The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Selected & Edited By Andrew Lang
Published By Longmans, Green, And Co London, Circa 1899

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Children who read this book will perhaps ask whether all the stories are true ? Now all the stories are not true ; at least, we never meet the Phoenix now in any known part of the world. To be sure, there are other creatures, such as the Mastodon and the Pterodactyl, which are not found alive anywhere, but their bones remain, turned into stones or fossils. It is unlikely that they were changed into rocks by a witch, or by Perseus with the Gorgon's Head, in the Greek story. It must have been done in some other way. However, the bones, now stones, show that there were plenty of queer beasts that have died out. Possibly the sight of the stone beasts and birds made people believe, long ago, in such creatures as Dragons, and the water-bulls that haunt the lochs in the Highlands. One of these was seen by a shepherd about eighty years since, and an account of it was sent to Sir "Walter Scott. There is also the Bunyip, a strange creature which both white and black men say that thev have seen in the lakes of Australia. Then there is the Sea Serpent; many people have seen him alive, but no specimen of a dead Sea Serpent is in any of the museums. About 1,300 years ago, more or less, St. Columba saw a great water-beast, which lived in the river Ness, and roared as it pursued men ; but the Saint put an end to its adventures. For my part, I do not disbelieve that there may be plenty of strange animals which scientific men have not yet dissected and named by long names. Some of the last of these may have been remembered and called Dragons. For, if there were never any Dragons, why did all sorts of nations tell stories about them ? The Fire Drake, however, also the Ice Beast, or Remora, do seem very unlikely creatures, and perhaps they are only a sort of poetical inventions. The stories about these unscientific animals are told by Mr. H. S. C. Everard, who found them in very curious old books.