Monday, 29 June 2015
The Pithlyiffion one of Naturer's Fantastic Beasts
The Pithlyiffion is a strange and wondrous beast indeed, one of the truly Fantastic beasts of history and one not to be trifled with (yes its one of those odd British sayings again) and one not to be put in a trifle either. And its rather bizarre attributes were summed up in a poem by the great Samuel Taylor Coleridge that went as follows
Beware the Pithlyiffion, the strange and wondrous beast
Sitting high up in the Forrest trees
With its poisonous and deadly lick
And although it resembles some ancient mythical bird
It has a rather strange defensive trick
It falls to ground wrapped in its wings
Like a rather large house brick
Of course as you might expect of poems from the founder of the Romantic Movement, the poem goes on for at least half an hour and involves all sorts of things from seagulls and sailors to dancing with Victorian women in clearings in the woodland. But the key points about the Pithlyiffion are well covered by this short extract. You see the Pithlyiffion has a very poisonous lick indeed and although in general people recover, should you be unfortunate to be licked on a scratch or open wound then death is a distinct possibility. Some say that Coleridge had a pet Pithlyiffion and that it was to blame for his untimely death.
And as the poem says, despite the fact it has wings and does look like a bird its wings were made of an almost indestructible membrane which it would indeed wrap round its own body. In this way nothing could hurt it. It had no real enemies in nature, except the usual one mankind, who discovered that by boiling the beast for several hours it became an incredibly useful paste that could be used to seal the boilers of steam engines. What was unknown was that the Pithlyiffion only bred once every ten years and lived for almost two hundred years. So by 1873 with the loss of its breeding habitat in the wild the last Pithlyiffion died. Unlike the Dodo which lent itself to being stuffed and displayed in a glass case, a popular Victorian pastime the Pithlyiffion once it died would turn to fine dust which would blow away in even the slightest of breezes. A fact that led to it becoming a creature of legend rather than fact. There are some who say the dust from the body of a dead Pithlyiffion has substantial magic powers and that many of the legends of magic from mans history are the result of this, but we will probably never know for sure. All we can say is that it must have been a truly fantastic Beast.