Your Weekend Creature Comforts: Lilith’s Back
I know I normally greet you all back to your favorite weekend column, but I guess I should be welcoming myself back. As you all know, I got a bit distracted last week and sadly found myself snatched by some repulsive troll. Naturally my wolves were on the way to my rescue when Arthur had to intervene, probably to keep himself more entertained than anything since my wolves and I had the situation under control. If you ask me, he just wanted another excuse to play with that tentacle-thingy of his from the earth. But I am back this weekend, and I am setting out alone this week, leaving my wolves and their lovely aroma of “troll farts” as my parting gift to the geeks still in the evil lair. Where am I off to? Well, last weekend I don’t think anyone adequately answered the riddle posed by the troll. I am not sure what your vote is, but I think the answer is “a river”. Arthur? Is it really wolves? I think a river could be an answer as well. But I digress, the riddle this week is not where I am off to, but it did inspire me to pursue the mighty sphinx.
Since my wolves and I can’t really ride from Albany to the Middle East, I decided to take a ride on a giant eagle borrowed from Middle Earth, but as I flew towards my destination I started thinking about this epic creature. Well, that is, when I wasn’t picking disgusting feather lice out of my clothes. Transport by giant eagle might sound appealing until you realize it comes with giant bird lice.
I stopped over in Greece on my way to check out the Greek version of the sphinx first. I found what I was looking for easily as my eagle dropped me off at the gates of Thebes. Most of the city is in ruins today, or peppered with overly enthusiastic college students that are kidding themselves that they will be the next Indiana Jones. But if you look hard enough you will spot the sphinx, this one with an elegant and muscular lioness body, an attractive female face in a perverted sort of way, large golden eagle wings, and the tail of a snake. This tail was swishing back and forth violently as the monster lifted its head from her front paws to gaze upon me.
“What are you here for witch?” the beast asked me. “Those who wish to pass must first answer my riddle.”
“I’d actually like to feature you this week in my regular column on famous creatures,” I said matter of factly.
A malicious grin spread across its face. “You too shall have to answer my riddle.”
“Fair enough. How about this: I answer your riddle correctly, and you give me a ride to Egypt, and let me feature you on this week’s creature comforts.”
The beast chuckled. “Very well, but if you answer incorrectly, or not at all, I will get my first tasty meal since Oedipus evaded me. The flesh of a woman is always a bit sweeter.”
“Ask away. And be glad it’s me and not my wolves, their flesh probably tastes like trolls about now.”
The sphinx grimaced at me but continued. “The beginning of eternity. The end of time and space. The beginning of every end. And the end of every place.” The lioness smiled at me and sat up on her haunches, ready to pounce.
Well, I will say that this riddle made me think of all things science fiction that I love in quick succession: Star Wars, Firefly, Doctor Who, Ender’s Game, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, etc. etc. But that was simply because of the reference to time and space. I knew that the answer must be much more simple than that, something that was right in front of me. Or better yet, at the end of me. Sadly for this sphinx I am an avid listener to NPR’s weekend Puzzler.
“The letter E!” I exclaimed.
I don’t think the sphinx could have looked more disappointed. She was forced to let me snap some photos of her for this weekend’s post, and then I hopped on her back as she took me to Egypt.
As we got closer to Egypt I could see the desert sphinx far ahead from a mile away. Not the real sphinx, but the large sculpture created by humans in tribute to the creature. The real thing is not as large as the statue, though still pretty massive. And being a proud creature most of the time it hangs out near the statue of itself, admiring all the tourists that have come to gaze upon its tribute. My ride coasted down in the sand and the Egyptian sphinx stood at least 3-fold higher than both of us together. He looked angry, probably didn’t want to be directly interrupted from watching all the sightseers oooing and aahing over his statue. My Greek sphinx now seemed happy again, probably thinking that I would meet my match with this new adversary.
Speaking of this new adversary, the sphinx before me was already standing. His body was all lion, only about 10 times larger than any beast on the African plain. His head however, was frankly unattractive. He had the head of a man, one wearing far too much makeup that was now looking down on me angrily. He stood perfectly still as he stared at me.
