A Modern Bestiary – R is for Rosmer

1126931186_imefairy32 The Rosmer is a peculiar creature, often described as having the head of either a horse, a whale, or a dog with its tongue hanging out.  Sailors have also reported seeing a mane of coarse hair on its pate and lots of whiskers on its face.  Supposedly, it has a human’s arms and torso, though those “hands” are heavily clawed, and its body ends with the tail of a fish.

rosmarine_27681_lg  This version sports four feet while others depict only two.  And that tusky head looks more like that of a boar than a dog or a whale.

Sometimes called a Ruszor by the Vikings, or a Rosmarine by the British, it normally prefers the icy waters of the north, and is far better known from the shores of Norway, or the Orkneys and the Shetlands, than it is from the rest of Great Britain.

The Rosmer, however, is not a Hippocampus or true sea-horse, like the one shown below.

seahorse-by-oz-best  Nor is it half as friendly as the Hippocampus tends to be.  The Rosmer will certainly not offer a ride and rescue to sailors who have been washed overboard.  Alas, the Rosmers are lascivious creatures and highly inclined to disport themselves with any hapless humans they run across in their domain.

Rampant by nature, they are apt to assault passersby with the relevant body parts and such encounters are commonly lethal.  That is because the typical Rosmer has an organ that is stiffened and reinforced with a sturdy os penis, or baculum, such that it resembles a battering ram and lacks only a forged iron ram’s head.

battering-ram  The Romans were highly dependent on symbolism, and considered rams to be admirable for their overt “masculinity” if not their aroma.  Literal-minded, the lot of them.

In times of old, the Rosmer was inclined to ignore humans, whether it encountered them in the water, aboard a boat, or ashore on either land or ice.  They could come ashore themselves and take off their “skins” in the same way as selkies, but seldom did so.  In any case, humans were fewer in number and boats were far smaller back then.  Humans who were inclined to slaughter living creatures purely for the sake of those ivory tusks were not armed with rifles, like those who kill elephants now, and so were more evenly matched with their prey.

walrus-ivory     For some reason, humans often feel compelled to carve pieces of ivory, as has been done here.

walrus-scrimshaw-2          In other cases, they seem to think that scrimshaw, somehow, is more needful and beautiful than the living creature itself.

Try to take a Rosmer’s tusks, however, and the outcome will be anything but artistic.  Instead of a walrus, which they greatly resemble, the ivory hunter may find himself confronting an irate fae creature massing as much as 22 times the weight of the man.  The Rosmer will not hesitate to express his opinion on the matter, using either his bulk, his tusks, or his penis which, as noted above, is even more impressive than that of the average walrus.

rosmer-3

And the walrus is rather amazing.  Here, for example, is a link to video showing a walrus engaging in autoerotica.  Warning:  you may wish to view it in privacy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ros73m7xBRA

The walrus’ baculum often reaches two feet in length, and is hefty enough that the Inuit, who call them oosiks, once used them as war clubs.

walrus-baculum1Imagine, then, the Rosmer whose baculum is displayed below:

rosmer-the-largest-ever-penis-bone-2    And  imagine what that bone might do to a disrespectful human!

Worse yet, the Rosmer feeds in much the same way as a walrus.  It uses vibrissae (whiskers) on its face to search the sediments on the sea bottom for shellfish.

walrus-vibrissae                  On sensing clams and the like, it will either root for its supper or use its tongue to shoot hydraulic jets at the muck.  Upon catching the clam, it will then use that tongue in reverse to suck its prey right out of its shell, a process which requires no more than six seconds regardless of the clam’s size (which may rival that baculum).

walrus-food    An irate Rosmer may do the same to those parts of a man that are cylindrical and therefore vaguely clam-shaped. Thus the hapless hunter may find himself catching it fore AND aft.

