Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Bestiaries

The classic medieval bestiary assembles notes on animals and interprets their habits as pious Allegory; Mythical Creatures may appear owing to unreliable or mistranslated sources, with monkeys becoming Satyrs while Travellers' Tales of rhinoceros and narwhal generate the Unicorn. T H White's The Book of Beasts: Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century (1956) adds learned and witty commentary on these matters, without scoffing at monastic scribes for lacking modern data on Biology. Generally, a bestiary can be any not purely factual collection of creature descriptions. Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) rhymed with fantastic humour about real animals in A Bad Child's Book of Beasts (1896) and More Beasts for Worse Children (1897). S H Sime drew his own Imaginary Animals, with accompanying verses, in Bogey Beasts (1923). Edward Ardizzone and James Reeves produced Prefabulous Animiles (1957). The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges (1967) is a fine if eccentric bestiary of mythic and fictional creatures. Margaret W Robinson's Fictitious Beasts: A Bibliography (1961) is self-explanatory. The Encyclopaedia of Things that Never Were (1985) by Michael Page (1922-    ) and Robert Ingpen (1936-    ) includes many fantasy-bestiary entries. Bestiary descriptions of gnomes and Dragons are expanded mock-seriously to book length in Gnomes (1976) by Wil Huygen (1922-2009) and Rien Poortvliet (1932-1995) and in Peter Dickinson's The Flight of Dragons (1979), both also vehicles for Fantasy Art. Some commercial fantasy bestiaries are Game adjuncts describing and providing fighting statistics for Monsters in games like Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu (>>> Cthulhu Mythos). [DRL]

see also: Imaginary Animals.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.