In the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series, I will provide sci-fi/fantasy writers with a wealth of information concerning subjects that they may wish to use in their work.
The series will name and describe some of the magical or fantastical creatures that you may want to use in your stories.
A griffin, also spelled griffon or gryphon, is a composite mythological animal typically having the head, forepart, and wings of an eagle and the body (winged or wingless), hind legs, and tail of a lion. It is usually represented with projecting ears, indicating an acute sense of hearing, in addition to its other supposed extraordinary qualities.
The griffin was a favorite decorative motif in the ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean lands. The creature probably originated in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE. By the 14th century BCE, the griffin had spread throughout western Asia and into Greece.
The Asiatic griffin had a crested head, whereas the Minoan and Greek griffin usually had a mane of spiral curls. It was shown either reclining or seated on its haunches and it was often paired with the sphinx. Its function may have been protective.
Western mythology recognizes the griffin as being allied closely to the dragon differing somewhat in appearance and function. Medieval artists portrayed the griffin as a four-legged beast like the western dragon, but it has the beak and wings and forefeet of an eagle, and the hind-legs and tail of a lion. Whereas the dragon is depicted as having the attributes of a serpent, lizard, or crocodile. In ecclesiastical art, the griffin was portrayed to have six limbs—namely, a pair of forelegs or arms, a pair of hind-legs, and, in addition, a pair of wings.
The griffin is best known as one of the chimerical monsters of heraldry—the medieval representative of the ancient symbolic creature of Assyria and the East. It may be classed with the dragon, wyvern, phoenix, sphynx, gorgons and hydras and chimeras dire and other imaginary beings.
Old heralds gravely related of this creature that when it attains its full growth, it will never be overtaken. Consequently, it was a fit emblem of a valiant hero, who, rather than yield himself to his enemy, exposes himself to the worst of dangers. As a general symbol in heraldry the griffin expresses strength and vigilance.
- Lankester, Sir Ray, Science From An Easy Chair, Methuen & Co. Ltd. 36 Essex Street W.C. London, 1910. In the public domain. Found at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/57136/57136-h/57136-h.htm#Page_114
- Jones, W. Henry and Lajos Kropf, The Folk-Tales of the Magyars, Published For The Folk-Lore Society By Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, 1889. In the public domain. Found at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/42981/42981-h/42981-h.htm
- Vinycomb, John, Fictitious & Symbolic Creatures in Art With Special Reference To Their Use In British Heraldry, Chapman And Hall, Limited 11 Henrietta Street, London, W. C., 1906. In the public domain. Found at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/40825/40825-h/40825-h.htm