Since the Fall, Rosmers are finding life difficult in this world.  Like the walrus, they depend on pack ice overlaying the continental shelf where the seas are shallow.  There, they can most easily reach their own happy hunting grounds 150 feet below and then rest or reproduce in relative safety on the ice floes.

walrus-rest-swim-eat-750px-688f52842a0dd720471a67ad896a2eda

The north polar ice cap, however, is shrinking, and retreating from the continental shelves with astonishing speed as a result of global warming.  Here’s a look at what is happening in the Chukchi Sea:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF-aNYhCr8k

This leaves the walrus and the Rosmer with fewer places to even exist, let alone prosper.  Should the Rosmer realize what is happening, I would expect them to act in self-defense, or perhaps to seek vengeance.  What form that might take, I cannot say, but must assume it will be proportionate to the crime, which is a form of genocide.

A Modern Bestiary – Q is for the Questing Beast

1126931186_imefairy32The Questing Beast is a curious creature.  Some say it’s compounded of several others .  It has the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the backside of a lion and the hooves of a deer.

questing_beast_by_navarose-d6y907x  Which sounds something like this, does it not?  Or even this:

questingbeast-2  The latter version looks less like a Frankenstein’s monster, I think.  The color scheme is far more functional for a beast well known to spend most of its time in the woods.

The traditional view is taken from the legends of King Arthur.

questing-beast-and-arthur According to the highly unreliable Mallory, the Questing Beast confronted Arthur after his affair with Morgause, his half-sister.

Somehow Mallory overlooked the fact that Arthur waylaid both his half-sisters, and was not in the least confused about who they truly were.  Morgause, after all, was the wife of King Lot of the Orkneys, and therefore a personage in her own right.  As for Morgaine… ah, that is a long said tale for another day.

morgan_le_fay-sandys_frederick_  Morgaine le Fey was a good friend of mine, and of many other elves, which is why I named my only daughter in her honor.  I did not know Morgause well at all but you may rest assured that both sisters had good cause for the enmity they held toward their brother.  As did Mordred, the bastard son born to Morgause and Arthur who would later destroy his father’s kingdom.

Supposedly, Arthur was taking a nap and woke from a dreadful dream about the lad and that catastrophe to come.  And that is when he saw the Questing Beast drinking from a nearby pool. 

questing-beast-w-arthur  Here is a far more accurate depiction of the Beast, which is closer kin to a giraffe than a leopard, snake, or lion.  One wonders if earlier artworks were based upon third or fourth-hand accounts of the African wonder, as is the camelopardis.

The man most famous for hunting the Questing Beast was King Pellinore, whose whole family was dedicated to the task.

sir-palomedes-2   It was Sir Palamedes, the Saracen Knight of the Round Table, though, who finally succeeded in killing the creature.

Pellinore claimed the Questing Beast had been born of a human woman, a princess who lusted after her brother, the prince (reverse the genders involved and it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? )  She proceeded to sleep with a demon who promised he would make the boy love her.  When she turned up pregnant as a result, the princess promptly accused her brother of rape.

Interesting how both of the brothers involved in Mallory’s incestuous situations with their sisters end up being “falsely accused” in one way or another.

 

artus2-by-durer  Here is the “heroic” King Arthur as Albrecht Dürer portrayed him.  Literally a knight in shining armor.

As for Pellinore’s “innocent” prince, his father had him torn apart by dogs as punishment for his crime. Before the prince died, however, he predicted his sister would give birth to an abomination, and that the monster would make the same sounds as the pack of dogs waiting to kill him.

This is supposed to be the origin of the sound the Questing Beast makes, which originates from its stomach and has been described as resembling that made by a pack of thirty or forty dogs on the hunt.  Because of this, the Questing Beast is also known at the Beast Glatisant, which means the Barking Beast.

dog-pack  Personally, I find a large pack of dogs in full cry to be quite disturbing.  Especially if they are hunting me and mine.

Tales of the Quest for the Holy Grail, however, describe the Beast in very different terms.  In one case, it  is pure white in color.  It is still a chimera, but smaller than a fox and quite beautiful.  The noise from its belly, however, is that made by its unborn offspring, who achieve birth by tearing their mother apart from within.

The truth is worse than this.  The youngsters consume their mother, and then set off as a group to pursue and pull down other prey.  In Faerie, they would have been schooled by older males even as older bull elephants train young rogues.

marauding-elephants  Here, a young bull elephant is about to learn a lesson in manners.

In this world, however, few adult males survived the Fall.  The Barking Beasts do not truly mature here.  They do not part ways with the pack either, and their savagery is remarkable.  Their handiwork is now commonly mistaken for the work of werewolves despite the striking differences in the wounds made by their fangs.

