A to Z Challenge Folklore

Manticore #folklore #AtoZChallenge

M is for Manticore

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

I’m sure there must have been manticores in the stories I’ve read and watched over the years, but the one that stood out in my memory is the one in Merlin that manipulated the old woman and lived in a box.

Manticore. Image credit.

Folklore

AELIAN: ON THE NATURE OF ANIMALS – BOOK 4 Translated by A.F. Scholfield (1958)

[21] G   There is in India a wild beast, powerful, daring, as big as the largest lion, of a red colour like cinnabar, shaggy like a dog, and in the language of India it is called Martichoras {Mantichore}. ** Its face however is not that of a wild beast but of a man, and it has three rows of teeth set in its upper jaw and three in the lower; these are exceedingly sharp and larger than the fangs of a hound. Its ears also resemble a man’s, except that they are larger and shaggy; its eyes are blue-grey and they too are like a man’s, but its feet and claws, you must know, are those of a lion. To the end of its tail is attached the sting of a scorpion, and this might be over a cubit in length; and the tail has stings at intervals on either side. But the tip of the tail gives a fatal sting to anyone who encounters it, and death is immediate. If one pursues the beast it lets fly its stings, like arrows, sideways, and it can shoot a great distance; and when it discharges its stings straight ahead it bends its tail back; if however it shoots in a backward direction, as the Sacae ** do, then it stretches its tail to its full extent. Any creature that the missile hits it kills; the elephant alone it does not kill. These stings which it shoots are a foot long and the thickness of a bulrush. Now Ctesias asserts (and he says that the Indians confirm his words) that in the places where those stings have been let fly others spring up, so that this evil produces a crop. And according to the same writer the Martichoras for choice devours human beings; indeed it will slaughter a great number; and it lies in wait not for a single man but would set upon two or even three men, and alone overcomes even that number. All other animals it defeats: the lion alone it can never bring down. That this creature takes special delight in gorging human flesh its very name testifies, for in the Greek language it means man-eater, and its name is derived from its activities. Like the stag it is extremely swift.  

Now the Indians hunt the young of these animals while they are still without stings in their tails, which they then crush with a stone to prevent them from growing stings. The sound of their voice is as near as possible that of a trumpet.

Ctesias declares that he has actually seen this animal in Persia (it had been brought from India as a present to the Persian King) – if Ctesias is to be regarded as a sufficient authority on such matters. At any rate after hearing of the peculiarities of this animal, one must pay heed to the historian of Cnidus.

Manticore. Image credit

Pliny the Elder, The Natural History

BOOK VIII. THE NATURE OF THE TERRESTRIAL ANIMALS, CHAP. 30. (21.)—THE LYNX, THE SPHINX, THE CROCOTTA, AND THE MONKEY.

Ctesias informs us, that among these same Æthiopians, there is an animal found, which he calls the mantichora;8 it has a triple row of teeth, which fit into each other like those of a comb, the face and ears of a man, and azure eyes, is of the colour of blood, has the body of the lion, and a tail ending in a sting, like that of the scorpion. Its voice resembles the union of the sound of the flute and the trumpet; it is of excessive swiftness, and is particularly fond of human flesh.

BOOK VIII. THE NATURE OF THE TERRESTRIAL ANIMALS, CHAP. 45.—THE COROCOTTA; THE MANTICHORA.

Juba informs us, that the mantichora of Æthiopia can also imitate the human speech.

Manticore. Image credit.

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane

Manticora

Lympago, Mantegre, Mantichora, Manticore, Manticory, Manticoras, Man-Tiger, Man-Tigeris, Mantikhoras, Mantiserra, Mancomorion, Mantygre, Mard-Khor (“man-eater”), Maricomorion, Martikhorai, Martiora, Memecoleous, Montegre, Satyral

Originating in Persian literature as a creature of Indian mythology, the chimerical manticora (“to eat man”) is described as having the head of a grey-eyed man, the blood-red body of a lion, a tail with a scorpion stinger, and three rows of fangs in its mouth; it is one of the KHRAFSTRA. Ancient writers claimed its voice as being a low hiss while others said it’s high-pitched. Later authors added to the original description of the creature bovine udders, eagle or GRIFFIN talons, horns upon the head, wings, and a tail covered with spikes which could be thrown great distances. It has been compared to the CROCOTTA.

