Mythical Creatures: Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained by Linda S. Godfrey (author), Rosemary Ellen Guiley (consulting

By Linda S. Godfrey (author), Rosemary Ellen Guiley (consulting editor)

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Still, the fact that dragons were included in his well-respected encyclopedia of nature convinced many readers of the creatures’ reality for centuries. J I 62 MYTHICAL CREATURES Some ancient saurians still live, however. The Komodo dragon, a lizard named after the Indonesian island where Westerners first learned of it in 1912, is the living creature that most closely resembles a traditional dragon. These carnivorous monsters may grow to more than 12 feet in length, and can eat large mammals such as goats.

Well into the twenty-first century, people still claimed to encounter the creature in the Pine Barrens. In the spring of 2007, a pair of campers in Sussex County reported they were followed by a tall, black figure whose Fabled Flyers 41 basilisks was to carry a weasel, the only animal immune to the basilisk’s deadly powers. Today, the creature’s name has reverted to reptile status. The basilisk of the natural world is a mild-mannered South American lizard, no more than two and one-half feet long.

Author Peter Costello believes that human craft may have played a role equal to that of nature in reinforcing the idea of dragons. From the early to late Middle Ages, he says in The Magic Zoo,10 the custom of using giant, fluttering windsock dragons as battlefield banners spread from Asia to Europe. Each banner held a flaming torch to present the daunting illusion of a flying, fire-breathing dragon, and may have helped turn the tide of many medieval battles. At night, in the heat of battle, the billowing figures may have appeared real, and those who lived to tell the tale probably swore they battled dragons.

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