Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gutenberg—Myth-Land by F. Edward Hulme

This is an late 19th Century book about various mythological monsters. Notably, it has pictures of a unicorn, manticore, and lamia (a very D&D like lamia).

The Lamia, too, is an extraordinary creature, and one that our not remote forefathers seem to have thoroughly believed in, for though the author says that there are many fictitious stories respecting it, he goes on to describe it, and gives an illustration. It is thought to be the swiftest of all four-footed creatures, so that its prey can seldom or never escape it. It is said to be bred in Libya, and to have a face like a beautiful woman, while its voice is the hiss of a serpent. The body is covered with scales. The old author tells us that they sometimes devour their own young, and we may fairly hope that this cannibal propensity of theirs is the cause of their disappearance. In earlier times men believed in a monstrous spectre called an Empusa. It could assume various forms, and it was believed to feed on human flesh. The Lamiæ, who took the forms of handsome and graceful women for the purpose of beguiling poor humanity, and then sucked their blood like vampyres and devoured their flesh, were one form of Empusa. The belief in some such creature seems to have been widespread; the myth of the Sirens is, for example, very similar in conception. In Mansfield Parkyns’ “Life in Abyssinia” we read—“There is an animal which I know not where to class, as no European has hitherto succeeded in obtaining a specimen of it. It is supposed by the natives to be far more active, powerful, and dangerous than the lion, and consequently held by them in the greatest possible dread. They look upon it more in the light of an evil spirit, with an animal’s form, than a wild beast; they assert that its face is human.” We learn, however, from the rest of the description, that this creature possesses itself of its prey by force alone; the human face is one further feature of terror, but does not, as in the previous case, serve to beguile mankind and lure them by its beauty to their fate.

No comments:

Post a Comment