There are but three things in the lands of Nyxos:
The Sea Beneath,
Sky Above, Land Between.
There are but three creatures: Gods, Men, and Beasts.
Those who live are New Men, humans, born of
what was, inheritors of what is now.
For ages long and in time now long lost,
When Gods dwelled in vaulted sky halls. Proudly
they stained the Earth with their bloody wars and
the Sea grew crimson and the Land barren.
Dusty bone fell upon the mountains black,
and fields howled empty.
She of the Earth wept bitter tears for
those children lost to the petty duels
among brother and sister, Gods and Men.
“This cannot stand, this warring state above!
Go forth, my Sons, seek aid for us in deep
places, where no god nor man hath tread.”
And so her son, the Lord of Secrets, found
a deep well, beneath Sea and Land alike.
Whispers into dark places set free
the wild forces of madness and chaos.
Gods and Men turned their arms to the new foes,
But She of Earth had loosed a fire too mighty.
The Gods burned.
The Citadel, beacon bright and high,
could not stand before the raging blaze.
The chaos would consume the world entire.
Mountains flowed like wax, the sea seethed,
The stars fell.
The Citadel was left as madness howled,
and the last God spoke a curse to avenge
his end and the ends of all of his kind.
“Let my tower burn for half of all time,
Let my gate stand empty the rest,
and so let the world know what it
once had and now has lost forever.”
With his spear, he clove through the Citadel,
and the Chaos was dismayed.
The treasures of the gods fell down to Earth,
into the well of fire Secrets had tapped.
Sealing the world, saving it, even as
it died away.
In time the Age of Men arose amid
the ruins of the Gods and Elder races.
The Tower still burns above every day,
The Gate glows empty each and every night,
And the peace of death descends upon all.
Save in dreams, where bloody battles old,
are fought in sleep by wretched mortals frail,
to caution Men of how they may yet fail.
Giants don’t get enough play. With the minor exception of Jack the Giant Slayer and some giant-related themes in the Thor movies, they are on the short list of mythical beasts who no longer get much attention. This is disappointing, since I think giants are really, really interesting (or can be). The sound of their heavy footsteps echoing through the dark of the forest, the feeling as every tremor it creates shakes your guts, their booming laughter echoing from the hillsides – that’s drama, people!
Giants are ancient concepts, originating in Indo-European myth – giant humanoids, often at odds with or related to the gods, but who nevertheless were victims of human vice. Giants eat big, play hard, drink oceans dry, and have a temper that makes the mountains quake. In Greek mythology, the Titans were the foes of the gods and one of their number, Atlas, held aloft the sky. In Norse mythology, the Giants were likewise foes of the gods, and were often warring with Asgard. In English folklore, giants were always trying to eat people and terrorizing the countryside. In all mythical instances, giants are taken down by heroes much smaller than themselves. David-and-Goliath is our go-to for the underdog story, and Goliath is literally portrayed as a giant in the Old Testament.
In most myth, giants can be considered symbolic of injustice and despotic rule. They are placed at odds with the ruling hierarchy (the gods) and in contest with them and, ultimately, they lose to the just and noble heroes that face them. When they fall, the world breathes a sigh of relief (once the earthquakes cease, at any rate). They were an exterior force exerting their influence on an unwilling populace. Today, similarly, the giant creatures our modern heroes face are usually alien in origin – Godzilla, Kaiju, or even in Jack the Giant Slayer or Thor, they are presented as beings from another world. The difference, most notably, is how deliberately inhuman these giants are made to appear. They are not really large people as much as they are really large things.
Today, however, I feel the symbolic potential for the anthropomorphic giant is greater than ever. We are, quite literally, being devoured by giants in our society. Granted, these individuals aren’t physically huge, but they are financially huge. We are left to barely make ends meet while a tiny proportion of our society eats and drinks and enjoys a disproportionate amount of the resources. We are being consumed, but are far too small to do anything about it by ourselves. Instead, we focus on staying out from beneath their heavy feet, eyes down, scouring the countryside for whatever scraps they happen to leave behind. That’s a recipe for a giant story, folks. All it needs is some little guy who is no longer willing to be stepped on to speak up and play the hero. There’s a lot of mileage there – everybody loves a good David and Goliath story. I, myself, have more than a few ideas.
