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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.

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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)

 


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Meet the Monsters – Harpies

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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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HARPIES

Today in Meet the Monsters, we’re going to meet harpies. A harpy is a terrifying creature that has the head and body of a woman and the wings and legs of an eagle. Many people know of harpies as death spirits—cruel torturers of those who angered the Greek god Zeus and savage abusers of souls on their way to the underworld. For more than 2,000 years, many have thought of harpies as ugly, old, and nasty. In Dante’s Inferno, harpies even infest the seventh ring of Hell.


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Harpies in the infernal wood, from Inferno XIII, by Gustave Doré, 1861

HarpyReliefBut human-headed birds aren’t always so simple. More than 5,500 years ago, stories began to be told about the Sumerian goddess of war and love, Inanna (who was later also known as Ishtar). She was frequently depicted in carvings as a harpy-like woman with wings. Inanna/Ishtar was a force to be reckoned with; when the goddess visited the underworld, she demanded that the gatekeeper open the door or she would unleash a plague of zombies!

The Burney Relief, which is almost 2,000 years old, shows a figure that may be Inanna/Ishtar.

Some harpies are actually good spirits. A 700 year-old tomb in Turkey is covered with intricate carvings of harpies and other fantastical beasts; the harpies on her tomb were “soul-birds” who would protect against evil while carrying her soul to the underworld. The harpy also appeared as a guardian in Islamic art from across Syria, Egypt, and Muslim Spain. There is even a tale that Alexander the Great sought out a wise harpy to ask for advice!

karyobinga  Kalavinka

Another kindly harpy figure is a Buddhist creature called the kalavinka. It is associated with paradise and music, and is said to sing beautifully. They were frequently featured in the art of the empire of Western Xia, until it was wiped out by the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan.

So what do you think? If you saw a harpy, would you say “hi?” Or run away screaming?

Harpies appear in THE ARGONAUTICA (Jason and the Argonauts) by Apollonius Rhodius, THE AENEID by Virgil, THE DIVINE COMEDY by Dante, THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare, THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.

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A harpy in Ulisse Aldrovandi’s Monstrorum Historia, Bologna, 1642

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Greater coat of arms of the city of Nuremberg, Germany


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Meet the Monsters – Gnomes

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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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GNOMES

According to European mythology, gnomes are small, shy, and cunning humanoids who live underground and can move through earth as easily as humans move through air.

Per Wikipedia:

The chthonic, or earth-dwelling, spirit has precedents in numerous ancient and medieval mythologies, often guarding mines and precious underground treasures, notably in the Germanic dwarves and the Greek Chalybes, Telchines or Dactyls

gnome5The English word is attested from the early 18th century. Gnomes are used in Alexander Pope’s THE RAPE OF THE LOCK. The creatures from this mock-epic are small, celestial creatures which were prudish women in their past lives, and now spend all of eternity looking out for prudish women (in parallel to the guardian angels in Catholic belief). Other uses of the term gnome remain obscure until the early 19th century, when it is taken up by authors of Romanticist collections of fairy tales and becomes mostly synonymous with the older word goblin.

Pope’s stated source, the French satire Comte de Gabalis (1670), used the term gnomide to refer to female gnomes (often “gnomid” in English translations).

In 19th century fiction, the chthonic gnome became a sort of antithesis to the more airy or luminous fairy. Nathaniel Hawthorne in TWICE-TOLD TALES (1837) contrasts the two in “Small enough to be king of the fairies, and ugly enough to be king of the gnomes”. Similarly, gnomes are contrasted to elves, as in William Cullen Bryant’s LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW (1877), which has “let us have a tale of elves that ride by night, with jingling reins, or gnomes of the mine”.

After World War II (with early references, in ironical use, from the late 1930s) the diminutive figurines introduced as lawn ornaments during the 19th century came to be known as garden gnomes.

Gnomes appear in the game Dungeons & Dragons, and in the OZ series by L. Frank Baum (referred to as “nomes”), THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA series by C.S. Lewis (sometimes referred to as “earthmen”), GNOMES by Wil Huygen, the SHANNARA series by Terry Brooks, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK by Chuck Sambuchino, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.

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Gnome with newspaper and tobacco pipe by Heinrich Schlitt

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Illustration by E. Stuart Hardy for THE BOOK OF GNOMES Fred. E. Weatherly

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Gnome King Kyrië in Hoogeloon, the Netherlands.

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Alfred Smedberg’s THE TROLLS AND THE GNOME BOY in the childrens’ stories collection AMONG PIXIES AND TROLLS

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To the left a gnome who is cutting stones in the underground.

