Meet the Monsters is a web series providing background on the mythological creatures featured in MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES.
According to Persian mythology, manticores were fierce, man-eating creatures with the body of a lion, the head of a man (except for three rows of sharp teeth), and sometimes horns or wings. They sport a dragon or scorpion tail, from which they can shoot poisonous spines! And if that wasn’t charming enough, it is said to eat its prey whole, leaving behind no trace.
For a pretty odd-sounding creature, it provoked some actual historical discussion. The Greek Pausanias referred to a description of manticores by a physician at the court of person King Artaxerxes II, Ctesias:
“The beast described by Ctesias in his Indian history, which he says is called martichoras by the Indians and “man-eater” [androphagos] by the Greeks, I am inclined to think is the tiger. But that it has three rows of teeth along each jaw and spikes at the tip of its tail with which it defends itself at close quarters, while it hurls them like an archer’s arrows at more distant enemies; all this is, I think, a false story that the Indians pass on from one to another owing to their excessive dread of the beast.”
The Greek Flavius Philostratus, author of THE LIFE OF APOLLONIUS OF TYANA, was more skeptical:
“Accordingly Apollonius asked the question, whether there was there an animal called the man-eater (martichoras); and Iarchas replied: “And what have you heard about the make of this animal? For it is probable that there is some account given of its shape.” “There are,” replied Apollonius, “tall stories current which I cannot believe; for they say that the creature has four feet, and that his head resembles that of a man, but that in size it is comparable to a lion; while the tail of this animal puts out hairs a cubit long and sharp as thorns, which it shoots like arrows at those who hunt it.”
Manticores appear in the movies The Last Unicorn and Napoleon Dynamite (!), in the tabletop games Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer, and in the books A SPELL FOR CHAMELEON by Piers Anthony, THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie, the Harry Potter series and FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM by J.K. Rowling, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.
Manticore in an illustration from the Rochester Bestiary (c.1230-1240)
Manticore or mantyger badge of William, Lord Hastings, c.1470.
Manticora Topsell 1607
Stone relief of a manticore with a slain ram in its fangs. Exterior atrium south wall of the parish church Our Lady at Maria Gail in Villach, Austria
Pictish stone, showing a manticore and a human. Things are not looking good for the human…