Extremely agile and sure footed, the manticora had powerful and strong legs, capable of leaping over or out of any ditch or obstacle established to capture it. In spite of its human head, the manticora had an insatiable and voracious appetite for human flesh.

*More can be read in the book.

Manticore. Image credit.

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John & Caitlín Matthews

MANTICORE/MANTICORA

A hybrid monster referred to in the myths of Mesopotamia, Ethiopia and India. Also known as Martikhora, Mantiserra Memecoleous, Mancomorion and the Satyral, it was a favourite creature in the menagerie of beasts included in the bestiaries of medieval Europe. Its name comes from the Persian mardkhora, which means ‘man-slayer’, and has led some writers to suppose it may have been a man-eating tiger. Mentioned by a number of early classical writers, the earliest description is believed to have come from the writings of the Greek physician to Artaterxes Mnemon (404–359 BC), which was later transcribed by the Roman author Aelian in his book on animals. Pliny the Elder referred to this in his Historia Naturalis of AD 77; the description is worth quoting in full:

There is in India a wild beast, powerful, daring, as great as the largest lion, of a red colour like cinnabar, shaggy like a dog…Its face however is not that of a wild beast but of a man, and it has three rows of teeth set in its upper jaw and three in the lower; these are exceedingly sharp and larger than the fangs of a hound. Its ears also resemble a man’s, except that they are larger and shaggy; its eyes are blue grey and they too are like a man’s, but its feet and claws, you must know, are those of a lion. To the end of its tail is attached the sting of the Scorpion, and this might be over a cubit [18 inches] in length; and the tail has stings at intervals on either side. But the tip of the tail gives a fatal sting to anyone who encounters it, and death is immediate. If one pursues the beast it lets fly its stings, like arrows, sideways, and it can shoot a great distance; and when it discharges its stings straight ahead it bends its tail back; if however it shoots in a backwards direction, then it stretches its tail to its full extent. Any creature that the missile hits it kills; the Elephant alone it does not kill. These stings, which it shoots, are a foot long and the thickness of a bulrush. One writer asserts (and he says that the people of [Ancient] India confirm his words) that in the places where those things have been let fly others spring up, so that this evil produces a crop. According to the same writer, the Manticore devours human beings; indeed it will slaughter a great number; and it lies in wait not for a single man but would set upon two or even three men, and overcomes even that number. The Indians [of Asia] hunt the young of these animals while they are still without stings in their tails, which they then crush with a stone to prevent them from growing stings. The sound of their voice is as near as possible that of a trumpet.

*More can be read in the book.

Manticore. Image credit.

Further Reading:

Manticore. Image credit.

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

The word Manticore comes from the Persian word meaning “man-eater” or, according to some, “man-tiger”. This fearsome creature has a scorpion tail which can shoot poisonous darts, the head of a man and the body of either a lion or a tiger. Found in several medieval bestiaries, this creature can be traced back to Persia and India before making its way through Europe. It is most famously mentioned by Pliny the Elder.

According to Pliny, the Manticore has three rows of teeth, the face and ears of a human, and blue eyes. It has red fur, the body of a lion and a tail with the stinger of a scorpion. It is also a creature of great speed which avidly goes after human flesh.

As these monsters were near-indestructible as adults, they were hunted as cubs and killed before they could hunt humans and their livestock. Because of this, manticores lived deep within the ground to hide from their prey.

Not everyone agreed with Pliny the Elder, though. Pausanias argued that the people from India and Persia were so afraid of the ordinary tiger that could so easily kill humans, that it became exaggerated in tales about it. Even Aristotle said a hybrid creature such as this is impossible. Yet the manticore became a favourite in art and literature despite the naysayers.

