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The Griffin, King of the Beasts

Tempesta Griffin

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.An Odd Bestiary - Griffin 1 An Odd Bestiary - Griffin 2Griffins 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.

Libellus de Natura Animalium Griffin

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

Rackham Alice Gryphon Alice in Wonderland Gryphon

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!

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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!"

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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.

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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.

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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?)

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Here There Be Dragons

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

St. George and the Dragon

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.

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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.

The Visconti Uffiziolo

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.

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

Dragonology

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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