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Mythological Monsters: Did they ever exist?

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Author Topic: Mythological Monsters: Did they ever exist?  (Read 2630 times)
Moira Kelliey
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« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2007, 09:24:39 pm »

Origins

Walter Burkert among others suggests[3]that the archaic groups or societies of lesser gods mirror real cult associations: "it may be surmised that smith guilds lie behind Cabeiri, Idaian Dactyloi, Telchines, and Cyclopes." Given their penchant for blacksmithing, many scholars believe the legend of the Cyclopes' single eye arose from an actual practice of blacksmiths wearing an eyepatch over one eye to prevent flying sparks from blinding them in both eyes. The Cyclopes seen in Homer's Odyssey are of a different type from those in the Theogony; they were most likely much later additions to the pantheon and have no connection to blacksmithing. It is possible that legends associated with Polyphemus did not make him a Cyclops before Homer's Odyssey; Polyphemus may have been some sort of local daemon or monster originally. The Triamantes in Cretan legend have been suggested - they were a rural race of man-eating ogres who had a third eye on the back of their head. Other than the detail of the eyes, they sound very similar to the Cyclopes of Homer.

Another possible origin for the Cyclops legend is that prehistoric dwarf elephant skulls - about twice the size of a human skull were found by the Greeks on Crete and Sicily. Due to the large central nasal cavity (for the trunk) in the skull, it might have been believed that this was a large, single, eye-socket. The smaller, actual, eye-sockets are on the sides and, being very shallow, hardly noticeable as such. Given the paucity of experience that the locals likely had with living elephants, they were unlikely to recognize the skull for what it actually was. [1]

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