Saturday, December 1, 2012

Making myths real II -Going dental

Teeth are so important. Our heroes need good teeth, but what about our creatures?

I'm currently writing about a potential fight between an Aufhocker (see my earlier post) and a Werewolf. To get it right I went researching (I'm a nerd, I'm allowed). Who would win, what bite patterns would happen? Are their teeth tearing teeth or chewing teeth?

General concensus seems to indicate that aufhockers, (like werewolves) have canid (dog-like) teeth.
Canid teeth meet together in a scissors like action - a sure indication of a raw food diet. They have fangs for grabbing and puncturing, incisors for nibbling, premolars for tearing, and molars for crushing bone. Unlike herbivores which only have molars that are used for grinding food and mashing grasses, leaves and other vegetable matter, canine teeth are more for slashing, cutting and tearing.

This gives me a better indication of how and what a fight between a werewolf and aufhocker might play out - it also got me looking once again about making mythological creatures real in your writing.

Macabre as it may seem I went searching for teeth and skulls on the internet. I remember when writing about Devika the naga (from Magical Creations and Redemption) that I went looking at the teeth and fangs of a black-mamba. Devika, being a naga, has flick down fangs that drip venom and a black mouth - just like the black mamba snake. I remember considering how I would make her fangs real. This is one of the images I used as a reference for her. Her fangs could retract in sheaths then flick down when she wanted to envenomate a victim...

This then got me thinking about the skull formation of the aufhocker. I imaging it being something similar to that of a werewolf as an aufhocker often described as a canid shifter. To the left is a mock-up skull of a shifted werewolf (complete with bullet hole in the centre of the forehead!) that I sourced from google images. You can see that the artist has used dog/wolf teeth, placed in a humanoid/canine blended skull.

Below is a diagram of a normal human skull for a comparison. You can see in the werewolf-mockup that the  lower mandible (jaw) is significantly narrower than that of the human. This would indicate  that the mouth could open wider than a human. The average human can apparently open their mouth 3 - 4 cm from tip to tip of the inscissors. A wolf can get up to 12 cm or more. Thats a 3 or 4 times larger bite area than a human jaw could make. Additionally the nasal cavity of the werewolf is much larger, and also has the two maxilliary recesses on either side of the larger cavity indicating a heightened ability to smell. Unlike the a dog however, the werewolf skull has a human formed super-orbital torus (brow ridge), indicating that the face of the werewolf is not completely canine in appearance but the upper portion of the face remains human-like.
Facinating stuff!

I now have a pretty good idea of how hideous a fight between  an aufhocker and werewolf would be. Combine the mutated canid head with claws and a hell of a lot of upper body strength and you've got a battle of epic proportions!

Here's an interesting diagram of how a 'shift' might take place. You'll notice however, in this artist's rendition that the superorbital torus virtually disappears, resulting in much more canid features...

Below is a gallery of interesting mythological and real skulls that might be useful as a reference later on.

Cat Skull - note the huge orbital cavities (eyes!)

Black Spider Monkey Skull - blunt inscissors,

Owl Monkey - check out the teeth and eyes!

"Dragon Skull" - small nasal and eye cavities with tearing teeth.

Viper skull - rear facing teeth to hold onto prey
whilst injecting venom.

Have a lovely Sunday and happy writing / reading!



  1. put a lot of research and effort into your books, which is something I as the reader greatly appreciate because it flows so well within the story itself.

    Speaking of your books, do you know when Magical Redemption will be available for NOOK?

  2. Thanks Danielle! I love it, nerdy and odd as it is!

    Hmmm, I supposed it would be available on B&N, as a Nook already, but I can see it's not. I'll go and email my publisher and check on that - thanks for letting me know :D

    1. You're welcome. I sometimes get nerdy about writing/researching as well.

      I check just about every day. The paperback is available, but not the NOOK Book.

    2. Well I spoke to my publisher and she said it should be there...It's not though, I know. She then went on to say the epub version available on the Eternal Press Website is compatible with a NOOK - so to perhaps buy from there? Hope this helps?!

    3. Hmm...maybe I need to put in a complaint with NOOK as well. lol.

  3. Excellent research Nicola. I love how the skulls can tell you so much.

    1. Thank you Jenny. They are absolutely facinating. Interestingly, whoever designed the 'dragon skull', added molars at the back of the jaw, which I personally wouldn't have. I don't think molars would be necessary. With all those tearing teeth, you'd think the dragon would only require a wide oesophagus to swallow the chunks, rather than molars to grind it... Hmmm.

  4. Again, you amaze me Nicola. Thanks for another great post.

    1. Thank you Eleni! And everyone thought doing that unit of physical anthropology was a waste of time ;P It may have taken me 12 years, but at least I can use it now!

  5. Wow, some very cool images there Nicola! A bit of writerly obsessiveness in the research phase never goes astray IMHO. :-)