The Dragon and the Rainbow

Man’s Oldest Story


Modernization and conversion to world religions are threatening the survival of traditional belief systems, leaving behind only mysterious traces of their existence. This book, based upon extensive research conducted over a period of nearly four decades, brings scientific rigor to one of the questions that have always attracted human curiosity: that of the origin of the dragon.
The author demonstrates that both dragons and rainbows are cultural universals, that many of the traits that are attributed to dragons in widely separated parts of the planet are also attributed to rainbows, and that the number and antiquity of such shared traits cannot be attributed to chance or common inheritance, but rather to common cognitive pathways by which human psychology has responded to the natural environment in a wide array of cultures around the world.
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Robert Blust (1940-2022) was a Professor of Linguistics at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He was, and continues to be, the preeminent scholar of Austronesian comparative linguistics. An enormously prolific scholar, Blust had nearly 300 publications. In addition to being a world-famous linguist, he was also an avid writer of poetry.
Preface by the Author
List of Figures and Tables


Prologue: Two Steps from Nature to Culture
 1 From Rainbow to Rainbow Serpent
 2 From Rainbow Serpent to Dragon

Part 1 Dragons

1 What, If Anything, Is a Dragon?

2 Why Dragons? Theories from A to Z
 1 Naturalistic Theories of the Dragon: Cryptozoology
 2 Symbolic Theories of the Dragon
 3 Neo-Lamarckian Theories: The Dragon as Archetype
 4 Diffusionist Theories
 5 Other Theories

3 Dragons and Waterfalls
 1 North America
 2 The Caribbean and South America
 3 Insular Southeast Asia
 4 The Pacific
 5 Africa

4 Dragons and Thunder/Lightning

5 The Ethnology of the Dragon
 1 Central and East Asia
 2 North America and Mexico
 3 The Data

Part 2 Rainbows

6 What, If Anything, Is a Rainbow?
 1 Rainbows: Familiar and Fantastic
 2 Portrayals of the Rainbow
 3 Distributional Summary

7 The Ethnology of the Rainbow
 1 How the Dragon Was Born
 2 Mysteries of the Rainbow
 3 Sunshowers
 4 The Rainbow Taboo

8 A Glimpse of the Glory
 1 Europe
 2 Ancient Near East

Part 3 Summing Up

9 Connecting the Dots

10 Conclusions

Appendix: Ethnic Groups Cited
Blust’s treatment of the ethnology of the rainbow and the demonstration of its relationship to the dragon idea has a global reach and will appeal to a broad audience. Moreover, it is written in prose that makes it accessible to the general reader. It will surely be of great interest to folklorists, mythologists and cultural anthropologists open to addressing culture universals, and likely to generate considerable interest to cognitive scientists, evolutionary psychologists, evolutionary biologists, or anyone interested in the evolution of human cognition.
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