If you would defend yourself from even one of them, however, you would be well-advised to rely on cold iron rather than silver bullets.

werewolf-full-moon  And do not think you are only at risk when the moon is full.

 

 

A Modern Bestiary – P is for Pillywiggins

1126931186_imefairy32Pillywiggins – silly name, isn’t it?  And so are the tiny flower fairies who go by that name.  Or at least they used to be.  But like so many of the Fae, they’ve been changed by the Fall.  And not for the better.

Once they were pretty, good-natured little creatures, most often seen among wildflowers or in the garden or in churchyards.  They’re not much given to pranks, unlike some of the other Little People, and normally ignore humans.

flower-fairy-1  Human art always depicts the Pillywiggins as childlike beings, and in some ways they are like pixies.

They are also rather simple-minded, though sometimes given to imitating humans they happen to encounter.  They’ll copy human gestures, for example, if they see a priest in the midst of religious rites at a funeral.  Their chief concerns, however, center on the flowers they tend.  They often identify with their charges and so they like to wear blossoms and acorn caps.

fairy-flower-2  Depictions like this one are based on the accounts of humans (mainly children) who have encountered the Pillywiggins and suffered no ill will on their part.

However, if you should meet up with these little fairies, you would be well-advised to remember that they are not much inclined to adhere to human laws or customs.  They are amoral in both the larger and the smaller sense, and may react badly if you try to trap them.  You should certainly not judge their behavior by Christian standards.

Also known as Vairies, Farisees,  Hotties, Feerins, and Greenies, they are as fond of insects as flowers.  So much so, they’ve acquired wings and other features by interbreeding with flutter-bys and dragonflies.

flowery-fairy-5  Here is an example of a Pillywiggins with more insectile than humanoid traits.

flowery-fairy-6  The Greenies also vary greatly in size.  Some, like this one, are small enough to ride around on a beetle’s back. 

flower-fairy-4  Others reach the size of bats.  These are the remains of a large Greenie who had a sad encounter with a power line.

Since the fall, however, the Pillywiggins have had a hard time surviving in a world overrun by lawnmowers and blowers.  Having few natural defenses, many have added the chitinous armor of beetles, the stingers of bees and hornets, and/or the jaws of the preying mantis.  If bothered, they will sting or bite with abandon.

They’ve also grown highly suspicious of humans and inclined to react to any disturbance in the same way yellowjackets do.  They normally live in troops and can rally to each other’s aid in sizeable numbers.

fairy-swarm  A smallish flock may not look all that threatening.

fairy-swarm-2  But a swarm of this size can easily take down humans or indeed the horses they rode in on.

The Pillywiggins have also learned to make use of certain flowers whose natural defenses against pests include a number of alkaloid compounds.  In some cases, they’ve learned to distill essential oils containing these chemicals and are selling them to foolish humans in order to acquire the cash required to purchase so many necessities here.

henbane  Henbane, for example, is so poisonous that simply smelling the flowers can induce giddiness in a human.

Among other compounds, henbane contains hyoscine (aka scopolamine) and atropine.  Ingested, it is strongly hallucinogenic.  Ingested in quantity, it can induce a variety of other neurological symptoms, culminating in hypertension, coma and death.

solanum-dulcamara-flowers    solanum-dulcamara-berries

Another source of trouble is bittersweet, sometimes known as woody nightshade.  It is a relative of deadly nightshade but not as toxic.

The poison involved here is solanine.  It causes nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, heart flutters, headaches, and dizziness.  Too much results in hallucinations, and can lead to loss of sensation, paralysis, severe chills, and death.  Humans come to the Pillywiggins for this in hopes of hallucinations but if they are rude or destructive to the flowers, the flower fairies are apt to award them what Waller calls a Darwin Prize.

ragwort  Ragwort is less dangerous, since it is only poisonous if eaten – the pyrrolidizine alkaloids in it are harmless until converted into toxic forms by digestive processes.  These compounds are not hallucinogenic, but can be highly unpleasant or even lethal if included in someone’s salad.

