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View Full Version : Do some mythical creatures have a basis in fact?



Sticks
2005-Jan-01, 05:55 PM
Last night during a New Years Eve game a "pet rock" was mentioned.

I thought this was a reference to the mythical creature of the Roc (http://www.whom.co.uk/squelch/creatures_legend.htm)

It was a reference though to a piece of stone #-o

It got me wondering if the original legendary creature was actually based on a real raptor.

What is the Biggest Eagle?

I also wondered if some of the other mythical beasts could be explained as mis-identification of known animals.

:-?

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Jan-01, 06:11 PM
I seem to recall that elephant skulls were misinterpreted by the Greeks as Cyclops skulls. Not hard to imagine:

http://www.african-hunter.com/elephant_skull_front_01_p8p.jpg

Staiduk
2005-Jan-01, 06:17 PM
The largest eagle is the Harpy eagle - around 3 ft. tall with a 6-7 ft. wingspan.

Here's a shot:
http://www.belizezoo.org/grc/zoo/birds/harpy/harpy.jpg

As for the rest:
You must be younger - the Pet Rock was all the rage in the '70's! Another example of why the '70's were the start of the decline of Western civilization. ;)

Legendary creatures are often mis-identified real creatures; but more often than nought were born out of the vivid imagination of explorers trying to understand the new worlds they found themselves in.
Case in point: the cyclops. One-eyed giants. No one-eyed giants have been found of course; so how could such an absurd idea start? The legend likely stems from the original finding of elephant skulls. If you've never seen one; an elephant skull has a huge nasal opening right in front; where you'd expect a Human eye to be. It didn't take much imagination for said ancient explorer to dream up a giant with a huge single eye based on the physical evedence at hand.
Here; judge for yourself: If you suddenly found this:
http://www.calacademy.org/enews/images/elephant_skull.jpg
what would you make of it? :)

Fun topic - thanks for starting it. :)

Staiduk
2005-Jan-01, 06:18 PM
LOL Supreme! Small minds think alike!! :D :D :D

EDIT: I'm probably wrong about this; checking now, but I seem to remember the 'Roc' was born from discoverers first seeing an ostritch, and thinking 'if the chicks are that big, the parent bird must be huge!!!'. :D

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Jan-01, 06:19 PM
Hey, they must! :)

Added:

Ooh! Got another one! I read somewhere that the Sumerians (?) mistook triceratops skeletons for griffins:

http://www.sdgs.usd.edu/Web2/triceratops.gif

Staiduk
2005-Jan-01, 06:35 PM
Oops; look like I was wrong - the most likely candidate for the origin of the Roc legend is Aepyornis Maximus - the 'Elephant Bird' of Madagascar. Another flightless bird like the Ostritch; this one was a real whopper - heavyset; three meters tall and weighing nearly half a ton. It went extinct in the 1700's
http://www.newhumanist.org.uk/images/0409/dawkinsweb.jpg

Unlike the Roc; it was vegetarian which - judging by that huge skeleton - was probably a good thing. ;)

EDIT: Holy smokes; could you imagine the drumsticks on that thing! Thanksgiving would certainly be a lot more interesting.... ;D

Sticks
2005-Jan-01, 06:46 PM
EDIT: Holy smokes; could you imagine the drumsticks on that thing! Thanksgiving would certainly be a lot more interesting.... ;D

But would you be able to catch one :)

I remember once hearing of a South American lake that had a similar monster legend to that of Loch Ness. Eventually they found it was a giant Sturgeon.

Anyone got something on that one?

I do wonder if Nessy is really something like a stray seal or sealion, as Loch Ness is part of the Caledonian Cannal

As for the elephant bird, as Morco Polo thought the Roc was from Madagasca, that would kind of fit.

Where is the Harpy Eagle located ?

Staiduk
2005-Jan-01, 06:49 PM
The Harpy Eagle is found in South/Central America; indegenous to the rainforests - the reason for its relatively short wingspan. It's built more for quickness and manoeuverability; rather than for gliding and blistering powerdives like open-air eagles.

archman
2005-Jan-01, 09:41 PM
I also wondered if some of the other mythical beasts could be explained as mis-identification of known animals.


Unicorns come from oryx, looking at the animals in side view.

Mermaids came from "optimistic" sailors looking at manatees and dugongs.

Popular sea monsters illustrated on old nautical charts eerily resemble oarfishes.

Kracken (one variant)... giant squid.

Bigfoot/Sasquatch/hairy prehistoric man variants... often bears or large apes.

