The Science of Magic

The Science of Magic: Griffins ~ In Which I Have an Announcement

What’s up, y’all? Welcome to yet another Science of Magic post! Today we will be talking about the lovely, winged, four-legged creature known as the griffin! Or gryphon, if we’re going by ancient Greek spellings.

So, let’s jump in!!

Some of the earliest artwork of griffins date back to ancient Egyptian and ancient Iranian days. Griffins were carved on cosmetic palettes in Egypt as fancy decoration. (The Egyptians sure must have liked their fancy decoration XD) The ancient Iranians called griffins “Shirdals”, and let me just say that that is fabulous. ShiRdALs. YeS.

According to Medieval Lore, griffins mate for life. If their mate dies, they continue through life alone, and never re-mate. Ostrich eggs were thought to be griffin eggs, and antelope horns were thought to be griffin claws. They were highly prized in royal courts.

In Greek mythology, griffins were charged with guarding the golden land of Hyperborea. Hyperborea was a place where the sun never stopped shining, and the home of Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis.

The most commonplace design for griffins is the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. However, more modern designs can include various types of birds and/or various types of cats. (Honestly, mixing and matching is so much fun XD)

Alright, and now to the criticizing!

Let’s see how nit-picky I can be over one of my favorite creatures in mythology….

First off, the eagle talons. Most griffins have eagle talons as their front feet and lion’s paws as their hind feet. But why? Why can’t it just have lion’s paws in front, too? Are the talons supposed to help with landing or aerodynamics? And if so, how?

I have done absolutely no research on this, whatsoever (besides some random stuff that I’ve learned in science XD), but I really don’t think there’s much of a purpose. Two talons don’t do much good when landing in a tree, and they surely don’t help with ground landings and just regular walking. So why on earth can’t the griffin just have four lion’s paws??

And then, of course, there’s the same issue that I had with dragons last month. Wings. Wingspan, wing power, wing structure, and so on and so forth. Wings are just…..complicated!

I feel like I should also make a remark about the fact that birds can’t chew, and lions don’t have gizards…..so what on earth does the digestive system of a griffin look like, and what exactly does it eat? Does it have a gizard in the bird part and a stomach in the lion part, or some kind of crazy hybrid/specifically tailored digestive system?

*throws hands up* CREATURE MASHUPS ARE HARD, Y’ALL!!

*clears throat*

Y’know, this series has turned into me just yelling about the things I hate with no scientific backing at all….😅

Before I go, I want to announce the hiatus I am taking next month! I’ve got quite a few summer camps happening in June, so I thought it best that I take a little bit (or a lotta bit) of time off! I do have one post planned for the 20th, but, other than that, no posts until July. When I get back from my hiatus, we shall have the fifty followers celebration I’ve been planning! (Wouldn’t want to forget that!)

Thank y’all for reading and I’ll see you in July!!

The Science of Magic

The Science of Magic: Dragons ~ In Which Rawr

I couldn’t find any good pictures of dragons on Unsplash, so, enjoy this lovely photograph of a dragonfruit, a true delicacy.

Hello everyone, and welcome to the fourth Science of Magic post!! Today, we shall be discussing dragons. They’re kind of a rare creature to see in a fantasy novel, these days. *shrugs* In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, dragons are giant lizards with wings that go flappy-flap. And sometimes they go rawr.

So yes, now that I have the ridiculous intro out of the way, let’s jump into some of the lore behind dragons.

It’s pretty much impossible to cover all the lore behind dragons, because they appear, not only in a variety of mythology, but also in plenty of modern day books. But, I shall do the best I can, and I’m very sorry in advance for anything I might have missed.

Dragons, or some form of a dragon, have been seen in mythologies from Egypt, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and the Norse region. The most well-known image of a dragon in Egyptian mythology is the ouroboros, a dragon who is eating his own tail.

