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There Be Dragons Here

Like many before me, I have always wondered what came first, the chicken or the egg? In terms of my preferred genre of literature, I have always wondered whether or not the fantastical beings of fantasy were the idyllic representations of the wild imagination of certain authors, or whether or not, in fact, they were based on features of antiquity?

I was first introduced to dinosaurs at the age of four. They were my first real passion, at least, from what I can remember. Back in the days of my youth, there were no movies such as Jurassic Park or the like. My parents started me out, as one might expect, on picture books with derivative illustrations based on what palaeontology imagined dinosaurs to have looked like. Ultimately, all they had to go on were fossilised remains – bones in the ground.

By the age of six, I had learned the names of many of my favourite dinosaurs in Latin and had graduated to looking at palaeontological textbooks filled with images of fossils. Naturally, my imagination ran riot trying to picture what these extinct creatures must have looked like. And I wasn't afraid to correct anyone who disagreed with my vision. Not even the curator of the Port Elizabeth Museum of natural history. My six year old self deemed it wholly appropriate to tell her that the Archaeopteryx painted on their wall was not red in plumage, but in fact, green.

As I got older, I was introduced to the myths and fables of many cultures. One particular fanciful creature took my interest, purely because it looks so much like one of the creatures from my dinosaur fascination. Dragons. According to our popular history books, dragons are two distinct cultural traditions: the European Dragon, derived from folklore and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies, and the Chinese Dragon, with counterparts in Japan, Korea and other East Asian countries.