“You dare disturb me mortal! And I can see you have taken my sister away from her post in Greece. I should devour you right now for the insult, but will offer you a challenge first. If you answer my riddle correctly, I will grant you a wish. If you answer incorrectly or do not answer at all, I will take pleasure in devouring you. Maybe even giving my sister some of your entrails to savor.” There was an interesting smoothness to his voice, it was almost musical, like a mix between a growl and a purr.
At least I saw that coming. Riddles were their weakness.
“Certainly. If I answer your riddle correctly, The Evil Geeks get permission to summon you or any of your species for assistance whenever we deem necessary.”
The sphinx behind me let out a hiss. When I turned to look at her I noticed she had taken up residence on one of the large paws of the statue, hoping to watch my demise. Her hair was bristling.
The larger Egyptian sphinx before me was still gazing down on me, the cogs obviously turning full speed in his head. The proposition must not have seemed like a good one to him. If he did not agree, he would be subjected to my photography for the creature comfort posts in the least, or at least have to suffer humiliation by being intimidated by a mortal. He was too proud for that.
“Is it a little too much for you to swallow sphinx?” I asked.
Suddenly a loud, booming, and all too familiar voice rang out from the desert behind the three of us: “That’s what she said!”
I rolled my eyes before turning my head with the sphinxes to gaze up at the horizon. There were several small dots there, and one giant of a man in between the smaller figures. C-Mart was still chuckling to himself as he and the other geeks plodded across the sand towards us. I could see my wolves in the lead, followed by Arthur. The only thing they love more than me is food, and since Arthur gave them a recent helping of troll meat they were probably his little puppy dogs right now. I would have to nip that in the butt right away.
Behind Arthur, Kang was floating in the air, sitting cross legged like a meditating monk. He was gliding through the air in step with the pace of the other geeks. As they came up to the level of the sphinxes and I, I could see that poor Big Evil and Biff were not in the best of shape. They were trying to look thrilled to be there, but they were still wearing their usual get ups, and both the masked crusader as well as the man form the shadows were not the cosplay you wanted for the middle of the desert. And then there was Greekimus bringing up the rear, his metal exterior causing a reflection of light that kept getting in to everyone’s eyes. C-Mart and Arthur looked like the only ones truly excited to be there.
“Next time your wolves eat troll bait take them with you, none of us could breathe in the evil lair with that putrid troll fart smell!” Big Evil told me. I knelt down to scratch one of my wolves behind the ear, only for him to belch eau de troll in my face.
“And what’s this about you going to my homeland without inviting me along?! I could use a little ouzo to keep these joints well oiled!” Greekimus shouted.
Biff came up beside me. “He definitely does not need ouzo. You know why we walked here? He just crashed the plane in to one of the dunes over the horizon while he was drinking too much whiskey and trying to play Lego Marvel Super Heros on the inside of his visor while flying the plane.”
“Alright geeks! Enough with the antics. Did you hear the proposal I have going with the sphinx?” I asked them.
Several nopes and head shakes followed.
I turned back to the sphinx, who at this point seemed utterly confused by having more visitors than he probably did in a century. “Mr. Sphinx here tells me a riddle,” the sphinx cringed as I called him Mr. Sphinx. “And if I get it right, we get to use him and his compadres whenever we want for whatever diabolical schemes we need assistance with.”
“But if you get it wrong, you will no longer be one of us.” Kang was the only one with the smarts to finish the scenario for everyone.
“So sphinx- do you accept?” The sphinx nodded at me and lied down, making it as regal a pose as ever.
“I never was, am always to be, no one ever saw me, nor ever will. And yet I am the confidence of all who live and breath on this earth. What am I?” The monster had barely even finished before I could hear Biff behind me mumbling under his breath to one of the other geeks. He obviously knew the answer.
“SILENCE! The woman must answer.” The sphinx stood up and walked between the geeks and I, standing eye to eye with C-Mart and staring all of them down. Well, if Biff knew the answer I knew what movies to think about. Hmmm…Christopher Lloyd must somehow be involved…and a DeLorean….
Turning back to the sphinx, my wolves slipped between its legs and came up on either side of me, starting to growl at their opponent.
Before I could even respond to what was happening, the sphinx lashed out, lifting a paw the size of my entire body and swinging it down to destroy me. But just as quickly as the paw, huge tentacles shot out of the earth and stopped the paw just inches above my head, preventing my imminent squashing. The sphinx roared. And tentacles began surrounding its entire body, pinning it down to the ground.
