In honor of the occasion, tonight’s post is inspired by, (and using phrases borrowed from) Charles Gould’s 1886 Text, Mythical Monsters, available on The Public Domain Review, which is a treasure trove of brilliant curation thatI have been visiting with interest in recent months.
Consider the mythical animals, refracted through the mists of time. Follow for a certain distance, the homes and origins of their stories, the unwritten Natural History of terrible creatures once co-existing with humans. Let’s examine.
The dragon came from wonder at lightning, flashing through the caverns. It devastated, on occasion, herds and shepherds. Consider the unicorn, the sea serpent. Suppose the palsy of time warps the tales, now unrecognizable: the Nemean lion, Lernaean hydra, the minotaur.
The first reports of the bird-eating spider were maligned as heresy, only to be confirmed, centuries later. Consider Pliny’s messenger pigeon’s Swift’s Lilliputians, the paleontologist’s pterodactyl, archaeopteryx. Consider, of the beasts that seem fanciful, whether their traits are so different from known types.
For the dragon, while sacred, has within himself something of the divine nature of which it is better to remain in ignorance. It would show itself sometime, only partially from the mouth of a cave, its gleaming eyes precisely the size of an enemy’s shield.