The ouroboros

The ouroboros was believed to protect the corpse of Ra, the sun god, although how a god is dead, I will probably never know. In the Cartoon Network show, Lego Ninjago, there is an ancient city of snakes called the City of Ouroboros, as a nod to this ancient icon. (Did I just call an ancient Egyptian symbol an icon? Why yes I did, thank you for asking)

In Chinese mythology, dragons were closely associated to rain. When there was a drought, it was because of their dragon’s laziness. There were plenty of rituals to encourage a dragon to bring rain, including making a ring of little clay dragons and dancing inside the ring, and praying to the dragons in poetry and recitation. Dragons are still heavy influences in China today.

Korean and Japanese dragons were incredibly similar to Chinese dragons. The main difference between Chinese dragons and Korean dragons were that Korean dragons have longer beards. Japanese dragons were commonly associated with metal, and were thought to be the mounts of worthy individuals.

The stories of dragons from Mesopotamia were most likely based on sightings of dinosaurs, like many old-world dragon stories. They were described as having “horns, the body and the neck of a snake, the forelegs of a lion, and the hind-legs of a bird”. Babylonian and Assyrian goddesses were said to ride on dragons, and were the only ones who could win the respect of a dragon.

In Greek mythology (my personal favorite), creatures such as the Lernaean Hydra, Python, Ladon, and a multitude of others fought by Heracles, Jason, Cadmus, and the Olympians were classified as dragons. The Greek variant of dragons usually didn’t have wings, but many had multiple heads, and could breathe fire. The teeth of a dragon could supposedly grow a legion of skeletal warriors.

Nowadays, Western dragons usually have one head, the ability to breathe fire or some other element, powerful wings, hulking size, and, occasionally, the ability to speak. They’re the most recognizable creatures in fantasy (and non-fantasy) novels, and, in my opinion, are starting to become a little bit cliche. So, if you’re planning on writing a fantasy novel, consider NOT putting dragons in it. 😅

Now, I shall point out all the things that are wrong with the massive lizards we all know and love.

One of the biggest problems I have with dragons is the fact that, a lot of the time, their wings are not big enough or shaped correctly to carry them through the sky. The dragons in the GIF above have adequate wings, but all too often, I see dragons with shrimpy wings that couldn’t carry a bird. And, I mean, I understand small wings for comedy purposes, but, if you’re going to do something, might as well do it right.

Bird wings are usually more than twice their body length (not counting their tails), and, since dragons are so big and generally used for transportation, I feel like their wings and body should have a ratio slightly larger than that. It’s possible that, as a result of years of being used as a magic carpet, dragons’ wings might have adapted to carry extra weight.

Another thing to think about is how the wing moves in flight. Where the wing appears to have an “elbow”, is usually where the finger-like joints branch out. That “elbow” is usually the first thing that goes down as a dragon flaps, with the rest of the wing following. In that way, the dragon can propel itself forward. If the dragon flies backward, it would be really similar to when a human tries to swim backward. The “elbow” would be pushed forward, in order to push the dragon back. And, unless the dragon can move its wings in a figure eight pattern like a hummingbird, it would not be able to hover. Seeing a dragon hover in a movie or TV show really ticks me off for some reason.

An important thing to remember when writing, drawing, animating, etc. dragons is that they need some kind of balance at the end of their tails. It could be a fan of feathers, miniature wings, or just a really thick tail, but they’re going to need some kind of counterbalance to help them keep their balance in the sky and land without too much of a mishap.

Another thing that I worry about is if it’s possible for dragons to glide on updrafts. Updrafts work just fine for birds, but, if you haven’t noticed, dragons are a lot bigger than birds. I haven’t done a lot of research for this, but I’m not sure how feasible it is.

One thing that I have seen a lot in books and TV shows is a dragon picking up a person in their claw to take them somewhere and dropping them to reveal that the person is essentially unharmed. I’m not sure how realistic that is. Now, hear me out. If you were standing, sitting, or even laying on the ground and you were snatched up by a dragon without the dragon landing, I think you would have a broken bone or two. Dragons come in hot when they land, and, for a dragon to get close enough to the ground to snatch you up, they would need to be going through their landing protocol. Thus, as they reach out their claw, there would be quite a bit of weight on you for a few seconds before the dragon gained air. I think that would at least result in a sore neck. Plus, who’s the say that a dragon is gentle when holding something? It might squeeze you (whether on purpose or accident, nobody knows)! Or, you might get scratched on its rough, calloused pads.

