Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Creature Feature: Theow

This was the last of the creatures I drew for the my first semester thesis, and one of my personal favorites. A Theow is a wolf-like creature with cloven hooves and a mane of many colors. I chose to use feathers to build up the mane, for visual interest and because of the great variety of naturally occurring colors available. It's often used traditionally as a substitute for a normal wolf, which was uncommon and undesirable in coats of arms. Wolves were (wrongly) thought of as craven, cowardly scavengers, but the theow was a brave, partly-tame version a wolf, usually shown with a collar around its maned neck. I chose to interpret them as playful animals, more like tame dogs. They're fairly rare in traditional heraldry, and that's a real shame because they're fun creatures.

Creature Feature: Calygreyhound

This has always been one of the cutest creatures in the set. The calygreyhound is a wildcat with the forelegs of a bird and "bulbous, frond-like horns." For my purposes, I chose to use a falcon as the bird with the legs, and ferns as antlers. There were actually two different versions of this image; the earlier one showed the kitten laying down, the fronds sticking out the side of the shield, and had a diagonal division with a crown in the upper half. I'm really fond of that version, but it doesn't fit in with the rest of the set so I had to re-imagine the design for the book. Traditionally, this animal represents speed, and is believed to have been made up entirely, with no basis on a real animal.

Creature Feature: Heraldic Antelope

Antelope sounds pretty mundane, right? You're probably wondering what it's doing in a collection of imaginary creatures. See, there's the real antelope, and then there's the heraldic antelope--an entirely different proposition. In heraldry, an antelope has the body and feet of a deer, the head of a heraldic tyger (more on that later), a long flexible tail, tufted hair on its back, tusks like a boar, and a pair of serrated horns like saw blades. According to medieval accounts, the antelope was a vicious and cruel creature, who used its sharp horns to cut down trees. It has a lot of features in common with both unicorns and tygers, but symbolically it was a warning against being a bad person like the antelope was a bad animal. They're often used as supporters for full coats of arms.

Creature Feature: Mantyger

This was one of the creatures that started it all. The mantyger (also spelled "mantyre" or called a "satyral") is described as an animal with a lion's body and mane, an old man's face and beard, a long, flexible tail, and the serrated horns of an antelope. Sometimes, they're also described as having the tusks of a boar--I chose to include that part. What I find interesting about the mantyger is the story behind its description. It's widely believed that this animal was a misinterpretation of a baboon; big, fluffy mane, slightly humanoid face, and big sharp teeth. Where the horns came from is anybody's guess. When used in a coat of arms, a mantyger is hard to interpret because it's been historically confused for a manticore--which is a vicious creature with a lion's body, man's face, sharp teeth, and a scorpion tail. The two are not actually interchangeable.