Friday, March 16, 2012

Underwater Panthers, the Alkonost and the Nandi Bear...

I'm very lucky I have family that indulge my nerdiness. My sister sent me a great birthday present recently, a three book series of Fantasy Artist's Pocket References. By Finlay Cowan. All images in this post are from the books.
Anyway. These books are so cool. Not only do they have some awesome creatures, (some of which, *gasp* not even I had heard of...) they show you how to draw them! If only I had more time on my hands at the moment, I'd be sketching away like a crazy woman!
[Nandi Bear  by Finlay Cowan]
A couple of them particularly caught my eye as unfamiliar, and I'd like to share them with you. The first is the Nandi bear. This one is a cryptid, rather than a mythological creature (see my blog post on the Chupacabra here if you don't know the difference between a cryptid & mythological beastie). The Nandi bear is said to inhabit a region in Kenya unsurprisingly inhabited by the Nandi tribe. Also known as the Kerit, this creature has the same kind of 'elusive nature' as the Abominable Snowman. It's believed to have a loping gait like a bear crossed with a hyena, but can also stand on two legs. It is known to attack people and there are many alleged 'sightings'. Current theories on it's origin suggest it may be a type of unknown hyena, or bear (although bears are not indigenous to the Nandi area), or perhaps some ancient, rare giant baboon.
I think it is a particularly cool cryptid anyway.

Secondly, the next creature from these books to catch my eye, and one that was completely unfamiliar to me - was the Underwater Panther, sometimes called Mishibizhiw. This creature originates from Native American mythology particularly the  Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi nations around the Great Lakes area of the US and Canada.
[picture by Finlay Cowan]
Underwater Panthers are considered to be water monsters, and have various descriptions and personality traits depending on the legend. The beast can take a variety of forms... the body of a wild feline (lynx or mountain lion), the horns of a deer or bison with upright scales on its back and occasionally feathers. They usually have extremely long tails, and hiss or roar. They are said to live in the darkest, deepest parts of lakes or rivers and can cause storms.
Personality varies, sometimes benevolent and sometimes malevolent - to possess a hair from it would bestow great power.

[Picture by Finlay Cowan]
Thirdly there is  the Alkonost, who is a rather lovely birdlike mythological woman.
The Alkonost is, according to Russian folklore, a creature with the body of a bird but the head of a beautiful woman. She makes sounds that are amazingly beautiful, and those who hear these sounds forget everything they know and want nothing more ever again - which you'll agree is very smiliar to the Sirens of Greek mythology.  The Alkonost however, is generally benevolent towards humans. However, when lays her eggs on a beach she then rolls them into the sea and upon hatching a thunderstorm will ensue. The thunderstorms are so fierce that the ocean will become so rough no one can sail that day.
The name of the alkonost comes from the Greek demigoddess, Alcyone. In Greek mythology, Alcyone was transformed by the gods into a kingfisher.

Don't you just just love how mythological creatures are transformed from culture to culture? I do.

Anyway, if you are looking for a particularly interesting set of books about mythology with the added bonus of drawing thrown in -  two of my favourite subjects!) I thoroughly recommend these books for inspiration! Rest assured I'll be pawing over them for years to come.

Here are the links;

Fantasy Artist's Pocket Reference - Dragons & Fantasy Creatures

Fantasy Artist's Pocket Reference - Phantastic faeries

Fantasy Artist's Pocket Reference - Incredible Characters

Have a wonderful weekend.

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