Friday, May 8, 2015

The Book of Gryphons (Joe Nigg)

The Book of Gryphons
Joe Nigg
Apple-wood Books
Nonfiction, Mythology/Folklore
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Since the dawn of civilization, gryphons and their kin have served humans as protectors and monsters, symbols of divinity and foul treasure-hoarding man-eaters. Nigg examines the roots of gryphon lore, tracking them through their heyday in the ancient world and their downfall in the Renaissance, to their re-emergence in modern literature.

REVIEW: I found this during a recent excursion to Half Price Books. I hoped to find an interesting exploration of classical gryphon lore. This book, however, seems somewhat shallow, more of an overview than a detailed examination, with barely 100 pages of material in large-print grey text. Had it been text alone, it might have rated only three, maybe three and a half, stars. The pictures, however, are easily worth a star on their own. Though most of them are black and white, they nevertheless display the many faces of the gryphon (and kin - Nigg connects gryphons to sphinxes, rocs, simurghs, and other fantastic beasts) through several cultures. Most of these images were new to me. The final section on gryphons in modern fiction felt a bit sparse, but this book was published in 1982; had he published more recently, he would've had a whole host of gryphon tales to choose from, as they've seen a remarkable resurgence in popularity in the 21st century. (And he still offered no explanation for why "male" gryphons in traditional European heraldry have spikes, possibly representing light rays, instead of wings... somewhere, there must be a answer, unless it's been lost to antiquity.) On the whole, it makes a decent introduction to the classical gryphon. I'd just hoped for a little more depth and detail in the text.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Here Be Dragons: A Fantastic Bestiary (Ariane Delacampagne and Christian Delacampagne) - My Review
The Black Gryphon (Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon) - My Review
The Book of Fabulous Beasts (Joseph Nigg) - My Review

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