Our Gryphons Are Different

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Fearsome, majestic, and... wait, what's #5 called again?!

Our Monsters Are Different, dealing with bird/mammal hybrids.

While not as popular as Dragons or Unicorns, Gryphons, also known as Griffins or Griffons, with Alces and Keythongs being archaic alternatives, are still prominent beasts in modern fantasy.

The oldest gryphon myths come from the Egyptian Mythology and ancient Sumer. Later, they were picked up by Greek Mythology, and afterward used in Heraldry. They became a symbol of Christianity thanks to being a mixture of two majestic creatures that Christians back then saw as the "kings" of animals. After that, they went into literature, but their popularity would be low until the 1990's.

Gryphons are fairly more consistent in their portrayal in modern media; almost invariably they are portrayed as guardians of sorts, mostly of treasures, or as winged steeds of sorts. If you are really prone to do some research you can see that their love for gold, their negative reaction towards horses, and their old conflict with vaguely cyclopean races are in fact drawn from myth, but don't expect them to be very prominent. All in all, gryphons seem to have three main body plans:

  • The Classical Gryphon, or Griffin, which is portrayed as a Mix and Match critter with the body, back limbs and tail of a lion (often with a feather fan at the tip), the wings, head, and front legs from a bird of prey and big ears that may or may not be based on the "ears" of eagle owls.
  • The Opinicus, a slight variation with has the front legs of a lion, rendering only the wings and head (and sometimes they even don't have the wings) as being bird like; don't expect ears to show up. It may or may not have a snake's tail.
  • The Hippogriff, which resembles a gryphon with the body and back limbs of a horse instead of a lion, was made newly popular by J. K. Rowling—but was otherwise already well established in Renaissance lore due to its use in Ludovico Ariosto's epic Orlando Furioso. It seems originally to have been meant as an extravagant joke, since "to breed gryphons with horses" was used as a metaphor for an impossible task (since gryphons ate horse), but has nowadays become synonymous with certain teenage wizards. Other ungulates might be used instead of horses.

The Marigryph or "Mergryph", a Heraldic creature that is essentially a Classical Gryphon with a mermaid tail instead of a lion tail and sometimes other underwater features, has faded into obscurity—except in Neopets, of all places. Sometimes other mythological winged bird/mammal hybrids are referred as "gryphons"; the most Sadly Mythtaken case must be the Peryton.

May overlap with Giant Flyer should the gryphon have wings. The wingless opinicus never flies, being seemingly not as magical as eastern dragons. In contrast to their formerly benign religious symbolism, an example being the Gryphon in Dante's Divine Comedy, which represents the mingling of the human and divine natures in Christ, modern gryphons often appear as dark if not demonic, though they might still be good; or they may be light-themed but evil. They are sometimes used as flying steeds. If gryphons are used as part of the Furry Fandom, one may then expect a Winged Humanoid to be present.

See also Call a Pegasus a Hippogriff and Hold Your Hippogriffs.

