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Imaginary Beings

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Spud McLaren
736046.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:07 am Reply with quote

On a perusal through my bookshelves I came upon a volume by one of my favourite authors, Jorge Luis Borges, called The Book Of Imaginary Beings. He lists over 100 such, although I think some of them are of his own invention - and why not?

Alongside the basilisk and burak (post 735960 - not Mr Obama, who I think is not imaginary), he lists the barometz (the vegetable lamb of Tartary), a picture of which has already appeared somewhere on these threads. There are also the 36 Lamed Wufniks, the Nasnas (which has only half the number of any of the normal body parts), the Kilkenny cats, and the Squonk (known to post-Gabriel genesis fans).

Surely some of these must get a mention in an episode on imagination?

Any others worth a mention, folks?

 
RLDavies
736080.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:53 am Reply with quote

Heraldry reference books will turn up a great many weird beasts.

I've always had a soft spot for the bonasus (or bonacon), which resembles a bull with curled-up horns. Since it can't use its horns to defend itself, it flees from its attackers. But if it's pursued too closely, it releases a blast of burning excrement to destroy the hunter. The medieval bestiaries all delight in depicting this scene.

The yale (many alternate spellings) is essentially a goat with thick tufty hair, usually with multi-coloured spots, and large antelope-like horns that it can swivel in any direction. It features in the coats of arms of the Duke of Bedford and the Beaufort family.

The heraldic antelope and tyger (always spelled with a Y) have very little in common with their real-life counterparts, but are surprisingly similar to each other.



Here's one that might inspire a klaxon: How can you tell a male griffon (griffin, gryphon)?
Answer: An ordinary griffon, as we all know, has the body of a lion and the head, forelegs, and wings of an eagle.

The male griffon has no wings, but has large spikes extending from its body, or perhaps they're rays of light emanating from its body. It seems also to have larger ears than the ordinary sort. Occasionally it's shown with horns.

The male griffon is unique to British heraldry, and is very rare. It's been conjectured that it came from a misinterpretation of the heraldic antelope. Under an alternative name of "keythong" it has recently become popular with pseudo-medieval recreationists and the like.

Pictures are from Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art (John Vinycomb, 1909), which is a short but interesting list of beasts.

 
suze
736133.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 7:34 am Reply with quote

Since we're on heraldry and animals which appear in no zoology text, I call your attention to the coat of arms of Greenland, which is described as azure, a polar bear rampant argent (and can be seen here).

Now then, convention in heraldry is that creatures rampant have their right paw raised. But the polar bear on the Greenlandic arms has instead its left paw raised. And yes, this was done because polar bears are left handed.

Which, as we all know by now, they aren't. But it was a traditional Inuit belief that they were - if you're about to be attacked by a polar bear, they believed, then try and position yourself so that it's the right paw which will swing for you.

 
bemahan
736158.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:07 am Reply with quote

Here's a few imaginary animals:


Fun but not terribly QI.

 
plinkplonk
736204.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:04 pm Reply with quote

RLDavies wrote:






Remember the days when only the Midland Bank could be represented by a griffin?


Last edited by plinkplonk on Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:01 am; edited 1 time in total

 
RLDavies
736207.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:30 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Since we're on heraldry and animals which appear in no zoology text, I call your attention to the coat of arms of Greenland, which is described as azure, a polar bear rampant argent (and can be seen here).

Now then, convention in heraldry is that creatures rampant have their right paw raised. But the polar bear on the Greenlandic arms has instead its left paw raised. And yes, this was done because polar bears are left handed.

Which, as we all know by now, they aren't. But it was a traditional Inuit belief that they were - if you're about to be attacked by a polar bear, they believed, then try and position yourself so that it's the right paw which will swing for you.

Generally, rampant creatures have the right paw up because that's the one at the back, and it makes a better picture that way. (A creature rampant sinister -- facing the left-hand side of the shield, or facing right as you look at it -- would have its left paw up.)

Strictly speaking, if the Greenland arms intend for the bear to have its left paw raised, this would have to be specified in the blazon: Azure, a polar bear rampant, its sinister forepaw raised, argent. Unless the heralds have agreed a convention that polar bears always raise the left paw, and therefore it doesn't need to be specified.

Actually, the bear in the Wikipedia picture isn't rampant. Both its hind feet are on the ground. I'd describe it as salient. (But I have seen other arms with bears described as "rampant" in this pose. Maybe bears are allowed to put both feet down.)

 
Sadurian Mike
736229.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:53 pm Reply with quote

As a rampant Fantasy Role-Playing fan, I might point out that this thread could be swamped by contributions from both mysalf and Celebaelin (wherever he has gotten himself to).

My book of Medieval Beasts (Ann Payne ISBN 0712302050) lists such creatures as the leucrota (a cross between a hyena and lioness which made sounds resembling human chatter), the parandus (shaggy-coated, as big as an ox and with marvelous antlers) which could assume the colour of the background if frightened, and onocentaur (half man and half ass, a combination ripe for comic attentions).

In addition, most FRPG fantastic creatures are based on some legendary creature from somewhere around the world. I could fill the thread with a list of them!

 
Spud McLaren
736288.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:16 pm Reply with quote

As long as they're QI, Mike...

 
Ion Zone
736296.  Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:41 pm Reply with quote

Here are some weird ones.

http://www.headinjurytheater.com/article73.htm

http://www.headinjurytheater.com/article95.htm

 
exnihilo
736439.  Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:25 pm Reply with quote

The Tyger isn't always spelled with a Y, indeed isn't spelled with one in the picture posted, and I'd suggest the "spikes" on the male griffin are in fact the tufts of hair depicted on other griffins, and indeed many other heraldic beasties.

 
bemahan
736484.  Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:38 pm Reply with quote

Looking on the BM's webpage of "Imaginary Beasts", they refer to "Misrepresentations of real animals" and give Albrecht Durer's "The Rhinoceros", his representation of an Indian rhino, as an example.
Surely this is a bit harsh?
Durer's representation:


the real thing:

 
RLDavies
736538.  Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:46 pm Reply with quote

exnihilo wrote:
The Tyger isn't always spelled with a Y, indeed isn't spelled with one in the picture posted, and I'd suggest the "spikes" on the male griffin are in fact the tufts of hair depicted on other griffins, and indeed many other heraldic beasties.

Well, the book I got the picture from says "heraldic tyger or tigre", but all the other heraldic books I've read over the years are pretty adamant about "tyger" with a Y. It is always spelled in the old way, and with the word "heraldic" added, to distinguish it from the real animal, which is also used in quite a lot of arms. The real animal is always called a "Bengal tiger" just to make it clear.

Every heraldic reference describes the male griffon as having "spikes or rays". They're quite distinct from hair tufts, although they may have originated as someone's misinterpretation of a drawing of tufts.

 
Efros
736539.  Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:53 pm Reply with quote



The Burmese Temple or Guardian Lion, also called Chindit, I know these from a very young age as my Great Grandmother had a pair of them on her mantelpiece a present from my Great Uncle who had served with the RAF in Burma during WWII. Chindit was taken as the name for a special forces unit that served in Burma and India in 1943 and 1944. More here.

 
Posital
736553.  Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:29 am Reply with quote

Quetzacoatl was a brightly plumed mesoamerican serpent god - until it turned into the largest pterosaur...

Also found this german hoax - allegedly from C19.

Or maybe it's a hoaxed hoax to promote a book...

Not to mention the famous Norwegian Blue Parrot...

 

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