Manticore vs. Chimera (What’s The Difference?)

Two of the most striking mythological creatures are the manticore and the chimera.

The manticore is a terrifying beast with body parts belonging to that of a lion, scorpion, and man. The chimera is a highly fantastical creature with parts from many animals; it is often a multiheaded beast with parts from a lion, goat, snake, and sometimes bird.

Let’s take a closer look at these two mythological creatures to learn about their lore and significance.

The Differences Between The Manticore & Chimera

The manticore and chimera are not typically seen within the same legends and stories. Because of their similar body structures, however, they are often confused. It is important to recognize the difference between these mythological creatures because they have wildly different symbolic meanings.

The manticore has a very specific body type and character. It loves to eat people and is very good at it. The chimera, which is seen as a fierce female creature, is much more ambiguous and symbolic. It can have multiple different types of animals thrown onto its body. This makes the chimera more abstract than the manticore.

Manticore

Other spellings: mantichore

The manticore is one of the most terrifying creatures within mythological history. It is very similar to an Egyptian sphinx. It includes the face of a human, the body of a lion, and a scorpion tail. Some depictions may give it wings or porcupine quills.

Some of these porcupine quills or spines are shot like arrows, making them a lethal predator. Even without the porcupine quills, the manticore is a terrifying beast that can devour its prey. It can even leave no trace, not even bones, of the victims because of its three rows of teeth.

Name

The name “manticore” tells you exactly how terrifying this creature is. It comes from the early middle Persian and means “man-eater.” Even in other languages, such as Greek, the name retained its same meaning. For example, the Greeks call the manticore “androphagos,” but this name still means “man-eater.”

Legend

With a creature as terrifying as the manticore, it’s no shock that there is a lot of lore concerning it. It started as a myth in Persia, but it quickly passed into European folklore as well. The most comprehensive overview we have of this creature is found in Characteristics of Animals by Aelian.

In this section on manticores, they are described as being wild, daring, and powerful. It’s description is listed out in excruciating detail, including the color of its shaggy fur and terrifying teeth. The author even lists just how dangerous the manticore is to potential victims.

According to the account, a single sting from the manticore would cause immediate death. If you were to try to approach the creature, it would send the arrows flying from every direction.

Even more terrifying, the description says that manticores choose to eat human beings by choice. It goes after two or three men with an insatiable appetite at one time, never one alone. As its name suggests, it very much enjoys eating humans.

Later Adaptations

The legend developed well into the modern era. One of its most popular is found in Dante’s Inferno. In this text, Dante writes the mythical Geryon as a manticore. In England, the manticore appeared on English heraldry.

Chimera

One of the most amazing mythological creatures is the chimera. This is a creature that originally comes from Greek mythology, but it has been wildly expanded and abstracted since its origin.

The chimera is viewed as a monstrous creature, always composed of multiple body parts. It most often includes the head of the lion, the head of a goat coming from its back, and a snake tail. Though these are the most common animals, you can find depictions of chimera with other body parts too.  

Legend

The legend of the chimera is very confusing. The earliest reference we have of the chimera is found in Homer’s the Iliad. In this text, the Chimera is a single terrifying beast. Here is his take on the Chimera:

Supposedly, the Chimera is the offspring of Echidna. This original description describes the female creature as having three heads, including that of a lion, dragon, and goat. Because of its dragon head, it can breathe fire.

Interestingly, this fearsome mythological being is often viewed as a female. Even though the Chimera is almost always depicted with a male lion’s mane, it is referred to as she, implying her fierceness.

As far as the genealogy goes, it is very unclear. One of the more popular is that the Chimera mated with her brother. As a result, they produced the sphynx. It wasn’t until Bellerophon and Pegasus, two other mythological creatures, that the Chimera was officially defeated.

Modern Use of the Word

The Chimera is no more than a single creature now. This term has been used as the name for about any creature with multiple animal parts. As a result, the chimera is used as a description for many creatures and not a personal name. It is often viewed as a dazzling and fantastical creature, showing an expansion and abstraction of the original legend. 

Interestingly, the word “chimera” has developed as a noun in the English language. It can be used to describe a foolish, incongruous, or vain fancy. To put it a bit more simply, it is something that is hoped for but is impossible to achieve or illusory. For example, you may hear of the chimera of the artist.

In many renditions of this word’s modern use, the chimera of the person is typically personified. For example, in his poem “Every Man His Chimera,” the poet Charles Baudelaire personifies the noun in a way that evokes the mythological creature that we have described above. Yet, he is literally talking about people’s illusionary hopes, not the mythological creature.

The modern use of the word implies that the chimera is nothing more than our own vices personified. This interpretation of the mythological creature would make sense within the context of the Iliad and the Odyssey, which largely demonstrate the dangers of a tragic flaw.

Conclusion

The manticore and chimera are both legendary fierce creatures that are deadly and terrifying. They are different from one another, both in their anatomy and legends. Today, the chimera has morphed into an abstract noun, showing how important the creature is to the modern world.

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