Examples of Our Gryphons Are Different include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Digimon has Gryphomon, a truly awesome-looking Mega-level Phantom Beast Digimon who has sadly only made brief appearances thus far. He's the version that has a snake for its tail. However, it's the front end of the snake, meaning his tail should be just as capable of killing you (assuming it's poisonous) as his front end. There's also a hippogryph Digimon. All There in the Manual says he's Gryphomon's previous form, but in the actual show, he was a disguise for a bad guy.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Quest for Camelot has a particularly weird gryphon (voiced by Bronson Pinchot of Perfect Strangers fame). While following the classical griffin design, said body design is pretty much distorted: the bird front quarters are proportionally much larger than the lion hindquarters, while the head is the not particularly eagle-like, except for the beak, which resembles more that of a vulture. Overall, his pathetic appearance reflects his status on the story as a Butt Monkey, being continually beaten by a falcon ten times smaller than him and by his boss, to whom he is loyal though sadly very incompetent at doing his job. Finally he is burned, presumably to death, by Siamese twin dragons, and on top of that he is considered The Scrappy by the fans. Alas, Poor Scrappy indeed.
  • In the Harryhausen Movie The Golden Voyage of Sinbad a Opinicus fights a Centaur Cyclops. In the ensuing fight it becomes clear the Griffin, representing good is gaining the upper hand until Prince Koura slashes the Griffin's hind leg, weakening it and allowing the cyclopean centaur to throttle the griffin.
  • Disney's Narnia movies features classical gryphons, which aren't present in the original books.
  • An early draft of the American Godzilla featured a rival monster called the Gryphon; however, it is described as an amalgam of mountain lion and bat rather than the traditional lion and eagle.
  • A gryphon can be seen among the various mythical creatures (the others being a dragon and a unicorn) that were mocking the animals as they were boarding Noah's Ark in Fantasia 2000, and presumably drowned in the flood.
  • Like the book series, the compressed adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles included a griffin but only halfway through the movie, whose only purpose was to fly the heroes to the Secret Glade.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Buckbeak/Witherwings, of course. Perhaps currently the most famous example of an hippogriff-style gryphon.
  • In the Star Trek Novel Verse, the Kinshaya race are essentially griffins, being mammals with four legs and a pair of wings sprouting from their back. They are too heavy to fly, though- in modern Kinshaya, the wings are used for display purposes instead.
  • Alice in Wonderland has a classical griffon, which is about as much of a help as the mock turtle. He only appears rarely in the movie versions, being no help to Alice opposite Cary Grant in 1933. In the 2010 movie it is implied he once fought against the Jabberwock, as a picture of him fighting the monster appears in a mural.
    • Both the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle do appear in a commercial promoting the Disney film, however.
  • The Firebringer Trilogy has gryphons that prey on unicorn colts, probably a reference to the mythical horse-eating gryphons.
  • Frank Stockton, the author of the well-known story The Lady or the Tiger wrote another popular story entitled The Griffin and the Minor Canon. Stockton's Griffin is, from its description, quite obviously meant to be a dragon.
  • In The Spiderwick Chronicles there is a gryphon called Byron. In the original books his design is actually quite original, as while following the classical griffin design his beak has teeth/teeth-like serrations and his ears are actually similar to those of a lion. The movie had him as a typical griffin however.
  • Keladry from the Tortall Universe raises a baby, classical-type griffin until his parents are found. Griffins there are magical and intelligent, if hard to communicate with.
    • They're also Living Lie Detectors whose feathers have related properties such as seeing through illusions and making arrows fly truer. And there are also hurroks (horse-hawks), which like griffins are magical immortals, but decidedly nasty and animal.
  • In the Diana Wynne Jones novel The Dark Lord of Derkholm and its sequel, Year of the Griffon, feature a mixed human and griffon family, the result of a wizard who created intelligent griffons by mixing lion, eagle, (and later, cat) germ plasm with his own and his wife's and raising the hybrid kids alongside his own.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey, gryphons are highly intelligent beings who were some of the earliest magic users of the world. In-world, they're considered to be extreme hedonists—though by our standards, this applies to most of the humans as well.
  • Like all Speakers in The Dragon Wars Saga, gryphons come in various types depending on affinity. Kimi has an ice affinity and is half arctic eagle, half snow leopard.
  • The Ursula K. Le Guin short story "Darkness Box" features gryphons used as war animals, which are apparently immortal (or near to it) and which bond closely to their owners.
  • In the Hell's Gate series by Dave Weber and Linda Evans, griffins are barely controllable killing machines created by magical genetic engineering.
  • The Alice in Wonderland gryffin also appears in the Thursday Next books.
  • E.R. Eddison's fantasy novel Mistress of Mistresses, featured hippogriffs as part of an Impossible Task. (They also appear in The Worm Ouroboros.) He illustrated the book himself, and gave them horse heads, raptor wings and front legs, and lion rear halves. Not quite your classical hippogriff!
  • Edward Ormondroyd's David and the Phoenix features three different species, each with a slightly different spelling. The reader encounters the lazy, thick-headed gryffens and vicious, territorial gryffons; the amiable, red-feathered gryffins remain off-screen.
  • Griffons are used as artificial soldiers by the Gaian entity in Robert Reed's short story, Aeon's Child. The griffons have claws adapted to be compatible with high-powered laser rifles, and have beaks made of hyperfiber; a nearly indestructible compound. They are sentient (sort of)

Live Action Television[edit | hide]

  • One episode of Merlin has an opinicus, which acts pretty much as a one-time terror, eventually meeting its demise.
  • In the miniseries Merlin, Merlin and Arthur are attacked by creatures that Merlin calls "griffins". They look a little like monkeys with the patagia of a flying squirrel and the heads of hawks, and they act an awful, awful lot like the "raptors" in Jurassic Park.
  • Goldar from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is something of an odd example, as his leonine features include a muzzle. This, along with his fur colour and the shape of his forward fangs have lead some to assume he's a gorilla or wolf-man, but he is in fact an anthropomorphic griffin. This is backed up by his Zyuranger self being named Grifforzer.

