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Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art

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Author Topic: Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art  (Read 2363 times)
Demon Queen
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Posts: 2122

« on: June 18, 2009, 01:19:20 pm »

Pliny and many of the writers of his day describe certain animals in a way that appears the absurdest fable; even the lion described by him is in some points most unnatural. Xenophon, for instance, describing a boar hunt, gravely tells us: "So hot are the boar's tusks when he is just dead that if a person lays hairs upon them the hairs will shrivel up; and when the boar is alive they—that is, the tusks—are actually red hot when he is irritated, for otherwise he would not singe the tips of the dogs’ hair when he misses a blow at their bodies." The salamander in flames, of frequent occurrence in heraldry, is of this class. Like the toad, "ugly and venomous," the salamander was regarded by the ancients with the utmost horror and aversion. It was accredited with wondrous qualities, and the very sight of it "abominable and fearful to behold." Elian, Nicander, Dioscorides and Pliny all agree in that it possessed the power of immediately extinguishing any fire into which it was put, and that it would even rush at or charge the flame, which it well knew how to extinguish. It was believed that its bite was certainly mortal, that anything touched by its saliva became poisonous, nay, that if it crept over a tree all the fruit became deleterious. Even Bacon believed in it. Quoth he: "The salamander liveth in the fire and hath the power to extinguish it." There is, too, a lingering popular belief that if a fire has been burning for seven years there will be a salamander produced from it. Such is the monstrous character given to

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