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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Last Dragons of Europe Addendum

I did this photo collage to illustrate the sizes of the various creatures called Tatzelwurms. The top photo is a Chinese giant salamander, Ulrich Magin's Tatzelwurm. It is a hefty animal a yard to two yards long and most often seen near streams or lakes: it is more commonly reported as a"Lake Monster" in the Celtic Countries (as an "Alligator"), Poland and the Baltic Countries (under many local "Small-Dragon" names), and in Russia ("Pskov Crocodiles"). In Central Europe, reports of it are confused with two terrestrial animals, the Cryptid European Worm Lizard (showing the Mexican bipes species) and mangy mammal "Chupacabras", here illustrating a hairless fox: either of the latter two can be described as about a yard long. Foxes are great leapers and can jump six-foot-tall fences, and mangy foxes account for most of the oddball Tatzelwurm traits that fall outside of the two-legged/four-legged controversy.

While we are on the subject of "Chupacabras", I find that the Aztec conventionalized design for a lizard, Cuetzpalin, also corresponds to the "Reptile" Chupacabras from Central America and to the depictions I cited earlier as its folkloric fore-runner before the more recent worldwide "Chupacabras" flap. And I reiterate that "Chupacabras" was originally one form of the "Milk Snake" myth, which is also known to attach to lizards as well as snakes, and that the "Goat suckers" were originally thought to suck the milk out of goats, not blood: the vampyric aspects of the myth come from other sources and attached on to an originally less sensational story.

Best Wishes, Dale D.
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1 comment:

  1. From a 2000 posting on the web:
    "There's a goat-sucker which is living and real; like the mardkhora, it lives in Persia, near Baghdad in fact. It is the varanus lizard, a living species. It has the appearance of a Rhinegold dragon, being about three feet long with the body and tail of a lizard, a flattish head, a thin forked tongue and a loud hiss. The local name for it was buz majjeh, or 'goat-sucker'. Freya Stark, who lived in Iraq in the 1920's, writes of traveling near Baghdad, in a derelict local taxi; in the desert, she writes, there were dozens of huge and clumsy lizards whom her taxi-driver enjoyed running over. When she tried to discourage him, he said the lizards crept up on flocks of sheep from behind, and sucked the udders of the ewes without their noticing. Nor was this a joke played on Freya, because British students collecting field specimens in Iraq in the nineteen-sixties described the very same lizard and heard the very same story...
    The idea of the goat-sucker is now in Iraqi folklore; it is in American Indian folklore; it is in modern American mythology. I think it went from Persia to Arabia via the Muslims, and from Arabia to southern Spain. The island of Puerto Rica was settled by immigrants from southern Spain. The Iraqi legend of the monster that crept up on goats and sucked their milk, appeared in new clothes in the New World; it may have collided with the idea of the mantequero, the monster which sprang on travelers and sucked their blood or fat; it may have collided with the idea of the goat-sucker bird. Or perhaps the goat-sucker bird is descended from the goat-sucker lizard; who knows?"

    -This is a variation on the "Milksnake" story which goes back to Roman times. And the Varanus lizard is measured snout-to-vent: three feet does not count the tail. And not only monitor lizards are blamed for sucking the milk from goats: skinks, geckoes, iguanas and Lacerta lizards are libelled with the same myth in other places. In this case we can say that the documentary evidence shows that "Chupacabras" was a dragon lizard living near Baghdad in the 1920s and the 1960s, and an iguana lizard living in the US Southwest and Mexico in the 1970s and 1980s as an "Animal mutilations scapegoat" immediately prior to its transmogrification into a modern mythical monster.


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