Human picnickers have learned to their great discomfort that annoying the Pillywiggins can lead to food poisoning that has nothing to do with ptomaine or salmonella and which does not respond to Imodium or Pepto Bismol.

 foxglove  Foxglove is well-known for its medicinal properties, useful in treating dropsy, a malady of the heart.

However, digitalis (the active ingredient) often causes a great reduction in appetite.  So overfed humans have begun seeking out the flower fairies in hopes of purchasing a weight-loss aid their doctors will not prescribe.  An overdose of digitalis, however, can cause great digestive upsets and affect one’s vision, turning everything yellow and blurring the outlines of objects.  It can bring on serious irregularities of the heart’s beat, tremors, seizures, and of course death.

So my advice is, if you encounter the Pillywiggins, let them be.  Do not buy or use their wares.  Confine yourself to taking cell phone photos WITHOUT flash.  Take great care to do no harm to the blossoms they tend, and do not on any account try to capture flower fairies.  The results of such an attempt may well leave you wishing you’d only had a run-in with Africanized killer bees.

bee-sting  This man did not listen to my advice.

 

 

A Modern Bestiary – O is for Oak Men

1126931186_imefairy32 Yes, I know.  Oak is an Anglo-Saxon word.  But I would not complain of this to the Oak Men.  They are guardians of the oaks, and language is the least of it where they are concerned.  What they speak is older by far than any human tongue, or fae for that matter.

Some consider them dryads of a sort, but this is a serious error.  They are kin to tree spirits but partake too deeply of oaken strength and stubbornness to be classed with any nymph.  Too masculine, down to their roots.

oak-spirit  You may espy an Oak Man wherever a limb has been lost, especially if that branch has been lopped off by a human.  His purpose is healing where the tree is concerned, and vigilance toward the woodsman who would do such damage without permission.

The Oak Men, who are also known as the Inifri Duir, have scant patience with those who do not revere the trees or the creatures and plants who are sheltered by oak groves and forests.

tree_roots  The Oak Men can also be seen among tree roots, where they lurk in winter’s cold, often asleep yet ready to trip up or even seize and eat the feet of an unwary traveler.

The Oak Men are also called the Bodachan na Croibhe Moire, where a bodach is a herder, originally of cows, and Croibhe Moire refers to the heart of the great oak.  Thus they are in some sense tree herds, but for your own sake, do not address them as Ents.  They are unimpressed with Tolkien’s take on their ancient race, and not much inclined to mercy in any case.  Nor are their wives missing.

oak-woman  Indeed, the Oak Women have their own views on all matters to do with the forest, and their frustration with their husbands is often on display, as seen here.  But they are certainly not ‘missing’ much though the Inifri Duir might sometimes wish they were.

The Oak Men, you see, have a problem opposite that of the Macamores.  They are not jealous of any mortal men who may seduce their females.  Rather the Oak Men envy the Macamores their situation and speak longingly of the peace and quiet embracing the woods while the Oak Women pursue such delights.  What do they desire instead?  What do they lust after?

Man-caves.

awesome-man-caves1  Especially those equipped with a wet bar and Guinness on tap.  Exposure to such conveniences, and to televised rugby and soccer games, have utterly corrupted them.

So beware the Oak Men.  They’re common enough in California, whose Central Valley is dotted with magnificent valley oaks in addition to scrub and blue oaks of various kinds.  The valley oaks are protected by law, but since the Fall, many also have personal guardians.  And the Inifri Duir may be stubborn folk, but even they have been forced to adapt to changing conditions.

oak-man  Thus the ancient depictions, like the one shown here, are no longer reliable guides to their ways.

In olden times, the tree herders made much use of their mycelial side.  They are as closely linked to the fungus kingdom as the oaks because the trees themselves are dependent on fungiform networks in the soil and in rotting logs for recycled nutrients essential to the growth of seedlings and saplings.

Back then, the revenge taken by an offended Inifri Duir might have taken the form of a gift.  The Oak Man in question could assume a human’s form and present himself as a fellow traveler.  As a kindness, he might offer other travelers or weary woodsmen a fine-looking journey cake.  That cake, however, was commonly made from poisonous toadstools and glamoured to look appetizing.  Eat of it and you’d surely suffer an agonizing death…

amanita_muscaria_crop  …for the Oak Men would often use fly agaric mushrooms like these.  This toadstool’s scientific name is Amanita muscaria and the alkaloids it produces can destroy the human liver.  In fact, Amanita poisoning can only be cured by means of a liver transplant if no fae healer is at hand.

