Nessie

The Loch Ness Monster (or Nessie for short) is one of the most elusive cryptids in modern folklore.  In fact, the Loch Ness monster is so elusive, we have only one confirmed sighting on our shelves here in Special Collections.  It comes in the form of The Loch Ness Monster Watchers, a 1974 essay by Victor Perera about an expedition he and a collegue took to Loch Ness in Scotland to try to spot Nessie for themselves.

Many theories about the Loch Ness Monster exist in modern legends.  One of the most common theories surrounding the Loch Ness Monster is that Nessie is some form of plesiosaur, whose line has somehow survived into modern times within the loch.   This image from Robert McCann's short comic "Ocean Blues", featured in Disappointing Circus, shows such a creature.  You can certainly see the family resemblance.

Whether or not you believe in Nessie or think it's all just a hoax, the legend continues to be a huge draw for cryptozoologists, adventurers, and the simply curious, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious creature.  If you can't afford the trip to Scotland to seek out Nessie for yourself, come see us at Special Collections, where you can read all about one such a trip and decide for yourself – is the Loch Ness Monster real or just wishful thinking?

Demons

To finish out October, here's an extra special Halloween edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in Special Collections.  Today's featured beast is the demon, which is usually defined as an evil spirit or fiend.  Nearly every religion has a form of demons that populate whatever version of Hell that particular religion believes in, often trying to influence the people of our world into committing evil acts and causing general chaos.  Mephistopheles (pictured above) is one of the more well-known demons and is the one that Faust sells his soul to in the legend of Faustus, recorded most famously by Goethe.

In other classic literature, this edition of Dante's Inferno illustrated by Gustave Dore beautifully shows some of the residents of Hell that Dante and Virgil encounter on their journey through the nine circles of Hell.

This image depicts a scene from the Russian folk tale The Soldier's Midnight Watch, in which a soldier hides on top of the stove while an undead witch summons a crowd of small demons to search him out.

In more modern media, demons have taken on other roles as well, such as in the comic Fray by Joss Whedon, in which the demon Urkonn plays trainer to a futuristic vampire slayer named Melaka Fray.

A more light-hearted take on a demon occurs in The Demon of the Eiffel Tower, an English translation of a French comic in which Adele Blanc-Sec solves mysteries and has grand adventures in a fantasy version of the 1900s.  (Spoiler Alert:  in true Scooby-Doo style, the demon is eventually revealed to be a woman with a nefarious plot in a costume.)

 

Switching from comics to poetry, the above image is from Arthur Rimbaud's collection of poems entitled A Season in Hell.  With several photographs like this by Robert Mapplethorpe, this edition of Rimbaud's poetry certainly takes an added turn for the creepy.

 

Speaking of creepy, these terrifying creatures are from Leonard Baskin's work Demons, Imps, and Fiends.  The rest of the book is filled with drawings of demons you definitely wouldn't want to meet on the street at night, much less enter into any form of agreement with.

Happy Halloween everyone!  If you need help getting into the spirit of the holiday, come see us in Special Collections.  Our stacks are haunted by books with all kinds of creatures guaranteed to help.

The Griffin, King of the Beasts

The mighty griffin, with the head, wings, and talons of an eagle and the body of a lion, is said to represent power and majesty as the ruler of all creatures.  Which makes sense since the eagle is commonly cited as the king of birds and the lion as the king of beasts.  The griffin is quite common in tales and mythology throughout the ages, and is one of the more well-known fantastic beasts, like unicorns or dragons.

Griffins are incredibly strong, and are often used in heraldry and crests.  Griffins were also said to be exretemely wise, and, like dragons, had a tendency to seek out and hoard gold.  Adrienne Mayor suggests that the origin of the griffin myth comes from fossil findings of the pentaceratops (a dinosaur with a beaked face and four-legged body), whose bones would have looked much like a griffin's were supposed to, near known gold veins.

Lewis Carroll even includes a gryphon (pictured below) in his stories as a demanding guide to take Alice to the Mock Turtle.

To find the king of the beasts for yourself, all you need to do is pay a visit to us here at Special Collections – no digging in the mountains necessary!

Carroll’s Wonderland Menagerie

"And as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!"

With an imagination as great as Lewis Carroll's was, it's no wonder he was able to create such a range of creatures to inhabit the appropriately named Wonderland.  In addition to the Jabberwock above,  Wonderland is home to a host of bizzare beings.  Most famously, perhaps, is the Cheshire Cat, who appears and disappears to give Alice some cryptic advice from time to time.

Other denizens of Wonderland are the toves, mome raths, and borogroves; talking flowers, a mock turtle, and even a caterpillar that smokes a hookah while dispensing even more crytpic advice to poor Alice.

More fabulous beasts from the mind of Lewis Carroll can be found by visiting us at Special Collections!  (Perhaps you might stop by on a hunt for the elusive Snark?)

Here There Be Dragons

How do you make a dragon student angry?  You send it to knight school!

Bad jokes aside, our fabulous beasts series continues with this week's feature creature – the dragon.  From our 13th century manuscripts to modern day joke books, dragons are running rampant through our collections.

Like this little guy, a favorite of the librarians here, curled around a letter "p" in our illuminated manuscript leaf of the Acts of the Apostles.

Another dragon drawn from a religious text is this take on the story of Moses and the Serpent.  Instead of his staff turning into a snake as the story usually goes, here we see Moses leap back in fright from the dragon that has sprung forth instead.

A bit of visual humor here, from the same volume as the pun that opened this post.

And for all the latest information on dragons, try Dr. Ernest Drake's Dragonology, found in our Closed Collection.

To see more of these dragons, and others, stop in at Special Collections!

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New series: Fantastic Beasts of Special Collections

What does Special Collections have in common with Rubeus Hagrid of the Harry Potter novels?

We both take care of multitudes of fantastic beasts! Though unlike Hagrid with his forest full of creatures, ours live on the shelves in books called bestiaries.

In the spirit of the first week back at classes here at Mizzou, we'll kick off our new series of fantastic beasts and where to find them in Special Collections with The Academic Bestiary by Richard Armour.  In this book, which combines the style of medieval bestiaries with humorous depictions of the modern residents of Academia, you'll find creatures such as the Dean, R.A., Artist, Historian, and (of course) the Librarian.  Can you tell which of these names belong to each of the pictures above?