Monday, August 12, 2013

The Monster Behind the Myth

In my posts on a science fantasy truth behind Greek mythology, I've given some pretty science fictional remaking of classic monsters, but the "truth" behind the monster need not always be elaborate. It's just more science-based and less mythological. Here are couple of easy ones that are more prosaic--and more pulpy, maybe.

Giant Boar
Greek myth has at least three giant boars: Calydonian, Crommyonian, and Erymanthian. While giant boars are relatively "realistic" as it is, there's no reason to hypothesize genetically engineered giants, as we've got a real animal (or a family of animals) close enough to fit the bill: the dinohyus ("terrible pig") and the whole enteledont family.

 Dinohyus was 12 ft long and 5' 1" at the shoulder. That's plenty to give Heracles a challenge!

The familiar image of the satyr of a half-goat, half-man creature is a later invention. The original conception was of a some hirsute guy with big ears, a pug nose, and a goat-like tail.

A Hellenistic era satyr
In other words, not really much different (except for the tail) from the wildman or woodwose--in other words, the cryptozoological hairy hominid. Further supporting this idea, is that the Libyan satyrs and satyrs described living on the Satyride Islands off the coast of Africa, seem pretty clearly to be monkeys or apes.

Last but not least are the drakones or dragons. These are almost always depicted as just as big snakes in Greek art. Not as cool as modern conceptions of dragon? Well, it was good enough for Conan! And there's titanoboa upping the ante on very real world giant serpents.


Tim Shorts said...

I can't even imagine animals getting that huge. I get freaked out when I went into northern Canada and the flies were as big as quarters biting chunks out of me. Make it the size of a VW bug and forgetaboutit. I remembered your post about titanoboa. Amazing just to think about. Actually I'm thinking of putting that beast in an adventure. When my players die I'll let them know who to blame.

Jack said...

Huh, I did not know about the earlier depictions of satyrs.

Trey said...

@Tim - As each dies, you can just point to my picture.

@Jack - Yeah, apparently it was syncretization with the Roman faun, who was similar in many respects but was half-man, half-goat, led to the change.

Chris said...

Dinohyus, changing "man eating bacon" into "man-eating bacon."

Trey said...

They do say too much pork is bad for you.

Kaiju said...

I'm fascinated by the real origins of myths. This is great, thanks!

Trey said...

You're welcome. :)

John Till said...

I had a chance to see a number of entelodont skeletons and reconstructions a few months ago in SD. In one campaign, I have had them waiting in the wings for a while, waiting for the PCs to discover them. I have held off on posting them to the FATE Bestiary over on FATE SF for several months, in order not to telegraph the meaning of a certain set of footprints that the PCs had observed.