Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Inspiration for the Remorhaz?

So I was doing some more "PD art mining" at this week, and came across the book My own fairy book : namely certain Chronicles of Pantouflia, as notably the adventures of Prigio, prince of that country, and of his son Ricardo, with an excerpt from the Annals of Scotland, as touching Ker of Fairnilee, his sojourn with the Queen of Faery by Andrew Lang (1903). Lang is the guy that penned the "Coloured" Fairy Books published between 1889 and 1910, most of which were illustrated by Henry Justice Ford.

Lang's My Own Fairy Book... consists of three "books" within the book (each with its own sub-chapters) — Prince Prigio, Prince Ricardo, and The Gold of Fairnilee.

In Prigio's story, Prigio needs to eliminate the threat of the Firedrake. One night, while reading a book in the library, Prigio finds a reference to "a very rare beast called a Remora, which is at least as cold as the Firedrake is hot." Prigio figures if he can make the two fight, the Remora might kill the Firedrake.

The Remora in Lang's story resembles the mythical remora of medieval bestiaries, also known as the echeneis. "It was as flat as the head of a skate-fish, it was deathly pale, and two chill-blue eyes, dead-coloured like stones, looked out of it." From Gordon Browne's illustration in Lang's book (above left), its apparent the creature is massive compared to the medieval echeneis/remora (described as being approximately 6" in length).

So is this the inspiration for D&D's remorhaz introduced in Dragon Magazine #2? Not likely... though Rob Kuntz doesn't give too much insight on this 2009 post at his Lord of the Green Dragons blog, he does tell us Erol Otus did the drawing first, and EGG asked Kuntz to name it and stat it. It's pretty obvious from the original drawing (from Dragon #2; pictured at Kuntz's post) that there was no intention for the creature's habitat to be a cold one — you'd think EO would give the fighter with the halberd a bit more clothing if it were.

So is Lang's remora the inspiration for Kuntz's name/description/climate for the remorhaz? Or is it just a happy accident? If any of you have RK's email, or are "approved" as a "team member" to post comments to his blog, please ask him. I'd love to know.


  1. He's got his own forum on OD&D Discussion that he has been active in lately:

    Gaming With Rob Kuntz

  2. Interesting. I read the Prince Prigio story a while back and thought there might be a connection but never bothered to look into historical sources for the "remora" as a cold creature. My assumption was that Lang was drawing on a lot of existing stories for his Prince Prigio story (the five mile boots, gifts from the fairies, two older brothers who fail in the quest, etc.) so probably the remora had a precedent. Let us know if you find an answer.

  3. @ZA: Thanks for the info. I haven't been around the OD&D boards in a while. I'll have to head over and ask.

    @MM: I actually did a bit more digging in the origins of the remora before the post. I was going to include some of it, but the post was getting a bit long so I cut it. Long story short.. the echeneis of medieval bestiaries was said to latch onto ships and hold them back (remora is Latin for "delay"), but was supposed to be found in the Indian Ocean (so it was an equatorial water animal, as opposed to cold land animal). Lang does, however, nod in the book's introduction to Cyrano de Bergerac’s "Voyage dans la lune" (1657). This CdB text (alternatively titled "The Other World") is so heavy-handedly allegorical that it's absolute drudgery to navigate (with references to elements like salt and fire, and their connections to the four humors and medieval "medicine", as well as serpents and Original Sin), and finding the inspiration for Lang in de Bergerac absolutely escapes my ability to focus on finding it.