Monday, 3 November 2014

Hallowe'en Special: Hairy Crawlers, Shaggy Dog-Men, and Frisky Satyrs

For our Hallowe'en session, Natalie Lawrence supplied us with some highly appropriate passages from Ulisse Aldrovandi's Monstrorum historia, first published posthumously in 1642. It describes various strange races, half man half beast, which are said to roam faraway regions. The printed text is very readable and is freely available as a digital version here. Enjoy the hairy strangeness, and please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions. Felix vesper omnium sanctorum!


Ulisse Aldrovandi, Monstrorum historia cum Paralipomenis historiae omnium animalium (Bologna, 1658), pp. 21–24.

[p. 21]

To this should be referred other species of wild men listed by Lycosthenes, such as those extremely fat women seen in the Indian Ocean who have an unnaturally long neck, arms joined to the legs, donkeys' shinbones and feet of a different form. He describes males like the women but much smaller. Likewise, to be listed in this place are the women found in the Libyan desert with breasts hanging down to their knees, lacking the power of speech, but vociferating vehemently. There are others besides living in the Libyan mountains which have bovine legs, human faces and feet, vulpine tails, goat udders, and a humped back like a camel's. But since Lycosthenes told of monsters rather through hearsay than facts, and sometimes fanciful figments, we therefore deliberately leave all those aside, and turn for our part to disseminate the image of those hairy men in whom it is implanted by nature to advance by crawling. And therefore, they could be called herpiszanthropoi by the Greeks and manugradi (handwalkers) by the Latins; the picture is this.

[p. 22]

[Marginal note:] Ice like a protection against weapons.

To the preceding could be added the Cynomulgi (dog-muzzled), or Cynocephali (dog-headed), equally hairy, whose head and mouth mark them out as beasts more than men. These according to Lycosthenes have a human body elegantly shaped except for the head which resembles the muzzle of dogs, and they live in Northern Ethiopia. Moreover, in Vincent [of Beauvais]'s Mirror of History this race roams the regions of Tartary without fear, because in the bitter winter, it plunges into the water, then immediately rolls in the dust, until the dust mixed with water freezes. This is repeated several times, until the thickness of the ice can resist the impact of weapons and arrows. Having done this, this race advances on the Tartars with great force, for then the arrows hurled at them return whence they came, and likewise, they cannot in any way be harmed by other weapons.

On that account those Cynocephali, attacking the Tartars unharmed [p. 23], wound many of them by biting. Likewise Marco Polo claimed that this race, which has canine muzzles, wanders about the Angaman island, and rounds up and devours any visitors. In fact we think that these are vanities and that the truth has been corrupted by many a foolishness. There are in fact certain dog-headed tribes of very cunning monkeys who approach human intelligence, and which have been dealt with at greater length in the history of quadrupeds with fingers. We do not deny that there have been and can be men with canine muzzles, but it seems that they should be recorded among the monsters. It will not be offensive to show the picture of the supposed Cynocephali for the benefit of the reader.

By many [people], Satyrs, Tritons, Nymphs, Nereids and Sirens are deservedly placed together on the list of wild people; besides it will be worth the effort to deal with them all in this place one by one.

[p. 24] Concerning the Satyrs, so called from the noun sathe, meaning the male member, because they are always inclined to lust, we will first place before you the opinion of antiquity. Pliny reports in many places that there is a region in the Eastern mountains of India which is called Cartadulorus where Satyrs, namely horned, hairy and most pernicious men, live, with a human appearance, goat feet, having no human morals, and frolicking in hiding places in the woods. They cannot be caught on account of their speed, unless by chance they are sick or old. Pomponius Mela adds that those men are half wild, who have nothing human about them besides the appearance, and elsewhere [he] claimed that beyond the Atlas mountain of Mauritania lights are very often seen by night, and the clashing of cymbals and the song of pipes are heard, and nothing is found by day. It is held for certain that these are Fauns and Satyrs.

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