Griffins, Gryphons, and other monsters


I found this review of griffins across several cultures on Mr. P’s Mythopedia page. (Click to enlarge the picture).

I find it interesting, as Murder in Absentia includes a griffin (or gryphon, in the more Greek-like spelling used in the book). It’s based on the classic type below, with the front half including the forelegs as that of an eagle.

Not a central part of the plot, it was still one of the more memorable scenes. I chose it to represent the fantasy aspects of the novel on the cover.

Coincidentally, the cover artist first found a Minoan griffin for the book. We then found a proper one, because – besides not matching the book – it looked too much like a deformed pigeon 😜. (Head over to the Wikipedia article on griffins to see the original fresco from Knossos, and many other images).

Here’s a relevant excerpt from Murder In Absentia. It (and the following fate of those involved) was one of the most enjoyable things to write.


Slowly, the large double doors creaked open, revealing a dark, cavernous maw in the wall. At first nothing, and then, with a mighty screech that set my teeth on edge, came a golden blur of movement out of the doors and into the centre of the arena. People all around cowered and jumped back at the noise, and Cornelia huddled and clutched me.

The thing crashed into the net and stretched it taut, and for a moment a baleful yellow eye above a sharp beak stared directly at me. The thing was pushed back by the net, landed on the sands and shrieked in frustration again. We could now all make out what it was, and the crowds roared wordlessly. Before us stood a mighty gryphon, big as a horse, head held high and proud. The golden feathers of its fore-claws blended midway with the golden lion’s fur of its back, right behind where the two magnificent wings sprouted from its shoulders. It gave a horrible shriek again, like a thousand birds of prey all at once, and rose into the air. It slashed the net with the claws on its front legs and tried to snap the ropes with its large hooked beak, but the net held against the assault.

Enjoyed it? I think you might appreciate the other post I had on the subject… History, Fantasy, and Food.


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