What’s in a name? The ‘chimera’ in Blood Chimera.
1. A fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent.
2. An illusion or fabrication of the mind.
3. An individual, organ, or body part consisting of at least two genetically distinct types of cells.
Back when I first starting to build up the world in which I would eventually set Blood Chimera, I was doing a whole lot of research on monsters of all sorts. I came across a theory that the Chimera of Greek mythology (born of Echidna and Typhon, slain by Bellerophon with the help of Pegasus) was originally based on phantom fires often spotted near the volcanic mountain Yanartas in present-day Turkey. The idea was that ancient Greek travelers would see this spouts of flame and assume the source was a fire-breathing monster, rather than what it really was: volcanic gas vents.
Which is pretty cool. Kind of brings to mind a Halloween haunted house except the Greek were scaring themselves by seeing nature’s special effects. “Ahhh, a monster!”
I’ll admit though: that last definition of chimera was the one I found really intriguing.
In the natural world, chimerism (usually) happens when embryos recombine in the womb, which isn’t necessary as rare as one might think, but goes largely undetected. Heterochromia (having eyes of a different color) is one possible manifestation of chimerism (turns out it’s not always a groovy mutation, Professor Xavier,) as is hermaphroditism and unusual patches of skin and hair color. There have been several important legal cases that occurred because a parent didn’t test as parent to their own children, and in the process discovered that he or she was a chimera. And yes, human/animal chimera are possible (although it takes some tinkering in a lab and is legally frowned on by just about every nation.) We’re talking real Island of Dr. Moreau stuff here.
Naturally, given how my mind works, the first thing I thought about was how elegantly this would explain so many mythological creatures. Mermaids? Check. Centaurs? Not a problem. The Minotaur? Hell yes. Even the Pegasus from that version of the myth up above could be explained as a horse/eagle chimera. Thus, the shapechangers in my story became chimeras, although depending on which animals they knew how to blend, in what combination, and how good they were at controlling it, they might self-identify as very different kinds of monsters.
Including some monsters who haven’t walked the earth in a very long time.
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