April 2, 2022

F is for Flight

        (My A to Z theme this year is How to Make a Fantastical Creature, in which I explore 26 traits that are widely shared among the monsters and marvels of fantasy and folklore.  Be sure to check out all the other bloggers participating in the Challenge this year.
        Slap a pair of wings on anything that doesn’t normally have them, and Hey Presto, you’ve got a magical creature.  There are plenty of magical mythical birds, and even some insects, but today I’m particularly thinking of the creatures for which the ability to fly is part of their magic.
        A human with wings becomes a fairy or angel, (unless it’s a baby, and then it becomes a cupid, cherub, or putto).  A horse with wings becomes a pterippus, a dog with wings becomes a xog, and don’t forget Ursula K. LeGuin’s Catwings.  This is another of those characteristics that doesn’t require any special analysis: humans have always been fascinated by flight, and any creature with the ability to fly is guaranteed to be pretty darn magical.
        Pegasus is not the only flying horse in the mythological heavens.  To name just a sampling, flying horses (some depicted without wings) are known in China (qianlima, longma, and tianma), central Asia (Tulpar), India (Dadhikra and Uchchaihshravas), Islam (Haizum), Thailand (Tipaka), and probably everywhere horses are known.
        The uwabami of Japan is a giant snake that according to some accounts can fly, and according to all accounts loves to drink sake and eat huge meals (which may include humans, so it could have put in an appearance at A).  Indeed, flying snakes are another type of creature that seems to be popular among storytellers around the world.  If you want more flying snakes, you can revisit the amphiptere.
        The serra is an enormous flying fish that loves to chase after ships and race them.  However, it generally gets bored after about two hundred yards, folds its sail-fins, and dives back down into the water, where hopefully it won’t saw into the ship’s hull.
        Of course everyone looks forward to seeing the proverbially impossible flying pig.
        It’s worth the reminder that many magical creatures can fly magically: without wings.  For example, the Chinese lung dragon seldom has wings, and its ability to fly is sometimes said to be seated in the bump on its head, or in the magical pearl it may carry.
        Some of the fun flying beasties I’ve written about before are the wolpertinger - a winged rabbit-hybrid, the llamhigyn y dwr - a sort of long-tailed winged toad, and my own Winged Peeper and Oaky Nutkin.
        Part of the wonder of your classic dragon and griffin is that they can fly, along with lots of the chimeric creatures introduced under C, including the simurgh, lamassu, and hippogriff.  Whenever I imagine a chimera, I’m certainly inclined to add wings, such as my malacorana.  It’s no coincidence that medieval illuminators loved to put wings on their decorative marginal critters.  After all, the moral of these creatures is that everything’s better with wings!  Which is why a Pro Tip for explorers of the realms of magic is to remember to be aware of what’s above you, as well as all around.

        Have you ever dreamt you could fly?  And if so, how did you do it: did you have wings, or flap your arms, or soar like Superman, or drift like a cloud, or…?  Tell me how you fly!

[Pictures: Pegasus (First Flight), rubber block print by AEGN, (2018);
Fairies, illustration from The Borrowed Bride by Patrick Sarsfield Cassidy, 1892 (Image from Open Library);
Catwings, illustration by S.D. Schindler from Catwings by Ursula K. LeGuin, 1988;
Serra, illumination from Worksop bestiary, 1185 (Image from Morgan Library);
Flying Pig, wood engraving by Steven Noble (Image from artist’s web site StevenNoble.com);
Lung Dragon, Chinese painted porcelain, c 1426-35 (Image from Met Museum);
Marginal monster, illumination from Luttrell Psalter, 1325-40 (Image from British Library).]


Kristin said...

When I fly in my dreams I don't flap my arms. I just at coast along. Sometimes just several feet off the ground. Sometimes over the trees.

Joy Weese Moll said...

I was told once that everyone who enjoys the bird-watching hobby has a secret desire to fly. I suppose I can now add a fascination with fairies, Pegasus, and dragons -- all of which have held my fancy at some point or other.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Pegasus stays my favourite :-)

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge My Languishing TBR: F

Narayana Rao K.V.S.S. said...

Flying creatures. May be mythology. Interesting. A to Z challenge makes you write. Write and interact with a big blogger community.
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Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Kristin, when I fly in dreams it's a lot of work - but still very cool.

Joy, I would think everyone has a desire to fly whether they watch birds or not! But maybe I'm just saying that because I do like birds.

Not surprised, Ronel! lol

Thanks for visiting, Narayana.