Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 5:00pm

The dragons in HBO’s Game of Thrones have recently captured the public fancy, and one top expert in the field believes he knows why.

Dr. Boria Sax teaches for Mercy College at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility and online in the graduate English program. He is also founder of the non-profit organization Nature in Legend and Story, dedicated to “promote understanding of traditional bonds between human beings and the natural world.” His book Lizard, just published by Reaktion Books, is a history of the creatures in myth, religion, science, art and other aspects of human culture.

Dragons, Sax reminded us, are big (flying, dragon-breathing) lizards, and lizards have a unique ability to stimulate our imagination.

“The reasons lie very far back in very old traditions,” Sax said. “Figures like the Chinese dragon or the rainbow serpent or the chameleon in African mythology are ancient, and some people have suggested that our response to lizards is a generic inheritance, which is certainly conceivable but very speculative.”

Before decoding dragons and the lizard archetype, Sax exposed the cultural underbelly of many other creatures in his acclaimed Animals in the Third Reich (2000) and The Mythical Zoo (2001).

Sax's publisher recently released a new edition of his Crow. The professor is particularly attuned to man’s relationship with these ubiquitous black birds, and thinks you should be, too.

“Crows alone among animals have an interest in us that is more intellectual than pragmatic. Crows are constantly observing us and seem to find human beings even more fascinating than we find them. Crows are able to understand human body language, they are able to remember individual human faces – much better than human beings can remember the faces of crows.

“I think our relationship with crows is uniquely reciprocal. They study us in somewhat the same way as we study them. All of this points to a very considerable intellectual and emotional affinity.”

The Chinese edition of Sax’s City of Ravens: The Extraordinary History of London, its Tower and its Famous Ravens has just been published. It’s his second book to be translated into Chinese, after Crow.

Sax is the author of more than 20 books. He is currently at work on a cultural history of dinosaurs to be published sometime in late 2018 or early 2019.