Monsters: A Bestiary of Devils, Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Magical Creatures

Monsters: A Bestiary of Devils, Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Magical Creatures

by Christopher Dell
     
 

MYTHOLOGY / ART

Every culture on earth has its own monsters. Their stories, their curious habits and diets, and the ways in which they can be warded off create a picture of imaginations running wild. But what does our creation of monsters say about humankind? Why do we find one-eyed giants both in Japan and ancient Greece, or the same dragons in Europe and China

See more details below

Overview

MYTHOLOGY / ART

Every culture on earth has its own monsters. Their stories, their curious habits and diets, and the ways in which they can be warded off create a picture of imaginations running wild. But what does our creation of monsters say about humankind? Why do we find one-eyed giants both in Japan and ancient Greece, or the same dragons in Europe and China? Hindu legends abound with creatures that are half man, half beast. Philosopher and naturalist Pliny the elder described the monstrous races that lurked on the edges of Roman civilization. Even modern imagination is populated by monstrous beings such as the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. This universal fascination with monsters is as old as humanity and continues to grow with each generation. Why? Because monsters respond to a sense of the supernatural that lies deep within us. The battle between order and chaos, good and evil, is made visible through gods and monsters.

Introducing a bestiary of bizarre creatures from the furthest reaches of artists’ imaginations, this book offers a unique visual history of the human mind through a collection of fantastical monsters drawn from all over the world—from the earliest prehistoric depictions to the classical world, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, up to the first glimmer of modern science and Romantic horror. From myth to manga, from dreams to nightmares, Christopher Dell’s mythic-religious study of monsters shows them to be essential companions to the gods as well as the necessary complement to the perfect human archetype of the hero.

CHRISTOPHER DELL holds a degree in Art History from the Courtauld Institute, London. He lives in Barcelona, Spain.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

September 2010 - HorrorNews.net
" . . . a unique collection of art that should be on every historian of horror's shelf. Whether you like to read or just enjoy a great picture book, Monsters provides a healthy dose of each to satisfy your curiosity. . . Hard to put down and hard to get out of your head.....history holds some captivating monsters, and so does Christopher Dell's collection."
March 2011 - Psychic-Magic
“This is a wonderful book for someone wanting to learn more about a lot of monsters. If you are looking for something more in-depth, it is an excellent starting point. . . The illustrations will entrance you, and the information will spur you to check the list of “further reading” material and websites.”
From the Publisher
" . . . a unique collection of art that should be on every historian of horror's shelf. Whether you like to read or just enjoy a great picture book, Monsters provides a healthy dose of each to satisfy your curiosity. . . Hard to put down and hard to get out of your head.....history holds some captivating monsters, and so does Christopher Dell's collection."

". . . without doubt one of the best (if not the best) bestiary-style publications that has ever hit the book-shelves. . ."

"The selection of illustrations almost can't be topped . . . Readers will find themselves poring through this book to read about these similarities and to take in the wonderful illustrations . . . This intense anthology would make an excellent addition to any research library. It also would be an interesting novelty coffee-table book."

"This is the big book of monsters for little kids and big kids and everyone in between. It's a treasure-trove of fantastic art showing fantastic creatures from all around the world and from all cultures-from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China all the way up to Frankenstein, Big Foot, and Pablo Picasso."

“. . . with it's fascinating variety and inclusion of fantastically beautiful artwork Monsters should be a must have for anyone serious bout the subject matter. It would also make a solid, and surely treasured, introduction to the subject matter for those looking for a place to start.”

“It is the perfect gift for the monster obsessed child, or bizarre adult in your life. You know you have one.”

“This is a wonderful book for someone wanting to learn more about a lot of monsters. If you are looking for something more in-depth, it is an excellent starting point. . . The illustrations will entrance you, and the information will spur you to check the list of “further reading” material and websites.”

November 2010 The Magical Buffet
“. . . with it's fascinating variety and inclusion of fantastically beautiful artwork Monsters should be a must have for anyone serious bout the subject matter. It would also make a solid, and surely treasured, introduction to the subject matter for those looking for a place to start.”
January 2011 Kick Ass Book Reviews Blog
“It is the perfect gift for the monster obsessed child, or bizarre adult in your life. You know you have one.”
September 2010 Reviews of the Mysterious Kind
". . . without doubt one of the best (if not the best) bestiary-style publications that has ever hit the book-shelves. . ."
Reviews of the Mysterious Kind
". . . without doubt one of the best (if not the best) bestiary-style publications that has ever hit the book-shelves. . ."
Barbara Ardinger
"This is the big book of monsters for little kids and big kids and everyone in between. It's a treasure-trove of fantastic art showing fantastic creatures from all around the world and from all cultures-from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China all the way up to Frankenstein, Big Foot, and Pablo Picasso."
September 2010 HorrorNews.net
" . . . a unique collection of art that should be on every historian of horror's shelf. Whether you like to read or just enjoy a great picture book, Monsters provides a healthy dose of each to satisfy your curiosity. . . Hard to put down and hard to get out of your head.....history holds some captivating monsters, and so does Christopher Dell's collection."
P.J. Hoover
"The selection of illustrations almost can't be topped . . . Readers will find themselves poring through this book to read about these similarities and to take in the wonderful illustrations . . . This intense anthology would make an excellent addition to any research library. It also would be an interesting novelty coffee-table book."
The Magical Buffet
“. . . with it's fascinating variety and inclusion of fantastically beautiful artwork Monsters should be a must have for anyone serious bout the subject matter. It would also make a solid, and surely treasured, introduction to the subject matter for those looking for a place to start.”
Kick Ass Book Reviews Blog
“It is the perfect gift for the monster obsessed child, or bizarre adult in your life. You know you have one.”
March 2011 Psychic-Magic
“This is a wonderful book for someone wanting to learn more about a lot of monsters. If you are looking for something more in-depth, it is an excellent starting point. . . The illustrations will entrance you, and the information will spur you to check the list of “further reading” material and websites.”

