I can’t exactly say where I was first introduced to the manticore. Maybe it was in one of the many books on mythical creatures I collected when I was younger. Or maybe I stumbled on it when slowly browsing the internet back when my family computer was still plagued by dial-up. But the more likely place was the movie Manticore. I loved Syfy Channel movies growing up—still do. I have forced nearly every one of my friends and family to watch the sharknado trilogy with me. Sadly, Manticore couldn’t be found online, with all its terrible CGI and bad plot, to watch for giggles as I wrote this.
Manticores originated in Persia where they were known as Martyaxwar, which translates to “man-eater.” It wasn’t until the legend made its way toward Greece that they got the name manticore.
I haven’t been able to find a solid myth about manticores, only descriptions of them.
The common description of manticores is that they have the head of a human, sometimes with horns; the body of a lion; and the tail of a dragon or scorpion. Some other common elements include wings or porcupine-like quills that they can shoot. I’ve also seen images in which the scorpion tail is replaced by a tail that is either covered in spines or has them on the tip.
My own plan for designing a manticore is to base it on the Caspian tiger, a now-extinct species of tiger that once roamed the Middle East. I picked the Caspian tiger because of where it was once found, but while doing some basic research, I read that it might have been what people misidentified as a manticore. So I found that interesting, or at least a sign that I had chosen well for my own design.
I wanted both the scorpion tail and the porcupine quills in my design. So to do this, I kept the scorpion tail and moved the quills higher up, along the neck and shoulders. My thinking is that the tail and its venom alongside the typical claws and teeth of a cat act as the main tools for attacking.
The quills, on the other hand, will just act as additional defense. They will be venomous but won’t shoot. Rather, they lay flat against the manticore’s pelt, rising like the fur of a cat when it fights. This would provide protection from being attacked in sensitive areas like the neck and back.
I want my manticores and sphinxes to be related, hence why I’ve tried to keep their designs somewhat similar. They’ll be subspecies of each other—sharing characteristics but different enough to be considered different animals.
I also want manticores to be the terrors of the wilderness in my story. Where sphinxes will be somewhat docile, giving humans a chance to escape, manticores will be completely vicious, hunting and stalking like the predators they are.
Here’s my initial sketch as I tried to get the design down–