Okay, I shall move on from all the talk about flight to talk about talk.

….that sounded kind of strange.

In a lot of stories, dragons are able to talk. But, that would require them having human features: human lips, human teeth, human tongue, human vocal chords. That is a disturbing image when you put it on a dragon. Being able to speak telepathically would make a lot more sense. But hey, if you want to ignore all of this and have a creepy human-esque dragon, go right ahead. I’m not stopping you XD

One last thing. Breath.

Breathing fire kind of makes sense. There could be several glands in the back of a dragon’s throat that secrete just the right amount of just the right chemicals to cause a fire to erupt from its mouth. But, what about the dragons that breathe other stuff? (Yes, I’m looking at you, dragons from Ninjago) There have been dragons that can breathe ice, lightning, earth, and more in that show (including wind, but that one actually makes the most sense out of all of them), and some of those make zero sense. How can a dragon breathe earth?

Unless it’s just magic.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post about dragons, and I hope it helps you write and draw dragons better in the future! If there are any fantasy creatures you want me to do a post about in the future, let me know!

Thanks for reading!!

The Science of Magic

The Science of Magic: Unicorns ~ In Which This Series Becomes a Collection

Can I just say that I need that mug? I don’t know what I’d use it for since I don’t drink coffee or tea, but I sure do need it.

Welcome, ladies and gents (are there any gents here? I’m not sure) to the third installment in this lovely series. I now officially have a collection of “The Science of Magic” posts.

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Today we are covering a topic that has been suggested (read: demanded) by my friend since the first Science of Magic went live. UNICORNS!!!

Is that GIF from a movie? I don’t know. I found it on Google. ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY GOOGLE

*ahem* This is what happens when I write a post last minute. 😅

Well, without further ado, let’s begin!

Hmm….unicorns…..it’s going to be pretty hard to find something wrong with them, because….they’re actually pretty solid by ways of anatomy and stuff. And since they’re fantasy, magic is acceptable.

(That’s my motto. If it has anything to do with fantasy, magic is acceptable. Or asseptable, as I like to say)

Let’s start out like we normally do with a little bit of background about these wonderful horses.

Unicorns most likely originated in the Indus River Valley Civilization, as carvings of something like “horned seals” have been found in the region. The ancient Greeks believed unicorns to live in India, with horns 28 inches long. They were said to be fleet of foot and colored red, white, and black.

Stories and carvings of unicorns have been found in many places, such as Persia, England, and France.

In the middle ages, unicorns were said to be tamable, but only by a young virgin woman. Marco Polo described them as, “scarcely smaller than elephants. They have the hair of a buffalo and feet like an elephant’s. They have a single large black horn in the middle of the forehead… They have a head like a wild boar’s… They spend their time by preference wallowing in mud and slime. They are very ugly brutes to look at. They are not at all such as we describe them when we relate that they let themselves be captured by virgins, but clean contrary to our notions.”

(He was talking about a rhino)

As the years passed, unicorns became more and more popular. The Scots believed them to be the natural enemies of lions, and unicorns were used all over English coats of arms.

Unicorns have also appeared in Chinese mythology and some people believe they have appeared in the Bible (although I didn’t research that in detail)

Now, on to me being critical about unicorns.

….

Uh…..

This is kind of weak, but I do have a problem with the fact that most unicorns are described as swift-footed. If that were so, the unicorn in that GIF up there would have rounder legs and a smaller stomach.

Yeah, this post is kind of weak. But hopefully you learned something about unicorns. I was on a bit of a time crunch when I wrote it, so…yeah.

Thanks for reading!!

The Science of Magic

The Science of Magic: Fairies ~ In Which We Do This Again

Well, everyone seemed to really like the first Science of Magic that I did, so here we are with part two!

