Of curious animals, other than Apes, depicted as having some approach to
the human countenance, perhaps the most curious is the Manticora. It is
not a parvenu; it is of ancient date, for Aristotle mentions it.
Speaking of the dentition of animals, he says:--"None of these genera
have a double row of teeth. But, if we may believe Ctesias, there are
some which have this peculiarity, for he mentions an Indian animal
Martichora, which had three rows of teeth in each jaw; it is as
large and rough as a lion, and has similar feet, but its ears and face
are like those of a man; its eye is grey, and its body red; it has a
tail like a land Scorpion, in which there is a sting; it darts forth the
spines with which it is covered, instead of hair, and it utters a noise
resembling the united sound of a pipe and a trumpet; it is not less
swift of foot than a stag, and is wild, and devours men."
Pliny also quotes Ctesias, but he slightly diverges, for he says it has
azure eyes, and is of the colour of blood; he also affirms it can
imitate the human speech. Par parenthese he mentions, in conjunction
with the Manticora, another animal similarly gifted:--"By the union of
the hyaena with the AEthiopian lioness, the Corocotta is produced, which
has the same faculty of imitating the voices of men and cattle. Its gaze
is always fixed and immoveable; it has no gums in either of its jaws,
and the teeth are one continuous piece of bone; they are enclosed in a
sort of box, as it were, that they may not be blunted by rubbing against
Mais, revenons a nos moutons, or rather Mantichora. Topsell, in making
mention of this beast, recapitulates all that Ctesias has said on the
subject, and adds:--"And I take it to be the same Beast which Avicen
calleth Marion, and Maricomorion, with her taile she woundeth her
Hunters, whether they come before her or behinde her, and, presently,
when the quils are cast forth, new ones grow up in their roome,
wherewithal she overcometh all the hunters; and, although India be full
of divers ravening beastes, yet none of them are stiled with a title of
Andropophagi, that is to say, Men-eaters; except onely this
Mantichora. When the Indians take a Whelp of this beast, they fall to
and bruise the buttockes and taile thereof, so that it may never be fit
to bring (forth) sharp quils, afterwards it is tamed without peril.
This, also, is the same beast which is called Leucrocuta, about the
bignesse of a wilde Asse, being in legs and hoofes like a Hart, having
his mouth reaching on both sides to his eares, and the head and face
of a female like unto a Badgers. It is also called Martiora, which in
the Parsian tongue, signifieth a devourer of men."
Du Bartas, in "His First Week, or the Birth of the World," mentions our
friend as being created:--
"Then th' Vnicorn, th' Hyaena tearing tombs,
Swift Mantichor', and Nubian Cephus comes;
Of which last three, each hath, (as heer they stand)
Man's voice, Man's visage, Man like foot and hand."
It is mentioned by other writers--but I have a theory of my own about
it, and that is, that it is only an idealised laughing hyaena.