As the Greek sphinx saw this occurring it turned and started to run, hoping to get some lift and escape by air, but my wolves were already surrounding it. And Kang was now hovering over its head, staring down at it, almost daring the beast to try to take to the air.
“And that was freaking amazing! We’ve got some sphinxes bound to us for whatever beck and call we want, and I got to use my tentacle friend!” Arthur had the biggest shit eating grin I had seen in months spread across his face. C-Mart had moved over to the Egyptian sphinx, helping release the tentacles while keeping a strong hold on its paws. Meanwhile Big Evil had joined the wolves and Kang with the Greek sphinx.
I walked over to the center of the two groups so they both could hear me. “Sorry sphinxes, but rules are rules, and if you try to break your agreement with me the earth itself will lash out against you and force you to do our bidding. So if you ask me, seems like it’s not worth resisting. Now boys, what’s our first task for these two?”
“Nobezilla, Undies of Wondy, and Lady Harkness are waiting somewhere in Nairobi for us, we could always hitch a ride,” Biff suggested. The poor guy really needed to work on a wardrobe change for when we traveled, he was soaked in sweat.
“Excellent. Considering how this whole debacle has gotten out of hand it will be nice to get away from all the testosterone and crank out some meat to this article,” I replied.
“You did not just say that,” C-Mart said. I was surrounded by giggling boys.
“Yup, working the crank,” Biff said.
“And no one is going to make a comment about the meat in that statement?” exclaimed an all too excited Big Evil.
Ok, I had purposefully set myself up for that. Actually, it had been intended. I wanted to throw the guys a bone after they had come all this way to join me. At that thought I found myself holding back the giggles myself, but no one could read my thoughts and wouldn’t understand. Well, I thought no one could read my thoughts. Kang had raised his metal eyebrow at me before shaking his head with a chuckle and leaving us behind. The rest of the geeks were all guffawing over more meat jokes, and figuring out what trouble we could start in Nairobi. Even the large sphinx was chiming in with some jokes, and I realized it wouldn’t be such a bad gig for him afterall. The Greek girl sphinx however looked absolutely miserable. I would be sure that Nobezilla, Lady Harkness, Undies of Wondy and I went on a fun night of mayhem at some point in the near future to make her feel more at ease.
Assembling together on to the sphinxes, we set off for Kenya where some cold Tuskers and lovely geek ladies awaited us. Over some delicious chapatti and excellent company I was able to research some more recent cultural references to sphinxes for you all to enjoy:
First off, we’ve introduced you to the Egyptian and the Greek version of the sphinx, but this mythological creature has roots in many more cultures, hence why we geeks made sure to clarify that we could use any sphinx’s assistance when desired. There are many depictions of sphinxes throughout Asia that also use the more simplistic version of a lion’s body with the head of the man, and the creature is often refereed to as a “man-beast”.
In 17th and 18th century Europe the Greek sphinx got a bit of a makeover, adding breasts and a much more seductive nature to the sphinx’s female head and lioness body.
Considering how iconic this creature is I was a little surprised that the list of modern cultural references is rather small. Many of you probably recall the sphinx found in the maze of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Aside from that stellar reference, there are not a lot of sphinxes out there. And even my Wikipedia search for this legend was a little lacking. But one image of a great sphinx comes to my mind when I think of it in all its glory: The Never Ending Story.
The Southern Oracle in the movie takes on the appearance of two gigantic female sphinxes with wings. I remember being terrified of the oracle as a child, much the way that I was terrified for Indiana Jones as he faced down the three trials to obtain the Holy Grail. Oh the wonders of being young and easily scared by these things. But the Southern Oracle, though daunting, does eventually let Atreyu pass his trial to continue on his quest to save Fantasia. And that my friends, is probably my favorite sphinx reference.
Hope you enjoyed this weekend’s crazy geek antics bringing you another famous creature, until, well, next weekend of course!
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Posted on March 15, 2014, in Creature Comforts, Geekology and tagged creature, creature comforts, Egypt, Greek mythology, Monster, sphinx, your weekend creature comforts. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.