Now, however, the threat is even more serious for in their mad search for ESPN, cold beer, and recliners, in addition to revenge, they will often attempt to invade your home.

Therefore do not be deceived by the modern guises the Oak Men rely upon nowadays.  If you’ve been out in the woods, say, cutting down a Christmas tree or collecting fire wood, hunting deer, or clearing land for construction purposes, beware of hucksters who place themselves in your path but are only human in appearance.  For example:

savage_huckster  The man at the mall, offering to restore you to perfect health using various ‘natural’ all-organic remedies.

lottery-mega-millions  The man at your door or on the phone telling you that you’ve just won the lottery, although you never bought a ticket.  All you need do to collect your winnings is pay the man a small ‘handling’ fee.

used-car-salesman  The used car salesman who ends his pitch by inviting himself to your house on game day.

Do not give such men entry into your life, your wallet, or your house, and especially not your den.  Do not on any account eat their offerings whether it be home-brewed beverages or nutritional supplements or chips and dip!  Even if you should survive the initial encounter, you may never be able to evict them from your basement hideaway!

 

 

A Modern Bestiary – N is for Nuckelavee

1126931186_imefairy32The Nuckelavee is horrid in pretty much every way, from its appearance to its manners to what I can only describe with any honesty as halitosis from Hell.

In general, the creature is a bit like a centaur in that a man’s torso is joined to a horse.  But the man is legless and the horse is rotting.  Neither have any skin to speak of, so white tendons, red muscles, and yellow blood vessels are all plainly visible.

nuckelavee___custom_action_figure_by_creaturesh-d567hbw  This version depicts the traditional form of the Nuckelavee, where the manlike half features a head with a single over-sized blood-red eye and elongated arms that can easily reach the ground and snatch up a hapless human.

Its overall red coloring is inaccurate, however, as the blood of the Nuckelavee is black, and the muscles therefore darker than what is shown here.  Nor does this image convey the pulsations of those blood vessels, which are sickening in their own right.  The nuckelavee is more a fae zombie than anything else.

The equine portion shown here is also poorly done as to musculature, though the fin-like extensions at the horse’s leg joints are fairly true to form.  There are some, in fact, who consider the creature a hybrid of the Scottish water-horse or kelpie and a demonic rider who may well hail from the Wild Hunt.

nuckelavee_concept_by_ruler_of_limbo-d5u9a28

This more modern version, though, is clearly wrong, deriving more from ancient Greek mythology than the traditional lore of the Orkneys.

Known for its hatred of humankind, there are those to this day who will not even speak its name for fear of summoning one of them.  The nuckelavee is particularly offended by those who burn seaweed on the beach in order to produce mounds of what was called kelp in the 1700s.  It is actually soda ash, an alkaline material used to ‘sweeten’ acidic soil, and to manufacture soap and glass.

kelpwifie

Here, a kelpwife tends a fiery kelp pit at the Ness o’ Brough in Sanday.

The pungent smoke smells nearly as bad as the nuckelavee‘s own toxic breath, and the creature is apt to respond by using its bad breath to set off epidemics and/or droughts, killing horses and cattle and crops in addition to humans.  One disease in particular is blamed on the angry fae – mortasheen, also known as glanders.  It kills horses by infecting the respiratory tract and causing ulcers that will not heal, and it can spread to men as well as other domesticated animals.

nuckelavee_by_verdego

This depiction renders the horse half far too hound-like, in my opinion, but the attitude shown is true to life.

Once found only among the Orkney Islands, an archipelago off the northern tip of Scotland, the nuckelavee have been displaced by war, by industrial development, by the spread of cold iron and human machines, and now, by the Fall itself.  Having largely retreated from this world into Faerie, some of them were then flung back through the doors between the worlds and landed in places where they’ve never been seen before.  That would include the coast of California, which is now in it’s 5th year of drought and where a peculiar wasting disease is afflicting the starfish in coastal waters.

