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Mutant Hares, Modern Satyrs and Centaurs July 26, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

Fairies are so ‘yesterday’. What about the more exotic fauna from the forests of the imagination? Let’s start with the mutant hare at Windsor!

I remember Lilian, Countess of Cromartie, telling me of a strange incident that once happened to her. She was walking alone one bright summer morning in Windsor Great Park. Suddenly she saw an amazing looking creature loping slowly towards her. It resembled an enormous hare. That is to say, its legs and head were those of a hare, but its size was that of a goat, and its homed head was half-goat, half-hare. This creature, loping without any fear, and with a hare’s movement straight towards her, caused her to pause. She stood still and breathlessly waited its approach. It passed quite close to her, and as it did so she struck at it with her parasol. Instantly it disappeared.

Or centaurs, in Greece naturally:

[An aristocratic] couple were traveling in the wilds of Greece, and one night they wandered out together on to a bare mountain side. Sitting down to rest they were enjoying the beauty and utter loneliness of the moonlit scene, when they suddenly heard the galloping of many horses’ hoofs approaching them. This astonished them greatly, as they were in so wild and unfrequented a part of the country. There was no road near them, and it seemed strange to hear horses galloping so fast on such rough ground at night, even though there was a moon. Husband and wife stood up immediately in order to show themselves. The sound suggested a headlong rush, and they feared that in another second a whole regiment might ride over them. They had not long to wait. A troop of creatures, half-men, half-horses, tore past them, helter-skelter. Fleet and sure-footed they thundered by, and they brought with them the most wonderful sense of joy and exhilaration. Neither the Grand Duchess nor her husband felt the smallest fear; on the contrary, both were seized by a wild elation, a desire to be one of that splendid legion. The thundering of their hoofs spread over the hills, and died away into the distance. On returning to their camp the husband and wife found an uproar. Something had gone wrong with the Greek servants, who were shivering with terror, and struggling with equally terrified horses to prevent a stampede. All that could be learned from the Greeks was that they had heard something, something known of and greatly feared. I happened to hear the Grand Duchess tell of her weird experience, and I have often wondered in later years if Algernon Blackwood had also heard the story, and founded upon it his fascinating book, ‘The Centaur’.

Then we have the satyr. Make of this what you will but Beach loves the nurse’s fear.

Lady Henry Grosvenor, born Miss Erskine Wemyss of Wemyss Castle. She told us that when a child of seven years old, she had passed through some minutes of such absolute terror, that as long as she lived she would never forget the experience. With another child, and a nurse in attendance, she was playing one summer morning out of doors. After a little while the nurse rose from her seat amongst the heather, and wandered away a short distance, out of sight but not out of hearing. A few moments after the two little girls heard some bushes behind them rustling, and a huge creature, half-goat, half-man, emerged and leisurely crossing the road in front of them plunged into the woods beyond and was lost to sight. Both children were thrown into a paroxysm of terror, and screamed loudly. The nurse ran back to them, and when told what was the matter scolded them for their foolish fancies. No such animal existed, such as they described, an animal much bigger than a goat, that walked upright, and had but two legs, and two hoofs, that was covered with shaggy brown hair from the waist downward, and had the smooth skin of a man from the waist upward! The nurse bade them come home at once, and as they gained the road Miss Wemyss pointed down into the dust. Clearly defined was the track of a two-hoofed creature that had crossed at that spot. The nurse stared for a moment or two, then with one accord they all ran. She never took her charges near that spot again. Lady Henry said that the memory of that experience was so firmly grafted on her mind that she could always recall with perfect clarity the exact appearance of this appalling creature. In after years, when grown up, she realized from pictures that what she had seen was a Faun or Satyr. Such pictures or statues always sent a thrill of horror through her. She attributed this apparition to the fact that she and her companion were playing close to the site of a Roman camp, and the road was an old Roman road.

Any other non-fairy ‘beasts’ fallen from out of story into our world? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

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30 July 2012: Amanda sends in a couple of centaur links: Centaurs really existed and Centaur sighting near Winchester. Chris meanwhile write in: From my perch in Sheffield, I think I should mention our local beastie, Spring Heeled Jack Not sure if he’s quite what you were looking for, but he interests me because he’s one of comparatively few such legends which are entirely products of the industrial age. Regarding Lady Cromartie, did they have a menagerie at Windsor Castle in her day (died 1926, apparently)? It sounds as if she met an escaped wallaby.’  Invisible sends in a couple of links about the Horse-man-of-Bede and the second part of the same. Thanks Chris, we loved the Wallaby argument, Invisible and thanks Amanda!