Writing Prompts: Gargoyles

F is the letter, so France is the country, and gargoyles are the theme for this latest mythical creatures prompt.

The origins of this particular beast can be found in medieval France, with a story dated to the 7th Century, and a man called St Romanus. Romanus is said to have saved the country by fighting off a creature known as a Gargouille, which was said to be a huge, dragon-like creature with huge bat-like wings, and the means to breathe fire. Whilst there are various versions of the story, all feature the creature being captured, brought to the town of Rouen, and burned, though the head and neck, tempered from the flames due to the Gargouille’s ability to breathe fire, remained intact. The head was then mounted on the wall of a newly-built Church, to help fend off evil spirits. A lot of casual references to gargoyles certainly do suggest they serve a guardian role, so it’s nice to finally know where this idea comes from.

Across France, and indeed much of Europe, gargoyles have come to adorn various buildings, and in many cases, they have more than a decorative purpose. They often function as waterspouts, helping to carry excess rainwater away from the building and into the street or gutter.

It’s no secret that I for one love the Gargoyles TV series from the 90s, but this has served up a somewhat false image of these beasts. The show played upon the notion that gargoyles come to life at night, and turn to stone at sunrise. It also made use of the ‘gargoyles as protectors’ trope, though gargoyles have been portrayed as demonic vessels in other works of fiction. History also shows mixed impressions of gargoyles; the Catholic Church was torn between regarding them as articles of sin and evil, or as a form of protective magic. As with so much in life, how these particular mythological beings are perceived boils down to perspective.

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