Welcome to my weekly series, Designing from Bones, where we use archaeology and the artifacts of human history to find and design stories. Join me today as we tour three birds newly discovered by the Zoo Arcane for your viewing pleasure.
Join me friends, but keep your eyes to the skies and treetops as we step through the misty portal to visit three legendary birds. The Zoo Arcane is not responsible for lost hats, pets or scalps.
The Last Pterodactyl
Slipping through the skies over Papua New Guinea, the Ropen is similar in appearance to a Pterodactyl. Witnesses have viewed this massive bat-like creature repeatedly since at least 1935. The Ropen is nocturnal, blending with the night sky except for brief bursts of bioluminescence that cause it to appear as a winged UFO for four or five seconds.
Legends surrounding the Ropen attribute grave robbery and the digestion of human flesh to its nefarious list of accomplishments. Some believe it merely to be a large fruit bat known as the Flying Fox while others are convinced that it’s numbers are made of the last remnants of the 65 million year old Pterodactyl species. Either way, something haunts the skies over Papua that has yet to be explained.
How would people react were a Ropen to fly into a city during the height of the day? Or land on a travelers vehicle on a remote road? What if this over-sized bat decided to prove its dominance against a modern jet or passenger plane in the dark jungle airways?
In a fantasy or modern exploration tale, the vale below the Ropen’s aerie would be a dangerous one to travel. What would beckon our hero to risk entry? The reason must be one worthy of the risk.
Here friend, take these flowers and follow me through the misty portal as we go to visit the Bahamian bird of luck and death. Do not lose your flowers or you may gain a unique view of the bad luck that follows.
When settlers first arrived on Andros Island, Bahamas, they encountered a strange two-foot tall creature with glowing red eyes that could rotate its head in a complete circle. To say this was frightening to the settlers is an understatement for out of these encounters came the legend of the Chickcharney.
While in reality, the island was inhabited by a burrowing owl of this description up until the 16th century, when the bird became extinct, the legends surrounding this fowl creature go beyond the limitations of a common avian.
Legend says that when one encounters a Chickcharney, deep within the pine forest, respect must be paid to it. Doing so will bring lifelong luck; failure will lead the creature to turn the disrespectful persons head around. An uncomfortable position that equates to lifelong bad luck, as short as that life may be. Fortunately, the Chickcharney are easy to appease, requiring only a brightly colored piece of cloth or flower to prove ones respect.
What if the Chickcharney were an intelligent race of owls, perhaps holding knowledge from before the time of mankind? Our hero may need to seek them out in a fantasy or encounter them while exploring a new planet teeming with life ruled by them.
Perhaps our hero is among the first settlers to the Chickcharney’s island and must find the methods to appease the birds before they spin the groups view in a dangerous direction.
What would someone do to gain luck for their entire lifetime? Villains would seek the creature out and heroes would be forced to stop them. Imagine what would occur were the greatest villain to gain the power of eternal luck. How could they be stopped? This concept becomes a powerful motivator in any genre.
I bid you stay close to me as pass through the misty portal once more to the hazy mountains of Hubei, China where the eldest phoenix awaits us.
The Jiufeng or Nine-headed bird is the earliest depiction of the Chinese Phoenix. The Jiufeng made its first appearance in Hubei Provence (home of the Three Gorges Dam) as the totem of the Kingdom of Chu (475 B.C to 221 B.C.). As the Han Dynasty took control in 220 B.C. the nine-headed phoenix was presented as a monster, a typical tactic when dealing with the powerful symbols of a defeated opponent.
One tale about Jiufeng speaks of how the bird was injured by an angry mob causing the loss of its tenth head. In retribution for this sacrilege, Jiufeng hunted the populace, absorbing the souls of those it encountered while searching for the one that had injured it. Eventually, the tormented populace discovered that by putting out their lights and placing their dogs outside, Jiufeng would flee.
Juifeng can be good or evil, dependent on point-of-view. However, what if a sorcerer were to raise Jiufeng to bring retribution on those who had caused him harm? Place this phoenix on another world and we have fantasy or science-fantasy (magic versus technology). In a modern setting this can quickly turn to paranormal and horror. Add a few well-placed murders and a detective and we have a paranormal mystery worthy of the Cthulu investigators of old.
And now my friends I bid you pass once more through the portal to safer lands then those we have visited. I hope that your imaginations are now in flight and carry you further than the misty portal ever could.
Join me next Wednesday for another Designing from Bones when we take a look at an activity many of us enjoy, the history and uses of cooking.
