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References from Fiction

From "A Spell for Chameleon"
    by Piers Anthony
    "It was a manticora - a creature the size of a horse, with the head of a man, body of a lion, wings of a dragon, and tail of a scorpion. One of the most ferocious magical monsters known.
    "...Its mouth was strange, with three rows of teeth, one inside the other..."
 
From "The Manticore"
    by Robertson Davies
    "...On a chain you held a lion, which was staring out of the picture. The lion had a man's face. My face."
    "Any other details?"
    "The lion's tail ended in a kind of spike, or barb."
    "Ah, a manticore!"
    "A what?"
    "A manticore is a fabulous creature with a lion's body, a man's face, and a sting in his tail."
    "I never heard of it."
    "No, they are not common, even in myths...But why are you a manticore?...What about the manticore?"
    "Well, as he is an animal, I suppose he is some baser aspect of me. But as he is a lion, he can't be wholly base. And he has a human face, my face, so he can't be wholly animal...Very well; if I accept that the lion represents my somewhat undeveloped feeling, what about it?"
    "Not a lion; a manticore. Do not forget that stinging tail...The manticore can be extremely dangerous. Sometimes he is even described as hurling darts from his tail, as people once thought the porcupine did...Head of a man, brave and dangerous as a lion,capable of wounding with barbs? But not a whole man, or a whole lion, or a merely barbed opponent. A manticore. The Unconscious chooses its symbolism with breath-taking artistic virtuosity."
 
From "The Satanic Verses"
    by Salman Rushdie
    "The Prophet's uncle Hazma... hears a roar and looks up, to see a gigantic scarlet lion poised to leap at him from the high battlemets of the city. He knows this beast, this fable. The iridescence of its scarlet hide blends into the shimmering brightness of the desert sands. Through its nostrils it exhales the horror of the lonely places of the earth. It spits out pestilence, and when armies venture into the desert, it consumes them utterly. Through the blue last light of evening he shouts at the beast, preparing, unarmed as he is, to meet his death. 'Jump, you bastard, manticore. I've strangled big cats with my bare hands, in my time...'
    "... And finds, after hours of searching, what he knew would be waiting, in a dark corner of the city's outer walls, the thing of his vision, the red manticore with the triple row of teeth. The manticore has blue eyes and a mannish face and its voice is half-trumpet and half-flute. It is as fast as the wind, its nails are corkscrew talons and its tail hurls poisoned quills. It loves to feed on human flesh..."
--
    "Standing in front of him was a figure so improbable that Chamcha wanted to bury his head under the sheets...
    "It had an entirely human body, but its head was that of a ferocious tiger, with three rows of teeth...
    "... the man-tiger, or manticore as it called itself, gave an exasperated growl..."
 
    Note that Rushdie gives two conflicting descriptions of the manticore. The first incident takes place during the rise of Mohammed, the second in contemporary London.
    An essay on Rushdie's symbolic use of the creature may be read here.

 
From "Many Waters"
    by Madeline L'Engle
    "The hideous screech, not bird, not human, came again, closer, and then the tent flap was pushes aside and a large face peered in. It was the largest face Sandy had ever seen, a man's face with filthy hair and a matted beard, tangled eyebrows over small, suspicious eyes, and a bulbous nose. From the mat of hair came two horns, curved downward, with sharp points like a boar's teeth. The mouth opened and shouted 'Hungry!'
    "The rest of the creature pushed into the tent. The head did not belong to a man's body but a lion's, and as it came all the way into the tent, Sandy saw that the lion did not have a lion's tail but a scorpion's..."
    "...The manticores were strong and bad-tempered, but not intelligent or brave..."
    "...The enormous lips opened, to reveal a double set of ugly, stumpy teeth, which looked as though they had been worn down from gnawing...
    "...The tongue, thick but long as a snake's, flicked towards him..."
    "'And don't try to make me feel sorry for you." Admael paused. "Though I am sorry for you. You appear to be one of nature's more peculiar efforts.'
    "The manticore turned, head drooping, and with its lion's body it padded across the desert, scorpion sting clacking as it went."
    "...'Manticore's courage is as skimpy as its vocabulary...'"
 
From '"Marianne, the Magus, and the Manticore"
    by Sherri S. Tepper
    "The corner shop was Number Four, a taxidermy shop, so labeled in golden script which slanted across the window in which the Manticore poised, rampant, claws extended and teeth bared in glass-eyed fury, huge and horrible. The beard of the Manticore seemed to rustle with evil life; the eyes seemed to see her..."
    "Striding through it all, pace on pace of its lion feet, tail arched high above its giant man-head, came the Manticore, scorpion tail lashing as the beast followed its own manic howl along the dream-wrapped street..."
 
A fragment from "Blood of the Dragon"
    by George R. R. Martin (Asimov's Science Fiction, July 1996)
    "...Monsters stood in the grass beside the road; black iron dragons with jewels for eyes. roaring griffins, manticores with their barbed tails poised to strike, and other beasts she could not name..."
 
From "Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them"
    by J.K. Rowling
"Manticore
"The manticore is a highly dangerous Greek beast with the head of a man, the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion. As dangerous as the Chimera, and as rare, the manticore is reputed to croon softly as it devours its prey. Manticore skin repels almost all known charms and the sting causes instant death.
"... Manticores are capable of intelligent speech but will attempt to devour any human that goes near them."
 

