My inspiration comes from escapism, I want to juxtapose fantasy with reality. My character should be an impossible creature dealing with real life situations; no magical spells or potions to make everything become or turn out exactly as you wish it to be.
Some of the best storytellers ever known are from ancient Greece, so I thought I would start there. I love history and have quite a good knowledge of Greek Myths, particularly the gods and heroes, but I never paid much attention to the monsters; I guess this is because they were always being slain for some reason or other, which is an odd thought because the gods weren’t exactly ‘good’ either.
So I made a list of all the creatures I could remember, to see which ones had stuck with me the most.
This Is my list:
|Hercules wrestling the Nemean lion Mississippi 1977.3.62, Attic black figure neck amphora, ca. 510-500 B.C. Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the University Museums, University of Mississippi (Hercules’ First Labor: the Nemean Lion, 2020)|
- Nemean Lion – The lion had impenetrable skin and therefore could not be killed by humans or their tools and was eventually killed by Hercules through strangulation. I’m not sure why this came to mind as not a tale I am particularly interested in but there you go.
- Pegasus – I know Pegasus as horses who can fly with large strong wings they can run on the wind and are born from the line in the horizon where the clouds meet the sea. I researched into them and found this quite interesting “Pegasus is one of the 48 constellations which were named by the ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy. In Greek mythology is represents the winged horse Pegasus – probably best known from the 1997 Disney film “Hercules”. In one myth Pegasus used his hooves to dig out a spring called Hippocrene. This spring blessed all those who drank it’s water with the ability to write poetry. According to Greek mythology Pegasus was placed into the sky by the god Zeus.” https://star-name-registry.com/blog/item/constellations-and-mythology
- Hydra – I know the hydra as a 12 headed monster with long snake like necks. When one head is decapitated two will grow back in its place. I have read that the hydra is known as a water serpent on https://www.theoi.com/Ther/DrakonHydra.html.
- Dryad/Nymph- Dryads and Nymphs seem quite similar, I think they may fall into sub categories of one another. When I think about them I see women who transform into aspects of nature, trees and water come to mind first. I looked further into this for clarification and Dryads are specifically tree spirts; where as Nymphs refer to nature spirits in general. I have found there is quite some debate as to why and to what extent Dryads and Nymphs differ but it seems to be accepted by the majority that Dryads are a form of tree nymph. “The Oreiades (Oreads) were nymphs of the mountain conifers…..The Maliades, Meliades or Epimelides were nymphs of apple and other fruit trees and the protectors of sheep. The Greek word melas–from which their name derives–means both apple and sheep…The Daphnaie were nymphs of the laurel trees, one of a class of rarer tree-specific Dryad. Others included the Nymphai Aigeiroi (of black poplars), Ampeloi (of grape vines), Balanis (of the ilex), Karyai (of the hazel-nut), Kraneiai (of cherry-trees), Moreai (of the mulberry), Pteleai (of elm trees), and Sykei (of fig trees).”
- Harpy- The word Harpy means ”snatcher.” Early Greek poets like Hesiod described the Harpies as winged, with maiden heads and youthful ”long hair.” They were creatures ”who on their swift wings keep pace with the blasts of the winds and the birds; for quick as time they dart along.” Later writers, however, described the Harpies as hideous monsters with claws and beaks. For example, the Roman poet Virgil said they possessed ”faces haggard with hunger insatiable” and talons as hands.
- Medusa – A beautiful mortal, Medusa was the exception in the family, until she incurred the wrath of Athena.
- Titans -“THE TITANES (Titans) were six elder gods….who ruled the cosmos before the Olympians came to power.” The titan I know best is Atlas who has to hold up the heavens for the rest of time.
The Cyclopes, Polyphemus, by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, 1802
- Cyclops- “Hesiod (c. 700 BCE), writing in his Theogony, tells us that the Cyclopes were….the generation before the Olympian gods. The Cyclopes were thought to dwell in a faraway land of unknown location or name where there were no laws. There these giant creatures lived a simple pastoral existence herding sheep and goats and living in caves.”
- Hundred Handed Monster- “The Hecatoncheires were giant creatures in Greek mythology. Their name means “hundred – handed ones”, and apart from a hundred hands of unfathomable strength, they also had fifty heads….The natural forces that were represented by the Hecatoncheires were the earthquakes and the huge sea waves.”
