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with a horn between the eyes streaked with black. "It is a cruel fowle and attends on battels and campes.” The Siberian myth gives this winged rhinoceros gigantic dimensions. The tusks and bones of the great pachyderms, found in the tundras, are thought by native hunters to be the beaks and talons of monster birds. The nearest approach of fact to the Abyssinian prodigy is perhaps the horned screamer, or unicorn bird, whose cries "resembling the bray of a jackass, but shriller,” unpleasantly disturbed for the naturalist Bates the solitude of the Brazilian forest.
Those forbidding sister groups, the gorgons, the sirens, and the harpies, are perhaps different aspects of the storm clouds and the storm wind-the baleful lightning, the shrieking sea gales, the violent gusts that snatch (har pazo) away soul and body. Of the three, the gorgons and sirens will be left within the domain of nature myths. The harpies may be migrants from the religions of Egypt, in which Nekhbet, the vulture-goddess, is sometimes represented as a woman with a vulture's head, and the soul is depicted as a human-headed bird fluttering from the mouths of the dying. Yet they have that savor of the soil, that touch of the grotesque, that suggestion of coarse reality that belong rather to travel tale. Though with woman faces, their attributes are animal.
Hesiod describes them as maidens, winged and golden-haired, who harassed the blind King Phineus at his banquets. The myth is retold in grosser form in the story of the Argonauts, whence these sisters, driven away by the comrades of Jason, make their flight to the Æneid and find roost in an isle where the Trojans cast anchor. The picture Virgil drew of them superseded the more flattering accounts of poets before him, and the immense vogue of this poet in later ages led the romancers of the Charlemagne cycle to adopt his report without abatement.
The harpies of Virgil are, as the poet Morris pictures them, "dreadful snatchers,” like women down to the breast, with scanty, coarse black hair, dim eyes ringed with red, bestial mouths, gnarled necks, and birds' claws. Their faces are pale with hunger. When the Trojans slay the island cattle and pre
pare meat for a feast, the birds swoop down with a horrible clamor, seize part of the meat, and defile the rest. Nimbly they dodge the Trojan swords, and their feathers are like steel mail. From a cliff they reproach the visitors for slaying their cattle and warring upon them, and as Æneas departs they shriek direful predictions after him.
In the legends of Charlemagne the bird-sisters reappear when Astolpho, cousin of Orlando, reaches Abyssinia riding the hippogrif. Here is another blind king, like Phineus, "prey to a flock of obscene birds called harpies, which attacked him whenever he sat at meat, and with their claws snatched, tore, and scattered everything, overturning the vessels, devouring the food, and infecting what they left with their filthy touch.” They are put to flight with one blast of Astolpho's horn and driven by him and his hippogrif into a cavern, the entrance of which he blocked up so that they are seen no more.
That is, so far as the romancer of that time knew. They reappeared in the New World on the Isthmus of Darien, where Balboa was pursuing, amid the fens of a haunted land, the ad. venture of the mines of Dobayba and the elusive golden temple. The Indians told him there had been a horrible tempest, and when they ventured forth again they found that two monstrous creatures had come in with the storm. They were apparently a mother and her daughter. They had woman faces and eagle claws and wings; the branches of the trees where they perched broke with their weight. Swooping down, they would seize a man and carry him away to the hilltops to devour him. At last the natives killed the older bird by a stratagem, and, suspending her body from their spears, bore it from town to town to appease the alarm of their people. The younger harpy disappeared.
Natural history has given the name of harpy to a buzzard, an eagle, a fly, and two species of bats. Neither of the last named, however, is the vampire bat of which Bates has left a portentous portrait. Its spread of wing is nearly two and a half feet. “Nothing in animal physiognomy can be more hideous than the countenance of this creature when viewed from the front; the large, leathery ears standing out from the sides and top of the head, the erect, spear-shaped appendage on the top of the nose, the grin and the glistening black eye, all combining to make up a figure that reminds one of some mocking imp of fable.” It seems to be fact that villages in Central America have been abandoned because of the nocturnal attacks of this animal. Dampier professes to have seen on an island near Sebo bats “with bodies as big as ducks and with a wing spread of eight feet.” The custom of nailing up dead bats as witch-or-devil forms is common. “An animal,” says Buffon, “which, like the bat, is half quadruped and half bird, and which, in fact, is neither the one nor the other, is a kind of monster.” He suggests that "the wings, the teeth, the claws, the voracity; the nas. tiness, and all the destructive qualities and noxious faculties of the harpies bear no small resemblance to those of the Ternat bat.”
