October 25, 2023

Fantasy Bats

         I’m rounding out my bat kick with a collection of block prints that are truly appropriate to Hallowe’en: magical bats both wondrous and horrifying.  This first little monster is adorable, although I certainly wouldn’t want to find it perched on my shower curtain rod some night!  As far as I can tell it’s just a decorative element and doesn’t have any story that goes along with it, although I can imagine it being some kind of minor demon.
        The next illustration is definitely demons: forms of the One Hundred Night Demons, to be specific.  I’ve chosen the image because the demon at the upper left is clearly bat-like.  This wood block print shows a lantern projecting shadow pictures, and would presumably be right up the alley of anyone who gets into Hallowe’en decor (although being Japanese, it doesn’t have any actual connection to the October 31 holiday, of course).  Paired with it I have another scary Japanese bat.  This wood block print illustrates an epic battle between Miyamoto Musashi and a giant monster bat.  Musashi was a legendary swordsman who had enough battles with monsters that some time I may do a whole post on his depictions, but for our purposes today all we need to do is admire the giant bat as 
fantasy fodder.  With flight, sharp teeth, advantage in the dark, and that whole uncanny otherness, it’s not hard to see why fantasy authors and artists keep coming back to the bat for inspiration.
        However, since I’m fond of bats I couldn’t settle just for creepy ones.  Here are a couple of whimsical anthropomorphic bats by the previous artist.  Apparently this is a scene from a fictionalized account of the famous story of the forty-seven rōnin, except illustrated with the characters as bats because… why not?  Isn’t my point these last few posts that everything’s better with bats?  At any rate, I just love the bat with the umbrella!  It has a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac or Scarlet Pimpernel vibe.
        Next is another humanoid bat.  It illustrates the tale of naughty Oswald “The Night Wanderer,” whose parents told him to stay at home in bed and not go wandering at night.  I would say “let this be a lesson to you,” except that it’s actually a little tempting to imagine being transformed into a bat!  In any case, I find the picture quite amusing.
        This wood engraving shows Shakespeare’s spirit Ariel from “The Tempest.”  It's a lovely depiction of a bat as steed, and the white highlights of the moon give a little extra glow.  (I don’t know whether it’s black and white ink on midtone paper, or black and beige on white.)  I did a previous post on Ariel, and you can see a couple more versions of Ariel riding batback at Ariel’s Poetry.
        And finally, I have to include my own fantasy bat, Nycteris & Flederer’s Patent Mechanical Chiropterid (Model 3).  You can also read a previous blog post about the making of this piece.
        Have you had enough bats yet?  I hope that if you see a lot of bat decor around your neighborhood in the next week you will consider it (and, of course, real bats) with a little extra appreciation!

[Pictures: Bat border, wood engraving from Le Diable Amoureaux by J. Cazotte, 1845 (Image from Cornell University Library);

Shadow Picture of the Forms of the One Hundred Night Demons, woodblock print by Kawabe Kyōsai, 1867 (Image from Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Museum);

Miyamoto Musashi Slashing a Bat, woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, 1866-7 (Image from Fuji Arts);

Bats in the Fifth Act of the Chushingura, woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, 1882 (Image from Fuji Arts);

The Night Wanderer, wood block print from Simple Hans and other funny pictures and stories, 1854 (Image from British Library);

Where the Bee Sucks, wood engraving by John Gilbert from The Songs and Sonnets of Shakespeare, 1862 (Image from Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive);

Nycteris & Flederer’s Patent Mechanical Chiropterid (Model 3), rubber block print by AEGN, 2015 (now sold out).]


Pax said...

Where can I buy the Mechanical Chiropterid (Model 3)? Just what i need for Hallowe'en decor.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Ha, sorry, Pax. That one's sold out.