Unicorns, dragons and mermaids have a lot in common. Well... maybe not in appearance! But they can all be found in legends, folk and fairy tales. They have many origin stories from various parts of the world. And they seem to have an animal twin or two!
There's no definitive proof that these creatures exist. But we can take a closer look at history to see why people might think that they are real. Ancient travelers and explorers would often encounter animals that they had never seen before. When they returned home, they would tell others about these amazing creatures. Tales grew in the telling. As these fantastical stories spread, mythical beasts were born.
So the first unicorns? Probably based on tales about one-horned Indian rhinoceros and antelopes. Artists started to picture them with the bodies of more familiar animals, like goats or horses. Legends about dragons might have started after someone first saw a lizard or snake. These stories inspired the names of some reptiles, like the Komodo dragon and bearded dragon.
As for mermaids, the first sightings were likely those of manatees or dugongs. Both of these sea-dwelling mammals have mermaid-like tails. They also feed their young above water and from far away one might have looked like a woman.
With all that said, you might still be wondering if unicorns, dragons and mermaids are real or imaginary. Or... can they be both? As Dumbledore once said to Harry Potter, even if something is happening inside your head – or in a book! – "why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"