Welcome to Mythsterhood of the Travelling Tales mythology podcast! Join us as we explore the creatures in cultures and religions around the world!
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Welcome to Mythsterhood of the Travelling Tales. Join us as we roar the heavens and swim the seas in search of the spectacular and magical. Like the Hydra of Greek lore, our teeth can raise the dead, bringing lost skeletons back to life for an episode or two. But unlike our three-headed friend, we’re not guarding the door to the underworld. No. We’re blasting it wide open, and asking you to come explore with us.
Jaz: Hi everyone! We’re so excited to welcome you guys to The Mythsterhood of the Travelling Tales. I know, quite a mouthful, right? In the first season of this brand-new podcast about mythology and folklore, we plan to take you on a journey. Around the world in 80 dragons, so to speak. Except we kind of lost count.
Anike: It’s probably less than eighty, but you get the idea. Anyway, mythology nerds that we are, we’re itching to get started. When we talk about we, we mean the Mythsters, of course. That’s me, Anike, a South African arachnophile who writes and illustrates fancies of science fiction, fantasy, and sometimes horror, and my lovely co-host Jaz.
Jaz: That’s me! Jasmine, but you guys can call me Jaz. I’m a writer, poet, narrator, all-around vessel of chaos and crazy dog lady. But we only make up two thirds of the Mythsters. The third, our friend Koji, is a dreamer, a mother, and a writer in that order. While you won’t hear her on the podcast, you can rest assured she is working hard behind the scenes: managing the website and conducting research to bring you interesting tidbits you (hopefully) didn’t know before. And she holds Anike and my leashes.
Anike: Jaz, focus. Dragons, remember? But what exactly is a dragon? You find them in every culture across the globe, though a lot of those cultures haven’t had any sort of cross pollination for a long time. And you get them in all shapes and sizes, too. According to Wikipedia, dragons are large, serpentine creatures of legend, appearing in the folklore of many cultures around the world.
Jaz: But who ever takes Wikipedia’s word for it, right? Let’s keep digging.
Anike: In the Encyclopedia Britannica, dragons are described as legendary monsters, usually large, bat-winged, fire-breathing, scaly lizards or snakes with a barbed tail. They add that in Greece, the word drakōn–which is the etymological base of the English word dragon–was used to refer to any large serpent.
Jaz: Mirriam Webster gives multiple definitions. In the archaic use of the word, dragon appears to mean any huge serpent. Secondly, they refer to a mythical animal usually represented as a monstrous winged and scaly serpent or saurian with a crested head and enormous claws. The third definition, a violent, combative, or very strict person, may apply to me, but it’s not going to do us much good for our current purposes.
Anike: So most of these definitions seem to describe the classical dragon as we see it most often in western mythology. They tend to be described with six limbs: four legs, two wings.
Jaz: Hang on, the ones in Game of Thrones had only four limbs. What are they, then?
Anike: Oooh, right. I’d almost forgotten about those. I suppose they’d classify as wyverns then. A kind of cousin of the dragon, but indeed two-legged. In some depictions, the wing and front limb are fused together like bat wings, as is the case in Game of Thrones. But many cultures don’t even differentiate between the wyvern and the dragon. Then there are wyrms which can have two limbs consisting of a pair of wings, sometimes with claws on the joints much like a bat, or no limbs at all.
Jaz: But I mean, other than the inconsistent number of limbs, that’s still a fairly narrow view of what a dragon is, or can be. Let’s look at some other cultures, shall we?
Anike: I thought you’d never ask, Jaz. Let’s start in China. Because, while we see dragons throughout East Asia, with slight variations geographically, they’re all fairly similar to the Chinese dragon many of us know. First of all, dragons in Chinese folklore and mythology are not the monsters of Western mythology, terrorising towns and devouring helpless virgins.
Jaz: I never did understand the need for virgins. Do you think they taste better?
Anike: Focus, Jaz.
Jaz: YES. Sorry. Anyway. Chinese dragons appear to have physical traits of a number of different animals. Their body is much more snake-like than we’ve seen so far in the Western depictions of dragons. But they have claws like a bird of prey, manes like a lion, and in some images, it looks like they have antlers too?
Anike: Ooh, like the horned serpent we found in North American indigenous culture. A quick google search reports that the Horned Serpent is a type of underwater serpent covered with iridescent, crystalline scales and a single, large crystal in its forehead.
Jaz: Both the scales and crystals were prized for their powers of divination. Ahem, prepare for me butchering the pronunciation here: The horns, called chitto gab-by, were used in medicine.
Anike: Oh man, I can’t wait to dig into that myth. By the way, if anyone out there knows how to pronounce that properly, please let us know! We’d love to learn. So, we’ve discovered all these different forms, and we haven’t even dug into the hybrid dragon-like creatures almost every culture has. Take the Chimera, for example: a lion, with the head of a goat protruding from its back, and a tail supposedly ending in the head of a snake. But, like our classic dragon, it breathed fire. Some would beg the question whether these creatures are in fact dragonfolk.
Jaz: I’d say that counts. I wonder if the heads disagree on what to do, sometimes. I’ve often wondered the same thing about the Hydra of Lerna, or Cerberus. I mean, I have one head, and I can’t even make up my mind sometimes. What if there’s enough to contradict each other? I suppose they could take a vote, or draw straws, but honestly, how these creatures managed to defeat any hero is beyond me.
Anike: Uhm.. Anyway, I think it’s safe to conclude that there’s more than one way to skin a dragon, or rather, classify it.
Jaz: And we would love to invite you on a journey of discovery, as we explore the many ways in which cultures around the world view these fascinating creatures, in the first season of Mythsterhood of the Travelling Tales.
Anike: While we were preparing for season one, we’ve collected and shared lots of dragon-related goodness on our blog, Mythsterhood.com and our social media accounts. We’ve created a few Pinterest boards, showcasing awesomeness like short stories and book recommendations. Go to pinterest.com/mythsters. Join us on Twitter and Instagram, where our username is Mythsterhood. And lastly, don’t forget to subscribe for our newsletter so you don’t miss out on a single thing. Like us discussing with you what hybrid dragon-like creatures could be dragons after all and why.
Jaz: Until next week, see you later, Mythsters!
Music: Wanderer by Alexander Nakarada (www.serpentsoundstudios.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons BY Attribution 4.0 License
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