If you’re looking for more great information and ideas on writing, check out my previous Designing from Bones entries.
Interesting information, as always 😀
Thank you Gene
I love the Pheonix (well, I love your whole zoo).
Great ideas from a clever imagination! I will look forward to the next episode….
Irene: Thanks, Irene 🙂
Amber: I do have an interesting zoo, of course, owning a “misty portal” helps a great deal.
Susie: Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Next weeks cooking post should be a lot of fun.
“The Zoo Arcane is not responsible for lost hats, pets, or scalps.” Haha, love that line! The Red-eyed Owl with those long legs and turning head is something else! The other creatures are intriguing, too, but that owl sparks lots of possible ideas for me!
I quoted your insight about blog awards in my post today, plus I have something for you, so stop by when you get a chance. Thanks for another cool “Designing from Bones” post.
The Red-Eyed Owl would be perfect for one of your books. Have to admit I had you in mind when I selected that one for this post.
Thanks for including me in your post today (and for the award *smile*). I stopped by and commented on your site. Glad you enjoyed the Zoo Arcane!
My favorite was the owl who demanded tariff. I like the idea of an animal interacting in human terms. The significance of the colored cloth or flower must have been lost over the years. I’m sure it’s very interesting. Cool stuff. 😀
Catie: I wasn’t able to locate any information on why flowers and colored cloth were the chosen gifts. However, given that the Chickcharney is an owl-like creature it may have to do with food and attraction to bright objects. Just a guess. Thanks for the comment 🙂
Kerry: I could definitely see scaring my kids with the thought of a red-eyed owl. The method used to scare off the Nine-headed Phoenix is a social controller as well. Using fear of a mythical beast to teach social control (shutting out the lights and putting dogs outside as guards) would both have been practical in the era in question. Thanks bro 🙂
This series is so cool Gene. I love things like this. The red-eyed owl is way cool. I can see this being used to keep kids in line. “Don’t make me get the red-eyed owl after your scrawny butt.” Ha-ha. Love it Gene. Later bro.
Where do you find this stuff?! What crazy and interesting creatures. If I had my say, I’d most want to encounter the chickcharney, however, I do like dinosaurs a lot, but that pterodactyl didn’t promise good fortune. How creepy the owl could turn your head around for being disrespectful. I’m going to go practice my curtsey.
Now that is an interesting thought, Jess. Somehow, I can imagine you and a Chickcharney dancing regally in a quiet clearing in the pine forest accompanied by the crickets. Just remember to wear brightly colored ribbon in your hair 🙂
Oooh. More cool critters. I don’t suppose pterodactyls would make good pets though. Bummer. 😀
Why not? Just think of it as a large, leathery, parakeet. Yep. That’s what I’d do. Polly want a cow?
A large, leathery parakeet? Ack!
This is another imagination-inspiring article, Gene. In fact, I already have an idea for the Ropen. Thanks! And where DO you find these things??
Robin: Interesting, can’t wait to see what you come up with for the Ropen. I have a deep background in myth and legend from personal study. I’ve loved this stuff since I was a pre-teen and love finally having a chance to share my lifelong “geek” 🙂
August: I’m glad you stopped by. I have another frequent visitor and friend that was an archaeologist for some time as well. Lovely people and something I’ve always wanted to do. Thanks for the comment and I hope you’ll stop back in again 🙂
This is the first blog post I’ve ever read regarding archeology. Gotta say, I enjoyed it! On a personal note, made me think of my granddad. He was an archeologist for many years. Best of luck with all.
That owl is scary–LOVE it! I am so gonna share this.
My pets are a bit unusual but I love them all. Thanks, Amy 🙂
A bit behind in reading blogs, but I love, as always, being swept into another, older world! Freaky creatures…glad I live in the present. Thanks Gene!
I’m actually really glad that Pterodactyl’s don’t fly around today….I’d be terrified! I actually have a friend who is terrified of anything that flies – she’ll literally hit the deck if a parakeet comes near her. 🙂
GREAT post. The owl seems like the only one that wouldn’t frighten me out of this group….and we all need luck!
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Lifelong luck…tricky prospect. If you define it wrong, it just looks like magic; spellcasting without the potions, the work, the training, the discipline and waving of hands. But if “luck” turns out to be “beneficial things that happen without immediate realization of benefit”, that becomes a different story. More turns than an Arkansas state highway. Yummy.
A paradox in a conundrum. Twisted like the owls’ head. Thanks for the great comment, John 🙂
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