The writing cogs are jammed, so I’m going to try and clean the system with a silly little game I’m making up as I write this sentence. Below is a list of a variety of mythical beasts. It becomes your job to consider whether you would like to shoot the beast (and therefore have to put in the effort to destroy it and everything that entails, from risks to expenses) or ride the beast (and therefore have to put in the effort to tame it, feed it, keep it, and train it). If you decide to play, please provide your reasoning in your comments. Here’s the list:
Ready? Here are my answers:
Okay, so first off, griffons are awesome. They look cool, they fly, and they’re sort of the best mix of bird of prey and great cat. As any good bird of prey or great cat, they’re smart enough to be trainable, I’d imagine, and they aren’t so titanically huge that they’d be impossible to feed. They eat horses, primarily, so finding food won’t be that hard. They’re really big, but not so huge you couldn’t keep them in a barn. Sure, you could hunt them down relatively easily, too, but why bother when you can get them to fly you around?
Dragons are even more awesome than griffons – on that score, I think most of us could agree. It would be really cool if you could train it to let you ride it, convince it to lay waste to your enemies, and so on. Thing is, though, you’ll never pull it off. Even assuming it doesn’t immediately roast you or you find some clever way around it’s fire/poison/acid breathing capabilities, where on earth do you keep a creature of that size? What the heck do you feed it? What happens if you stop feeding it?
Dragons, as intelligent reptiles, don’t really have much of a history of working well with people. Furthermore, there is no reasonable way you can ever feel safe around the thing – they have a noted tendency to eat people and steal their stuff. Are you going to supply it sufficient gold to keep it from sacking the nearest castle? Even if you do get up there, how do you control it? It’s too big to really tug around with reins and spurs aren’t going to make a mark. It even has a neck that can reach around and eat you off it’s own back. Ooof.
Granted, killing the thing would be really tough, but if you decide to tame it, you’d probably have to kill it anyway.
Okay, so how do you propose to ride this thing? Where do you put the saddle? How, once in the saddle, do you actually see where you’re going? Seems impractical. It should be noted that the Hydra has some advantages over the dragon on this score in that it isn’t notably intelligent, can’t breathe fire, and is a good bit smaller. They’re semi-amphibious, so they can live in swamps and lakes and such.
You also, of course, have to consider just how damned hard it’s going to be to kill the things. The ol’ Hercules cut-and-burn technique sounds good on paper, but that’s going to be pretty damned hard to pull off in real life. Even if you employ flamethrowers, there’s a lot of heads there. Shooting it from a distance might not even work. These are prickly beasts, to be sure. Weirdly enough, I think the regenerative properties alone mean trying to tame it might just be worth the effort. Kinda lose-lose, though.
This is a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast. Pegasi are beautiful and supposedly kind and tame and are just like horses, right? Well, yeah, but consider that, if it’s just like a horse, it isn’t going to be able to generate enough lift to fly with a grown person on their back, or at least not for long. Dragons and Griffons are both significantly larger and stronger, meaning the odds of getting some good flying time in are much higher. So, instead of a flying horse you get to ride, you instead wind up with a flying horse that runs away. Okay, okay, so you can train it to stick around and win it over with sweetness and love, granted. You can do that with a regular horse, though, and without the trouble of chasing it around as it takes itself out for exercise. At least with a griffon, you get the added bonus of being able to fly with it and scare the crap out of your enemies.
On the flipside, killing a Pegasus would be really, really easy and save you a lot of trouble. So, if one showed up on your lawn and was trashing your car, a hunting rifle might be in order.
Depending on which legends you go to, this thing is a giant, venomous snake or a giant lizard that either petrifies or kills with a glance. In both cases we’re looking at a pretty terrible ride. How do you train a creature you can never look at? That mirror thing is only going to get you so far, and having it on your property is going to result in a lot of your friends becoming corpses or statues when they go looking for a trash barrel during your annual barbeque. Lets not even get into the fact that it’s venomous and fatally so. Oof.
Shoot it! Kill it with fire! Ahhh!
Answer: Shoot! Shoot it now!
Okay, your turn internet. Or not. Whatever – I’ve distracted myself long enough that I can probably get real work done now.