Saturday, September 4, 2010

Manticore


Manticore - The History of Four-footed Beasts
Author: Edward Topsell

I've seen some creepy smiles in my time, but this is the creepiest yet. The creepiest of all creepy smiles belongs to a charming beast called the manticore. As you can see, the manticore has the body of a lion, a man's head with rows of shark-like teeth, and a tail covered in poisonous quills capable of being shot from a good distance away. The beast also has a voice like a trumpet, the ability to leap great distances, and the energy to keep going like the Energizer Bunny. Any unfortunate human captured by the manticore was consumed entirely, including bones, clothing, and items being carried. In some later stories, the manticore would query its intended meal with riddles before killing. To tell you the truth, if I saw a manicore, I wouldn't need to wait for the flying quills or riddles. I'd be dead without them! The manicore's name means man-eater. It's a good name and states the case.

 
Manticore - Bedeian Library
This poor manicore looks more buck-toothed than shark-toothed.

It's "man-eater" name orginated from the Middle Persian martya, "human, mortal being" and xwar, "to eat".  Understandibly, the manticore was considered the most deadly creature in Asia. Though the myth was of Persian origin, the manticore was believed to reside in India and Indonesia. It was mantained manticores were hunted on elephants in India while the creatures were young and without stings. The beast entered European mythology by way of Ctesias, a Greek doctor working at the Persian court of King Artaxerxes II during the fourth century BC. Pausanias, in Description of Greece, said:

The beast described by Ctesias in his Indian history, which says is called martichoras by the Indians and "man-eater" by the Greeks, I am inclined to think is a lion.  

What did our friend Pliny the Elder think?

   
Pliny the Elder

Unlike Pausanias, Pliny the Elder swallowed the manticore myth hook, line and sinker. In other words, he swallowed it whole. Quoting Ctesias he wrote:

The mantichora has the face and ears of a human with grey eyes, a triple row of teeth that meet like the teeth in a comb, a lions body of a blood-red color, and a voice like a pan-pipe blended with a trumpet. It stings with its tail like a scorpion. It is very fast and has a special appetite for human flesh.

Like Fox Mulder of the X-Files, Pliny the Elder wanted to believe. 

Manticore - Museum Meermanns

In medieval Europe, the manticore symbolized tyranny, envy and the devil. It was evil personified. As late as the 1930's, peasants of Spain thought the creature signified bad omens. It was a beast that kept going, and going and going! 

So if you hear of manticores in your neighborhood, grab the closest elephant and dispatch them while they're young. They're not nice to have around.

3 comments:

  1. The manticore is my least favorite of the myth-beasties. I hate the human head although I approve of the spiky tail in the first picture. Spiky tails are awesome.

    I laughed at poor Pliny the Elder being the Fox Mulder of classic history.

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  2. Manticore's do give the grotesque shivers up and down the spine. I suspect nowadays, manticores specialize in creating the spam clogging our inboxes. They have that spammy look on their faces.

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  3. They do have a spamming look... (narrowing my eyes)

    Because I love love love this bog:

    Whether you want to play along or not, I awarded you the versatile blogger award. You can read about over at my place.

    You of course and ignore it.

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