Other Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Europe really had very different gryphons.
  • It has been suggested that the myths of the gryphons are connected to the sphinx and the mesopotanian shedu and lammassu (which also influenced the origins of cherubs, other lion bodied creatures generally depicted with wings.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • While not actually a gryphon, the Winged Dragon of Ra from Yu-Gi-Oh! looks more like a griffin with teeth than a typical dragon. He's also light themed.
  • The current Emperor of The Empire (well obviously) in Warhammer Fantasy Battle can ride a gryphon into battle. (or a regular horse, or a dragon, depending on what you're willing to put together)
    • Normal Empire and High Elf Lord-class Generals have the option to have their generals ride on Griffons. Bretonnians may ride Hippogriffs. Griffons in Warhammer are a bot more varied than the traditional depiction - they've been portrayed with markings like leaopards and tigers as well as lions.
    • One Imperial hero rides to battle on a wingless breed, called a Demigryph.
  • Magic: The Gathering has griffins as a creature type.
    • The plane of Innistrad has gryffs, which are like hippogriffs, but instead of a bird of prey, their head and wings are those of herons, and they appear slimmer and sleeker than most hippogriffs.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • World of Warcraft has both opinicus style gryphons and hippogriffs, the later with antlers. Whether these are meant as a reference to perytons or just a function of the Rule of Cool is unknown.
    • WoW hippogryphs are raven/stag hybrids, hence the antlers.
  • Castlevania Symphony of the Night introduces these as a boss, before Boss Decay settles in... 50% into the game.
  • A alternate branch class of the Wyvern Rider sub-group in the newest Fire Emblem game, Awakening is the Gryphon Knight, a Jack of All Stats armed with an Axe.
  • In the lore of Dragon Age, the Grey Wardens of old rode on Griffins. They all eventually died out by the present though.
  • In the second God of War, there's a sequence where you fight people riding griffins. This being God of War, you hop on the griffin's back, cut off its wings, and let it plummet to its death while you hop back on Pegasus.
    • And closer inspection of artwork and scenes suggests the creatures have a hooked blade at the end of their tail similar to a manticore.
    • Also there are the dark griffin riders, who ride black griffins wearing bronze masks.
  • In the first three Heroes of Might and Magic games, the griffins stood on their hind legs, while in IV and V, they go on all fours.
  • Griffons appear in Riviera: The Promised Land as demons, and in Yggdra Union and Blaze Union as mounts alongside horses and dragons. The latter two games have griffon-riding units as female-only, seeing as all the characters riding anything else happen to be male. In Yggdra Unison, the superior mobility of griffon riders during the daytime makes the only two of them in the game, Kylier and Emilia, Lightning Bruiser-style Game Breakers for as long as the sun is up and Mighty Glaciers at night; the other two Ancardia games give the class the Weaksauce Weakness of lacking terrain bonuses, making them far easier to pummel.
  • American McGee's Alice has the Gryphon, who is initially held captive by the Mad Hatter. Alice frees him, and he helps lead her force against the Red Queen's army. He is killed in an aerial duel with the Jabberwock, and his corpse is pretty much one of the only things that Alice can take cover behind in the ensuing boss fight.
  • The Angels from Darksiders ride angelic creatures called Ortho that look like armored white griffins.
  • Master of Magic has Griffins as the high-tier [1] Nomad unit, which is mostly elite cavalry (First Strike and Armor Piercing) with flight, with high attack value and beefier than normal, but with only 2 figures, i.e. are more suited to either mopping up low-tier infantry or hitting other small tough units than taking on packs of nasty things with special attacks, and generally vulnerable to instant-kill effects.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The dinosaur Hagryphus. The group that it belongs too, Oviraptorosauria, is in itself quite gryphon like, having bird of prey like beaks and powerful claws on both front and hind-limbs, and have long tails.
  • There's a theory that the legend of griffons was based on a misinterpretation of protoceratops fossils. There's no real evidence either way for this theory, but it's something to think about.
    • See below, though.
  • The logo for Sprecher Brewery of Wisconsin is a fairly standard gryphon, but the more cartoonish version on their root beer has a huge beak and a vaguely monkey-like body.
  • The Venetian heraldric symbol, the lion of St. Mark is a winged lion. Rather odd that a naval power would want a land predator or an aerial one rather then a nautical predator in some ways.
  1. it's provided by a Fantastic Stable, which does nothing else and requires 10 more buildings to unlock