Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then we’ll begin.
In today’s lesson we’ll be discussing a wondrous book from the fine folks at Answers in Genesis. It’s Dragons: Legends & Lore of Dinosaurs, by Bodie Hodge, son-in-law of Ken Ham, and Laura Welch, with illustrations by Bill Looney, published by Master Books in the year of our Lord, 2011. Actually, now that I look more closely, I see that it wasn’t written by Hodge and Welch. Indeed, it wasn’t written at all. Rather, it was “compiled and edited” by Hodge and Welch. Was it divinely inspired? Divinely regurgitated? Just plain regurgitated from Answers in Genesis? It certainly wasn’t intelligently designed.
Actually, that’s a bit unfair: the illustrations are impressive, and there are many foldouts, little booklets and envelopes and Advent calendar-like windows to open. It looks like a fun kids’ book, like Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons or The Dinosaur Museum: An Unforgettable, Interactive Virtual Tour through Dinosaur History. The only minor problem with Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs is its content.
Here is the basic argument, as I understand it: many cultures have dragon stories; therefore, there must be some truth in these stories. Many depictions and descriptions of dragons more or less resemble various dinosaurs. Sort of. Except for the bits that don’t really fit, but those can be dismissed. Thus, evolution is wrong.
It’s outrageous that impressionable children should be exposed to such drivel. The appalling grammar could have a devastating effect on them.
Oh, the science is kind of weak, too. And the history. And the authors’ grasp on mythology, folklore, theology, logic and literature is pretty shaky. But, my God, the grammar! I mean, how hard is it to write coherent, grammatically correct sentences in a 24-page picture book (and page 1 is the publication/copyright page)? If I were to share every inelegant sentence, I’d have to re-type the whole book, and that would be a violation of copyright. Also, I suspect my brain would try to escape. So, I’ll only be able to give you a brief sampling.
The authors preface their work by advising readers to
Begin at the place where truth has been shrouded by blind science and fact has been silenced for foolish mysticism and magic. Equip yourself with faith as your shield and logic as your sword. (p. 2)
Damn you, truth-shrouding blind science! Fortunately, the authors’ shield is strong. Their sword, however, is a limp clump of rusted metal. They note that there are many variations in the stories of dragons:
The challenges in deciphering these encounters is [sic] to separate possible fact from obvious fiction, taking into account clues found in the original translations of these events. (p. 2)
Another challenge are to make your subject and verb agree. But, as they say, it is always very important to go back to “original translations.” And what will you find in these works?
…terrifying creatures [that] were give [sic] names like Abraxas, Fafnir, Grendel, Brinsop, and Manasa. (p. 2)
Yes, they said “Grendel.” Yes, Grendel from Beowulf. Yes, they said that he’s a dragon. Indeed, in an insert dedicated to Beowulf, they say,
An ancient Anglo-Saxon account of the heroic Beowulf has him slaying fierce dragons that are plaguing the King of Dane [sic]. One dragon was named Grendel, and Beowulf kills both Grendel and its mother, another dragon. (p. 19)
Young Earth Creationists have an infuriating interest in Beowulf, but that’s a rant for another time and place. For now, I’ll just offer this:
Lo, we have heard in the days of yore of the folly of the Creationists, of the book-believers, how they made Grendel, man-shaped destroyer of the Danes, into a dragon, a dinosaur of old. That was bad scholarship.–from the Original Translation
Another place where we can find dragons is the flag of Wales. The red dragon (depicted on the flag) fought an invading white dragon:
Fearing destruction would continue, the dragons were tricked and captured while they slept, then imprisoned beneath the earth for centuries. (Insert p. 4)
Dear Mr. Hodge and Ms. Welch: It is not necessary to dangle every participle. Yours very sincerely, The English language.
There are also dragons in Peru:
Whether the ancient Nasca, Moche, or later Incan nation, Peru is known for dragons and many other pieces of art that illuminate dragons. (p. 5)
That sentence is so pain-inducing, I don’t even know what to say about it. But never mind, to illustrate their point, the authors include pictures from “a couple of authentic Peruvian replicas.” Just in case you thought “original translations” was an anomaly, they offer up “authentic replicas.” In YEC world, up is down, translations are originals, replicas are authentic, and science works to obscure truth.
In a helpful, educational section, the authors provide the names used for dragons in various languages, including…wait for it…
Austrian! AUSTRIAN! And no, in case you’re wondering, German is not mentioned.
I could go on, but I’m getting dizzy and queasy. The most terrifying thing about the book is the overwhelmingly positive customer reviews on Amazon. This one is typical:
This is actually a very interesting and fun to read book. despite the biased opinions of those who cling desperatley to their faith in evolution this book was not written by “nuts” but rather studied professors and scientists who have spent years reaserching the topic. I found the book was interesting however not for my younger son of two years but my older son of 4 found it fasinating. And it will not lead to an incorrect conception of science but a more wide view of human history and maybe even a greater imagination. This is a fantastic book. I highly recomend it. It even surprised me how big it was. I was expecting something a bit smaller but it turned out to be a much bigger book with very big nicely drawn pictures.
I don’t know where the author got the idea that Hodge and Welch are “studied professors and scientists,” but I can understand why he or she was impressed with the quality of the book’s writing.
To end on a more cheerful note, here is an actual genius’s take on the evolution of the dragon:
Take notes, Answers in Genesis. This is what happens when you homeschool and self-publish.
Nice take down, there.
I’m always trying to improve my grammar, so would you mind explaining what a dangling participle is, please?
