May 6, 2016

Mythical Q

        Q, as you can imagine, is a pretty unusual letter for creatures of any sort.  Still, you should never underestimate the mythical menagerie, which is certainly not afraid to be unusual.  Here are the handful of Q beasties I’ve found.

qilin - First discovered in the fifth century BCE, the qilin is an auspicious creature that brings serenity and prosperity.  They have hooves, antlers, and manes, and their bodies are scaled and sometimes flaming.  They are peaceful vegetarians, who don’t disturb the grass when they walk (and presumably don’t burn it, either), and their voices sound like tinkling wind chimes.  (Chinese)

Questing Beast - First discovered in the thirteenth century, this creature has the head and neck of a snake, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion, and the feet of a deer.  The name comes from the noise it makes, like the barking of “thirty couple hounds questing.”  Its French name is Beast Glatisant, which means “barking beast.”  The really unusual thing about this noise, though, is that it comes not from the creature’s throat and mouth, but from its belly.  Could this be a strange sort of purring?  Questing is also an appropriate name, though, because it is Sir Pellinore’s never-ending quest to hunt it.  In contrast to the qilin, the Questing Beast is seen as a symbol of the violence and chaos that destroy King Arthur’s kingdom.  The contrast is particularly interesting because both qilin and Questing Beast may have evolved from legends of giraffes.  (medieval European)  

quinotaur - First mentioned in the seventh century, quinotaurs are sea monsters somewhat like the Ophiotaurus, but with five horns (hence the name.)  Inexplicably, one allegedly raped a Frankish queen in the fifth century, and the offspring of the episode was Merovech, for whom the line of Merovingian kings was named.  I have no information as to whether quinotaurs are usually so violent, or whether Merovech’s dad was a particularly heinous one.  You wouldn’t think you’d want to brag about being descended from a monster, and a monster rapist at that, but the historians just called it a “sea god” and that made it all good.  (ancient French)

qiqirn - a large dog spirit that is mostly bald but has hair on its feet, ears, mouth, and tail-tip.  People and dogs find it terrifying and run away from it, but at the same time it runs away from people and dogs.  You can be especially sure you’ll scare it if you shout its name.  However, my sources don’t tell me whether its name is Qiqirn, or whether it might have a personal name you need to know, such as Bob, Alice, or Rumpelstiltskin.  (Inuit)
quintaped - First mentioned in modern times, quintapeds are dangerous magical creatures a bit like huge tarantulas with five legs, each ending in a club foot.  They are covered in thick reddish-brown hair.  They are carnivorous and particularly love to eat humans.  Quintapeds are also known as Hairy McBoons.  (wizarding world)

[Pictures: Qilin, wood block print from Sancai Tuhui by Wang Qi and Wang Siyi, 1607 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);
Arthur and the Questing Beast, illustration by H.J.Ford from King Arthur, Tales of the Round Table edited by Andrew Lang, 1904 (Image fromWikipedia);
Quintaped, illustration from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, edited by J.K. Rowling, 2001.]

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