Saturday, January 24, 2009
Five types of half-human creatures
Specifically, creatures that have half a human body fused to half an animal’s body.
The most common of such types - see Piers Anthony’s Centaur Aisle for an example - though centaurs also played important roles in the Harry Potter books and the Chronicles of Narnia.
I’ve liked centaurs ever since I watched Disney’s Fantasia and saw the centaurs of various colors as well as the zebra fusions. More along those lines would be great. Humans joined to the bodies of stags, maybe?
The felinaurs of Fighting Fantasy have a human’s torso fused to a lion’s lower body, but I found a picture of a cheetah cross as well. These haven’t seen much use in any of the fantasy I’ve read so far, but they’re intriguing, especially if they have a unique mentality or society to go with their appearances.
The Xoroa, also of Fighting Fantasy, have humanoid torsos fused to the lower bodies of giant ants. One reason I like them is that their physical alterations don’t stop at the waist; they have antennae instead of ears and cannot speak. Instead, they communicate with a clicking sound. They also live in a giant hive built around the only female, the Xoroa queen.
Insect and arachnid fusions turn up in other fantasies as well – the driders of Forgotten Realms , for instance, and Fighting Fantasy had human/scorpion crosses as well. Since there are so many types of invertebrate, this has nearly limitless potential. I’d love to see humans crossed with butterflies, scarab beetles, leeches or dragonflies.
I’m borrowing the Mieville term here, because “mermaids” has been too Disneyfied to inspire any kind of serious, gritty fantasy for me. I think DragonLance had “sea elves”, but those were pretty, good creatures who turned up when they were needed and swam off when they weren’t.
But there’s so much more potential to this type of creature. Mermaids originally dragged shipwrecked sailors to drown. What if the mermaids were fused with piranhas, and the last thing such sailors saw was teeth, and lots of them? Stonefish, sharks, manta rays, barracudas, squid… there are a lot of creatures in the sea that either look deadly, or are deadly, or both. Don’t stop with half a fish when you can have half an anglerfish.
And also, how do mermaids reproduce? I’ve always wondered.
I couldn’t think of a better name for this type of creature, because I didn’t recall it being done in any fantasies other than the garuda of Mieville’s novels. Poul Anderson has a novel called War of the Wing Men, but this seems to be out of print, and other novels with bird fusions seem to settle for sticking wings on a human’s back, rather than creating an entirely new type of creature.
Which is a pity, because birds vary from ostriches to hummingbirds, from ospreys with eyes that adjust for light refraction in water to gulls that live in huge squabbling smelly colonies. And why stop at birds? I’d like to see a human/bat fusion. Or a human/pterodactyl.
Or, for that matter, any human/dinosaur cross. A human with a velociraptor’s lower legs and tail would be as cool as it was deadly.