Poetry

The Manticore
    by Jeanne Steig, from Consider the Lemming
    "A mythic beast, the manticore -
    "Dragon behind and man before,
    "With lion sandwiched in between 'em.
    "No living soul has ever seen him,
    "Nor any combination of
    "The creatures in the list above."
 

References from Games

From "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monstrous Compendium"
    ed. Bill Connors & Gary Thomas
    "The manticore is a true monster, with a leonine torso and legs, batlike wings, a man's head, a tail tipped with iron spikes, and an appetite for human flesh.
    "...Each section of the manticore closely resembles the creature it imitates. The leonine torso has a tawny hide, the mane is a lion's brown-black colour, and the bat-like wings are a dark brown with sparse hair. All manticores have heads that resemble human males; the mane resembles a heavy beard and long hair.
    "Manticores are found in any climate but prefer warm lands to cool ones. This reflects the wide climate range of their favourite food, humans...
    "Manticores mate for life...
    "...Manticores will not allow themselves to be used as mounts...
    "Manticores collect their victims' valuables for a variety of reasons, including curiosity, emulation of other monsters who collect treasure, the man-scent on the things, or because they know humans value the things and therefore might come looking for them...
    "Manticores are wide-ranging carnivores that have successfully survived in every region inhabited by humans, whether in the wilderness or underground. They are nightmarish opponents but invaluable allies if conditions are right. A manticore's pelt is a mark of the most powerful hunters and warriors..."
 
From the "Magic: the Gathering" card set
    "Mantichore
    "The mantichore has a scorpion's tail that arches up over its back. It has a poisonous sting ...
    "Description: The mantichore has the body of a lion, with bat-like wings and a human head. As described above, the mantichore has a scorpion's tail.
    "Range & Habitat: Mantichores are usually found in conjunction with some work of humanity's, such as ruins or sewers.
    "Comments: It is not known why mantichores are attracted to humanity, but they are known to form societies."
 
I believe this is from the M:tG "Legends" expansion set
    "Crimson Manticore
    "...Manticores are easily riled and often annoyed."
 
From another unidentified RPG
    "Manticore
    "The manticore is the blending of a lion and a demon according to some, but whatever its true origin, the manticore remains a vile and tough opponent. Large and powerful, the beast can take to the air on leathery wings, has the fangs of a rattlesnake, and a tail covered with large iron like quills which it can fling a considerable distance."
 
And finally, my old @desc from FurryMUCK and SocioPoliticalRamifications...
    "He is something from a medieval bestiary...he is a Manticore, a fantastical creature with a humanoid face, a lion's body and mane, a dragon's wings, and a scorpion's tail. Muscles bunch and flow beneath his fur. Crouched on all fours, he seems the size of a draft horse.
    "Grey streaks his tawny coat; a hint of ancient hurt lurks in his deep-set eyes, though his manner is open and playful. A low grumble; if you ask, he'll say it's a purr, but to you it sounds like a growl.
    "Is he interested in friendship? Is he hungry? Is it (oh!) something more primal? You approach him, hardly daring to address his monstrous form..."
 
... and new.
    "Manticore. Creature from nightmare. On a liger-like body, a humanoid face under a greying black mane, and an armoured tail tipped with a chrome stinger. An appetite on four legs.
    "Moody. Wild swings between anger and joy. Arrogant, egotistical, proud, playful, loving, compassionate, sometimes all at once. Needing solitude from time to time, but needing friendship as well.
    "But he is all too aware that he is a monster, strange and frightening, doomed to be just that much different from everyone else..."
 

Collateral creature descriptions

From the "The Revelation of St. John the Divine" chapter 9
    King James version - Revised Standard Version excerpt is similar
"3: And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
 4: And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
 5: And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
 6: And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
 7: And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
 8: And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
 9: And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
 10: And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months."
 
    The similarities to the classic description of a manticore are striking. Battle horses of the period were very thick-set and muscular, and depending on the breed often had long hair below the fetlocks; they were not armoured, but were sometimes caprisoned.
 
From: "The Inferno," Canto XVII
    by Dante Alighieri
    translated by John Ciardi
"His face was innocent of every guile,
  benign and just in feature and expression;
  and under it his body was half reptile.
 
"His two great paws were hairy to the armpits;
  all his back and breast and both his flanks
  were figured with bright knots and subtle circlets...
 
"His tail twitched in the void beyond that lip,
  thrashing, and twisting up the envenomed fork
  which, like a scorpion's stinger, armed the tip...
 
"Then he called out, 'Now, Geryon, we are ready:
  bear well in mind that his is living weight
  and make your circles wide and your flight steady...'"
 
    Traditionally, Geryon is depicted as a giant with three heads and three bodies. In 'The Inferno,' Dante appears to draw from The Revelation for his description, which is more appropriate symbolically for Geryon's role in the story.
    It isn't too far a stretch to make the connection between this monster and the descriptions of winged manticores, or manticores with draconic body parts. 'The Inferno' was widely circulated and read, and surely influenced storytellers and bestiarists of later times.

 

 

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Some information added March 8, 2003