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Meet the Monsters – Imps

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Meet the Monsters is a web series providing background on the mythological creatures featured in MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES.

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IMPS

According to German mythology, imps are lesser goblins who often seek humans on whom to commit mischievous, not evil, acts. Imps are described as small, wild and willful; in some cultures they are synonymous with fairies. They are sometimes depicted as unattractive small demons. Although immortal, imps could be harmed with magical weapons or kept out of one’s house with magical wards.

There’s a certain pathos associated with imps, as their mischief is meant to attract human attention and friendship, but typically produces the opposite effect. Even in “successful” situations, the imp remains true to its nature, and continues to play pranks on its human host. Hence the term “impish” is often used today to describe someone who is a trickster or practical joker.

imp01Given their quasi-demonic appearance, some believed that imps were servants of witches and warlocks, sometimes known as familiars. Such familiars, in the form of the all-too-common black cat, black dog, or toad, were considered proof of witchcraft during the era of witch hunts.

imp02Imp legend in some cases associates imps with a container or object. Some imps were kept within a container, like a bottle or lamp. Others were not contained within, but magically bound to an object like a sword or jewel.

Imps appear in the games Forgotten Realms and Dungeons & Dragon, and in the books THE BOTTLE IMP by Robert Louis Stevenson, LIVES OF THE NECROMANCER by William Godwin, THE IMP AND THE CRUST by Leo Tolstoy, The Oz series by L. Frank Baum, MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES and WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY by Henry Herz.

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From Robert Louis Stephenson’s THE BOTTLE IMP by William Hatherell

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Meet the Monsters – Hydras

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Meet the Monsters is a web series providing background on the mythological creatures featured in MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES.

mgnr

HYDRAS

According to Greek and Roman mythology, the Hydra of Lerna (aka Lernaean Hydra, or simply Hydra) was a multi-headed snake-like water monster. The Hydra’s counterpart in Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian mythology was a seven-headed serpent. The Hydra’s lair was the spring of Amymone, a cave at Lerna lake in the Argolid region of Greece. The Hydra served as a guard for Lerna lake, which was considered an entrance to Hades’s underworld.

 

hydra02The Hydra was the offspring of the monsters Typhon and Echidna (herself half snake and half woman). These two begat other famous monstrous spawn, including Cerberus (the three-headed dog who guarded the gates of Hades), Chimera (part lion, part goat, and part dragon), the Sphinx (a monster with the body of a winged lion and woman’s head), the Nemean lion, and the Caucasian Eagle (who subsisted on a daily diet of Prometheus’s liver). Imagine the family dinners…

hydra03The seven labors of Hercules began with him slaying the Hydra’s sibling, the Nemean lion. Hercules second labor was to defeat the Hydra. According to legend, Hercules approached the spring of Amymone and fired flaming arrows into the cave. As Hercules cut off heads from the Hydra, he discovered its rather disturbing ability to grow back two heads in place of a severed one. Hercules’s nephew Iolaus suggested using fire to cauterize the Hydra’s neck after each decapitation to prevent regeneration. This gruesome innovation succeeded. Finally, Hercules dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s poisonous blood. He subsequently put those poison arrows to good use fighting the Stymphalian Birds, the giant Geryon, and the centaur Nessus.

hydra04Hydras appear in the movies Jason and the Argonauts and Hercules, the fantasy miniatures game Warhammer, and the books BIBLIOTHECA by Apollodorus, PERCY JACKSON: THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.

Interestingly, two real-world animals now bear the names of hydra and echidna.


Gustav Moreau’s 19th-century depiction of the Hydra

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Pollaiuolo’s Hercules and the Hydra (c. 1475)

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Caeretan black-figure hydra (c. 346 BC)