Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hunting Dragons

From the Unpublished Memoir of a Dragon Hunter

I have spent my academic career on an errand of folly. Some might call it a quest but many might, and far too many have done, call it a colossal waste of time. And yet, through my journey, which always has sought the truth, I have had the opportunity to travel to many places and see many things. Just never what I sought in the first place.

This was no surprise: finding what I sought would have been earth-shaking.

To put matters simply, I long have wondered why dragons exist in legend and mythology world wide, with reports of actual sightings, even battles, as late as the Fifteenth Century, and yet no physical evidence of their presence exists. At all. Not one skeleton, even a skull, or an egg or a horde of gold in the base of a mountain can be attributed to such a beast. Are they legend only? Myth? Or are they some sort of creature driven to extinction by men so utterly that even their bones are gone?

Every question begat more questions. It seemed to me that perhaps dragons were some sort of prehistoric memory lodged in the human collective consciousness from a time long, long ago. After all, every one of us is fascinated by dinosaurs even though those magnificent creatures died out millions of years before humans appeared on the planet. Yet there were mammals around during the Age of the Dinosaur -- has memory followed evolution? If so, are dragons part of that memory?

Still, the only dinosaurs to appear in actual human existence came from fiction, like “King Kong,” “The Lost World,” “One Million BC” or “Jurassic Park.” one can argue that the same can be said for dragons, but this would be inaccurate. Among Western civilizations, stories exist of recent encounters, and in the East dragons are an accepted part of current mythology -- clearly a unique interpretation of the animal’s existence.

Then it occurred to me: Dragons fly. It seems a universal constant. The Chinese claim that a dragon has to turn 4,000 years old before it gets its wings, but that does not prevent it from flying much earlier in its life. Western dragons almost always have wings already. And yet, dragons are massively, frighteningly large. Given the rules of aerodynamics, a creature that large would need incredible musculature and extremely long wings to act, essentially, as acrobatically as a hawk one hundredth its size.

Unless -- and here is the revelation -- a dragon has no bones. even with considerable size, an animal unencumbered by the weight of a skeleton made of heavy material would require considerably less strength to achieve the same graceful flight. I imagine a skull of calcium but a skeleton of cartilage -- much like a shark.

One other component adds to my revised picture of dragons: fire. Many dragons are purported to breathe fire. Perhaps all can. If that ability exists, and how it might remains a mystery (like purring in cats), then the probability is that a dragon’s body, or a goodly percentage of it, acts like a bellows and hot air balloon. Imagine if you can a shark flying a dirigible with total maneuverability, and a dragon comes closer to being an acceptable reality.

Still, why have we found no trace? Do dragons self destruct upon death? Or are their skulls so similar to those of other creatures that they have gone misidentified? Forget horns and think more of alligators -- who, on land, have been mistaken for dragons (see Saint George and the) -- or giant pythons -- who have been mistaken for sea serpents in the water.. It works in reverse: when Greeks uncovered the skull of a dinosaur, they looked at the thing from the wrong angle and invented the only explanation they could come up with -- a Cyclops. Truth be told, we are still revising our understanding of, and visual imagery of dinosaurs to this day, as new evidence emerges.

Perhaps a dragon lies somewhere in the Alps or Caucasus Mountains awaiting discovery.

Of course, we believe in God without any evidential proof beyond what human beings have written, invented, or done themselves. Why not dragons?

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