Archive | July 2012

Leucrocotta

The Leucrocotta, also called the leucrotta, is a large hyena-like predator. Although stories of it come from Europe, it is reputed to live in India and northern Africa.

According to Pliny the Elder, in book 8 of his Natural History, the leucrocotta is the offspring of an Ethiopian lioness with another monster, the crocotta. Despite neither parent bearing resemblance to hoofed animals, the leucrocotta is said to have the haunches of a stag, as well as the chest, neck, and tail of a lion and the head of a badger, standing about the height of an ass. There is no mention of the forelegs. It is incredibly fast, sometimes called the fasted creature alive. According to some reports, it’s neck is so stiff that is must turn its body in order to move its head, while others report eyes that are thousands of colors, ever-changing, or somehow some kind of gemstone, although all of these attributes are found only in later documentation.

The two most distinctive features of this monster are its mouth and it’s voice. The mouth extends all the way back to the ears, and instead of individual teeth it sports a single shearing ridge of bone along each jaw, indicating it probably swallows what it eats without chewing. It is also able to create a wide variety of sounds, including mimicking human speech. The leucrocotta is known to listen for the name of a victim, then call that person into the night. It retreats into cover, usually the forest, until there is no chance that the victim will be able to call for help or run away, and only then kills its prey.

The leucrocotta bears strong resemblance to the hyena. The laughing call of the hyena may be the inspiration for the leucrocotta‘s ability to mimic speech. It also has some strong similarity with the prehistoric Mesonychids, an extinct order of carnivorous hoofed mammals, including Andrewsarchus, made famous in the BBC production Walking with Beasts. Mesonychids were possibly land-dwelling relatives of whales and dolphins, but are also related to modern sheep and goats.

Balena

This is the Balena.

She–because this is a strictly female monster–is an enormous fish. She is, in fact, one of the animals seen on maps accompanied by the words “Here be monsters.” If the name sounds familiar, that’s because science used it to designate baleen whales, among which are the largest creatures to ever exist on earth. It’s also the Latin name for “whale.” The balena, like her mundane cousins, is enormous. European sailors were in danger from this creature both because the mouth is large enough to tear apart ships and because of its habit of spewing huge amounts of water from itself, both from the mouth and the jets in the creature’s head. The mouth is so large, in fact, that in bad weather or in the face of danger she is able to hide her young inside it until she judges it safe, behavior seen in some real fishes. Balena give live birth and are known to sleep, although her male counterpart, the musculus, is said to come from eggs.

The balena is very buoyant, and as a result not terribly nimble. According to some sources, she floats at the surface of the ocean when in distress. She is also highly vulnerable to attacks from creatures like the orchun, which is said to first tear open the balena‘s belly, from which she cannot defend herself, and then throw rocks at her as she sinks to the ocean floor. The name of this beast is similar to the orca or killer whale, which is known to prey upon large whales, although there is very little known about the creature and no visual information to make this certain. For a large creature, the balena is also remarkably short-lived. According to one source, she only lives for ten years.

Hippalectryon

This is the hippalectryon, with the head and forequarters of a horse and the wings, tail, and hindquarters of a rooster.

The hippalectryon is odd in that it does not seem to have a story attached to it. Instead, it shows up in ancient Greek black-figure pottery and coins. Sometimes it is depicted with a rider, and often this is a small boy. Some scholars argue that this is an alternative representation of Pegasus, or else that the creature is based on early, changing representations of its more famous cousin.

It is an awkward combination of horse and cockerel, somehow able to attain flight even with a rider despite having the wings of domesticated fowl. Without any story, it is difficult to determine anything about the beast’s behavior for certain. It is possible that the properties attributed to the two animals that make up the hippalectryon are present in the beast. Roosters were thought to ward off evil spirits with their crowing, while horses were often funerary symbols, escorting the dead to the afterlife.  Because it is intentionally ridiculous, it is possible that the creature is designed to protect against evil by inducing laughter.

With that in mind, go on. Laugh at him. He won’t mind. That’s the point of him, after all.