the Adversary himself.  It would seem that traditionally speaking, these animals were so fearsome and loathsome to humans that they came to be used euphemistically. An example of this would be the use of serpents as symbols of spiritual aspects.  Sometimes the line between symbol, myth, and reality becomes so blurred that it is difficult to tell whether or not there is any truth in the account. Generally speaking, the further removed it is from history, the more mythologized it becomes. Most of the oldest records seem to describe biological entities, and over time, as the animals became rarer and died off, they took on new life in the imagination. The dragon of today is almost a caricature of what it once was, a larger-than-life amalgamation of all of the fiercest, grandest, most magical, and most fantastical creatures from all over the world. When we hear the word, our mind conjures an image of something that could not possibly have existed except in the realm of fantasy, and perhaps there it should stay. The historical dragon seems doomed to be eclipsed by its fictional successor.

Yet that may not be its fate. With determined pioneers in the field of cryptozoology (the study of mystery animals) pressing forward into murky unexplored corners of the earth, more reports than ever before have been catalogued. While some hunt for pterodactyls in Papua, New Guinea, and others hunt for sauropods in Africa, it seems that any day, the right combination of determination and circumstance will lead to the stunning revelation that history has been vindicated, that man and dinosaur live together, and likely have done so since the beginning. The evidence, for those willing to weigh it without bias, is overwhelming. From the dawn of history to present day, people have been trying to tell us that they are seeing something that men in the last hundred years have decreed simply can’t exist. I have spoken to the eyewitnesses. I know the truth, and contrary to those who won’t let the facts get in the way of their theory, I will not let their theory get in the way of the facts.

Do you believe in dragons?

I do.


Robert Mullin is the author of the science fiction/fantasy novel Bid the Gods Arise, and has been to Africa three times in search of He-Who-Divides-the-Waters.

You can find him on Facebook, and Twitter





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So do you believe in dragons?

The I Love Indie Books Blog Hop is happening right now, and I am giving away an ecopy of Bid the Gods Arise. Still not sure? Check out Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s interview and learn more about Robert Mullin and his book.

7 Responses to Do You Believe In Dragons?

  1. Rebekah Gyger

    I love this! It is so interesting.

  2. Kessie Carroll

    Okay, now I’m dying to know the details of their sexual dimorphism, mating habits and specific behaviors (since vocalizations would be hard to do in text). Are the males just bigger than the females? Do they have spikes or frills or anything? Different colors?

  3. Robert Mullin

    Females slightly bigger than the males. The males, at least, have a fringe of scales (like an iguana’s) down the back. They “mate like dogs” (not trying to be graphic, just quoting here). An inflatable dewlap allows a bullfrog-like croaking sound. They are a muddy brown color (appropriate to the water they live in), and appear to have reptilian skin. Some claim that the animal has a “cock’s comb,” while others claim that it has a single horn. Since there is no evidence from paleontology that either sauropods or prosauropods have a horn, I believe this is erectile tissue used in mating displays. Similar structures can be seen in artistic renderings of dragons, but we have not given it much thought due to our preconceptions. Perhaps we should stop looking at dinosaur books for our notions of what these animals looked like, and start looking at ancient art.

  4. Kessie Carroll

    Oooh, interesting! I follow the s8int blog with great interest, especially his dragon studies. Chinese dragons, the old, more realistic artwork and sculptures, always show slim, reptilian creatures with nimble legs, and they always have some kind of crest or plume on their heads. Comparing them with Babylonian dragons, they also have crests. The idea of an inflatable crest or comb or something makes sense. Kind of like the crest on a basilisk, except moveable? I’m constantly trying to reconstruct true-looking dinosaur dragons, and any clue helps a lot.

  5. Robert Mullin

    I have been a fan of your art, Kessie. I would love to see your interpretation of the animal with all those features. 🙂

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J.L Mbewe - Author