February is fantasy month so I figured I’d do one fantasy post before the month ended XD (Unless we can count the Narnia tag as fantasy *shrugs*) Plus, the month of February is part of a drawing challenge called Februfairy, where you draw a fairy every day in the month of February. Fairies in February…..perfect!

Let’s get started!

I don’t have nearly as many problems with fairies as I do mermaids. It’s slightly more logical for fairies to exist than mermaids. Plus, who doesn’t love Tinker Bell?

source

Fairies (also known as fays, faes, feys, fair folk, or faeries) originated in the folklore of Ireland, Germany, England, and France. Stories of fairies (or fairy tales 😏) are diverse depending on the origin. Some people thought they were demoted angels (didja guys know that the official study of angels is called Angelology? It’s a real thing!!), some thought they were prehistoric humans (the Flintstones would be interesting as fairies XD), some thought they were spirits of the dead, and some thought they were beings of nature, like the nymphs from Greek mythology. In the olden days, “fairy” was used to describe any magical being, from elves to ogres. Humans had plenty of “charms” to keep fairies away, such as four-leaf clovers and wearing clothes inside-out. Fairies were thought of as witches, and were believed to cause illnesses like tuberculosis (by making someone dance till they wore themselves out) and birth deformities (by pretending to be the child and making it seem like an invalid). They could even shapeshift into Will-of-the-Wisps and lead people into danger. If someone died suddenly, it was said that a fairy kidnapped that person, and the corpse was instead a well-carved likeness made from wood.

In the old stories, fairies were commonly told as human-sized, but as the years passed, they shrank to the size that we see them as today. The human-sized fairies were able to change their size as easily as snapping their fingers. They could shrink down to be small, which gave them plenty of opportunities to play around with the humans. They didn’t have wings in the old stories, but instead used ravens and magic to fly, increasing their “witch” appeal. As impression artists took the stage, they painted fairies with dragonfly and butterfly wings, giving them the appearance we all know and love.

To protect against fairies kidnapping their child, the parents would wrap a piece of bread in the child’s clothes. They believed that woodland creatures were afraid of bread, and fairies would leave the child alone if it smelled like bread.

So, there’s a little bit of background about fairies. Some of that is just bizarre.

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Can you imagine if the Darlings had had bread wrapped in their clothes? Peter Pan would have been a way more interesting story if Tink was scared of Wendy XD

Okay, now that we’ve gotten all those crazy backstories our of the way, here are the problems I have about fairies.

First, their wings. Modern-day fairies have light, delicate wings that flitter gracefully when they fly. The wings are about half their height, and are shaped like butterfly wings. They appear to be super thin, but powerful nonetheless. However, how on earth do they fly? Those wings couldn’t carry an acorn! (Worst analogy ever 😑) Seriously, though. How do those pithy wings lift a fairy? Let’s take a quick look at birds. Birds have hollow bones and powerful wings to help them fly. Most of the time (especially on the big birds like hawks and buzzards), the wing span is almost twice as long as the bird’s body. Plus, they fly high enough to hit the updrafts, giving them even more lift. How does this apply to fairies? They have dinky wings that are way too thin to lift anything. Their wings are not long, and they don’t have hollow bones. Since fairies are essentially humans, having hollow bones would mean death. The marrow in human bones makes red blood cells (which are kind of important, don’cha think?) For fairies to be able to get off the ground, they would need thick wings, with each wing being longer than their body.

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Okay, yeah, Maleficent, you’ve got that covered.

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Had that covered.

#SorryNotSorry

Okay, moving on.

The old stories about fairies had the right idea. Rather than using wings, they flew on the backs of birds and/or using magic.

And, yeah, that’s really the only problem I have with fairies. They’re so much more logical than mermaids, and it’s pretty easy to write around the whole “wing thing”, as Disney proved in Maleficent.

I hope this post gave you some inspiration for crafting half-decent fairies (😅)! Let me know if there’s a certain fantasy creature you want to see next!

Thanks for reading!!

The Science of Magic

The Science of Magic: Mermaids ~ In Which I Act Like a Fancy Scientist

Unsplash does not have good mermaid images.