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Night Gnome by Victor Hugo – 1856

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The worlds biggest Garden Gnome, called “Solus”, recognized by Guinness World Records Book 2009, placed in Nowa Sól, Poland (5,4 m. high)


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Meet the Monsters – Giants

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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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GIANTS

According to mythology from across the globe, giants are enormous and powerful humanoids.

Per Wikipedia, “In various Indo-European mythologies, gigantic peoples are featured as primeval creatures associated with chaos and the wild nature, and they are frequently in conflict with the gods, be they Olympian, Celtic, Hindu or Norse.

There are also accounts of giants in the Old Testament, most famously Goliath, Og King of Bashan, the Nephilim, the Anakim, and the giants of Egypt mentioned in 1 Chronicles 11:23. Attributed to them are extraordinary strength and physical proportions.

giant01Fairy tales such as “Jack the Giant Killer” have formed the modern perception of giants as stupid and violent monsters, sometimes said to eat humans, especially children (though this is actually a confusion with ogres, which are distinctly cannibalistic). The ogre in “Jack and the Beanstalk” is often described as a giant. In some more recent portrayals, like those of Jonathan Swift and Roald Dahl, some giants are both intelligent and friendly.”

Giants appear in the movies Jack the Giant Slayer and Trollslayer, the game Dungeons & Dragons, and in THE BIBLE, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien, Rick Riordan’s THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS series, HAMMERED by Kevin Hearne, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.

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The giants Fafner and Fasolt seize Freyja in Arthur Rackham’s illustration of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.

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David faces Goliath in this 1888 lithograph by Osmar Schindler.

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Hercules faces the giant Antaios in this illustration on a calix krater, c. 515–510 BC.

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King Arthur faces a giant in this engraving by Walter Crane.

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Poseidon (left) holding a trident, with the island Nisyros on his shoulder, battling a Giant (probably Polybotes), red-figure cup c. 500–450 BC

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Gilt-bronze Enceladus by Gaspar Mercy in the Bosquet de l’Encélade in the gardens of Versailles

 

 


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Meet the Monsters – Fauns

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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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FAUNS

According to Greek and Roman mythology, fauns are simple, forest-dwelling creatures with the head, arms, and torso of a human, two goat legs, and goat horns on their head. They represented forest or animal spirits, and as such, would aid or hinder humans traveling through wooded areas.

 

 

 

faun01In Greek mythology, Pan is is the god of the wild, shepherds, flocks, nature, and rustic music. His appearance is like that of a faun. He is reputed to be the son of Hermes. As a rustic god, Pan was worshipped in caves and grottos. He is often shown carrying his pan flute, made from hollowed reeds of different lengths.

Unlike fauns, satyrs were originally depicted with horselike tails and ears, and served as humanoid male companions of the Greek god Dionysus. However, satyrs gained a more faun-like appearance over time from conflation with a Roman nature god named Faunus..

Fauns appear in the movies My Dinner with Andre and Pan’s Labyrinth, and the books THE MARBLE FAUN by Nathaniel Hawthorne, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis,  THE SON OF NEPTUNE by Rick Riordan, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.

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Meet the Monsters – Dwarves

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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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DWARVES

According to Norse and Germanic mythology, dwarves are small, bearded humanoids who live underground. They are known for their skill as smiths and miners, as well as their greed and stubbornness.

The POETIC EDDA indicates that dwarves come from the blood and bones of the giant Ymir, himself borne of the mixing of the icy mists of Niflheim and the heat of Muspellsheim. In contrast, the PROSE EDDA says that dwarves were maggot-like creatures in the flesh of Ymir, who subsequently received the divine gift of reason.

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In Norse mythology, the dwarves Sindri and Brokkr (shown at left) forge Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. Richard Wagner’s THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, the eponymous nibelung (dwarf) is named Alberich. SNOW WHITE by the Brothers Grimm first popularized dwarves in the modern era. Perhaps the most well-known dwarf character is Gimli from THE LORD OF THE RINGS, famous for both his valor in battle and unusual friendship with the elf Legolas.

More recently, dwarves appear in the tabletop games Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer, online games like World of Warcraft, and the books DISCWORLD by Terry Pratchett, SHANNARA by Terry Brooks, ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.

 

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Alberic speaking to Hagen in Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.

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The dwarves Sindri and Brokkr forge Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir

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The dwarves Sindri and Brokkr forge Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir

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Alberich the dwarf