Monstrous Engravings: The Lamia.


In 1607,an English clergyman named Edward Topsell published The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, a tome on zoology that topped 1,000 pages. Revealed in its pages were vibrant woodcut images of both real and fantastical creatures. In this book, Lamia seems to be described as a species, although “Lamia” also refers to a similar character of Greek mythology; Lamia was a beautiful queen of Libya who became a child-eating demon. Aristophanes claimed her name derived from the Greek word for gullet  (laimos), referring to her habit of devouring children. She was usually depicted as a beautiful woman above and a serpent below the waist.
In The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, a Lamia is described as a scaly creature with the hind legs of a goat, fore legs of a bear and the chest and head of a woman. Topsell states that when a lamias see men, they “lay open their breastes, and by the beauty thereof, entice them to come neare to conference, and so having them within their compasse, they devoure and kill them”.


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