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Marquette's Man-eater


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Until it was worn away by the elements a curious relief was visible on
the bluffs of the Mississippi near Alton, Illinois. It was to be seen as
late as 1860, and represented a monster once famous as the piasa bird.
Father Marquette not only believed it but described it as a man-eater in
the account of his explorations, where he mentions other zoological
curiosities, such as unicorns with shaggy mane and land-turtles three
feet long with two heads, very mischievous and addicted to biting. He
even showed a picture of the maneater that accorded rudely with the
picture on the rocks. It was said to prey on human flesh, and to be held
in fear by the Indians, who encountered it on and near the Mississippi.
It had the body of a panther, wings like a bat, and head and horns of a
deer. Father Marquette gave it a human face. The sculpture was
undoubtedly made by Indians, but its resemblance to the winged bulls of
Assyria and the sphinxes of Egypt has been quoted as confirmation of a
prehistoric alliance of Old and New World races or the descent of one
from the other. It has also been thought to stand for the totem of some
great chief-symbolizing, by its body, strength; by its wings, speed; by
its head, gentleness and beauty. But may not the tradition of it have
descended from the discovery of comparatively late remains, by primitive
man, of the winged saurians that crawled, swam, dived, or flew, lingering
on till the later geologic period? The legend of the man-eater may even
have been told by those who killed the last of the pterodactyls.

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