Monsters and their Peeps

Yesterday in the posting “Crunching the festive rabbits” on this blog, Godzilla consumed Peeps. Just as I posted that, the Mental Floss site came through with more thrilling Peepsiana: “Artist Turns 5000 Marshmallow Peeps Into a Game of Thrones Dragon” by Michele Debczak, with a dragon composed of Peeps:


(#1) A Peeps dragon; so far as I can tell, there are no dragon Peeps (that is, Peeps in the shape of dragons, though there also are no Peeps composed of dragons, no Peeps manufactured by dragons, etc.)

Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its eighth and final season on Sunday, April 14. Instead of worrying about which of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons (if any) will survive to see the end of the series, distract yourself with some playful Peeps art inspired by the creatures.

As part of this year’s PEEPshow — an annual Peeps-themed event in Westminster, Maryland — artist Vivian Davis (who’s on Instagram as @tutoringart) constructed a Game of Thrones-themed dragon sculpture out of 5000 marshmallow Peeps. The dragon has her wings outstretched, with a nest of colorful eggs in front of her. It’s not quite life-sized, but it is massive — the candy model measures 8.5 feet tall, with a 7-foot wingspan. For comparison, Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth, is 6 feet, 3 inches (or 75 Peeps chicks) tall.

Lizards in the sun. That led people to musing on extraordinary dragons — in fantasy, but also in the real-world Komodo dragon, a gigantic, really unpleasant lizard. Whose name invites the pun Kimono dragon (the crudeness of the reptile clashing with the delicacy of the Japanese garment). But first, the creature, from Wikipedia:


(#2) The subject of an extraordinarily funny comedy sketch by Bob and Ray, described in my 11/30/09 posting “The Komodo Dragon”

The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), also known as the Komodo monitor, is a species of lizard found in the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang. A member of the monitor lizard family Varanidae, it is the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 metres (10 ft) in rare cases and weighing up to approximately 70 kilograms (150 lb).

… As a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems in which they live. Komodo dragons hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals. It has been claimed that they have a venomous bite; there are two glands in the lower jaw which secrete several toxic proteins. The biological significance of these proteins is disputed, but the glands have been shown to secrete an anticoagulant.

Dragon clothing. Then, from a number of attempts at illustrating the subject, Michael Hegedus’s silkscreen print Kimono Dragon of 2016:

(#3) kimono dragon ‘dragon (in fact Komodo dragon) in a kimono’

[artist’s commentary:] A pun-based piece that plays around with the idea of a Komodo dragon, wearing a traditional kimono.

In this piece, I embraced some traditional Japanese iconography, and fused it together with the idea of a Komodo dragon. This project created numerous obstacles along the way and was a true pain to bring to completion. One of my favorite and least favorite parts of the image was working with the creature’s scales.

This time, where there’s a kimono dragon ‘dragon in a kimono’, there’s also a dragon kimono ‘kimono  with a dragon on it’. From Kimonoshi products:


(#4) Their “red dragon kimono cardigan shirt”

This is in fact what is known in English as a happi coat, distinct from what is known in English as a kimono (‘a long, loose robe with wide sleeves and tied with a sash, originally worn as a formal garment in Japan and now also used elsewhere as a robe’ (NOAD)), though clearly in the same larger family of garments. From Wikipedia:

A happi (法被, 半被) is a traditional Japanese straight-sleeved coat usually made of indigo or brown cotton and imprinted with a distinctive mon (crest). They are usually worn only to festivals. Originally these represented the crest of a family, as happi were worn by house servants. Later, the coats commonly began to display the crests of shops and organizations. Firefighters in the past also used to wear happi; the symbol on their backs referred to the group with which they were associated. In English, happi is most often translated as “happi coat” or “happy coat”.

There are dragons and there are dragons. The dragon in #2  (and, fancifully, in #3) is a real-world creature, a lizard. The dragon in #4 is instead a snake-like fantasy creature. From Wikipedia:

A dragon is a large, serpent-like legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures around the world. Beliefs about dragons vary drastically by region, but dragons in western cultures since the High Middle Ages have often been depicted as winged, horned, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire. Dragons in eastern cultures are usually depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence.

