Were Dragons Ever Real?
If aliens were to have a cool pirate map of our solar system, Planet Earth would have a note next to it that read “HERE BE DRAGONS”. All around the world, every continent, culture, and tribe have dragon stories!
Thanks to popular books and movies, many of us have seen the “western” dragons that stole fair maidens, hoarded treasure, and toasted knights like a marshmallow. However, across history, they weren’t the most popular dragons. They were exceedingly rare.
The “eastern” dragons – often called Drakes – are the template that you see most dragons around the world fit best. They are the most likely to exist. At least, that’s my opinion. Where did I get that idea? Simply put, from the Bible.
Job chapter 41 speaks of a fearless creature that was untouchable in an almost supernatural way. God said, “nothing on earth is like it”! The Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that every word in it was put there because it was true, and God wanted us to know about it. I think no less about Leviathan in Job chapter 41. I recommend you read the entire chapter. Like, right now.
Let me give you a brief synopsis of what Eastern dragons look like and their habits. I’m pulling directly from Oriental lore since they are seen as “the experts”. There is a lot to wade through in Eastern mythology, so I’m going to keep it short and put a few Bible verses (for the sake of length and reading time) right beneath it from Job 41. That way, we can compare myth to God's spoken truth. I’ll give some brief commentary and let you be the judge!
From the Orient
“The people paint the dragon's shape with a horse's head and a snake's tail. Further, there are expressions as ‘three joints' and ‘nine resemblances' (of the dragon), to wit: from head to shoulder, from shoulder to breast, from breast to tail. These are the joints; as to the nine resemblances, they are the following: his antlers resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyes those of a demon, his neck that of a snake, his belly that of a clam (shen, 蜃), his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow. Upon his head he has a thing like a broad eminence (a big lump), called [chimu] (尺木). If a dragon has no [chimu], he cannot ascend to the sky.”
Chinese dragons do not typically breathe fire.
Those who do were said to be sent from the heavens to earth as punishment. Chinese dragons were said to reside at the bottom of lakes or oceans, and in the foggy skies. They could cause flooding and tsunamis. It can fly among the clouds or hide in water (according to the Guanzi). It can form clouds, and can change color as an ability to blend in with their surroundings, as an effective form of camouflage, or glow in the dark (according to the Shuowen Jiezi)
And now that we have that bit of information on board, let’s go look at Job 41 again (assuming you already read the entire chapter before this).
Were Dragons Ever Real? From the Bible
I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs, its strength, and its graceful form. (Eastern dragons are always depicted to be graceful as snakes and tigers)
Who can strip off its outer coat? Who can penetrate its double coat of armor? (Carp scales?)
Who dares open the doors of its mouth, ringed about with fearsome teeth? Its back has rows of shields tightly sealed together; each is so close to the next that no air can pass between. They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted. (CARP SCALES, ANYONE?)
Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn. (Worldwide, demon eyes are often depicted as glowing, right?)
Flames stream from its mouth, sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds. Its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth. (If Eastern dragons only breathe fire as punishment from heaven, then this may speak to who they serve)
Strength resides in its neck; dismay goes before it. The folds of its flesh are tightly joined; they are firm and immovable. (Sound like a snake, anyone? I get dismayed when I see a snake raise itself up and flare its neck when threatening to strike!)
Its undersides are jagged potsherds, leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge. (Clam shell belly, anyone?)
It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment. It leaves a glistening wake behind it; one would think the deep had white hair. (Aha! So, it’s a water monster and leaves a glowing wake behind it as it swims!)
A Quick Breakdown
Okay, let’s break the Eastern dragon down into an easy-to-read list:
- Antlers of a deer (which some say they used for hearing!)
- Head of a camel (or a horse)
- Eyes of a demon (or some say a rabbit)
- Neck of a snake
- Belly of a clam (some say it can also be furry like a rabbit)
- Scales of a carp
- Claws of an eagle
- Paws of a tiger
- Ears of an ox
- Has a bulge or crystal in its forehead (for flying)
- Dwells in deep water, but sometimes comes to land
- Can cause floods or tsunamis
- Glows in the dark
In comparison, let’s break Leviathan down in Job, too:
- It’s graceful and strong
- Double coat of armor that is airtight
- A hide that cannot be pierced
- Lots of teeth
- Glowing eyes
- Strength resides in its neck
- Its chest is rock hard, and its belly is like jagged pot shards
- Leviathan breathes fire and has hot breath
- It can stir up the sea and make the deep water churn
- It leaves a glowing wake behind it in the water
- No mention of legs or feet, really
- People freak out when they see it
They sound remarkably similar, don’t they? Not identical, but similar enough to make you raise an eyebrow. But let’s not stop there with comparisons! Let’s compare Leviathan and the Eastern Dragon to North American “serpents”.