Anywho, welcome to a brand new series, and the first one on my blog! Before we get started, I would like to point out that I am no scientist, and all the points I make in this series are simply from common sense and flawless deductive reasoning.

*bursts out laughing*

Well, this post is already a mess XD

How about a little bit of background before we jump in?

This series is going to be about the logic of magical creatures from mythology and pop culture. I’m going to point out some of the things wrong with them, and my theories of how these problems could be improved. Maybe even erased. I’ll post one “episode” each month, covering whatever creature comes to mind.

Are you ready for more rambling?

Let’s go!!

Mermaids originated in many different countries as part of their mythology. One of the earliest known myths involving mermaids is an Assyrian myth of the goddess Atargatis. She changed herself into a mermaid out of shame for killing her human lover.

Mermaids are typically described as having the upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish. Contrary to the Disney mermaids, they don’t wear seashells. Where on earth did the mermaids find the string? So many inconsistencies.

Mermaids started out as neutral beauties that were rarely spotted, but as the tales started to gain momentum, they began to take on similar characteristics to the Sirens from Greek mythology. They could sing a haunting tune and enchant their listener into swimming towards them, eventually exhausting himself and drowning in the rough waves. In other stories, mermaids can control the weather and can bring entire ships down with a few huge waves. (Maybe that’s what happened to King Agnar and Queen Iduna in Frozen) Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid paints mermaids as decent creatures, who are treated unfairly by everyone.

He’s probably the only one in pre-modern times who thought that.

My main question about mermaids is: How do they reproduce? Giving birth has got to be difficult, especially underwater. I mean, it could be similar to how whales reproduce, but I don’t exactly know how whales give birth, and whales aren’t mermaids. Google is not being helpful today.

I think mermaids can shape-shift into a human form (which adds more holes in the fantasy fabric, but we’re going to ignore those), and they go on land when it’s time to give birth. Then, they take their little mermaid babies underwater to learn to swim.

Sounds plausible, right?

Sure.

Something else I have questions about: Why did mermaids steal the attributes of Greek Sirens? That’s plagiarism!! Because of this, many people mistake Sirens as mermaids, which they’re not! Sirens are actually half bird, half woman — not half fish, half woman. There’s a bit of a difference.

Sorry. I get a little annoyed when people get Greek mythology wrong.

Okay, now let’s move on to design flaws.

Many people, when they draw mermaids, stick to the classic Disney look. However, mermaids are fish, which means they need more fins than the ones that are at the end of their tail. They need a dorsal fin along their backs to help them cut through the water. They need bigger tail fins to push them through the water. After all, the size tail Disney gave them isn’t nearly big enough to help them swim as fast as they need to. Also, depending on how you’re designing them, they might need a pelvic fin along their front, like fish, and some fins on their sides.

Another thing: Gills. Where do the gills go? Because, since they can live under the water, they have to have gills. And when gills come into the conversation, that creates a lot of flaws in the worldbuilding of The Little Mermaid. If they have gills, they wouldn’t need to open their mouth except to talk. They wouldn’t even need a nose, really. And if they don’t have gills, they would have to surface to breathe, which ruins King Triton’s plans of keeping his daughters from going to the surface. Unless he had a much darker plan……

*gulps*

Their ears and eyes need protection too. After all, what happens to our ears and eyes when we stay underwater for long enough? Our eyes start to hurt and our ears get clogged with water (speaking from painful experience). Mermaids need protection from these things. They would need a thick cornea, and a layer of skin over top, like fish have, ultimately making them kind of unattractive. Their ears would need to be practically invisible, like fish ears, to be able to function.I don’t know about you, but I think they would look strange with invisible ears.

I could go on and on, but this post has gotten a little long. In conclusion, mermaid logic is difficult, and it makes it even more impossible for them to exist. There are multiple flaws in their current designs and stories. Fortunately, that makes it fun to invent your own type of mermaid for your story. Still, be careful not to make a mistake as you brainstorm.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Let me know your thoughts on this series, and leave some ideas for what fantasy creature I should do next!

Thanks for reading!!