A coincidence?  I think not!

There is, however, a way to escape the nuckelavee, should it attack.  For reasons I’ve always assumed are related to its lack of skin, the creature is repulsed by fresh water.  If you can splash it with the contents of your water bottle, it will flee.  If you can skip across to the other side of a freshwater stream, or jump into a lake, it will not continue its pursuit.

nuckalavee-with-hellboy  I do not recommend using this approach unless you too have a Fist From Hell.  Nor does gunfire seem to have much effect on the beast, perhaps because the creature is already dead and therefore cannot be killed.

In the Orkneys, it was the Mither o’ the Sea who kept a leash on the nuckelavee, confining him during the summer months while she worked to undo the harm wrought by Teran, the Orcadian spirit of winter.  Likewise, during the coldest parts of the year, the beast is kept in check by rainfall, which it abhors in equal measure.

seamither

The Mither has much in common with the Greek deity Circe.  However, She has not been seen since the Fall, and may have been trapped in Faerie, or lost to us altogether.

One thing is certain.  Global warming is rapidly increasing the severity and frequency of droughts in many parts of the world.  Reduced freshwater flow is shutting down municipal wells along the California seashore in places like Monterey.  In the San Francisco Bay and Delta, it is resulting in ever more salt water intrusion upriver from the bay.  This is exactly opposite what is needed to keep the nuckelavee at bay.

 

A Modern Bestiary – M is for Macamore

1126931186_imefairy32Macamore means “man of the sea” but you might just as well call them “pigs of the sea” for they are an unlovely lot.

While the female merrow is comely indeed and a siren in both form and feature, the male of the species is characterized by green hair and teeth, as they’ve never felt the need for dental hygiene.  Withal, they have a predator’s  cold eyes, often described as pig-like.  The macamore‘s nose is bulbous and a perpetual red from  his fondness for rum, while his limbs are misshapen by fin-like extensions from every joint.

merrow-and-fisherman

The female merrow is a kind of mermaid and fond of seducing lonely fishermen like this lad.  She is a more-than-willing companion, since her alternatives are less than attractive.

merman

You’d expect a macamore to look like this, wouldn’t you?  But you’d be wrong.

merrow_reejerey

At best he looks something like this.  And at worst…

merman-2

What’s more, if you look very closely, you’ll notice the absence of certain equipment commonly found among men but not mermen, whose form is fishlike in certain departments.  The difference can be disappointing, to say the least, once a merrow has tried life ashore and the pleasures to be had there.

mermaid-in-anger

“I’ve had it with halibut!  Where’s the beef?!”

So long as the merrow takes care not to lose her cohuleen druith, a magical cap that allows her to breathe underwater, then she is free to emerge from the sea and take up with mortal men.  Should it be lost, however, she would be doomed to a life on land, a life of sorrow as her young man ages and finally dies.  Eventually, she does likewise.

What does this little cap look like?  Well, it’s said to resemble a Spanish bullfighter’s montera, but that is ridiculous.

montera  No woman of my acquaintance would ever wear this monstrosity, human or fae!

Macamores wear them too, but in their case, it’s made from a yarmulke (no, they are not Jewish!  They are not even remotely kosher.  Like the rest of the Fallen, they are making do with what they can find here, and yarmulkes are metal-free).

Naturally, the preference shown by the female form for human companionship doesn’t sit well with the macamores.  Add their sexual frustrations to the stresses and strains of being stranded in this cold world, where the oceans are awash with plastic detritus, the sea floor is littered with nets and steel fish hooks, and factory ships strip the world of its finned wealth with no regard for the future – well, it’s a wonder they don’t simply go on a rampage at every turn.

Lately, things have been a bit strange.

For instance, it’s Dungeness crab season on the Pacific Coast.  Normally, this is a time of joyful abundance for San Francisco’s fishermen and sea food lovers too…

dungeness-crab-fishing

Not so much for the Dungeness crabs themselves…

crab-pots-1

And their escape attempts have suddenly become much more successful than usual because…

mafia-crab-with-a-gun-and-bullets-34795

That’s right – they’re packing!

The word is, the macamores have begun taking sides in the perennial contest between fishermen and their catch.  In some cases, that means mere pranks, but you can’t hand out a howitzer to a humpback whale or even itty bitty derringers to Dungeness crabs without setting off larger conflicts.

