The Fiend Folio as implied setting

Some time ago, Jeff Rients posted something about running D&D with only the Fiend Folio as the monster manual.  I don’t remember exactly how detailed he got with that, and haven’t been able to find the exact post (this?  or this?) , but since I was looking over the Fiend Folio the other day, I started thinking about what the implied setting of the Fiend Folio might look like.

One thing that might stand out is that there are some knock-offs of standard monsters. Hoar foxes fill the niche of Winter wolves (though they are smaller, fewer HD, and not as evil), for example.

Another thing is that there are many references to standard races and monsters, so really you need to decide whether, say, Flinds require the reintroduction of Gnolls, Nilbogs require the presence of Goblins, the Norker entry allows in Hobgoblins, and so on. You could just ignore those references, or you could grandfather in the things that the FF listings assume. Either choice seems legitimate to me.

The first thought I had was how the options for PC races would look. There are no dwarves, no halflings, no elves other than the Drow, and no gnomes other than Svirfneblin. Drow elves do not seem appropriate for PCs due to their evil nature. Both dark elves and deep gnomes have so many inherent powers that you’d need to (ok: I’d want to…) introduce some kind of extra rules to ration them out as they gain levels, and that isn’t appealing to me either.  Lastly, those races are supposed to be enigmatic, barely-known races of the underdark, and having them as PCs would undermine (hah!) any attempt to keep the underworld mysterious, IMO. Githzerai and Githyanki may have become available as player races in 2e/Spelljammer, but they too seem so alien and mysterious they’d be better left as monsters.

If you wanted to allow some of the FF monsters to be player races, there are not a lot of good-aligned humanoids. I think alignment might matter because in AD&D as it stands, the allowed player races were all good-aligned in the Monster Manual — with the exception of half-orcs, who are not given a separate entry in the MM. Come to think of it, though, most of the human listings are neutral, so probably neutrals are ok too.

That leaves us with a few oddball humanoids, like the Aarakocra, which were ported in as player races in the 2e book of humanoids, and are also good-aligned, though their power of flight seems like a potential headache. The Quaggoth could be a neat mock-Mok, for a Thundar inspired campaign. The Qullan, which seem to be a source for the Talislantian Thralls (or at least share a common ancestor), would be ok as a colorful (hah hah!) option, perhaps replacing Half-orcs, and maybe Sulks could replace Halflings.

I’d be tempted to consider Grimlocks as a possible player race too, because although they are evil, there were several attempts to stat them up for players — both a semi-official Dragon article (#265) and a much older zine I no longer have (it was a small fanzine, I gave it away and don’t even recall the title). The idea of blind berserker is just too fun to leave out of your campaign.

One last thing on the player side of world-building is deities and religion. If you stick to the deities presented in the Fiend Folio, you get a very dark fantasy indeed! Lolth, the Elemental Princes of Evil, and two Slaad demigods. Oh, you also get the Aleax, which the gods send to punish you for varying from your stated alignment.  The Death dog, being descended from Cerberus, sort of implies that there could be Greco-Roman gods in the setting (and the Aleax, which also looks fairly Classical era, would be typical of the Greek gods’ screwing over mortals). Because Retrievers were designed by Demogorgon, I guess we have him too. The Sons of Kyuss mention an unnamed evil deity. The Eyes of Fear and Flame were created either by chaotic evil gods to destroy the lawful, or by neutral/lawful gods to test the lawful. The upshot, then, is that you better not look to the gods for hope or help in the Fiend Folio world.  If they notice you at all, it will probably mean they send an Aleax after you, who will fight you and either take half your XP and all your stuff, or if you are lucky, take you out of the campaign for a year and a day. Fortunately, most of the things that look like undead in the book are either not turnable or not really undead, so you won’t miss having a cleric (unless you encounter 4-40 Nilbogs, which can only be hurt by healing spells!).

So I’m getting the sense that this Fiend Folio world is really dark.

Anyway let’s look at the monsters that look like they might be undead.

Crypt thing

Obviously NOT undead

Turnable undead: Apparition, Coffer corpse, Huecuva, Penanggalan (flying head form), Poltergeist, Sheet ghoul, Sheet phantom, Son of Kyuss

Non-turnable undead: Death knight, Penanggalan (human form), Revenant, Skeleton warrior

Not actually undead & non-turnable: Adherer, Crypt thing, Eye of fear and flame, Gambado, Githyanki*, Necropidius, Vision, Yellow musk zombie

*Like the Meazel, the Githyanki are obviously based on the Iron Maiden mascot “Eddy”.

githyanki

Iron Maiden alum art from “Somewhere in a dungeon”

githyanki

Githyanki

Only a minority are turnable, and most are turned as wights, wraiths, or specters, so your cleric has little chance.

All those non-turnable undead and psuedo-undead also remind me that the FF is sometimes criticized as consisting of a lot of screw-the-player gimmick monsters.  While there are a good number of gimmicks, you have to admit the Monster Manual has plenty of those too (Ear seekers, Shriekers, Gas spores, Rot grubs, Rust monsters, Yellow mold, Brown mold, and so on and on!).