Whether real or imagined, no trace of the manticores victims are ever found.

Manticore. Image credit.

Manticore in Modern Culture

Grimm TV series

Manticore. Image credit.

Manticore (MAN-tə-kor; En., from E.Mid.Per. martyaxwar “manticore“, a legendary Persian cryptid) is a half-lion, half-scorpion-like Wesen originating in Persia that first appeared in “The Good Soldier“.

When woged, Manticores bear a strong resemblance to Löwens, only they have much larger manes that seem to grow grey as they age. From their spines extend black, chitinous scorpion tails. They are able to move and control these tails and often use them in combat. These tails are capable of delivering powerful blows, and they contain a dangerous poison with high amounts of neurotoxins and nerve inhibitors that are similar to the venom of scorpions of the family Buthidae. This poison can paralyze and kill an adult human, as well as another Manticore, in mere seconds. As such, it is the Manticores’ common method of killing. 

According to Monroe, Manticores are very difficult to kill. (“Maréchaussée“) They are also superhumanly strong on a level impressive even by Wesen standards, as they can easily lift and throw/kick full-grown men across a whole room with great force. They also possess great agility, able to make lion-like leaps over a distance of several yards. Their durability is also impressive, as they are able to take multiple blows from another Manticore. 

Learn more here.

BBC’s Merlin

Manticore. Image credit.

The Manticore is a powerful creature of dark magic that resides in the Spirit World. It is one of the most fearsome and dangerous creatures in existence.

The Manticore was first sighted almost a thousand years before Uther‘s reign. According to Geoffrey, the ancients lived in fear of it and trembled at its very name, but over time its existence faded into myth.

Alice summoned the Manticore near the end of Uther’s reign. She hoped to use its powers for good, but it was too powerful for her to control and she fell under its thrall.

The Manticore is a small creature about the size of a cat. It has the body, legs, and paws of a lion, the tail of a scorpion, and the face of a man. It also has a large neck frill, long pointed ears, a ridge of spikes down its back, and sharp teeth and claws (Love in the Time of Dragons).

Though small in size, the Manticore is quite strong and capable of attacking with its claws, teeth, and tail. Its tail secretes a deadly, magical venom strong enough to kill an adult human in less than a day and has no natural cure. The only way to save someone infected by Manticore venom is to kill the Manticore it came from by severing its link to the Spirit World.

Learn more here.

The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees (My Review)

Four manticores, each with the lithe body of a lion, the head of a woman, and a curved tail tipped with a scorpion’s stinger. They approach on padded feet, their gait smooth and silent, their shoulder blades bobbing. Renata gleefully waves to them, and Raisa yanks her hand down, holding it firmly. Gabrielle shifts in front of them, protective. Even the sea seems to shrink away, waves curling back on themselves to ensure the beasts will not touch them.

“Hello, Shay,” I say to the largest of the four, who steps forward and bows with her front legs. Her breath smells like apples and cream, like dirt after rain, and mint tea leaves. It is a scent spun specially for me. Regardless of who I am, I am prey, and manticores lure prey close with the amplified aroma of the things one wants most.

The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Manticore in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Manticore

A predator. Fierce. Unforgiving. The manticore has the head of a human, the body of a lion, tiger or other large cat, the tail of a scorpion, and on occasion has horns. It can change its colour to bright scarlet to intimidate an enemy. It has beautiful blue eyes that can mesmerise its prey. The poison from its stinger has no cure. Once it starts hunting someone specific, it never stops. Just as folklore says, it can devour any beast, yet it has a preference for human flesh. It also somehow has the ability to shoot poisonous stingers from its tail at its prey. There is no way to evade a manticore. They are the ultimate hunters, even smelling alluring to their prey.

Manticore translated to Afrikaans: Mantier.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

Where did you first encounter the manticore? What do you think of this scorpion-tail faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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