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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Tolkien's Dragons Have A Basis In Fact

    Tolkien's Dragons Have A Basis In Fact

    by Dirk Vander Ploeg, author of the nonfiction book Quest for Middle-earth.

    Smaug, the dragon from the Hobbit

    Tolkien writes that dragons were among the most feared of the servants of the Dark Lord. The first dragon was Glaurung, the Father of Dragons, and he lived in the middle of the First Age. Following Glaurung many other dragons came and harassed both Elves and Men. Among them the infamous dragons were Ancalagon the first winged dragon, Scatha who dwelt in the cold northern wastes and Smaug who was the last of the great dragons and guarded treasure in The Hobbit.1

    The dragons were not destroyed at the end of the Third Age; and some believe that they have survived to our own time. In The Hobbit, Bilbo is recruited to help some dwarves steal back their treasure that was originally stolen by the dragon Smaug in the Lonely Mountain.

    Bilbo finds the courage to enter the dragon's lair and steals a golden cup. Smaug wakes up and in retaliation kills their ponies. Bilbo reenters the lair and has a conversation with the dragon and discovers that the dragon has a weak spot over its left breast. This eventually leads to Smaug's death and the recovery of the treasure.

    In The Lord of the Rings the Ringwraiths, the Nazgûl rode dragons while searching for Frodo.

    In the movie Excalibur, the magician Merlin described dragons to a young King Arthur, "The dragon, a beast of such power, that if you were to see it whole, and all complete in one single glance, it would burn you to cinders…" But what is the truth about dragons? Are they the stuff of fairy tales or are they as many believe real animals that may exist even today! 2

    It was only a thousand years ago that dragons were the subject of gossip and everyone from kings, bishops and stable boys knew of their individual characteristics and descriptions. Dragon graffiti painted the walls of Medieval Europe. Children aspired to being dragon slayers as much as they dreamed of being knights. Becoming a dragon slayer was a genuine occupation. It was sure way to get the girls and the money, if you lived, wasn't bad.

    Knights, saints and other brave souls routinely killed dragons that terrorized towns and villages. From Europe to China tales of dragons were as common as the gossip of today's movie stars and celebrities. 3

    One of the most famous dragon tales involves St. George who was born in Cappadocia (now Eastern Turkey) in the year A.D. 270. He was a Christian and at the age of seventeen joined the Roman army and soon distinguished himself by his bravery.

    He was sent to England and gathered much notoriety by protecting Christians that were to be tortured by his fellow Romans.

    While he was in England he heard the Emperor was putting all Christians to death and so he returned to Rome to help. He pleaded with the Emperor Diocletian to spare their lives but could not persuade him. St. George was ordered to give up his faith. He refused and was beheaded on 23 April, 303.

    On one of St. George's journeys he came to Libya. There he a met a hermit that told him the cause of the great sorrow that had fallen over the land. Apparently a dragon was ravaging the country.

    The cost to appease the dragon was the daily sacrifice of a beautiful maiden. But now, all the young girls have been killed and only the King's daughter remained.

    The King promised his daughter in marriage to anyone that could slay the dragon. As any heroic knight would do St. George vowed that he would destroy the monster.

    The next day, St. George rose early, and traveled to where the sacrifices took place. There he saw a beautiful girl dressed in pure Arabian silk. It was the princess and her name was Sabra. He told her and her entourage that he would slay the dragon and she was to return to the palace.

    He then entered the valley where the dragon lived. Suddenly the dragon, which had a huge head and a tail that was fifty feet long, rushed from its cave and St. George charged and struck the dragon with his spear. It smashed into a thousand pieces and he was thrown to the ground.

    Recovering quickly, he got to his feet and drew his sword. But the dragon was ready and spit poison over him which split his armor in two. He staggered away and fell under an enchanted orange tree, which miraculously rejuvenated him. Rising again with sword in hand he rushed the dragon and stabbed it under the wing where there were no scales. It fell dead at his feet. 4
    Dragons were not the stuff of myths and children's tales, but the subject of newsworthiness! Kings, knights, monks, archbishops and scholars reported eyewitness accounts of these events!

    Sir John Mandeville in his medieval work Travels, written approximately 1366, chronicles his voyages to the East. As an English knight who left England around 1322 he journeyed to Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Persia, and Turkey He describes the Tower of Babylon as being "…full of dragons and great serpents, and full of dyverse venymous beasts all about." Today, it is commonly accepted that Sir John did not write Travels, as it was the practice of unknown writers to credit well-known individuals in hopes of gaining monetarily from their efforts. Travels was certainly one of the most popular books of the late Middle Ages, indeed hundreds of medieval manuscript copies of it have survived to the present day. 5

    Dragons were also subject of controversy. Scholarly debates would occasionally climax in all out brawls when one side would insist that dragons had their offspring by laying eggs and the other side would ague that dragons gave birth to their young like mammals! The monetary cost of having a dragon dwelling nearby was financially devastating to the community! It was said the appetite of a dragon was such that one could devour countless cattle, sheep and maidens. There is a report that Pope St. Sylvester kept a dragon and that it eat 6000 people a day. 6

    There is a fresco, painted by Italian painter Maso Di Banco cira 1340, that depicts a scene known as the "dragon miracle" set in Rome in the ruins of the Forum Romanum. It shows Pope Sylvester putting chains on a dragon then turning to the dead Magi and raising him from the dead. Emperor Constantine and his companions look on in astonishment! 7

    So heavy was the demand for dragons among European alchemists and among Ethiopians that a minor trade war erupted in the thirteenth century. Dragon meat was a delicacy to Ethiopians.
    The internet is the last light of truth and hope...it is truly of the people, by the people and for the people. We must not let it be subverted for any purpose other than the truth. And that truth shall spread to every man woman and child across the globe. No longer will those in power carry the sole means to decide for us, yet we now shall have the power to decide to tune them out.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Re: Tolkien's Dragons Have A Basis In Fact

    Inevitably, the growing demand for dragons and their derivatives led to commercial conflict. In the thirteenth century, Friar Roger Bacon complained that "it is certain" that Ethiopian sages were coming to Europe, to "those Christian lands where there are good flying dragons", and luring dragons from their caves, saddling them, and then riding them back to Ethiopia where they would be butchered and eaten. A century later, European merchants, having belatedly grasped the commercial possibilities of the dragon trade, had established their own agents locally to acquire dragons for export to Ethiopia. It can be assumed that they advertised European dragons as a superior breed, and charged accordingly. And thus the systematic slaughter of dragons began, and decimated their numbers in both Europe and Africa.

    For those that believe that this is just an ordinary friar reporting this, note that Friar Roger Bacon was a true science pioneer and admirer of Thomas Aquinas. Bacon is famous for stating, "Mathematics is the door and the key to the science". He came to the conclusion that one of the best ways to verify one's theories was to test them through experiment. In thirteenth century Europe the Roman Church didn't eagerly accept experimental evidence. Church doctrine dictated that the power of reason could only be used as a tool when equally infused with the wisdom of God. The Church was the absolute authority on all things, scientific or not. The Inquisition punished those with new scientific ideas with imprisonment, torture or death. 8

    One of the earliest works of English literature is the classic tale of Beowulf. It is one of the most valuable single treasures of English literary history and today is housed in the British Museum. One of the main characters of this poem is the dragon Grendel. He is described as being a fiend of hell and a monster grim. 9

    Speaking of bad press, the above paints a rather poor picture of the dragon Grendel. I would rather think of dragons as the one that was portrayed in the movie Dragon Heart with Sean Connery's English accent and sense of humor. Another movie classic featuring a very aerodynamic dragon was Dragonslayer.

    Ok, but what do we know about the origins of dragons? Believe it or not the same clay tablets and copper seals that tell us so much about the Sumerians and the origins of the Christian and Jewish Bibles, tell us also about the birth of dragons!

    Seven clay tablets that were unearthed by archeologists form a single narrative known as the Babylonian Creation Epic. It describes how the Gods were born and man created.

