The Pharaoh and the Librarian is a work of fiction. Alternative fiction. “What if” fiction. Most of the places Alex and Cleo visit are real – or what they might have been if I’d been there to do feet-on-the-ground research. Therefore, settings are as real as my imagination can make them. And the creatures they encounter are cryptids, as real as they may have been.
Writers are told that their creatures must be realistic or at least plausible. Even fantasy writers can’t just throw monsters into a story willy-nilly. So, what about cryptids, a class of monsters balanced between the real and imaginary, like the famous trio: Bigfoot, Yeti, and Nessie, and, of course, unicorns.
On Anglesey Island I imagined a unicorn sanctuary that helped support the Druid library. By bringing in unicorns and a Pegasus foal from early animal protection patrons, the Druid librarians are rescuing them from danger and extinction. Sadly, it didn’t appear to work. Unless there still is a hidden unicorn sanctuary remaining somewhere, safe from the media attention.
Many Greek writers mentioned unicorns in their natural histories as real – not at all mythological. Maybe at that time they were? In European tales often describe a white horse-like or goat-like animal with a horn and cloven hooves. Sometimes a goat’s beard or lion’s tail.
Unicorns have one large spiral horn projecting from their forehead These horns were believed to have magical properties; the power to heal, detect poison, and turn poisoned water potable.
Over time, unicorns have become symbols of purity and grace, who could only be captured by virgins, as shown in The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries in the Cloisters.
- Unicorns symbolize chaste love and faithful marriage and prefer death to capture and have been associated with the Virgin Mary.
- Marco Polo described unicorns as “scarcely smaller than elephants,” probably referring to the one-horned rhinoceros “wallowing in mud and slime.”
- In Shakespeare’s play “Timon of Athens,” a hunter could goad a unicorn to embed its horn into a tree.
- Unicorns are the symbol of Scotland in heraldry.
These depictions could describe a single-horned goat, horned cattle, or a one horned oryx (antelope). A two-horned creature seen from the side or with one horn broken could be viewed as one horned. Another explanation could be a genetic disorder creating a one-horned creature. Below are unicorn photos by Larry Kane. See more of his amazing animal photography at larrykanephotography.com.
The Druid Sanctuary in The Pharaoh and the Librarian was also home to a foal, sired by Pegasus, who showed his father’s birdlike wings and aviation abilities.
If unicorns and flying horses were ever real, the need for preserves to protect these extraordinary creatures from extinction was sorely needed. I’d like to believe there were kind people who tried.
In writing The Pharaoh and the Librarian, I supposed many cryptids still lived in the 1st century in both the Old World and the New, when folklore and history were not so far apart. Technically, the creatures that wander through my novel are not fantasy beings but cryptids who may have lived at one time and may or may not have survived to live in ours.
In fiction creatures still hide within vast forests, dark jungles, and deep oceans.