Guest blog by Carl Martin, author of Edge of Remembrance: Gods and Dragons

Dragon emblem and fairy tale castle
Dragons and fairy tale castles are a common theme in fantasy fiction. Photo of Castle Neuschwanstein: Softeis (CC BY-SA-3.0); Dragon on Medieval tapestry, 1907: Nordisk Familjebok (PD).

Dragons! What are they? Bare mention of the word conjures up images of fairy tale castles, princesses in distress, and brave heroes wearing armor and wielding a hefty sword. But how accurate is that image? Germany’s Neuschwanstein castle, near the Bavarian Alps, remains the quintessential palace for dragon fantasies. But such castles are the product of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. If dragons were ever real, they existed long before such architectural eye candy was ever built.

The word “dragon”comes from the Greek word for snake—drakon. So, it means a snake-like creature. In dragon folklore, there are flying dragons, non-flying dragons, water dragons and numerous other varieties based on colors, shapes, preferred locales, disposition and other traits. In some legends, dragon scales are said to be extremely tough, thus the creatures are difficult to kill. Some dragons were grumpy, some selfish and some were quite friendly.

Golden dragons were found in Egyptian, Greek and Georgian myth. The founder of Athens was said to have been half-man, half-snake. And the dragons of Mesoamerica were said to have been feathered serpents.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of dragon lore, besides their ability to fly, was their ability to breathe fire. This usually means that dragons exhaled or spat out fire, like a flamethrower.

Most scientists dismiss the notion that living, breathing dragons ever lived. What they seem to forget is that a lack of corroborating evidence never disproves an idea. Evidence could still exist, waiting to be found. But even if all evidence has been destroyed, our inability to find it still does not disprove the idea. This fact can make some scientists quite uncomfortable. They like some degree of certainty, despite their penchant for skepticism. Dismissing an idea without rigorous study and thorough documentation is one of the fallacies of skepticism and its misuse. Scientists need to learn how to say, “I don’t know.” It’s okay to have unsolved mysteries. It’s okay to have some humility about things of which you have never studied.

Possible Solution to the Dragon Mystery

While researching background information for this novel, I noticed several patterns and other clues that may help explain what dragons were and why we haven’t been able to find dragon eggs or skeletons.

In the Egyptian myth of the dragon and merchant prince, a wealthy Egyptian was traveling by ship with his precious cargo. A sudden storm damaged the ship, losing the cargo and killing everyone on board except the prince. A dragon saved the wealthy merchant and nursed him back to health, speaking to the injured man in his own language. In the story, the dragon sometimes appeared to the recovering prince as a dragon and sometimes as a man. Was the dragon a shapeshifter? How else can we explain such a strange occurrence?

Centaur fountain sculpture
Centaur statue. The creature can be easily explained as a primitive misunderstanding. Photo: Jurgen Howaldt (CC BY-SA-2.0-DE).

For decades, cultural anthropologists have suggested that at least one mythical creature was merely a misunderstanding in the mind of primitive hunter-gatherers. The creature was the centaur—half-man, half-horse. Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve never seen anyone riding a horse. The mere idea that such a creature as a wild horse could be used in such a manner might have seemed entirely unreal. Wild horses are dangerous. To an uneducated mind, horse = deadly danger. Upon seeing such a wild, new creature, the primitive would have been too shocked to see important details like two heads and six legs. They would likely not have understood things like leggings, pants or boots. They would have seen the horse and rider as one creature.

How does this help us understand dragons? Consider for a moment what a primitive would think of a modern automobile with a driver behind the wheel. A great, shiny monster with round legs has swallowed a man and made him its slave. The monster has eyes all around and looking into those eyes, you can see the slave inside. When one of the eyes on the side opens, the slave speaks for the monster, yelling out something like, “Hey, you. Move out of the way!”

The founder of Athens was named Cecrops—half-man, half-snake. Like the centaur, imagine for a moment that a dragon was merely a method of travel for the man named Cecrops. Instead of a living, breathing creature, his snake was artificial. It was a mechanical ship with a hatch on top through which the captain could rise to address his men or to survey a battlefield. His soldiers understood what was really going on, but the natives surrounding them were sorely amazed that this huge, golden snake could have the head and arms of a human.

If this hypothesis is correct, then the golden dragon of the Egyptian myth might merely have been the airship’s captain and his serpent ship. Sometimes the captain would have talked to his patient from inside the ship, and sometimes from outside the ship. To the delirious and injured Egyptian, the transition from human to beast would have seemed quite magical and confusing.

Cadmus and the Dragon

In the myth of Cadmus and the golden dragon, the Phoenician prince attacked the beast after it had killed all of his men. Cadmus knocked out the dragon’s teeth, whereupon several warriors appeared and started fighting amongst themselves. When most of them had killed one another, those remaining agreed to help the young prince build a new city to be called Thebes. Where had the men come from? Could they have been disgruntled soldiers from within the serpent ship? After the fighting was done, the golden dragon lifted silently into the sky and flew away.

