The Manticora

Of curious animals, other than Apes, depicted as having some approach to

the human countenance, perhaps the most curious is the Manticora. It is

not a parvenu; it is of ancient date, for Aristotle mentions it.

Speaking of the dentition of animals, he says:--"None of these genera

have a double row of teeth. But, if we may believe Ctesias, there are

some which have this peculiarity, for he mentions an Indian animal

Martichora, which had three rows of teeth in each jaw; it is as

large and rough as a lion, and has similar feet, but its ears and face

are like those of a man; its eye is grey, and its body red; it has a

tail like a land Scorpion, in which there is a sting; it darts forth the

spines with which it is covered, instead of hair, and it utters a noise

resembling the united sound of a pipe and a trumpet; it is not less

swift of foot than a stag, and is wild, and devours men."

Pliny also quotes Ctesias, but he slightly diverges, for he says it has

azure eyes, and is of the colour of blood; he also affirms it can

imitate the human speech. Par parenthese he mentions, in conjunction

with the Manticora, another animal similarly gifted:--"By the union of

the hyaena with the AEthiopian lioness, the Corocotta is produced, which

has the same faculty of imitating the voices of men and cattle. Its gaze

is always fixed and immoveable; it has no gums in either of its jaws,

and the teeth are one continuous piece of bone; they are enclosed in a

sort of box, as it were, that they may not be blunted by rubbing against

each other."

Mais, revenons a nos moutons, or rather Mantichora. Topsell, in making

mention of this beast, recapitulates all that Ctesias has said on the

subject, and adds:--"And I take it to be the same Beast which Avicen

calleth Marion, and Maricomorion, with her taile she woundeth her

Hunters, whether they come before her or behinde her, and, presently,

when the quils are cast forth, new ones grow up in their roome,

wherewithal she overcometh all the hunters; and, although India be full

of divers ravening beastes, yet none of them are stiled with a title of

Andropophagi, that is to say, Men-eaters; except onely this

Mantichora. When the Indians take a Whelp of this beast, they fall to

and bruise the buttockes and taile thereof, so that it may never be fit

to bring (forth) sharp quils, afterwards it is tamed without peril.

This, also, is the same beast which is called Leucrocuta, about the

bignesse of a wilde Asse, being in legs and hoofes like a Hart, having

his mouth reaching on both sides to his eares, and the head and face

of a female like unto a Badgers. It is also called Martiora, which in

the Parsian tongue, signifieth a devourer of men."

Du Bartas, in "His First Week, or the Birth of the World," mentions our

friend as being created:--

"Then th' Vnicorn, th' Hyaena tearing tombs,

Swift Mantichor', and Nubian Cephus comes;

Of which last three, each hath, (as heer they stand)

Man's voice, Man's visage, Man like foot and hand."

It is mentioned by other writers--but I have a theory of my own about

it, and that is, that it is only an idealised laughing hyaena.