- Minotaur- The minotaur originates from Crete, it is described as a being with the head and tail of a bull but the body of a man. In greek mythology it was kept within a labyrinth waiting to be slain by a hero. ” the Minotaur resided at the center of the Labyrinth, designed specifically to hide him from view at the request of Pasiphae’s husband, Minos.” (Minotaur, 2020)
- Cerberus – most strongly associated with Hades as his guard dog, guardian of the underworld, more specifically the gates. Cerberus’s job is to stop living souls from entering and dead souls from leaving Hades. ”He has the body of a dog with shaggy bronze or black fur…Cerberus has multiple heads—usually three, although some writers have given him as many as one hundred—with “eyes that flash fire,” “jagged teeth “and three tongues per mouth. Most writers claim that all of these heads are dog-like, but a few writers have described half of the heads as dog-like and the other half are “heads of beasts of all sorts””I feel this description also fits with the theme of natural elements eyes like fire, jagged teeth reminds me of rocks near the mouth of caves and bottoms of mountains which are both recognisable places of transportation between worlds. The cave idea would also fit within the description of Orpheoses Tale when entering and leaving the underworld. “….Cerberus’s tail slowly morphs into a serpent, with a venomous head at the end, and more serpents sprout from his body. Some writers claim that these serpents form a mane around his head, while others describe the serpents growing up from his spine or hanging down like tangled fur all over his body.” I like this idea because I feel the tangled fur would add to the wild and unruly character of Cerberus.
- Siren – I have had a lot of confusion over what exactly is a siren. I have seen lots of variations but have never understood the reason behind them. After researching it I have found out that as tales were passed down over time the siren has changed. “The siren is a deadly creature, half human, half bird or fish. Early sources say the siren is human (always female) from the head to the navel, and bird from the waist down. Later sources say that the siren is fish from the waist down, like a mermaid. They usually have wings.” Or: “sirens changed from monstrous birds with human heads to instrument-playing women who happened to have wings and bird feet. Or: “a universally popular source for creators of medieval bestiaries. People later in this list, like Bartholomaeus and Geoffrey Chaucer, mentioned it by name when describing their siren-mermaids.”
- Chimera: “Chimera, in Greek mythology, a fire-breathing female monster resembling a lion in the forepart, a goat in the middle, and a dragon behind. She devastated Caria and Lycia until she was slain by Bellerophon. In art the Chimera is usually represented as a lion with a goat’s head in the middle of its back and with a tail that ends in a snake’s head. This matches the description found in Hesiod’s Theogony (7th century BC). The word is now used generally to denote a fantastic idea or figment of the imagination. Chimera, or chimère, in architecture, is a term loosely used for any grotesque, fantastic, or imaginary beast used in decoration.”
- Selkie – I know this isn’t a greek myth but Selkies came up as a simmilar creature when I was researching sirens along with mermaids. Selkies are “”seal folk”… mythological beings capable of therianthropy, changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin. They are found in folktales and mythology originating from the Northern Isles of Scotland.”. This reminded me of the Ingo series by Helene Dunmore which I also loved when I was younger. I remembered watching an animated movie about selkies so I looked into that and its called Song of the Sea. Selkies are also described as: “Amorous, affectionate and affable, Selkies are the hidden gems of sea mythology….Their myths are romantic tragedies, a common theme for land/sea romances, however it is the Selkies who suffer rather than their human lovers and spouses…Selkies can be either men or women, but are seals while in the water.” Getting
Back to Ancient Greece….
I remember a lot of these from the Disney movie Hurcules which is how I first became interested in Greek myths. Pegasus was my favourite character. I think this is because I could use the character as a gateway into the world; his character has enough substance to be likeable but is not strong enough that I can say “Well I wouldn’t do that”. This is where my very literal thinking comes in and context rigidity.
I also liked Megara as she was different from most heroines I was used to seeing. First of all she was physically different, she has brown hair and doesn’t have massive round eyes. Secondly, she didn’t want to fall in love, she wasn’t going to run off with the first guy she meets and actually sees Hercules multiple times before even considering having feelings for him. I find this very refreshing in a Disney princess and more relatable.
Anyway, if I put these two characters together then I would get a winged Centauress. Whilst I do love this idea I want to look at one step at a time, I will begin with a centauress and then I may add wings later. On the other hand I might look into the concept of an angle/Phoenix hybrid. It will be exciting to see where this project takes me either way!