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594773945
Publisher:
Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date:
08/28/2010
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
921,057
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Read an Excerpt

Monsters

A Bestiary of Devils, Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Magical Creatures
By Christopher Dell

Inner Traditions

Copyright © 2010 Christopher Dell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781594773945


Chapter 2

Devils and demons


Demons are perhaps the most enduring monsters of all. From the earliest times people have tended to blame demons whenever something has gone wrong, be it a disastrous harvest or a devastating plague. Ancient Egypt had mischievous demons such as Bes, while Mesopotamia boasted such charming creatures as Pazuzu (who millennia later would become the star of the horror film The Exorcist).

While Pazuzu had a clear and terrifying physical form - head of a lion, feet of an eagle, tail of a scorpion - the djinn of Arabia and Islam are essentially spirits (according to the Qur’an, they are made from ‘smokeless fire’). Demons of this type appear regularly in the Old and New Testaments: Job is tortured by them, while Jesus later casts them out.

Over time, both Judaism and Christianity began to organize these demons into hierarchies, to match the ranks of angels described in the Scriptures. At the top of the pile sat Satan, the fallen angel who had dared to challenge God. Beneath him were hordes of demons arranged into ‘legions’ (in Mark 5:8, a demon explains that he is called ‘Legion, for we are many’). In 1467 the Spanish bishop Alfonso de Spina calculated that the total number of demons was 133,316,666, but a century later the Dutch demonologist Johann Weyer put the figure at a more conservative 4,439,556, divided into 666 legions, each composed of 6,666 demons. Either way, there were a lot of them.

Since the Bible does not include any physical description of demons, artists were free to invent their own forms. This they did with relish. Often demons appear as smaller versions of Satan; invariably they are as ugly as possible, a mish-mash of different animals given an approximately human shape. Their grotesque appearance tells us that these creatures are up to no good.

By the Middle Ages, demons were depicted everywhere: in manuscripts, in paintings, in the sculpture and stained glass of churches. Grisly scenes of the Last Judgment show sinners bundled off by horrific creatures, while the elect are gathered up by serene angels. Looking at the sheer inventiveness that has gone into depicting these monsters, one cannot help but suspect that the medieval masons rather enjoyed carving them. As it happened, the saints’ lives offered yet more opportunities for depicting devils and demons: one especially popular legend featured St Anthony, who was mercilessly tormented by unpleasant creatures determined to test his faith.

Europe teemed with the demons, both seen and unseen, and Asia was similarly infested. Hinduism and Buddhism recognize several categories of demon, ranging from the evil, shape-shifting rakshasa to the more ambivalent asura. Indian miniatures often show hordes of rather dim-looking demons being knocked about like skittles by stout heroes.

In Japan, the concept of demons can be expanded to cover any number of supernatural creatures. As elsewhere, these oni (as they are known) can be either helpful or evil. Although originally conceived as invisible spirits, they gradually took on the appearance of humanoid ogres and are often depicted with horns (not unlike many European demons and devils) and carrying an iron club.

The Many Faces of Satan

At the centre of the rings of demons sits Satan - the Devil, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness, the Antichrist. In fact, these different names refer to subtly different characters, who over time have become rolled together to create an all-in-one package of ultimate evil. What seems certain is that this chief opponent of good originally worked for God. However, pride led him to mount a rebellion against his creator, who as punishment consigned him to Hell, along with the angels who had backed him.

Of these various names, the most authentic is Satan, which, alongside ‘devil’, is used extensively in the Bible. Its origin is obscure, but it may mean ‘prosecutor’ or ‘adversary’. In the New Testament Satan appears to Christ in the wilderness to offer him the riches of the world and to test his goodness (‘Get thee behind me, Satan’ was Christ’s response). From this, the Church developed the idea of Satan as the tempter, trying to ensnare us in our daily lives.

The name Lucifer, often associated with the morning star, means ‘lightbringer’; some believed that it was Satan’s original name when he was an angel. The name Beelzebub, meanwhile, means ‘Lord of the Flies’; some commentators equate Beelzebub with Satan, or else see him as one of Satan’s chief assistants. The term ‘Antichrist’ comes from the biblical Book of Revelation, where he appears as a key figure at the end of times.

Artists had to make Satan’s physical appearance match his capacity for evil. Our modern conception of the Devil - tail, bat wings and assorted bits of goat - came about in stages. The wings he presumably kept from his time as an angel, while the elements of goat - sometimes a head, sometimes legs - could derive either from the ancient god Pan or simply from a long line of hybrid monstrosities. The tail, on the other hand, may be a reference to the Beast described in the Book of Revelation.

Hellish Creatures

Artists have constantly surpassed themselves in their depictions of the Devil’s cohorts and minions. In Christian iconography, they appear in scenes showing the Descent into Limbo (which often includes the Mouth of Hell) and at the Last Judgment, as well as in episodes from the lives of certain saints.

The Church of St Mary in Fairford, England, is famous for its stained glass demons, and early Renaissance art in the Netherlands and Spain contained some astonishingly inventive examples. The master of the monstrous, however, was Hieronymus Bosch. Even today, in the wake of Surrealism and all that modern art has thrown at us, his images are shocking. Their intricate detail draws us closer, into a web of vice and punishment. We see bizarre animals, giant birds, limbs mutating into branches or other objects, bodies hollowed out and inhabited. These demons are no longer straightforward demons, but monstrous hybrids, symbols of a life wasted on sin.

Continues...


Excerpted from Monsters by Christopher Dell Copyright © 2010 by Christopher Dell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >