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2023 Reader Question 74

2023 Reader Question 74 published on 6 Comments on 2023 Reader Question 74

You’d think “a sphinx but it’s a bear instead of a lion” would be something that already existed in folklore, but surprisingly, none that I could find. Now, a sphinx with a ram head instead of a human head, that’s called a criosphinx.


Well, someone might mention owlbears.

But owlbears were invented for D&D, and do not exist in actual folklore.

Oddly, outside of giant bears in north American native mythology, and baresarks in Scandinvian, I cannot recall any other bears in mythology.

Okay, there is Bear Woman, in Yahi and other northern California mythology, (read about her in high school, in local history.) But Bear Woman is only portrayed as a fairly mundane villain character in a few stories.
There was a single book on mythology and folklore in my school library, which I believe was written from interviews with Ishi.
Might have come from the Pit river tribes though- I don’t remember the book giving much or any sources, and was likely written around WW1.

There are lots of mythological bears! There just aren’t many bear ‘chimeras,’ the way there are for, say, lions and/or eagles (e.g.: sphinxes and griffins). Apparently bears were just so big and scary and freakin’ dangerous — especially the mother bears — that they didn’t need other animal attributes?
Throughout human history you can find bears closely linked with a lot of deities — as animals sacred to them, or worshiped as the earthly manifestation of the goddess or god, or as the sacred mothers of a tribe or people… sometimes even as part of the goddess’s name (e.g.: Artemis & Artio). Try ‘bear worship’ in wikipedia for more info — it’s really fascinating!

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