Donnie B.
2005-Jan-02, 12:54 AM
I've heard a theory that Centaurs had their origins when people who had not domesticated horses first saw mounted riders.

Brady Yoon
2005-Jan-02, 01:02 AM
Sasquatch and Bigfoot may be descendents of a primate that branched off millions of years ago to also create humans, but this is a remote possibility. But still, with all of those sightings, who knows.

Gullible Jones
2005-Jan-02, 01:11 AM
Bigfoot is a confirmed hoax.

Ut
2005-Jan-02, 01:53 AM
There's one person I know of who has admitted to faking Bigfoot sightings and evidence. He's dead now. He also never lived in BC, so there's no way he can account for every sighting.

There has been a confirmed hoaxer. That doesn't make it a confirmed hoax.

Gullible Jones
2005-Jan-02, 02:04 AM
Ahh... I stand corrected.

(BC as in British Columbia? :-? )

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Jan-02, 02:06 AM
Yep. That's where the Sasquatch live. :)

archman
2005-Jan-02, 02:32 AM
I've heard a theory that Centaurs had their origins when people who had not domesticated horses first saw mounted riders.

When the spanish first showed up in central america riding their horseys, the indians intially thought they were freakish half-human monsters. Same thing like centaurs I suppose... myths like that can't last long once the riders are seen dismounting.

Gullible Jones
2005-Jan-02, 03:18 AM
I said "Bigfoot"... The Sasquatch is supposedly a different entity IIRC. But yes, you do have a point.

Staiduk
2005-Jan-02, 03:18 AM
Hey now; just for everyone's info, Sasquatch are real; and I should know....

My ex married one. ;)

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Jan-02, 03:27 AM
Zing!

:P

hewhocaves
2005-Jan-02, 03:47 AM
Weren't dino skeletons the basis for lots of dragon myths?

And on that topic, I seem to recall a book about Roman 'paleontology'. Specifically, what they tried to figure out these things were.

John

edited to add:

http://www.isgs.uiuc.edu/faq/dino-faqs/pdq234.html

seems to be a fairly good site (i didn't read through it all). enjoy.

Staiduk
2005-Jan-02, 04:36 AM
Mermaids came from "optimistic" sailors looking at manatees and dugongs.


Hee hee - they'd have to be seriously optimistic - or drunk - to mistake a manatee for Daryl Hannah though.
"Beer goggles" are bad enough - "Grog goggles" must be killers! :D :D

Tobin Dax
2005-Jan-02, 07:15 AM
Unicorns come from oryx, looking at the animals in side view.

I thought that unicorns, or at least their horns, come from findings of Narwhal (sp?) horns.

gzhpcu
2005-Jan-02, 07:45 AM
Anybody have an idea where the dragon myth comes from? Pretty widespread, from St. George and the dragon all the way to China...

Sticks
2005-Jan-02, 08:05 AM
I remember reading in one of my books in my library that there was a cave painting of stoneage men fighting an upright dinosaur, like a T-Rex or an Allosaurus

I also remember reading that the stories of dragons was some kind of evidence that contrary to established belief, man did live at the same time as dinosaurs.

However either way - Skeleton of an extinct dinosaur or a living specimen - where did the fire breathing come from. What advantage in the wild would that convey?

I thought it was only us humans who preferred their meat char grilled :D

ocasey3
2005-Jan-02, 01:24 PM
I remember something about comets and fire-breathing dragons being associated.

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Jan-02, 05:10 PM
Unicorns come from oryx, looking at the animals in side view.

I thought that unicorns, or at least their horns, come from findings of Narwhal (sp?) horns.

Yes, or rhinoceroses, apparently.

sarongsong
2005-May-04, 03:32 AM
Tue 05.03 (http://www.coasttocoastam.com/):
"Bigfoot Roundtable---Researcher Loren Coleman and expedition leader Tom Biscardi will discuss the elusive creature known as Bigfoot. They will be joined by...eagerly awaited Canadian video footage of a Bigfoot will make its debut on the syndicated program, A Current Affair on its Wed. (May 4th) program. Reportedly, A Current Affair will then post the footage on their website on Thursday..."

Lianachan
2005-May-04, 09:05 AM
I do wonder if Nessy is really something like a stray seal or sealion, as Loch Ness is part of the Caledonian Cannal

I know Loch Ness extremely well, having lived near it for large portions of my life and having spent a lot of time on it and by it. A previous employer of mine, as it happens, was also heavily involved in one of the more serious and scientific investigations.

