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Mythical Creatures 101: the Hippogriff
By Julie DiNisio
In honor of recently celebrated Valentine's Day, let's consider a mythical creature who doesn't stand for death or destruction or terror or even immortality...but love. The Hippogriff – a cross between a horse and a griffin – is a rarity in mythical legends but has recently been featured on the silver screen in the Harry Potter series.
Fearsome in appearance but gentle in spirit, the Hippogriff had the body of a horse and the head and wings of an eagle. It came to symbolize love because griffins were believed to kill horses. This seemingly impossible creature is referenced in the medieval saying, “To cross griffins with horses,” similar to the modern day, “When pigs fly.”
In medieval legend, Hippogriffs were speedy steeds that could be tamed and were often ridden by knights. One of the first descriptions of the Hippogriff is found in Ludovico Ariosto's poem Orlando Furioso:
No empty fiction wrought by magic lore,
But natural was the steed the wizard pressed;
For him a filly to griffin bore;
Hight hippogryph. In wings and beak and crest,
Formed like his sire, as in the feet before;
But like the mare, his dam, in all the rest.
Such on Riphaean hills, though rarely found,
Are bred, beyond the frozen ocean's bound.
So take heart in the fact that not all (just most) mythical creatures are untamed killing machines.
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