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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spine-shiveringly-creepy-magical creatures OR how to turn on your heroine in a fantasy story

I love magical creatures . . . centaurs, unicorns, sylphs, nymphs, trolls, sprites, elves. All inspire my imagination. They invade my mind and my writing. From an early age fairy tales spellbound me and in grade school I set out to know every Greek myth. I still spend hours researching to find the creepiest for my stories. The more fabulously weird their attributes or abilities, the better: trickery of Japanese kitsunes; the grendel's swamp killings in Beowulf; Irish banshees' death cries; mischief of British brownies; magic powers in Russian firebird's golden feathers; wisdom of the elephant-like, Hindu ganesh.

One well known, but especially interesting example I enjoy is the hippogriff, trained by Hagrid as part of his Care of Magical Creatures instruction to young wizards in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. How spectacular to know the Italian poet Ariosto first designed them as offspring of the union of a griffin and a horse. The beast transported the wizard, Atlantis, upon its wings in his poem Orlando Furioso. That feature, along with claws and beak of the half-eagle, half-lion griffin, attached to a horse's body. This caused confusion back in Medieval times, when some people declared that hybrid an impossibility, since everyone knew griffins savor a meal of horse meat. Maybe, like the black widow spider, a female griffin mates and then dines on her lover. An interesting thought.

I'm fascinated by a reference book I discovered lately, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews. I'm eager to play with many of their wild beings in my written adventures. Just their selection of dragons alone gives me a thrill.

A cockatrice (Medieval Europe) possesses a yellow body and wings of a dragon, neck, legs and head of a cockerel bird with face of a human, and the tail of a snake -- outstandingly strange!

The goryshche is a twelve-headed she-dragon from Russian folklore. I'm sold already knowing there are all those heads to antagonize my heroes/heroines. Together they pack enough fire power to hold hundreds hostage.

While everyone on “True Blood” clamors to get high on "V" (vampire blood), that from a Fafnir seems to deliver a greater rush. Explained by Norse/Teutonic mythology, if you're brave enough to slay the hideous, wingless, worm-version of a dragon, the reward is to taste its blood. It allows you to understand all languages, including those of animals -- something any fantasy protagonist would find useful.

I write fantasy romance/erotica. I'm just a bit worried if I can find space to fit in the sexy stuff I also enjoy with all these great magical creatures I've been mentally capturing. But wouldn't any heroine be turned on by a man able to slay a twelve-headed dragon! So much fun awaits!

What is your favorite magical creature?