If you should encounter a macamore, I’d advise you to reel in your line.  Hang it up for the day and head for home, and when you get there, count your blessings.

 

 

 

 

A Modern Bestiary – L is for Llallogan

1126931186_imefairy32 Poor Lallogan – he’s been known by so many names.  Llallogan is the diminutive of Llallawg, his original name, but he’s also been called Lailoken and, in later years, Myrddin Wyllt (meaning Myrddin the Wild).  Which you may recognize as the Welsh form of Merlin.

wilder_mann-by-paulus-vischer-ca-1521  Wilder Mann by Paulus Vischer, ca. 1521 A.D.  This is how the Wild Man of the Woods is usually portrayed, nearly or completely nude, and terribly hairy.  A madman, of course, because who else would live like this? 

Sometimes the Wild Man is shown as something of a giant.

wild-man-from-the_fight_in_the_forest_hans_burgkmair_d-_a

The Fight in the Forest, a drawing by Hans Burgkmair, ca 1501 A.D.

The original, however, was the size of an ordinary man.  Perhaps a bit taller and more slender than most, Llallogan was a bard in the service of King Gwenddoleu in Strathclyde (yes, that’s in Scotland, not Wales).  In 573 A.D., Llallogan was present at the Battle of Arfderydd in which his king was killed.  In fact, as he told it to me very nearly a hundred years later, everybody was killed.  King Gwenddoleu’s rival was Rhydderch Hael of Strathclyde, who was not a forgiving soul.  He had every man jack of the defeated army slaughtered, leaving alive only Llallogan, so that the bard could tell the tale and terrify those who might want to oppose him.

merlin-by-alan-lee

Llallogan was not even particularly hairy, though he did wear furs and sometimes a mask with an animal’s face.

The whole thing was too much for Llallogan.  He developed what would be called, today, PTSD.  It drove him mad, and he took to the woods in hopes, I believe, of becoming an animal.  He no longer desired to be a man, having seen the darkest side of mankind.  And while he wandered, it is said that he also developed the gift of prophecy.

And then he met St. Kentigern.

I was not present at the time, so I cannot attest to the truth of the legend arising from that encounter, called Lailoken and St. Kentigern, but the saint apparently tried to help poor Llallogan find peace through prayer and simple comradeship.

merlin_and_st_kentigern_stobo_kirk

Eventually, he succeeded in converting Lllallogan to Christianity, an event commemorated here in a stained glass window at Stobo Kirk.

merlins_altarstone_stobo_kirk  And this is the altar stone at Stobo Kirk where Llallogan (or Myrddin) was baptized by St. Kentigern.

Baptism did not resolve Llallogan’s madness, however.  What St. Kentigern did not know was that Llallogan was a changeling.  Born of Faerie and traded for a human child, he did not know it himself, save that he never fit into society and found solace only in music.  Being fae, he was horrified far more than most by unnatural death, and murder en masse overwhelmed him.

Thus what he needed was comfort, calm, and training in the use of magic, so that he could attain control of the memories that troubled him so.  That was not my doing.  I merely transported the creature, for he was one by then, back to Faerie and put him in Oberon’s care.

His fae nature, of course, is what gave birth to the prophecies.  One, alas, concerned the man who tried so hard to help him – St. Kentigern.  On the very day mad Llallogan came to the saint and asked for the Sacrament of Baptism, he foretold St. Kentigern’s martyrdom, calling it a triple death.  This must have set the priest back on his heels a bit, but he carried out the rite.  Then, later that same day, he was captured by King Meldred’s men, all pagans.  They beat him with clubs and then threw him into the river Tweed where his body was impaled on a stake.  This, of course, did nothing for Llallogan’s peace of mind.  He blamed himself for the saint’s brutal murder, along with all those committed by Rhydderch Hael.

merlin_history  Much later, when he had somewhat recovered himself, Llallogan returned and settled in Wales and became an archetype well known from Arthurian legends.  His like is found nowadays in all manner of foot-thick fantasies and video games and TV shows and movies.  He remained what he was at heart, a stranger in a strange land, never quite part of this world.