Wow! I wish I could have taken this class. Sounds like fun!
I have some monsters for you. 😉 I happened upon this website: List of Medieval and Ancient Monsters.
Here be dragons! And glowing bird. (See Ercinee) And humorous monsters (see Gryllus). Or white feathery people (see Hsien — ooh! They’re calling for a story!)
I had to look up those three, see what I could find. 🙂
Ercinee: Totally bummed that my mythology encyclopedia did not come through! What I did find was a bit odd. They’re supposed to be very large birds that appear like giant eagles except that they glow faintly green. They primarily hunt rabbits, dogs, and small deer, but may take on a human (if they’re extra hungry, I suppose). Evidently seeing one at the beginning of a journey was good luck (if they didn’t try to eat you, I’m guessing). If you want to be a bummer, it’s reputed that this bird is actually just a firefly (and someone REALLY misjudged the size). Otherwise, I’m not the only one attracted to a glowing bird. He shows up on the internet all over the place, in games and new adopted legends. Hmm. Curious.
Onto Gryllus. Not-so-trusty encyclopedia lists a “grylli” as a talisman in the form of a chimaera or griffin. The original page lists the species as: “Humorous monster in medieval manuscripts, usually depicted with two legs, a head, a tail, and no body or arms. Often furry or maned.” Hmm … watch out for the crickets; evidently there’s a whole genus of gryllus crickets, and seeing how much I despite crickets and grasshoppers, this sure scares me! Best source so far: a blog on what appears to be role play. The author kindly supplies pictures and medieval sources. Another source lists the plural as grylli, and gives them Greek origin from the legend of Odysseus when one of the men wants to remain a swine … and evidently becomes stuck as a gryllus.
Finally, we move onto the Hsien. The original text from the List says: “In Chinese mythology, angelic “feathered folk” with winged or feathered images appearing in Chou art. The book of Chuang-Tzu pictures hsien as white-skinned, delicate superhuman beings: “These are divine persons dwelling there, whose flesh and skin resemble ice and snow, soft and delicate like sequestered girl-children; they do not eat the five cereals; they suck the wind and drink the dew; they mount on clouds and vapors and drive the flying dragons–thus they rove beyond the four seas” (quoted in Schafer 63). See Schafer, Edward H. Ancient China. Great Ages of Man: A History of the World’s Cultures. NY: Time Life Books, 1967.”
Finally, the mythology encyclopedia comes through! The home of the immortal deities was San Hsien Shan. I also found sources looking at the Pa Hsien, a group of eight (the number being lucky) immortals. Three were historical figures, while the other five only appear in myth and legend. No mention of feathers though. Feathers show up when you find Xian (perhaps a different spelling or Anglicization?). The word belongs to the Taoist beliefs, and can refer to an enlightened person. They are often described as having child-like smooth features, the ability to fly, and there is mention of feathers.
So, find any monsters you were intrigued by?
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
2 thoughts on “Medieval and Ancient Monsters”
O, I LOVE the Gryllus, Shelley! Brilliant!
Isn’t that just the best name, too? Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
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