So, here in table form is my "problem". I know that almost everyone else wants to include almost any old large reptilian as a "dragon" but to me that has just muddied all the discussion of whether certain kinds of anomalous creatures have any actual evidence going for them. This table is in its way "logical". It's trying to lay out in the abstract the possible array of creatures which contend for the dragon label. The "Water" category are things which would be seen in the water [ocean, lake, river] but not flying about in the air. When I looked into the old stories, there are large numbers of tales of great sea serpents, of lake and river monsters, but the historical/cultural base for such beasts does not put wings on them, and in only one case [Leviathan] is there a fire-breather. Even though I therefore see no dragons there [in my way of defining them], I find quite a lot of evidence supporting the idea that the water monster and sea serpent are realities, even if not textbook biologically-evolved ones.
As we've looked at the old tales, the land-based things are a little different. There are great snakes, often crouching in caves in mountains, or other such land-living dangerous reptilians, and these usually get the name dragons, but not here. If there is a fine dinosaur lumbering about the Congo, it's a dinosaur. If there's a Tatzelwurm skulking in the Alps, it's a Tatzelwurm. If there's a monstrous snake, it's a great big snake. If you add some wings to these critters, then I'll give you "dragon". If it doesn't breathe fire, well ... a "minor" form of dragon. If it does: Dragon it is. Our trouble is, then, of course, that we only found one of these: Beowulf's Bane.
In the air, we have more confusion. The elongated serpents with the wings [The Chinese-type dragons] I'd still rather call something else: and their own word "Long" or "Lung" seems fine to me. If the big reptilian has wings, then it's a dragon unless we recognize it as something else. That is to say, Pterodactyls et al are pterodactyls et al, not dragons. It is in this cluster of possibilities that the "best" dragon resides: big, reptilian, legged, winged, and fire-breathing as it flies about. Our problem then is: there might not be any.
We are constantly getting comments [above in map form] that dragon myths occur all over the world. Well, no, they don't. Myths of big anomalous reptilians occur all over the world, but things close to dragons do not. This does not mean that there are no dragons anymore than it would mean that there are no leprechauns. It just means that leprechauns and dragons have to make their case without some form of universal encounters sort of argument.
Babylonian sirrush is very interesting --- no dragon.
Gosforth Cross monster is impressive --- no dragon.
Some sea serpent tales are great --- but they aren't about dragons.
I NEED A DRAGON!! Well, if Olaus Magnus can't find me one, nobody can. His Carta Marina is full of the most wonderful things, all of which he put out there as if he believed that they were true.
And there's more. At Maeshowe in the Orkneys the vikings carved a dragon-protector on the tomb when they invaded and broke into the ancient monument in the twelfth century. Those locals and those vikings thought that something like dragons were "around" in some way. Maybe I'm on the scent.
This Moche culture pot from Peru has a dragon on it , as far as I can see. There seems even a feathered wing sticking out. I have no idea how old this particular pottery vessel is, and it would help to know. Still, it's hopeful.
The illuminated prayer book of Charles the Bold [15th century, I think] is littered with proper dragons. Now we are in synch with that explosion of interest and iconography about such beasts. But why??
Carved into old churches --- true proper dragons. What's inspiring it??
And the dragonhunter's best friend, Beowulf's-Bane glorious in illumination of the text. Now in the late Middle Ages, Europe has gone Dragon-Bonkers. Before the high Middle Ages, shreds of hints; afterwards, an explosion of "belief"??
As a sideissue, since we're on iconography: some have used the Ica stones [the "Cabrera Rocks"] or the Acambaro figurines as evidences of dragons. The Ica stones are irrelevant regardless what they portray. I visited Dr. Cabrera and the surrounding vicinity myself and saw that they are faked [unfortunately]. I bought two examples from the guy who was making them to sell to Cabrera and they were worth the sols. The Acambaro figurines may be another matter. I have not yet read a good dismissal of the radiocarbon dates that were done/published, and so think that their genuineness stays an open question. But even then, they look to show large reptiles but not dragons.
So, although there's some smell of dragon all over these icons, like the beast itself, it's hard to tie down. The next, I think last, post in this series will look into my measly files on potential dragon encounter cases [a little over 50 of them] and try to see if any of them are any good at all. After that Fool's Errand, I'll walk Out Proctor for a while --- always something to see out there.
Here's looking at you, kid.