Over the millennia of its existence, mankind has invented many tales. More often than not, they are so fairytale-like that there is almost nothing left of the truth in them. But there are some legends that, after thorough verification, turned out to be either partially or completely true stories.
The Beast of Gadfly
Between June 1, 1764, and June 19, 1767, a wave of murders swept through the French county of Gévodan, or more specifically, the villages in the Margery Mountains in southern France. Witnesses described a horrible bloodthirsty monster that attacked people and livestock. In all, the beast had made more than 200 attacks in those three years, 119 of which had ended tragically for the victims. People who lived in the county panicked as it was impossible to catch the beast. Newspapers also added to the fire, fanning the legend of the fantastic creature.
Today’s researchers believe that the Zhevodan beast did exist, but it was not some supernatural creature but a real animal. Most agree that it was a very large wolf, whose relatives were many in that area. As for the invulnerability of the beast, which has been told in rumors and written about in newspapers, researchers suggest that the inaccuracy of hunting weapons of the time is to blame for it.
There is also an opinion that the tin beast could be a hyena that escaped from the royal reserve, a hybrid of wolf and dog, or a member of the feline family, like a leopard or cheetah, also escaped from the reserve. Experts believe the legend was deliberately inflated by newspapers to boost sales.
The mythical island-state of Atlantis became famous thanks to Plato. He wrote that the island was west of the Pillars of Hercules opposite the Atlas Mountains and sank after a major earthquake along with all its inhabitants.
And no, now we are not going to extract crazy legends about highly developed civilizations with spaceships in a time when there was not even Ancient Greece, everything is much more prosaic. The fact is that even under Plato, there were many earthquakes that wiped cities off the face of the earth. Scientists are inclined to believe that Atlantis was drawn from the city of Helike in the north of the Peloponnese. This city sank in 373 BC after an earthquake and has been underwater for centuries.
According to the theory of the Black Sea Flood, around the sixth millennium BC, the Bosporus broke through the waters of the Mediterranean, resulting in a year of sea-level rise of 10 to 80 meters, flooding vast areas. Groups of refugees who entered the Balkans may have carried with them stories of the sinking of entire islands with civilizations, which formed the basis of the legend of Atlantis.
Plagues by Toads
The ten Egyptian plagues that followed Pharaoh’s refusal to let the enslaved Jews go with Moses is one of the most popular stories in all of human history. And many of the tales have quite a scientific explanation.
So, for example, the second plague presented to the Egyptians sounded like this: And the Lord said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thine hand with thy rod upon the rivers, upon the streams, and upon the lakes, and bring out the frogs upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came out, and covered the land of Egypt.
This is a very real phenomenon. Rains do happen to animals, and it is not supernatural, but natural. Most often, such phenomena occur after storms, especially after tornadoes, when the wind picks up animals from the surface of the water or land and carries them several kilometers away. In some cases, animals may even survive the fall. Given the resilience of frogs, as well as the structure of their bodies, it is likely that these animals were brought to Egypt with precipitation after a storm in the Mediterranean or the Red Sea.
Tales of communities of fierce women originated several millennia ago and became particularly popular during the heyday of ancient Greek culture. The Amazons were described as strong and skilled fighters, masterful with the bow. According to legends, they were especially cruel to men.
Such communities of female warriors did exist, but speculations about misogyny were almost always invented in order to anger the troops and force them into the lands of the “enemy.” The existence of Amazons is confirmed by excavations in areas once inhabited by the Sarmatians, nomadic Iranian-speaking tribes. Women warriors actively participated in the military campaigns of the Sarmatians and are believed to have been as revered as male warriors.
Unicorns, human monkeys, Kraken, and other fabulous creatures
History is full of descriptions of fabulous animals. For example, information about the unicorn can even be found in the Bible. There, this creature is presented as a fast, dangerous, ferocious, and freedom-loving animal. Usually the unicorn was depicted as a horse with one horn. Why was the unicorn on the list of true legends if it didn’t exist? In fact, unicorns did exist, and what’s more, they still graze on the plains of Africa. They are rhinoceroses. It’s just that when you see a ferocious creature on four legs with a huge horn, rushing at you at great speed, there’s no time to look at it. That’s how the myths of the horse with the horn on his forehead came about.
As for the monkey-men in many legends, such as the famous Bigfoot or his relatives, they are also real creatures – gorillas. Imagine that you have seen only little monkeys and then noticed a huge creature approaching you on two legs, gait resembling a clumsy man. You’d also think it was supernatural.
The same goes for giant squids, transformed into Kraken in legends, and other creatures from mythology. It’s just that in the days when they were spotted, science couldn’t offer an adequate description.
Vikings in North America
Once upon a time, the thought of Vikings being the first to discover North America caused laughter in scientific circles. The idea that some pagans might have been the first to set foot in the New World irritated many, especially the Spanish Crown, which took credit for the discovery of new continents. But, in fact, the legend turned out to be true.
Scientists confirm that around 1000 A.D., nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus, the Vikings, led by Leif Eriksson, landed on the island of Newfoundland in present-day Canada and founded the settlement of L’Anse-aux-Médouze there.
The Templars once served only one function, trying with other crusaders to recapture the Holy Land. But later, the Templar Order became something of infantry support, someone who provided financial and material support to the other ecclesiastical knightly orders.
By the 12th or 13th century, the Order possessed great wealth. It owned lands, buildings, and other property. After its abolition, however, the members of the Templar Order were persecuted. And although the Order was accused of collusion with the dark forces, in reality, everything turned out to be much simpler – the French King Philip IV and the major feudal lords in the Catholic Church decided to “ditch” their loyal subjects and take all the earnings.
A legend later emerged about the treasure of the Templars, hidden in a secret place. In reality, no treasure, at least in terms of tons of gold, the Order did not have. However, the legend is still true. The fact is that the main treasure of the Order of the Templars was a huge amount of real estate, and the lords, who received them as a gift from the French Crown and the Holy See, did not even realize that the true wealth of the Order was already in their hands, and continued to chase the mythical treasure.