Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Manticore

The Manticore’s name literally comes from “man eater,” in ancient Portugese.  Manticores are creatures of India, and are supposed to have the body of a red lion, the head of a man (with blue eyes for some reason) with three rows of teeth, and the tail of a scorpion—which is covered with arrows that can be shot at its prey from long distances.  Its voice is compared to trumpets or pipes, and like its cousin the sphinx, the manticore will on occasion ask riddles of its prey before eating them.

The image above comes from a seventeenth-century bestiary, as the manticore was believed by some (including Aristotle and Pliny the Elder) as being a real creature, which lived in the depths of the earth.  Because of this, it was tied with the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, who had been thrown into a pit.  The manticore became a symbol of tyranny and an embodiment of evil, and was seen as a bad omen.  It was also seen as an unholy hybrid of the zodiac characters of Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius.

In fiction, a manticore plays a large role in  Piers Anthony’s first Xanth novel, and another plays a role in the third novel of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels.

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About Lisa Asanuma

Lisa is a professional freelance writer and editor, along with a bookbinder and knitting obsessee. Lisa has a passion for YA literature (inside her passion for literature in general) and is currently working on her first novel. View all posts by Lisa Asanuma

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