art, fantasy

Story Prompt Sunday #3: C is for Chimera

The Chimera seems to have been around long before Bellerophon rode Pegasus to kill the lioness with the head of a fire breathing goat and the tail of a serpent.

Depictions of Chimera existed in cultures older than the Greeks. The Neo-Hittite Chimera, dated 850-750 BC, was a lioness with wings and a human head.

If a real animal was the inspiration behind Chimera, it went extinct long before the legend was assumed into Greek culture. A creature with the head of a lioness, the body of a goat, and the tail of a snake isn’t particularly far fetched when you consider someone trying to describe an unusual animal from known sources. Could it have been a type of ungulate with a heavy, triangular head? Was it a creature with a prehensile tail? Did the lioness head make it a predator?

Unfortunately, by the time Bellerophon was sent to kill an unkillable creature, Chimera (meaning she goat) had become an impossible monster. With her lioness head, a fire breathing goat head rising from her goat like body, and a tail with the snake head at the end, she was truly the stuff of legend.

The Egyptians worshipped the fire breathing lioness, Sekhmet, from as early as 3000 BC, so could she have influenced the legend of Chimera?

While it’s rare, animals can produce conjoined twins which may appear to be two headed creatures. Could instances of this have led to the myriad myths of multi-headed monsters?

Or were people just combining together traits from fearsome animals to make mega monsters? It’s easy to see why lioness plus snake would be feared, but goat is slightly more obscure. Perhaps the goat head’s fire breathing capabilities were added to silence the doubters.

Whatever her true origins, Chimera’s legacy is strong to this day, as her name now means, in biological terms, an organism with genetically different tissues. It also means a hope or dream that’s unlikely to come true, so I guess I’m not that only person who has wondered if Chimera ever walked the earth.

I wanted my Chimera to look like a real animal, so here is a mother Chimera and her child.

I used chalk pastel for this drawing, but the paper isn’t right for it so it didn’t come out great.

Are you inspired by Chimera? Share your creative endeavors in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Story Prompt Sunday #3: C is for Chimera”

  1. This was interesting. I wonder if, as you mention, people were trying to describe something they had never seen before. Could a rhinoceros be a unicorn? How would someone describe a giraffe to others who had never seen one? Unbelievable. Plus, there is always, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s