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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Manticore #atozchallenge

Artist unknown
M - In Persian and Greek mythology, the Manticore (or Martyaxwar) was a creature much like the Sphinx. This beast had the body of a lion, the head of a human with an extra row of teeth, the wings of a bat, and the tail of a scorpion. His tail had spikes on it which he would shoot at his victims to paralyze them before eating them whole.

The Manticore was incredibly fast and agile, making it all but impossible to escape him once he had you in his sights. But there was hope of avoiding a Manticore. While the creature couldn't speak, he had a trumpet-like voice and would make musical sounds as he roamed. Those that heard the music knew to run for cover while they had a chance. That said, the beast was reportedly very clever too. He would hide in the grass, only revealing himself when a person was too close to escape.

This beast roamed the jungles of India, where he was an omen of misfortune. Considering that he ate people whole, I can see why they might not view him favorably. :)

The Manticore came to Greece by way of the sophist Flavius Philostratus who wrote about the creature in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana. Philostratus recounted the following tale, supposedly passed to Apollonius by an Indian:

As the hunters gathered round in the dusty night, they wondered whether hunting the fabled Manticore was a wise idea. It didn’t matter now, the decision had been made, and no musical sounds had been heard yet. However as the hunters settled in their camp, they heard some muffled whistling, with their weapons ready, the hunters felt their heartbeat rise, was this the legendary Manticore or just a trick of the wind. Only one hunter made it back, he never saw the Manticore with his own eyes, but his colleagues fell one by one, until he could stand firm no longer.
Interestingly enough, Pausanias of Greek thought the creature described was actually an ordinary tiger. People have a tendency to embellish things they fear, making them seem much larger and more terrifying than the reality. Not to say a wild tiger wouldn't be terrifying enough, but given wings... well, the animal enters an entirely new level of "How screwed are we?", don't you think?

What is your favorite mythical creature?


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  1. Not sure I have a favorite mythical creature, though I do love lots of them. The Manticore makes me think of D&D, and the Manticore in the very first Xanth book, from before puns infested the series.

  2. Great post. Funny how the creatures change from being like one beast to being like the other (a lion here, a tiger there). The first time I saw this animal portrayed was in the movie version of The Last Unicorn when I was a child. (Though it was really a lion in bad shape.)

    Stopping by from the #atozchallenge !


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