Mythical Creatures in Writing, Part VIII.
Possessing humanlike intelligence, a lion’s aggressiveness and a venomous, barbed tail, the manticore should not be approached lightly. Playing on the strengths of a lion’s behaviour means this beast is not only dominant, but a nocturnal hunter who sleeps during the day. Imagine little red hiding hood encountering a manticore while traveling the woods late at night, instead of a wolf – how different would the story be? There’s a lot of fun to be had here.
What is it?
A manticore is a legendary creature, similar to the Egyptian sphinx in that it has a red lion’s body, a man’s head but much meaner, plus a dragon’s or scorpion’s tail. The wings seem to be optional, depending on what story you read. This animal has been around for a long time, originating in Persian mythology.
Ability / Power
What makes this beast powerful and dangerous are the several animals in one. The human head gives it intelligence, the lion gives it strength and agility, while the razor-sharp tail of a dragon can pulverises anything in its way, or in the case of a scorpion’s tail – it can use poison to take anyone down. Now add wings, and we have a formidable foe who could stand up to almost anything.
Some tales say a manticore would challenge its prey with riddles before killing them. Nice.
The manticore also has a triple row of teeth and a voice like a small trumpet. I’m guessing this fellow does a lot of chewing. 🙂
Appearances in Fiction
- Canadian writer Robertson Davies wrote a novel titled The Manticore, published in 1972. It is the second volume of his “Deptford Trilogy. 
- A manticore is an essential plot device in Piers Anthony‘s first Xanth novel, A Spell for Chameleon, and appears on the original paperback’s cover.
- Grotteschi the Red, a manticore, is a central character in the second book of Catherynne Valente‘s The Orphan’s Tales.
- In the Divine Comedy, Geryon is depicted as a manticore-like demon that dwells at the deep barrier between the circles of violence and fraud.
- In David Weber‘s Honorverse series of stories, Manticore is the capital planet of the Star Kingdom of Manticore. The mythical beast is featured heavily in the kingdom’s heraldry and emblems.
- Following the success of their second album, Tarkus – which featured a manticore in the artwork and lyrics – Emerson, Lake & Palmer founded Manticore Records in 1973. An ELP retrospective box set released in 1993 was titled The Return of the Manticore, and included artwork similar to the manticore from Tarkus and the Manticore Records label.
- A manticore is the antagonist in “Love in the Time of Dragons”, an episode of the BBC TV series Merlin.
- The first book in the Sorcery! series of gamebooks depicts a manticore on the cover.
- In the third Percy Jackson Book, Percy, Bianca and Nico meet a manticore at West Over Hall
- In the second episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a Manticore from the Ever Free Forest was turned extremely vicious when Nightmare Moon took the form of a thorn that stuck in the beast’s paw. Fluttershy removed the “thorn” from the manticore’s paw and it turned gentle.
- In the TV Show Dark Angel, Manticore is a secret government institution that creates genetically enhanced super-soldiers. Its logo is an actual manticore.
- The manticore also appears in a number of games, including Warhammer.
Did you know? The name “Manticore” was reputedly derived from a Persian word meaning “man-eater.”
Previous Mythical Creature Posts:
Marchosias: A Kick-Ass Creature, Ningyo: The Deadly Mermaid, Abatwa: Riding Ants To Victory, Cait Sith: It Gets Into Your Mind, Anka: The Goliath Bird, Huldra: Norse Forest Lady, iele: Romanian Nymphs Of The Air.