Dragon Legends and Dinosaurs
What place do dragon legends have in a discussion about dinosaurs?
If dinosaurs and humans once walked the Earth together (as the Bible implicitly teaches—cf. Exodus 20:11), it is reasonable to conclude that humans would have left behind at least two different types of evidence. First, similar to how we take pictures of places we visit and wildlife we see in modern times, those living in previous centuries or millennia would likely have drawn or carved pictures of dinosaurs, as well as many other animals. (Indeed, the evidence indicates such artwork was left behind; see Lyons and Butt, 2005). Second, just as we tell stories today of things that we have seen and heard, ancient peoples would also have told stories about dinosaurs, if they ever encountered these creatures. Do such stories exist? They certainly do.
A wide variety of stories of reptiles have been passed down from cultures all over the world (see Shuker, 1995, pp. 6-7). Many of these creatures sound very much like dinosaurs, or dinosaur-like (marine or flying) reptiles. However, they are not called dinosaurs in these stories, but “dragons.” Since the term “dinosaur” (from the Greek words deinos, meaning “fearfully great,” and sauros, meaning “lizard” or “reptile”) was not coined until the early 1840s, stories told previously of “fearfully great reptiles” would not have included the word dinosaur. Instead, the name attached to these creatures was “dragon.”
Have some elements of “dragon legends” been embellished over time? Of course. But, such inaccuracies do not negate the overall truth that reptiles of many different shapes and sizes once lived with humans—no more than the differences in worldwide flood legends mean we must discount the idea of a worldwide flood (see Lyons and Butt, 2003).
What rational explanation exists for the hundreds of dragon legends around the world? Although such stories are not the most powerful proof for the one-time coexistence of dinosaurs and humans, they still testify loudly to the fact that dinosaurs and humans once lived together.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2003), “Legends of the Flood,” Reason & Revelation, 23:102-103, November.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005), “Our Trip Out West—To See the ‘Dinosaurs’,” Reason & Revelation, 4:9-R-11-R, March.
Shuker, Karl (1995), Dragons: A Natural History (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster).