Lion And Eagle

Griffin, a mysterious creature — having the body, size and weight of a lion with an addition of wings and face of an eagle — is not just strange because of its appearance but also because it remains strangely elusive and does not crop up very often in as many legends as other mythical creatures.

This unusual looking creature is said to have resided in the regions from Africa to the Middle East and in the mountainous regions of India and Europe. It is said to be the guardian of gold and attacked those who tried to outsmart the creature or by stealing the treasure it guarded.

In mythology, the griffin laid eggs made of agate, a precious gemstone. However, in the 12th century, a German nun, St Hildegard of Bingen wrote something different about griffin’s eggs and its abode. She wrote that the female of the species searched large caves having a narrow entrance to lay eggs; she then guarded the eggs until they were hatched and the size of the egg was that of an ostrich’s egg.

In some legends, the griffin is said to have had the forelimbs of an eagle with the pointed ears of a lion and only the female had feathers. While in others, both males and females had wings and the forelimbs of a lion. Thus, due to the amalgam of two different creatures, lion, the king of all animals while, eagle, the king of all birds, makes griffin the king of all mythological beasts having attributes like, braveness, strength, courage and sharp vision.

There are many interesting tales associated with the griffin, one of which is about Alexander the Great, who is said to have captured a pair of griffin, hoping to tame them. He tied and starved them for a while and later, tempted them with some pieces of meat.

Another interesting story is regarding Captain Cook’s first voyage of discovery during the 1770s, in which, according to botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, the captain brought a griffin from a Pacific Island back to England, and some believe that it is still living in England.

Modern day sighting reports started in 1984 when a man walking past The Green Dragon Apartments, UK, saw ‘a dog with wings’ flying across the sky. The same man saw the creature once again after a year and claimed that he got a better look this time saying that it had wings and a long muzzle. Then some people on a bus also reported seeing it near the local art centre while it was perched on a gas metre! To add to the reports, a psychologist who was jogging around the Thames also claimed to have seen it. These sightings earned place on the local TV channels and phone lines were also set up for people to report further sightings. However, no follow up to the sightings have been reported up till now.

Apart from these, there are many statues and references to the griffin found in classic Greek art and also in Bronze Age Crete of the fifth and sixth centuries. One can also find the creature in Persian poetry, especially that of the famous poet Jalalluddin Rumi and in the 14th century travelogues writer Sir John Mandeville Book of Travels.

Sir Mandeville writes, “In that country, be many griffins, more plenty than in any other country. Some men say they have the body upward as an eagle and beneath as a lion; and truly they say that they be of that shape. But one griffin hath the body more great and is more strong than eight lions as be on this half, and more great and stronger than an hundred eagles such as we have amongst us”.

Palaeontologists believe that no such creature ever existed and the bones found in ancient times in certain regions where people believe that griffin lived were actually that of the Protoceratops, a dinosaur about the size of a sheep and was an herbivore.

By Fatima Sajid | 

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