I’ve always had a fondness for mythological animals. When I set out to write Chosen Sister, I knew I wanted the story to center around a unicorn, my favorite mythological animal as a young child. I think to be precise, it was a unicorn pegasus that I liked best, but I chose the classic unicorn for this coming of age story.
I wanted the rest of the world to match, and so when I thought about what sort of evil animals might fit with the mythology, my mind went to harpies. I first studied harpies in school connected to Greek mythology, animals half-bird, half-human, who would snatch people and devour them. One of my favorite stories as a child, “Ronia the Robber’s Daughter” featured them, and the harpies in Chosen Sister are loosely based on the harpies in that book.
To fill out the Red Wizard’s minions though, I added a few animals of my own. Growing up, we had a book called “Curious Woodcuts of Fanciful and Real Beasts”, a book filled with beasts drawn in the middle ages. Often the artists would put together several features from different animals to create new monsters. We loved pouring over the book and drawing our own versions. My mind went back to this and I invented snakewolves, sharkgators, and bathawks to terrorize my characters.
Wanting something a little more fierce and terrible, I decided to return to “real” mythological animals at one point and added manticores, which have a lion body, a human head, shark teeth, and a scorpion tail. In considering how to fight these animals, I pictured them as probably the most dangerous of the Red Wizard’s beast.
Here is a newly expanded post of Reina’s first fight with the harpies.