Go where you find inspiration: Part 2: Real live animals that should be in fantasy novels

Go where you find inspiration, and go there often

 

My previous post was about the Art Gallery Museum and the intriguing characters I uncovered in the old portrait paintings there. Now let me tell you about the incredible animals I discovered, many for the first time, at the South Australian Museum.

The Mouflon, found in the Caucasus, northern and eastern Iraq, and northwestern Iran

The Mouflon, found in the Caucasus, northern and eastern Iraq, and northwestern Iran

Some of these guys really look like they should be in a fantasy or sci-fi novel, not in the real world. For that reason, I found these animals awakened in me again the desire to write fantasy, a genre I’ve spent many years in but often abandon for “more grown-up” genres like science fiction (haha) or drama.

I spent a few hours over three days walking through the ‘Mammals of the World’ taxidermy exhibit, because I just loved it the first day, but there was so much that I just felt I hadn’t taken it all in, needed another hit.

I was pacing back and forth behind the glass, getting a bit upset that these gorgeous things were dead, just carcasses posed for my viewing pleasure, and most of the living versions were endangered anyway, when it hit me. I wanted to write fantasy animals based on these real animals. Think about it – if I describe an animal to you just using the description, not labelling it by the name we know it, it would be harder for you to imagine, wouldn’t it? You might even think I was making it up.

My first mammal looks like some medieval fantasy writer got really tired of writing ad nauseum about wolves howling at the moon and running in packs and chasing our heroes through the woods, so he elongated the nose and tale of a fox and gave it giant ears, then shrunk it to cat size, and…

The Fennec Fox, found in the Sahara of North Africa

The Fennec Fox, found in the Sahara of North Africa

BAM! Fennec Fox. (Seriously, what’s with these adorable little guys? They’re so darn cute!)

Here are some of the other animals that inspired me:

The male Audad, a type of Barbary Sheep found in the rocky mountains of North Africa, a.k.a. Aoudad.

The male Audad, a type of Barbary Sheep found in the rocky mountains of North Africa, a.k.a. Aoudad.

The male Audad. (Check out this guy’s beard!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Philippines Flying Lemur, known locally as the kagwang.

The Philippines Flying Lemur, known locally as the kagwang.

The Philippines Flying Lemur. (This is for my little brother, who is Filipino-born.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nine-Banded Armadillo, found in North, Central, and South America. (This guy gets around!)

The Nine-Banded Armadillo, found in North, Central, and South America. (This guy gets around!)

The Nine-Banded Armadillo…

The Mulita Armadillo, a.k.a. Yepes's Mulita, whose range is restricted solely to Argentina and Bolivia.

The Mulita Armadillo, a.k.a. Yepes’s Mulita, whose range is restricted solely to Argentina and Bolivia.

… and the Mulita Armadillo. (I just love the Mulita’s natural armour! This is him “walking away” from us, which is actually their in-built predator response.) If he was big enough, I would so want to ask him to be my mode of transportation – can you say armoured vehicle? He’s like a sci-fi tank!

 

 

The Binturong, found in South and South-East Asia.

The Binturong, found in South and South-East Asia.

The ultra-hirsute hippy (hirsute – hairy – just checking you’ve all got good vocabulary…) Binturong!

The Cacomistle lives in the tropical forests of Central America, from Mexico to Panama.

The Cacomistle lives in the tropical forests of Central America, from Mexico to Panama.

The Cacomistle – the name alone! (But even without the name, check out the big ears and stripey tail.)

 

 

 

 

Animals that can go faster than our human-made transportation systems… (I identify with these guys because I’m a sprinter; I can go fast, but try to make me run more than 100 metres, and I’m exhausted. The zombies would eat me in a heartbeat.)

The Cheetah lives in most of Africa and parts of Iran, and can run faster than any other land animal, up to 120 km/hr.

The Cheetah lives in most of Africa and parts of Iran, and can run faster than any other land animal, up to 120 km/hr.

(Cheetah)

The Peregrine Falcon can fly up to 322 km/hr!!!!! It spreads its territory quite wide, being a bird - all land regions from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. The only place it *doesn't* live is New Zealand - who knows why? a.k.a. the Duck Hawk (not a pretty name at all!) in Northern America.

The Peregrine Falcon can fly up to 322 km/hr!!!!! It spreads its territory quite wide, being a bird – all land regions from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. The only place it *doesn’t* live is New Zealand – who knows why? a.k.a. the Duck Hawk (not a pretty name at all!) in Northern America.