In my opinion, "Nessie" is actually a misidentification of a number of different things - sinking logs, unusual waves, etc..

Seals have indeed been spotted and photgraphed in the Loch, and doubtlessly they also contribute to the sightings of Nessie.

Melusine
2005-May-04, 12:40 PM
Archman pointed out that many of the legends of sea monsters are based on misperceptions of logs, masses of seaweed (the giant squid, which is real, but can hardly snatch a sailor from the masts of ships, big, but not that big), basking sharks, manatees, etc.

The sturgeon was noted and drawn by the famous Guillaume Rondelet, a French naturalist whose drawings appeared in L'Histoire entiere des poissons, published in 1558. (http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/2735505014/171-5004586-1498650) His drawing of the sea bishop and the sea monk resembled the sturgeon's scaly armor. Naturalists and scientists at the time believed that land animals had a sea counterpart; this was based on knowing of sea mammals, such as the whale, dolphin, seals, et al. So, in the Middle Ages they helped create these myths by imagining that there would be these counterparts to the horse, cow, lions, etc. hence, sea lions, sea cows (manatees), and such.

Rondolet drew the sea bishop and his pal the sea monk. See picture on book title:
http://www.cths.fr/FICHES/Fiches_Edition/f_5/COUVS/I_510.jpg
The middle picture is of the sea bishop, who has the body of scales, a fish tail, most possibly based on the sturgeon's scales. The sturgeon is "a living fossil."

The Kraken was drawn by a "Swiss artist who had never even seen the sea, and it had a body of a catfish, legs like an alligator, and tentacles resembling ribbons." (Jaques Cousteau quote)

Much of the myths of monsters were exacerbated by Greek mythology, for sure, as noted in this thread. The Odyssey speaks much of these creatures, and so they carried on into the Middle Ages and beyond.
This site (http://lair2000.net/Mermaids_Retreat/Mermaids_Retreat.html#table) is a bit goofy, but they did their homework on the myths and there are some interesting pictures and info about mermaids, as well as some other legendary monsters. It's a fascinating subject, and Jaques Cousteau wrote much on the legends, such as why fish have gills, why the Greeks thought dolphins were humans first, and so on. In understanding myths, it definitely helps the understanding of man's faulty nature to fill in the blanks when knowledge isn't apparent.

01101001
2005-May-04, 11:28 PM
Tue 05.03 (http://www.coasttocoastam.com/): Bigfoot Roundtable
The highlight of that show was when a caller claimed that she done psychic communication with bigfoots. She read a message received during one session.

So, now we know bigfoot must exist.

I have to wonder why she didn't ask her bigfoot friends about the existence of space aliens -- to score a woo-woo trifecta.

sarongsong
2005-May-11, 04:48 PM
"A group of English scientists are combing the Gobi Desert in search of the legendary Mongolian Death Worm, also known as the Allghoi khorkhoi. Nomads in the area claim that the Death Worm can spit yellow saliva that works like powerful acid, and that it generates electrical discharges powerful enough to kill a camel..."
http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/?id=4596

rleyland
2005-May-11, 05:31 PM
"A group of English scientists are combing the Gobi Desert in search of the legendary Mongolian Death Worm, also known as the Allghoi khorkhoi. Nomads in the area claim that the Death Worm can spit yellow saliva that works like powerful acid, and that it generates electrical discharges powerful enough to kill a camel..."
http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/?id=4596


"Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun." --Noel Coward


http://www.sabrizain.demon.co.uk/malaya/coward.htm

Evan
2005-May-11, 06:44 PM
Sorry, no bigfoot.


The best argument that Bigfoot does not exist is based on a concept in genetics known as Minimum Viable Population (MVP). In order to have a viable long term population a certain number of breeding adults are required in order to prevent serious genetic drift from inbreeding. Inbreeding results in the expression of undesirable and ultimately deadly genetic flaws. It is generally accepted by geneticists (and confirmed by studies) the the MVP for large mammals is around 300 to 500 breeding individuals that are able to choose mates from the entire breeding population.

This implies a total population of at least 1000 to 2000 individuals when non breeding members of the population are counted, including the young and the elderly.

So, for Bigfoot to exist in the Pacific Northwest of North America there must be a population of at least a thousand such individuals. For Bigfoot to exist across North America the population would need to be in the tens of thousands in order to provide sufficient genetic diversity for local populations. This is clearly ludicrous and is not the case.


