The Gryphon in Modern Literature

The Book of Gryphons. Joe Nigg, 1982.

What can I say? There just aren't enough good Gryphon books out there. I've seen books galore staring dragons, unicorns, centaurs and elves, but few that deal with Gryphs. Sure there are the classics, (like good ol' Skan to the left there) but we need more. Anyway, below are descriptions of a few of the "must haves" for your Gryphon Library, as well as a few links to where you can read up on some more Gryphon lore.

Classic Gryphons

Here are a few authors that have defined the Gryphon as it is today, and are a must for your Gryphon Library.

Mercedes Lackey - Perhaps the most well known Gryph author, Mercedes Lackey has captured the imagination of thousands of people world-wide with her popular books set in the world of Valdemar. Three of her books, specifically The Black Gryphon, The White Gryphon, and The Silver Gryphon, deal with the early history of Valdemar, and the creation of her much beloved Gryphons. Other books of hers feature Gryphs as well, such as the Winds trilogy, the Storm trilogy, and the recent Owlflight books.

Gillian Bradshaw - Gillian Bradshaw has written adult fantasy books, but it is mostly her juvenile books which gained her fame, such as her wonderful story of friendship and adventure, Beyond the North Wind. The story focuses around Aristeas of Proconessus and his journey to the Far East, where no other Greek had dared tread. There he befriends the intelligent Gryphons and reluctantly becomes their savior against an advancing Arimaspian horde. The book was written in 1993 and is currently out of print. It is a fantastic story though, and would be well worth your efforts to own it. (The Aristeas Mrs. Bradshaw writes of is the actual historical figure who, so far as we know of, was the first person to write of Gryphons.)

Joe Nigg - Throughout the entire creation of The Gryphon Pages, there were three books which I treasured greatly and never left my side, Dr. Joe Nigg's The Book of Gryphons, The Book of Fabulous Beasts: A Treasury of Writings from Ancient Times to the Present, and Wonder Beasts: Tales and Lore of the Phoenix, the Griffin, the Unicorn, and the Dragon. I aspire to have even a fraction of the knowledge of mythology and fantastic beasts as Dr. Nigg does. All of his books are prepared with the utmost care and sophistication, and are presented in a flowing, eloquent style that is both easy and fun to read. The Book of Gryphons is precisely that, the only book that I know of to specifically detail the legend and lore of "the most majestic of all mythical creatures". It was written in 1982 and is currently out of print and rather hard to find, although any good bookseller should be able to assist you. The Book of Fabulous Beasts is an amazing collection of excerpts from hundreds of books covering over five thousand years of fantastic animal lore. You can follow the history of a multitude of creatures, from Gryphons and Unicorns, to Manticores and Basilisks, to Yales, Barnacle Geese and more. Wonder Beasts is kind of an "introductory" work to the legends of the Phoenix, Gryphon, Unicorn and Dragon. It identifies the most important parts of the myth of each creature, then gives a few historical sources (like Herodotus, Pliny, et. al.), and finishes with a few modern tales on each beast.

Short Stories

In our more modern times, the Gryphon has become a popular figure in short stories, fairy tales and children's books. Here are a few that I have been able to find for your online viewing pleasure.

The Griffin - Believe it or not, this first story comes straight from the minds of those masters of fairy tales, the Brothers Grimm. In this story, a young boy strives to win the hand of a king's daughter and faces many improbable tasks. His last quest however, is to bring the king the tail feather of a Gryphon! An oddly amusing classic fairy tale.

The Griffin and the Minor Canon - This delightful story by Frank Stockton (who wrote The Lady or the Tiger?) is both moving and moralistic, originally nestled in a collection of stories entitled "The Bee-Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales".. A lonely Gryphon flies into a town to admire a Gryphon sculpture on the church there. The frightened townspeople send their young Minor Canon to deal with the creature, but the two end up becoming good friends, much to the dismay of the still wary townsfolk. They eventually get the Minor Canon to leave the town, in hopes that the Gryphon will follow him, but when the Canon leaves, the Gryphon stays to attend to his friend's duties! Although it has a bittersweet ending, I still highly recommend this story. (Maurice Sendak graced the original book with his wonderfully unique illustrations. You may know Sendak better from his award winning book, Where the Wild Things Are, where one of the creatures that Max meets is based off of a Gryphon!

The Story of the Dreadful Griffin - This is an amusing off the wall fairy tale by Michael Fairless, as a part of his book of shorts tales, The Grey Brethren. A princess accidentally hits the Dreadful Gryphon with a ball one day, and the Gryphon employs many ways to try and eat the princess, who is guarded by 40 white cats, which the Gryphon cannot come near, for the sight of white cats gives him the shakes. There is a Wicked Witch, a Grumpy Giant, an Amiable Answerer, a Fat Frog, and the Society for the Suppression of Superfluous Salamanders. (?) Definitely don't miss it!

The Singing, Springing Lark - The Gryphon is only a very minor character in this German fairy-tale, again from the Brothers Grimm, but what the hey. A girl marries an enchanted prince only to lose him to another enchantment, and she spends the next seven years searching for him. When she does reach him however, she finds that his has been bewitched by another woman, and devises a plan to rescue her prince. Kind of confusing at times, but not that bad.

In addition to these books and stories, K. Vale Nagle has created a comprehensive list of gryphon books - view it here!

© 2019 James Spaid. All rights reserved.