From North America
The Huron Native Americans originally lived in southern Ontario, Canada before moving south to Michigan and Ohio, and then being relocated to Kansas and Oklahoma. They told tales of a beast called Angont. It was described as a poisonous reptile – sometimes snake-like, and sometimes with four legs – who dwelled in desolate places such as caves, forests, and lakes. Near human settlements, the Angont could cause several problems to local inhabitants. It was associated with death, disease, and misfortune. Due to Angont's fantastic abilities, medicine men sought this reptile out, hoping to gain magical medicine from it, but rarely did anything good come from those searches.
The Horned Serpent is a quite common story among the Southeastern Native American tribes of North America. Some tribes saw it in a benevolent light, and others saw it as evil. It was often associated with storms, thunder, lightning, disease, and rainbows. Most tribes described it as having no legs, though a few stories describe some of the creatures with legs.
- To the Muscogee people, the Horned Serpent is a type of underwater serpent covered with iridescent, crystalline scales and a single, large crystal in its forehead. Both the scales and crystals are prized for their powers of divination. The horns were used in medicine. It was said to live in the water and have horns like the stag. It was also said to be benevolent to humans.
- Among the Cherokee people, a Horned Serpent is called an Uktena. An anthropologist named James Mooney lived with the Cherokee for several years, and he described the creature like this:
“Those who know say the Uktena is a great snake, as large around as a tree trunk, with horns on its head, and a bright blazing crest like a diamond on its forehead, and scales glowing like sparks of fire. It has rings or spots of color along its entire length and cannot be wounded except by shooting in the seventh spot from the head, because under this spot are its heart and its life. The blazing diamond is called Ulun'suti—”Transparent”—and he who can win it may become the greatest wonder worker of the tribe.
But it is worth a man's life to attempt it, for whoever is seen by the Uktena is so dazed by the bright light that he runs toward the snake instead of trying to escape. As if this were not enough, the breath of the Uktena is so pestilential that no living creature can survive should they inhale the tiniest bit of the foul air expelled by the Uktena. Even to see the Uktena asleep is death, not to the hunter himself, but to his family.”
Were Dragons Ever Real?
The Zuni and Hopi natives told stories about Kolowissi and Palulukon that were often seen as divine spirits, or deity-like, such was their power and intelligence. They were described as enormous, with gleaming scales, and horns, and they lived in deep water. They were often associated with floods and other natural disasters. The stories of Kolowissi sound remarkably like some of the old shape-shifting dragon stories in the Orient.
Near Forked Mountain in Oregon, the Native Americans feared a creature that they called Amhuluk. They said he had once lived in the Atfalati plains, but eventually moved to the lake. Some said it was because the lake was more comfortable for him, others said it was because the waters were enchanted, but most agreed that he moved there because he loved to drown things.
It was his passion
Not a genuinely nice passion to have but you do you, boo. He was described as long bodied and spotted, with long spotted horns on his head, and four hairless legs. Stories also told of him having assorted items tied to his body so they could be carried around, and that he liked to keep several spotted dogs. (Dog people be like “YAY!”)
There are hundreds of stories and creatures in North America that I could tell you about – most from Native Americans, but many even from colonists and pioneers that reported sightings well into the 1900’s! However, I think it best to let you conduct your own research from here. You are welcome to message me if you’d like more information to delve into!
I have noticed in my own research of Leviathan type dragons that the tribes and people who feared and dreaded these creatures were often the first to attempt to kill or exploit the creature and take its power for their own uses. Those who respected it and treated it well often saw it as benevolent and were protected by it. Even God told Job “If you lay a hand on it, you will remember the struggle and never do it again!”
Were Dragons Ever Real?
Is Leviathan and/or the Eastern Dragon a real creature? Well, with no way to physically prove it, I’ll say it is a matter of opinion.
I, for one, find it very coincidental that dragons throughout world history have been described similarly to a creature that God Himself described to a group of men thousands of years ago. Considering 65% of our planet remains undiscovered and unexplored, it wouldn’t be hard for a water lover like Leviathan to hide from us! So, I personally think Leviathan exists, or did at one time.
About Kathryn White
Keeper of dragons, published author, and lover of coffee, Kathryn is native to Oklahoma, eldest of six kids, and was raised on a farm. As a master storyteller and writing coach, Kathryn helps authors by teaching them how to break past novice writing and turn their books into the best sellers they can be. Kathryn enjoys traveling across the United States with her beloved husband, Steven, or walking their dog and toddler around the block. Whatever she's doing, she pours the inspiration gained from her travels – short or long – into the books and stories she writes.
Be sure to catch Kathryn online and follow her antics on social media!
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