The earliest attested dragons resemble giant snakes. Dragon-like creatures are first described in the mythologies of the ancient Near East and appear in ancient Mesopotamian art and literature. Stories about storm-gods slaying giant serpents occur throughout nearly all Indo-European and Near Eastern mythologies

… The popular western image of a dragon as winged, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire is an invention of the High Middle Ages based on a conflation of earlier dragons from different traditions. In western cultures, dragons are portrayed as monsters to be tamed or overcome, usually by saints or culture heroes, as in the popular legend of Saint George and the Dragon. They are often said to have ravenous appetites and to live in caves, where they hoard treasure. These dragons appear frequently in western fantasy literature, including The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.

The word “dragon” has also come to be applied to the Chinese lung (龍, Pinyin long), which are associated with good fortune and are thought to have power over rain. Dragons and their associations with rain are the source of the Chinese customs of dragon dancing and dragon boat racing.

In the Chinese zodiac, snake and dragon are distinct, though both are creatures of the reptile world. (I am a dragon.)

The real and the fantasy. Yesterday’s posting started with therapods: real-world T. rex, fantasy-world Godzilla. From Wikipedia:

Theropoda (from Greek θηρίον “wild beast” and πούς, ποδός “foot”) or theropods are a dinosaur suborder that is characterized by hollow bones and three-toed limbs. They are generally classed as a group of saurischian dinosaurs

Theropods are generally carnivorous; the group includes the familiar dinosaurs Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor.

So: the story of the creatures so far (understanding that fantasy creatures may borrow features from several different kinds of real-world beasts):

theropods:

— real: Tyrannosaurus rex

— fantasy: Godzilla (and his ilk)

reptiles 1: snakes (suborder Ophidia (or Serpentes) of the order Squamata)

— real: snakes

— fantasy: dragons

reptiles 2: lizards (suborder Lacertilia (or Sauria) of the order Squamata)

— real: Komodo dragon

Fantasy lizards. Especially lizard folk (humanoid lizards), specifically the lizardfolk in Dungeons & Dragons. From the Open Gaming Store site, on the book Advanced Races 14: Lizardfolk from the Kobold Press:

(#5)

The lizardfolk are an ancient people with a storied past and traditions untroubled by the passage of time. Their strength is hidden, their teeth and claws sheathed until the moment is right.

(This treats the lizardfolk not as humanoid lizards, but as sauroid humans — in any case, hybrids.)

And then the crocodilians. One more pairing of real-world beasts with fantasy creatures, in another group of reptiles, from the order Crocodilia, the crocodilians: crocodiles (of course), alligators, caimans, etc. One fantasy counterpart is the Egyptian god Sobek. From Wikipedia:

(#6)

Sobek (also called Sebek, Sochet, Sobk, and Sobki), in Greek, Suchos (Σοῦχος) and from Latin Suchus, was an ancient Egyptian deity with a complex and fluid nature. He is associated with the Nile crocodile or the West African crocodile and is represented either in its form or as a human with a crocodile head. Sobek was also associated with pharaonic power, fertility, and military prowess, but served additionally as a protective deity with apotropaic qualities [averting evil influences or bad luck], invoked particularly for protection against the dangers presented by the Nile.

In the real world, crocodiles are notoriously testy and aggressive.

5 Responses to “Monsters and their Peeps”

  1. Sim Aberson Says:

    The American crocodile is far less aggressive than the others. We have a nice family where I work. We just make sure we don’t step on them, and we’re fine. They keep the iguana population down.

    [Is there a way to post pictures here in a reply?]

  2. [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky starts with peeps and goes on to look at […]

  3. Robert Coren Says:

    Another western-culture dragon is Fafner in Wagner’s Siegfried — actually a giant who has changed his shape, probably with the aid of a magic helm — although the word Wagner uses to identify the creature is Wurm, which is more nearly “worm” than “dragon” (German Drache). (At the first appearance of an equivalent creature, the form that Alberich temporarily takes in Das Rheingold to display the power of the helm, the stage direction refers to a Schlangenwurm=”serpent-worm”.)

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