So far one of my favorite papers since I've been teaching this class (3 years now). I enjoyed the subject matter immensely.I now have a final exam to complete, and then I will be completely finished with this class, and as this test is the last thing I need to complete for any class, I will soon be done with all of this semester’s work. Woo Hoo!
I know some of you have enjoyed reading my other things about cryptozoology, so I will share my paper here for those of you who would like to read it. :)
Legendary Creatures Around the WorldBy Jonathan NorthThe deep forests in the North America, the deserts of the Australian outback, the icy depths of a Loch in Scotland, the snowy peaks of the Himalayan Mountains in Asia, and the dense jungles of the African rainforests; all these are places today that have significant legends attached to them, legends of fantastic creatures. Creatures laughed off by most as just stories or superstition. But what if these stories are more than just stories? What if these creatures all really exist?
Today there are creatures in zoos all over the world that were once laughed at as creatures of myth and legend. Kangaroos, pandas, and many other creatures at one time were disregarded as myths by the scientific community until given absolute proof. In fact, one of my favorite animals was considered a myth until the late 18th century when Europeans were first introduced to a living giraffe. They had heard of giraffes from ancient Greek and Roman writings, but having never seen such a beast for themselves, it was thought to be an animal that the ancients had invented. Similarly, the giraffe’s only known relative, the okapi, was also thought to be a myth until its official discovery in the late 1800’s by Sir Harry Johnston. In 1903 the first live Okapi was captured, and today you can find them in zoos all over the world.
When explorers brought the remains of a platypus to England from Australia they were accused of creating a fake animal by piecing together parts from the bodies of real animals. It was not until sometime later when scientist saw for themselves living, breathing specimens, that they accepted that the platypus was not a beaver with a duck’s bill taxidermied to its face.
Some scientists think there is a definite possibility that there is truth behind our modern day myths, and have dedicated their lives to trying to prove them as truth. These scientists, working in the relatively small, and often maligned scientific field of Cryptozoology, the study of unknown animals, ask a very simple question. Is it possible that mythological creatures have some basis in reality? While it is unlikely that all these animals are exactly as the stories depict them, I fully believe that for every legend there is, or was, a real, live creature behind it.
All over the world, and throughout the ages of time, every culture has stories of fantastic beasts that great warriors fought and killed. When the great beasts are called a bear or a lion, it is generally accepted that such a story truly happened. The hero’s deeds may be exaggerated for dramatic effect, but generally such stories are thought to have a grain of truth to them. But what about the stories with a creature we don’t recognize?
Many countries and many cultures all over the world had legends of monstrous and unbelievable beasts. Native Americans told of massive birds with such huge wingspans they created thunder as they flew. Sailors have long told stories of encounters with strange creatures, such as mermaids, and fearfully large creatures, from the massive Kraken to enormous sea serpents that would attack ships and drag them to the ocean floors never to be seen again. And many, many cultures have legends of gigantic reptiles called dragons. But these were all just stories, right? Maybe, but legends had to start somewhere.
What if these legends were stories that these cultures used to explain real life animals that they did not understand? It is generally accepted now, that the legend of the Kraken might have been based on encounters with giant squid, an animal undocumented by science until recent years. Similarly the stories of mermaids, may have come from sailors, dehydrated and not able to see straight, who saw sunbathing seals, or swimming manatees. Why is it so different to believe that a story of a dragon was based on a real animal?
While this explanation is usually laughed off by mainstream scientists, Creation scientists have hypothesized that the dragon legends of cultures all around the world, from ancient Babylon, to ancient China, to even more recent examples like the medieval European legend of St. George and the Dragon, were based on encounters with dinosaurs.
Since Creationists see fossils as evidence of a world-wide flood in the days of Noah, they see no problems in believing that dinosaurs were alive at the time of man. They obviously would not have been called dinosaurs, a name coined only in 1840 by Sir Richard Owen, but could they have been known by the name dragon, or other names throughout history, depending on the culture who tells the tale? Since most Dragon legends end with the dragon slain by the valiant hero, perhaps the reason for the dinosaur’s extinction was the same reason that so many species are in danger of going extinct today; us. Humanity is generally thought to be the cause of the Mammoth’s extinction. Humanity caused the Dodo’s extinction. Humanity wiped out the Passenger Pigeon, the Moa, and the Tasmanian Tiger. If the dinosaurs did not go extinct millions of years ago, is it such a stretch to believe that we caused their extinction?
Some people, not just creationists, even believe that some dinosaurs may still be alive, as there are stories all around the world to this day of creatures that fit the descriptions of dinosaurs. There are stories of multiple creatures in Africa, the most famous of which, the Mokele Mbembe, fit the description of a living dinosaur. Australia also has stories, as do the Native Americans here in our own country. Ancient artwork occasionally depicts creatures that do not resemble any known creature today, and some of them look vaguely like dinosaurs.
But dinosaurs are not the only creatures around which legends might be based. All over North and South America, there are legends of giant hairy ape men. To the natives in Canada, these creatures were known as Sasquatch. To Americans, who more often use the name in derision, the creature is known as Bigfoot. In South America they tell tales of the Mono Grande, “Big Monkey”, a giant tailless ape.
Without solid proof, people who claim to have seen such creatures are laughed at, but to scoff at such stories has often left the scoffers with egg on their faces. Until about 200 years ago the scientific community laughed at African natives who claimed that giant, hairy, wild men lived in the jungles of Africa. Their laughter turned to astonishment when a French explorer brought back the body of a gorilla. Is it so difficult to believe that similar creatures could exist on one or both of the Americas?
Similar to these stories is the Abominable Snowman in Asia, or as the native people refer to him, the Yeti. A wild man said to live in the Himalayas. Is it possible that this “wild man” is a type of ape? In Australia, they tell of a creature called Yowie, and their descriptions are also of a hairy ape man. To me, so many similar stories all over the world, can’t be laughed off as coincidences.
Another famous beast, beloved by tourists and derided by scientists, is the Loch Ness Monster a giant beast said to live in the Loch Ness in Scotland. Most accounts told of the creature describe it as what looks to be an extinct marine reptile, similar to a plesiosaur. Scientists say that there is no way it can exist there, but researchers have found evidence of underwater caverns that may contain air, and channels that could lead to the ocean. Who’s to say that “Nessie” is just one creature? Isn’t it far more likely that what people have seen throughout history are just different members of the same species? Perhaps the Loch is just a stop on their migratory rout?
The Loch Ness is not the only body of water said to contain a monster, in fact there are stories of lake monsters all over the world. However, one lake, Lake Champlain, a lake between New York and Vermont, has been the only place other than Loch Ness for someone to provide somewhat credible evidence for the existence of such a creature. In July of 1977 a woman captured an image of the beast that is still debated today. The image shows what appears to be a plesiosaur, even clearer than the ones taken of Nessie. This was in the days long before Photoshop, so the chances that this woman was able to fake this photograph by herself are quite slim.
We humans love stories. We love hearing tales of the unknown, and stories of creatures that couldn’t possibly exist. But every story had to be inspired by something. I think it is completely within the realm of possibility that all these stories, all over the world, told by cultures throughout history, had some basis in truth. After all, The Gorilla, the Panda, and the Giraffe were once stories. Perhaps someday, our descendants will stroll through the zoo and laugh at us because we once thought that Sasquatch and Nessie were figments of someone’s overactive imagination.