Medieval Manticores & Blemmyes.


Manlike monsters in medieval manuscripts take on many different forms.
The main types are man-beast hybrids, those with too few human features and those with too many.
A good example of the first type is the manticore.
It was a creature of Persian legend which found its way into medieval bestiaries via Pliny’s Naturalis Historia (a text which seems to have been an important and apparently unquestioned source for medieval writers).
Manticores were thought to have the body of a lion, a human head with three rows of sharp teeth, and a trumpet-like voice.
They could have horns, wings, or both, and they would paralyse and kill their prey – which they devoured whole – by shooting out poisonous spines.
The second type of humanoid monster includes monopods and blemmyes.
Monopods, dwarf-like creatures with a single foot extending from one leg centered in the middle of the body, were first mentioned in Aristophanes’ play The Birds (413 BC).
Pliny reports that monopods have been spotted in India, a piece of (mis)information which might have derived from sightings of Indian sadhus, who sometimes meditate on one foot.

Blemmyes from Nuremberg Chronicle 1493

The Blemmye also from the Nuremberg Chronicles.
The blemmyes are perhaps even stranger.
Blemmyes were believed to be headless cannibals living in North Africa and the Middle East, whose eyes and mouths were located on their chests.
The name comes from an ancient African tribe based in what is now Sudan; perhaps something about them or their dress made European travellers think that their heads were in their chests, although science fiction author Bruce Sterling writes about a Blemmye during the Crusades who turns out to be an extraterrestrial, so who knows…
Now read on via Manlike monsters in medieval manuscripts.

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