Dangling participles are a type of misplaced modifier. In the sentence I quoted, it sounds as if it is the dragons who fear the destruction will continue. Dangling/misplaced modifiers are common mistakes. Usually the intended meaning is clear, but sometimes the resulting sentence can be unclear or unintentionally funny. The dragon book contains several misplaced modifiers within 25 pages (please, please don’t make me read it again to find the others).
Thank you for the explanation, Eve; much appreciated.
Don’t worry, there’s no need to read any of it again. Well, not on my account, anyway.
Cheers for now,
Well although I agree that from the samples you given that the grammar in this “book” is appalllng. I’m not going to be too hard on them given my own psychotic grammar and spelling. Cripples don’t mock cripples.
However given that they are part of a wealthy organization that has abundant resources; why in God’s name could they not afford a editor or a spell and grammar check computer program?
I shudder at the thought they did have an editor.
I also note that the authors, given the contents of the book, have some of the most unfortunate last names. For example, “Ham”, “Welch” and my favorite “Looney”. All, given the book, appropriate.
I could now give one of my long winded posts but this time i will show mercy and mention only a few interesting things about Dragon lore.
– Dragon lore goes back a long way. The Sumerian story of Bilgames and Huwawa dates from before 2000 B.C.E. This story was later incorperated into the Epic of Gilgamesh.
– Dragons are a very common Human mythical archtype. Myths about dragons are common world wide to such an extent that “recent” diffusion of the myth seems to be very unlikely.
– Dragons are ussually considered evil in human myth. The examples are the Egyptian flying serpent that tries to destroy Ra, the Sun, during the night and the Dragon gaurding his stolen treasure and eating fair maidens.
– For reasons that are obscure, i.e., unknown, East Asian, more specifically Chinese, lore about Dragons pictures them has benevolent. Bad tempered, easily angered but also quick to forgive. In modern day fantasy the good or benevolent dragon is basically a version of the Chinese dragon which also traditionally does not have wings. In China the 5 fingered Dragon was a item of decoration reserved for the Emperor.
– Few traditional Dragon myths give the sex of the Dragon.
As I mentioned, one of the major arguments dino/dragon creationists make is, “There are dragons in every culture.” It would be more accurate to say, “There are creatures in many cultures to which we have applied the label ‘dragon.'” Eastern and western “dragons” probably have separate cultural evolutions: though they may have influenced each other, eastern and western dragons are different critters. I would assume that Native American flying serpents have their own evolution as well.
Even if we just look at the western dragon, it has changed over the years and from culture to culture. If I recall correctly, it probably began as some sort of sea-serpent. In some works, dragons are just really big snakes. The Hebrew we translate as “dragon” is “tanniyn” which is associated with the sea. In some contexts it is translated as “sea-serpent” or “whale.” Dragons only later sprouted wings, legs (sometimes 2, sometimes 4) and fire-breathing apparatus later.
Your right, it does appear that “Dragons”, (I should Have put the word in quotation marks), were originally at least in the western tradition from Sumeria onwords associated with the sea or water. I’m not sure were fire breathing came from but the monster Huwawa in the original Sumerian story of Bilgames (In Akkadian Gilgamesh) breathed fire.
The Mesoamerican legend of Quetzalcoatl and religious traditions associate him with the sky and of course Quetzalcoatl is a feathered, flying serpent who does not breath fire or has wings. Interestingly although the serpent / “Dragon” does exist among the Andean cultures of South America the image is a good deal less important. The Maya combined aspects of the Serpent with that of a poisonous centipede.
Among the Chinese the Dragon was apparantly from the begining associated with the sky and was associated with the Chinese Kings relationship with Tien (Heaven), and were a royal symbol.
Dear me I forgot to mention two other tidbits.
– Tiamat and her consort Kirgu who are derstroyed in the Babylonian Epic of Creation are Dragons.
– Leviathan from the Bible is also apparantly like Tiamat and Kirgu a Dragon of creation.
I should have mentioned that a main part of the book’s argument is “Well, the Bible says there are dragons, so there must be dragons.” They drag out both Leviathan and Behemoth.
Poor Bel Marduk and Tiamat get very short shrift, by which I mean, they are not mentioned at all (as far as I can recall). In a section called “Legends from around the Globe,” in the Babylon envelope, one can read the story of Daniel and the Dragon. The authors do not mention how similar this story is to the older story of Marduk and Tiamat. Tiamat isn’t even on the “Dragon Timeline” (which begins at 2350 BC with “Flood and burial of a number of dinosaurs”–though elsewhere the authors mention that there were indeed dinos on the ark). The Daniel story is there at 550 BC. I suppose one wouldn’t want to suggest that a biblical story (even an apocryphal one) was borrowed from an earlier religion.
I should note that it appears that the name Tiamat may mean salt water, (I’ve also heard of it being tranlated as the deep), and her consorts name Kirgu may mean fresh water. So that the association of “Dragons” with water/ sea began rather early in the western tradition. It appears that in the ancient Babylonian tale Marduk subdues the chaotic forces of the chaotic waters (Tiamat + Kirgu) to create the Universe and dry land. I should note here there seem to be echos of a myth similar to this in the Bible concerning God fighting Leviathan / Behemoth. The verse that has the phrase ” the spirit of God was moving over the water.” (Genesis, ch.1, v.2) , may contain an echo of the story of Tiamat / Marduk. The word in Hebrew translated as “the water”, or “the deep”, bears a striking similarity to Tiamat.
My nerd spidey-sense is tingling! O heavens to Betsy don’t stop…
[…] because Isaacs employs a bombastic rhetorical style that, if anything, is even more painful than Bodie Hodge’s semi-literate ramblings. An example: From this summit ["the Mount of Dragons"], I cannot recant the truth of dragons in the […]