Tannin and the Prophet Daniel

Many, many years ago, several centuries before the birth of Christ, in the sumptuous and pagan Babylon, there lived a young exile from Jerusalem named Daniel. The King of the Babylonians, Nebuchadnezzar, held the young man in high esteem because of his wisdom and he often invited him to his table. Daniel knew how to interpret dreams and his prophecies were always fulfilled, which is why Nebuchadnezzar felt obliged to ask his advice. However, the prophet, who came from the tribe of Judah, was not able to convince the powerful monarch that the stone and metal idols which the Babylonians worshipped were false.

At that time, in the city of Babylon, there lived a dragon called Tannin who was worshipped as a god.

Tannin, who had made a pact of friendship and goodwill with the Babylonians, lived in the temple of Bel, where there were priests and servants to take care of his needs and where the same Nebuchadnezzar often visited him, for he was an ancient and wise dragon.

One day, when Daniel had demonstrated to the Babylonian monarch the falsity of the god Bel, Nebuchadnezzar asked him angrily:

"And why don't you worship the dragon god? You cannot deny that the dragon is alive. He is not made of stone or metal like the other gods in this land."

"He is alive but he is not a god, for he can die and gods do not die," replied the prophet.

"He has been alive since the time when my father and his father were young, and even long before. He has lived in the temple for countless generations of men, and there is nobody who remembers when he was born. He eats and drinks and speaks with wisdom, and he is very knowledgeable. I do not imagine or believe that he will ever die. He is without a doubt a god," retorted Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel then wanted to demonstrate to the King that the dragon could die and was therefore no different from other creatures. He made cakes of pitch and sheep's fat and wool, and gave them to the poor, trusting Tannin, who, accustomed to being given food by men, did not suspect anything and ate them.

The poisoned cakes soon began to work and the dragon died in two days. Thus the king of the Babylonians was convinced that Tannin was mortal, and he lost his wise dragon god forever.