The Stymphalian Birds
The Stymphalian birds, according to Greek legend, frequented a lake in the northeast of Arcadia, which lay on the main route from Argolis and Corinth westward. To disperse or destroy them was the sixth labor of Hercules. These birds were anthropophagous, used their feathers as arrows, and were equipped with brazen claws, wings, and feet. Diodorus has a milder account in which they figure merely as voracious poachers of the fruits of the neighborhood. With a brazen pan the hero made such an uproar that they flew away, appearing again, in the story of the Argonauts, as tenants of the island of Aretias.
Pausanias visited the township of Stymphalus in his tour of Greece. He describes a temple to Artemis Stymphalia standing there, and the figures of the birds Stymphalides under its roof; behind the temple were marble statues of young women with the legs of fowls. The birds, he says, are as large as cranes, but resemble the ibis save that they have stronger beaks and less curved; so, indeed, they are represented on coins of Stymphalus. Herodotus rationalizes the legend by intimating that their feathery arrows were, in truth, hail or snow. The Cockatrice
"The weaned child,” said Isaiah, prophesying the good time coming, “shall
his hand on the cockatrice' den.” The cock. atrice was a monster with the head and plumage of a cock and
a barbed serpent's tail, and so it is represented in heraldry. The word is an old French corruption of the Latin for crocodile, but popular etymology attributed the name to the fact that the prodigy was hatched from an aged cock's egg by a serpent. Because of the crest crowning its head it is also called a basilisk, from the Greek basilikos, or "little king.
Its habitat was Africa. It was horrid to look upon and its glance and breath were alike fatal, while its voice struck terror to other serpents. Its own image, reflected in a mirror, would kill it. The basilisk of Cyrene, Pliny said, was not more than twelve fingers in length, but it destroyed all shrubs save the rue, and consumed grasses and shattered stones merely by breathing upon them. “He infecteth the water that he cometh neare, according to Leigh. It was believed that if a horseman killed a basilisk with a spear-thrust, its poison would ascend the weapon and destroy not only the rider, but his mount. Even its dead body hung in a temple kept swallows from building and spiders from spinning there. However, if a man saw the basilisk first, he went scatheless and the creature itself might die, while women could seize it without suffering harm. The effluvium of the weasel and the crow of the cock were alike fatal to it. Travelers passing near its haunts sometimes took a cock along.
While its deadly nature has persisted, the shape of the cocka. trice has changed. To the ancients it was merely a baleful lizard. Its confusion in the Middle Ages with the cock gave it feathers and a beak. As soon as hatched by a toad or snake from a cock's egg laid in a stable it hid itself in crevice, cistern, or rafter, for to be seen was to die. Later the heralds and painters represented it with the head of a hawk, sometimes even with the head of a man. Its ashes would turn base metals into gold. People thought that cock's eggs were used in the devil's chrism whereby his anointed hags could assume beast form or ride the clouds. In Browne's time there was traffic in counterfeited cockatrices made by joining the dead bodies of pheasants and serpents, or out of the skins of thornbacks. The basilisk of natural history, which may have been the original of the fable, is a harmless creature, although of frightful aspect.
Chapter VII. The Dragon
The dragon of pagan and early Christian legend was a winged crocodile with a serpent's tail. As the word is used by travelers, often a crocodile or a snake rather than a fabulous composite animal is intended. There are three animals listed in natural history which somewhat resemble this creature. The dragon-fly is a frightful-looking but entirely harmless insect; how the supersession of myth by science has shifted values is illustrated by the fact that the ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica gives nearly four pages to the insect and only a dozen lines to the fabulous monster, the destruction of which in another age was the crowning exploit of gods and men. There is also a small flying lizard, native to the East Indies, which is called a dragon and which in miniature is a fair copy of fable. The primeval world knew a veritable dragon in the pterodactyl, a flying lizard with a wing span of seventeen feet.
In the Far East the dragon was a four-legged serpent with rugged head and spiked ears, and, though without wings, it flew. There was more of the crocodile in the dragon of the Near East. It had four short paws, a forked tongue, and bat wings, and fire came from its mouth. The dragon of heraldry had a squat, scaly body, a head with horny projections, long clawed legs, a barbed tongue, and bat wings.
There were four noteworthy things about the dragon. It was watchful, it spat fire and smoke, it ejected poison, and it had control of water. The dragon watched the golden apples in the garden of Hesperides where Hercules found and slew it. It guarded the Valkyrie Brynhild in a castle on the Glistening Heath. Although ecclesiastics of the Middle Ages used the word to symbolize sin and particularly pagan worship, yet until very recent times the world accepted the dragon. The elder naturalists, such as Gesner and Aldrovandi, picture it in their works. A mediæval writer says that at the midsummer celebra