(Peregrine Falcon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things with weird things on their faces or heads…

The Moose (North America) or Eurasian Elk (Europe) is currently found in Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia. Also included: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and the Baltic States, with more modest numbers in the southern Czech Republic, Belarus and northern Ukraine. Attempts to introduce moose into the Hokitika area (1900) and Fiordland (1910) largely failed. The last sighting of a moose in NZ was in 1952.

The Moose (North America) or Eurasian Elk (Europe) is currently found in Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia.
Also included: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and the Baltic States, with more modest numbers in the southern Czech Republic, Belarus and northern Ukraine.
Attempts to introduce moose into the Hokitika area (1900) and Fiordland (1910) largely failed. The last sighting of a moose in NZ was in 1952.

(Elk/Moose)

The Proboscis Monkey or Long-Nosed Monkey, is an arboreal Old World monkey. Mainly lives in South-East Asia on the island of Borneo. a.k.a. bekantan in Malay.

The Proboscis Monkey or Long-Nosed Monkey, is an arboreal Old World monkey. Mainly lives in South-East Asia on the island of Borneo. a.k.a. bekantan in Malay.

(Proboscis Monkey)

There are many different types of rhinoceros. White Rhinos live in South Africa and zoos (endangered). Black Rhinos live in South-Central, South-Western, South Africa, and East Africa. Indian Rhinos live in India (go figure!) and Nepal, but they used to also roam in Pakistan, Burma and parts of China. Javan Rhinos are one of the most endangered animals, and only 40 are left, in Java. Sumatran Rhinos are the smallest and hairiest, and they live in Borneo and Sumatra, and only 200 are left in Malaysia and Indonesia.

There are many different types of rhinoceros.
White Rhinos live in South Africa and zoos (endangered).
Black Rhinos live in South-Central, South-Western, South Africa, and East Africa.
Indian Rhinos live in India (go figure!) and Nepal, but they used to also roam in Pakistan, Burma and parts of China.
Javan Rhinos are one of the most endangered animals, and only 40 are left, in Java.
Sumatran Rhinos are the smallest and hairiest, and they live in Borneo and Sumatra, and only 200 are left in Malaysia and Indonesia.

(Rhino)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Giant Anteater eats only insects and lives in Central and South America.

The Giant Anteater eats only insects and lives in Central and South America.

The Giant Anteater – from every angle, this is a crazy animal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hippo (pictured with calf) lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Hippo (pictured with calf) lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

There are animals so fat you almost can’t believe it. But hippos are my Mum’s favourite animal because they’re so graceful underwater, almost like ballet dancers.

 

 

Can you guess where the Indian Porcupine lives?

Can you guess where the Indian Porcupine lives?

The Indian Porcupine – watch out! Every spine is like a javelin.

 

 

 

 

 

The Klipspringer roams most of the lower half of Africa and around the coastlines.

The Klipspringer roams most of the lower half of Africa and around the coastlines.

The Klipspringer – look at those horns. He just looks like he’s asking for a fight. Which isn’t scary, it’s cute, because he’s so tiny (about waist height). But if he was four times bigger – terrifying!

The Lesser Kudu is a forest antelope from East Africa.

The Lesser Kudu is a forest antelope from East Africa.

And if you like horns, the Lesser Kudu has these awesome twisty horns!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long-Tailed Pangolin lives mostly in West and Central Africa, but it gets around!

The Long-Tailed Pangolin lives mostly in West and Central Africa, but it gets around!

I saw three different types of Pangolin – the Long-Tailed Pangolin (pictured); the Malayan Pangolin; and the Larger Pangolin.

 

 

 

 

The Wild Boar originated in North Africa and much of Eurasia. They became extinct in Great Britain in the 13th century because of all that medieval hunting, but they were deliberately re-introduced in the 1990s from Europe. These days, lots of them can be found in Russia, Asia, Denmark and Sweden. Feral pigs have made it to Australia, New Zealand, and North America in large numbers, too.

The Wild Boar originated in North Africa and much of Eurasia. They became extinct in Great Britain in the 13th century because of all that medieval hunting, but they were deliberately re-introduced in the 1990s from Europe. These days, lots of them can be found in Russia, Asia, Denmark and Sweden. Feral pigs have made it to Australia, New Zealand, and North America in large numbers, too.

And last but not least, here’s the Wild Boar that I’ve read about in every medieval fantasy novel I’ve ever read. This guy was a lot smaller than they can grow to be (some are like Great Danes); he only came up to my knees. And thank God, too, because these guys are apparently quite vicious if provoked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you have it – the marvellous variety of God’s creation! An inspiration to us all when making up or describing our own (made-up) animals.

 

What other crazy animals do you know of? What animal would you love to paint or write into a fantasy or sci-fi novel?

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

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