    As in the Bible, it starts, "In the beginning…" and states that there were neither land, Gods or men, and that only two things existed: Apsu and Tiamat. Apsu was male and represented fresh water and the void in which the world would be created. Tiamat was female and was the opposite of Apsu. She represented salt water as well as chaos. Some say the battle of the sexes has been going on since the beginning of time. The descriptions of Apsu and Tiamat would certainly support that contention! Tiamat is described as being like a monster with a serpentine body complete with scales, legs and horns protruding from her head. She is known as the first dragon of history! No description of Apsu is available. 10

    Dragon or not, she and Apsu mated and had an odd assortment of offspring. These children grew up to become the new Gods of earth. They were apparently unruly and disrespectful to the parents; causing Apsu to complain to Tiamat, Apsu claimed that the children were loathsome. They bothered him constantly; preventing him from getting any rest. Sounds pretty much like a typical family; children running amok and parents stressed to the limit. Still, Apsu's solution was a bit drastic. He planned to murder his children!

    Tiamat begged Apsu to reconsider and not to destroy their children. Somehow, the children learned of their father's plans and struck first. They attacked him, bound him and then murdered him. Tiamat was distraught by the treachery of her children and could not be consoled. Her offspring were as defiant as ever, so to avenge her husband, she gave birth to a second brood of children. Since, Apsu was dead, I can only assume the pregnancy was divine intervention.

    Marduk fighting TiamatAnyway, in time she gave birth to a ferocious assortment of devils: giant serpents, roaring dragons, lion-demons, scorpion-men and the centaur!

    Her original children decided that a fight to the death with their mother and her new brood would not benefit them. After seeing them, the original children realized that their new siblings were a virtually undefeatable army and that any confrontation with them would be disastrous.

    Another plan had to be implemented. They had to convince one of their own to fight their mother in single combat! One of the children stepped forward and accepted the challenge of combat with his mother. His name was Marduk and he only had one condition. If he was victorious in combat he was to be recognized and acknowledged by his brethren as king of the universe! His immediate family accepted.

    The combat began and as all good storytellers describe…it was an epic struggle! Marduk was victorious and slew his mother. He had a magic net, in which he captured all of Tiamat's new brood, and he killed them without hesitation. He also was rewarded with the Tablets of Destiny, which were found hidden in one of the offspring's bodies.

    As the new God of the universe, Marduk created both the heavens and earth. As you may remember, Marduk has been mentioned earlier in this book. He was the king of Babylon. In this retelling of the creation myth, Marduk's name replaces that of AN, supreme God of the Anunnaki.

    There are unexplored regions of the earth that still may be home to dragons today. Reports from China tell of eyewitnesses who had been present at various dragon sightings. In 1944 a black dragon suddenly fell from the sky crashing to the ground in the Chen Family's Weizi Village in Heilongjiange province. 11

    The dragon was very ill and near death. It was described as being covered with scales and had a horn protruding from its head. There may also be photographic proof of dragons!

    In June 22, 2004, an amateur photographer shot a picture from an airplane flying over the Himalayas Mountains. It appears to show two dragons in flight. Although, the photographer didn't capture the entire bodies of the creatures in-frame, what we see is quite amazing and thought provoking. 12

    Captured are conical bodies, tampering to what we can imagine are tails. Reptilian looking scales are clearly present and what's most remarkable about the objects is that they appear to be in-flight, high above the actual mountains.
    1. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, Methuen Publications 1977
    2. Excalbur, 1981 Warner Bros., 1999 Warner Home Video
    3. Dragons, Peter Hogarth with Val Clery, Penguin Books Ltd, 1980 page 14
    4. keptar.demasz.hu
    5. Dragons, Peter Hogarth with Val Clery, Penguin Books Ltd, 1980 page 110
    6. Dragons, Peter Hogarth with Val Clery, Penguin Books Ltd, 1980 page 151
    7. http://keptar.demasz.hu/arthp/html/m/maso/sylveste.htm
    8. Dragons, Peter Hogarth with Val Clery, Penguin Books Ltd, 1980 page 125
    9. The College Survey of English Literature, Revised Shorter Edition,Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.1951, page 16
    10. Dragons, Peter Hogarth with Val Clery, Penguin Books Ltd, 1980 pages 15-16
    11. theepochtimes.com
    12. theepochtimes.com
    The internet is the last light of truth and hope...it is truly of the people, by the people and for the people. We must not let it be subverted for any purpose other than the truth. And that truth shall spread to every man woman and child across the globe. No longer will those in power carry the sole means to decide for us, yet we now shall have the power to decide to tune them out.

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