Medea’s Dragon

Dragon sculpture
Dragon sculpture Font de la Cascada, Barcelona. Photo: Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA-3.0).

Georgia, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, was once called Colchis—the land of the Golden Fleece, guarded by a golden dragon. Jason and his Argonauts traveled to Colchis in order to steal the Golden Fleece.

A clever theft was seen by the Greeks to have been heroic, despite the problems such unsavory behavior created.

Princess Medea immediately fell in love with Jason and helped him steal the Golden Fleece from her own people. She helped him put the dragon to sleep and then traveled with him back to Greece. Later, when Jason betrayed her for another, Medea supposedly killed her children fathered by Jason and then left him to marry King Aegeus of Athens. There she had two other children. When Aegeus’s illegitimate son, Theseus, came to Athens to claim his birthright, Medea felt that her own son would be cheated, so she attempted to poison the young man. Outraged, Aegeus banished Medea, and she left Athens with her two children, flying away on a golden dragon.

But wait a second! Where did Medea suddenly get a golden dragon? Is this the same dragon which once protected the Golden Fleece in her homeland of Colchis? What if Jason didn’t mind sleeping with Medea, but never wanted to marry her? What if Medea didn’t travel on the Argo with Jason and his men, but merely tagged along, flying in the golden dragon airship? Medea may well have been Jason’s convenient “girlfriend,”until he needed to marry up in Greek society. Oops!

Imagine Medea flying into Athens in her golden dragon airship. What king of prehistory would not be impressed by such a woman? So, Medea may have had the golden dragon in her possession ever since she helped Jason steal the Golden Fleece. She may have been the only one in Greece who knew how to fly the serpent ship, especially if the ship which had once been associated with Cecrops was no longer in Athens or Greece.

Other Dragons

Dragon coat of arms
Dragon coat of arms for Heide family. Photo: Willy “Horsa” Lippert, Brunsbuttel (PD).

The feathered serpents of Mesoamerica may have been the same serpent ships found in the other myths. Consider for a moment the possibility that golden snakes were flying through the sky. Feathers are found on birds and birds fly. Perhaps the airship never truly had feathers, but in the simple understanding of the primitive Americans, a snake with feathers is symbolically equivalent to snakes that fly.

Dragons in other cultures did not fly, particularly those in China. What if the serpent ships had lost their ability to fly after six thousand years of dedicated use? Merely having such an impressive structure would have seemed quite magical to those who had never seen anything artificial larger than a handheld tool.

Breathing Fire and Tough Scales

Dragon fountain
Chinese dragon in fountain, Sentosa Garden, Singapore. Photo: Anand (CC BY-SA-3.0).

Did serpent ships have flamethrowers in their snouts? Or did they have something more high tech? Pulsed lasers?

The dragon’s reputation for its super tough scales may have come from having gold plated metal scales, or scales made from a gold-colored alloy. Gold itself is soft. What if the scales were made of a copper alloy, like brass or bronze? That would have been gold colored. While researching this topic, I discovered that one metal has a melting point very close to that of copper. That metal is the ultra-dense, super tough uranium. Could Plato’s enigmatic metal, orichalcum, be a uranium-copper alloy? This would qualify as sufficiently “tough.” It would also be compatible with the etymology of the word—”mountain copper.” What alloy could possibly be as tough as uranium mixed with some other element to make it gold colored? What land would have had lots of copper and uranium in its mountains?

Source of Dragons

Atlantis Backstory: Chichen Itza pyramid
Central American pyramid, Chichen Itza, similar to the one found by Gunter Jürgens in the novel, with its Atlantis time capsule. Photo: Daniel Schwen (CC-BY-SA-4.0).

So, where did dragon airships come from? In the novel, Edge of Remembrance: Gods and Dragons, the serpent ships were handcrafted works originating in Atlantis. A consumer economy would have to wait for the likes of Henry Ford and his manufacturing assembly line. Planned obsolescence was never a part of the manufacturing process in Atlantis. Everything was built to last for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

If you are one of those who thinks there’s no evidence that Atlantis ever existed, think again. Though we don’t yet have proof of Atlantis, that lack of proof does not prove it never existed. Such thinking would remain an argument to ignorance type logical fallacy. Beyond that logical foundation, however, we actually do have quite a bit of evidence in support of the past existence of Atlantis. For more on this aspect of the novel’s backstory, see “Atlantis: ‘Gods and Dragons’ Backstory.”

In the next article, I discuss the somewhat controversial notion that scientists are merely human with very real, human frailties.

Available Now for Pre-Order

Edge of Remembrance: Gods and Dragons - coverEdge of Remembrance: Gods and Dragons is now available for pre-order. Check out the announcement.

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