A smaller North American population just meeting the MVP criteria would require members of the population to make long cross country journeys in order to find mates not directly related to the local population members. Such journeys would require crossing the Rocky Mountains in order to satisfy the recent sighting reports. It would also require crossing wide open plains without being detected.

Even if Bigfoot was limited to just the Pacific Northwest the idea that a population of a 1000 individuals could live without leaving clear physical evidence such as remains is simply impossible. Also, the general environmental impact would be noticable.

Of course, then you must explain this:

http://vts.bc.ca/pics/bones.jpg

:D :D

Gillianren
2005-May-11, 08:09 PM
I could explain it! yay, Snopes!

sarongsong
2005-May-12, 12:43 AM
Ha, ha---from ToSeek's find (howstuffworks); How Bigfoot Works (http://science.howstuffworks.com/bigfoot1.htm)

Trebuchet
2005-May-13, 07:19 PM
One of the best arguments I've heard against the existence of Sasquatch/Bigfoot came from a former co-worker who majored in biology before going into engineering. The food supply in the Northwest woods is simply not going to sustain such a creature in the winter. The only primate more-or-less native to the area is homo sapiens, which has the ability to use tools to hunt and catch salmon. The only other critter with similar dietary needs is the bear. There's a good reason they hibernate in the winter.

Superluminal
2005-May-13, 08:32 PM
I recently read a report on an expedition led by Texas Bigfoot Research Org. or something like that. The expedition was in a national forest in east Texas. Two members of the expedition were admited skeptics, a female reporter from a local newspaper and her photographer. One night, while the two were driving from one research area to another, guess what? A bigfoot lumbered across the gravel road in front of their car, scaring the bejesus out of the poor reporter :o

Having lived near an area famous for bf sightings, (if you ever have seen the movie "Legend of Boggy Creek" you'll know what I'm talking about.) I've heard many stories of people dressing up in bf costumes and scaring people. So, on an expedition to find bf, the only sighting is made by the only two skeptics. Makes one wonder if it could have been staged? :-k

Gillianren
2005-May-13, 09:28 PM
actually, while I haven't seen Legend of Boggy Creek, I've seen the sequel.

. . . on MST3K.

this is not usually my primary reference.

electromagneticpulse
2005-May-13, 09:43 PM
I highly doubt Bigfoot or sasquatch, to me it just sounds like typical human exaggeration. If anyone here in the UK saw the channel 4 program (IIRC) on human mutants, they could explain a lot of the humanoid myths. There's a family in Mexico who all have a condition where all their hair follicles grow thick and the one interviewed had the nickname of "chewy" and apparently this condition has been of interest for a long time as families with the condition were invited to palaces to live.

Similarly there has been a Cyclops in human history; they have his head in a brine jar IIRC. He had a deficiency in a chemical where his face didn't form right he had one eye and one nostril and the sides of his face protruded kind of strange. Also the exact opposite an excess in a pig produced one with one body and two heads, the same has happened in a cow IIRC. I can't find where I read it but supposedly there was someone born with only one eye without any facial mess up and presumed genetic but I can't find it and its annoying me now :evil:

Personally I think Bigfoot could be a 6 foot tall hairy bloke who lived in the woods because he couldn't live with a bunch of prejudice people... sorry the human race I meant there. Something we don't understand we tend to pull out the good ol' rifle and blow it to pieces until someone figures it out or object.

frenat
2005-May-13, 11:01 PM
At least one two headed cow was stuffed and is currently on display at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, OH.

electromagneticpulse
2005-May-13, 11:15 PM
Wasn't the hydra a three headed giant lizard thing and this could have maybe come from the same condition just in an extreme overdrive and lead to the myths. We know some lizards can grow back limbs when they’re lost, I’m not suggesting they can grow back heads (maybe they could) but that this could easily lead to folk tales about it. It only takes one link between a three headed beast and limbs growing back before you’ve got monsters that grow their heads back when chopped off and a few more generations down the line ones that sprout multiple heads when one’s severed.

Parrothead
2005-May-13, 11:34 PM
Sorry, no bigfoot.


...

Of course, then you must explain this:

http://vts.bc.ca/pics/bones.jpg

:D :D

It's Kalevipoeg (http://haldjas.folklore.ee/folklore/vol15/human.htm)! :wink:

sarongsong
2005-May-14, 12:52 AM
Airborne snakes (http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/050512_flying_snakes.html), anyone?

Jorge
2005-May-14, 10:26 PM
bigfoot is just a wookie (http://www.starwars.com/databank/species/wookiee/) that got lost, he'll be home by now