OK, so if you are into the medieval and/or ancient world at all, you probably know all about the crazy grotesques that populate the margins of maps. I talked a little bit about sea monsters back when I wrote about the Carta Marina Scandinavia, and sea monsters are cool too, but these are more people-like, and they get to have all kinds of fun. They even turn up in Othello. (Act 1, scene 3)
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
141Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
142It was my hint to speak, — such was the process;
143And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
144The Anthropophagi and men whose heads
145Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear
146Would Desdemona seriously incline:
I think my favourite guys are the ones with dogs’ heads, the cynocephali, because they turn up in much more interesting places. For instance, some sources hold that Saint Christopher had a dog’s head. You can read a longer discussion of Saint Christopher here, along with Saint Guinefort, a saint who was an actual dog (much beloved of Bernard Cornwell, IIRC). There’s a lovely quote in the Irish Passion of St Christopher:
Now this Christopher was one of the Dogheads, a race that had the heads of dogs and ate human flesh. He meditated much on God, but at that time he could speak only the language of the Dogheads.
I speak subject to correction, but I don’t think there’s any record of saints from among the monopods or the blemmyae or any of the other fantastical species you find in medieval illustrations. I wonder if it’s something to do with the general portrayal of St Christopher as being faithful and strong but not very bright? I don’t know.
Now, some of you might have been expecting, from my title, a discussion of Mexico’s greatest hero, Santo, who did, of course, have to be informed that werewolves exist. For you, here is a picture of him in his baller-ass cardigan.