Myra here greeting you a spooky All Hallows’ Eve.
Have you got your costumes ready yet for trick or treat? As most of you may know, we are still celebrating Monsters, Beasts, and Chimeras: Spooks and Spectres until the 9th of November. Just the right timing for Halloween.
Today, I am in with another collection of beasts and monsters. I’ve been meaning to read this book that I bought in Finland for the longest time. I am glad I finally found an excuse to crack this book open as it is such a riveting and fascinating read.
The book is divided into ten sections in all. The illustrations included in the book, painstakingly researched by Christopher Dell are simply stunning. Everything about this book, from the layout, to the book design, the glossy pages, the narrative itself, in fact the book’s entire packaging, are all par excellence. This is a collector’s item.
I have to confess that while I found all the other bestiary books that I borrowed from the library a little slow-moving, which may partially be explained by the fact that most bestiaries are really nothing more than detailed descriptions of monsters – kind of like an encyclopedia/dictionary of sorts – this one by Dell left me aching for more.
The book opens with a discussion of gods and monsters,
followed by devils and demons, then magical monsters (including alchemical creatures, grimoires and incantations).
There are also dragons and flying monsters ..
as well as a detailed description of water monsters.
What fascinated me to no end though would be the transformations and hybrids chapter as well as the ghosts and ghouls, and the section on monsters of folklore.
Rather than provide a long-winded description of each monster or beast and studying them in isolation, what Christopher Dell did was to synthesize everything so ingeniously, weaving them all together in this huge tapestry of terrors in a way that makes perfect sense.
The reader is then able to appreciate how a monster found in the Philippines (the manananggal and the aswang were mentioned) may be distantly related to fearsome critters in North America during the 18th and 19th century as well as the Beast of Gevaudan hunted between 1746 and 1767 in Europe.
More importantly, there is also a chapter that details how to fight monsters, which includes tried and tested ways in which heroes or saints proved their mettle and their faith respectively to vanquish beasts and monsters. Interestingly, there is also a section entitled Off the Edge of the Map which included monstrous peoples and natural histories.
At the end of each chapter, there is a key to the illustrations which demonstrate the attention to detail and historical research done by the author. There are photographs taken from various places such as the Museo Nacional de Antropologia Mexico City and the Museo Arqueologico Nacional Madrid to pages taken from Aldrovandi’s Monstrorum historia cum Paralipomenis historiae omnium animalium published in 1658.
This book is truly precious, magnifying the depth and breadth of man’s fascination with otherworldly creatures from time immemorial to the present. Perfect reading for Halloween. Definitely a must-find.
Monsters: A Bestiary of the Bizarre by Christopher Dell. Published by Thames and Hudson, 2010. Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
Read-a-Latte Challenge: 219 (150)