Recently, by special permission of Jake's Great Great Aunt Ramona, the Dowager Baroness Bradford, we (E & G) were granted access to the Enchanted Library at Beacon House, the headquarters for the Order of the Yew Tree, in the interests of continuing our research into all things magical for our books.
Well, in the course of our afternoon's study (and after a nice tea service provided by the housekeeper, Mrs. Appleton, who told us to mind the tiger and NOT bump into the harp - and I'm afraid G. screeched at the sight of an insect, at which, fearless E. nearly squashed our friend the Ink Bug to protect her) we came across a most fascinating tome, a very ancient Book of Beasts and Creatures. We will share much more about the entries in this volume as time goes on. But of course our main interest must be in Gryphons. So here is what we learned.
The Gryphon is proud and majestic beast with a noble bearing and a good dose of pure attitude. The head of the gryphon is the all seeing, ever vigilant, king of the skies--the eagle. The body is that of the king of the land, the all powerful lion. A serious combination of forces to be sure...
The earliest depiction of the gryphon goes back over 5000 years to Ancient Greece and Persia. The fresco above was found in the excavation of the royal palace of King Minos of Knossos on the island of Crete - (you know, the Minotaur's legendary hangout).
Over the subsequent years the image of the gryphon has been found all over the world in many varying cultures with only slight changes to its forms. The dividing line between eagle and lion is sometimes moved. For example, sometimes the gryphon is shown with eagle's talons on its front feet, other times with front paws like the lion. It's iconic image is as strong today as ever.
Gryphon feathers and claws throughout Medieval times were thought to have magical healing powers. One feather, it was believed, could heal the blind. We used this ancient belief for one of the story threads through THE LOST HEIR with the character of Fionnula, the ugly warty sea-hag. She used the feathers to make herself beautiful. She was, however, still evil and ugly on the inside. No magical feather could cure that! (Know anyone like that??)
Gryphons are said to be the guardians of secret treasures. They are believed to have an uncanny ability to find gold in the earth, like they did for Jake's ancestors. Once the vein has been located, they use their very powerful beaks to chip the precious metal right out of solid rock. Thus they have an endless supply of wealth and power to draw from.
Wealth and power are two corrupting and difficult forces to handle if one isn't careful. We will be exploring these themes all through the series. In Book 3 for example, Jake goes for a visit to his family's ancient gold mine. Jake's Gryphon, Red, knows he's going to have to keep a close eye on his young master, the former pickpocket, so that he won't succumb to the lure of all that gold he's inherited and become a greedy miser.
Now then, it's important to know that if you want to take a ride on a gryphon, you now can. It's an amusement ride at Bush Gardens in Williamsburg Virginia. They spell it griffon though. I think "G" would be screaming like the little girls sitting up front. That's provided I could even get her to go on the ride. (G: What, me? Can anyone say panic attack??)
Have a great ride everyone! Until next time!