I guess we should also look at the giants and dragons, as those are staples of fantasy, and I admit they are a little underwhelming. The giants are not bad — at 12 and 14 HD, they are as tough as anything in the Monster Manual, and the Mountain giant certainly looks like a classic storybook giant.  The Fog giant, with his surprise ability, looks deadly, though they should probably have the ability to generate fog too. The dragons, on the other hand, are maybe the weakest thing about the Fiend Folio world.  Instead of being the benevolent spiritual beings of Chinese folklore, or the destructive forces of nature of Western folklore, they seem to be inscrutable spirits of nature — not necessarily hostile, but capricious and dangerous.  Some demand tribute, some accept bribes, but none have much in the way of clear or useful motivation.  They are all shades of neutral, and that makes them seem more like animals than dragons, despite their generally high intelligence. The trolls of the Fiend Folio are all pretty good though — in fact I like them more than standard D&D trolls.  They are certainly more like Norse trolls, and the Ice trolls and Spirit trolls suggest they are more supernatural than standard D&D trolls.

So if I were to describe the world of the Fiend Folio, I think it suggests that monsters tend to be otherworldly — ethereal, elemental, or undead, or else they are beings from the underworld of dungeons and caverns. The animal-type monsters are mostly botched magical experiments like Gorrila-bears, or gigantic vermin like Giant Bats and Giant Hornets, or else super-predators like Babblers.

Babbler

Babbler

The humanoids are often alien (Kuo-toa, Firenewts) though some resemble the primitive or militaristic subhumans we find in the Monster Manual. So, it is certainly recognizable as D&D. It is just a little darker, a little wackier, and maybe a little more dangerous, since there are almost no “standard” low-level monsters that you can just fight (exceptions being things like Xvarts and Norkers, though the Norker’s high armor class makes them a real danger to first level PCs). For example, Quaggoths (HD 1+2) go berserk and fight to negative hp; Qullans (HD 2) have super-sharp swords that score bonuses to hit and damage (but of course the blades quickly lose this property when looted!)

Looking at the dungeon monster tables in the back of the book, all the “weak” monsters are thieves or ambushers like the Jermalaine, Mite, and Snyad. Humanoids like Bullywugs can make three attacks, or have boosted AC like the Norkers.  And that is just the level I monsters.  As you go to higher level charts, it seems that the FF monsters tend to have boosted AC, HD, or other powers, compared to their Monster Manual peers.  However, I have to say that dungeons stocked according to the FF charts would be a lot less predictable than the standard DMG tables.

So — and this looks like my second or third attempt to wrap up, I always sucked at conclusions — so anyway, the Fiend Folio world looks like something it could be pretty fun to run. It would slightly crank up the weird and the deadly, and downplay clerics and demi-humans. The only thing I’d really miss are the original dragons and some of the staple, dare I say iconic monsters like orcs, beholders, and rust monsters.  Instead, we’d have norkers, slaad, and disenchanters. Which is to say, the kid gloves would be off and the difficulty cranked up to Ultraviolence. Sounds like a plan!

C’mon in! The ichor is fine!

Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (10)  
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Miscellaneous dungeon dressing

At some point I really will finish painting up all the furniture and whatnot that I have for D&D. Most recently I did a weapons rack from the Heroquest boardgame and a small nautilus shell (or ram’s horn?) on a stand, which I am not sure the origins of — I think I got it from someone discarding their collection of lead? It is probably something that came in a Grenadier boxed set.  They often threw in interesting accessories like that.

weaponsrack-1

Nest to the Heroquest elf for scale — those are BIG weapons!

weaponsrack-2

A close-up of the horn or nautilus shell.  The stand is decorated with frog feet on the “legs” and clam shells holding the horn/shell in place.

magic-horn

Again for scale, here it is next to a Heritage knight.

magic-horn-2

Lastly here’s a bigger piece of scenery from a Warhammer Fantasy Battles boxed set.  It had a ton of goblins and dwarves, and some other nice scenery, so although I haven’t played WFB in years and years, it seemed like a good buy.  This is apparently some kind of fence or boundary marker made by dwarves.

 

dwarf-fence-1

One of the nice little touches is that someone left their stuff leaning against it, probably a sentry.  There is a pipe & pouch, stein, and an axe and shield — the last suggesting the sentry either left in haste or was killed unawares.

 

dwarf-fence-2

 

The same set came with a troll who is throwing a section of this boundary.  I should paint him some time too.

Published in: on September 29, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Flail snails again

Some time ago I made the flail snail on the right; more recently I made a second, more naturalistic flail snail.

flailsnails

Click to embiggen … at your peril!

 

The new one, on the left, has a real seashell for its shell (lightly washed with dark brown), and the body is made of polymer clay.  The flails were also polymer clay, formed around some florist wire so they’d be less likely to break, and to give them an easy way to attach.  The older one, on the right, has a shell from a cheap plastic animal, a body of epoxy putty, and the flails are wire with mace-heads from cheap plastic knight toys.

flailsnails-2

While I have no doubt that others have made their own flail snail minis (this lovely one came up early in a GIS), I do find it odd that no miniatures company ever made them.  They hardly require much skill, though I guess as one of the infamously “dumbest monsters of D&D” lists, and an example of what’s so terrible about the Fiend Folio,  the poor flail snail is subject to too much ridicule to get a fair break.

Published in: on September 27, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (6)  
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R.O.U.S.

So this is a Grenadier model, from the period when John Dennett was doing a lot of horrific stuff and Grenadier’s monsters took a really frightening turn.  It is a “Giant Bog Rat” from the Dragon Lords “Horrors of the marsh” set.

 

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

He doesn’t have the buck teeth you might expect on a rat, but I like the lipless snout with all the teeth showing, and the boils or tumors all over its back are suitably gross. It occurs to me that it would be kind of creepy if those boils hatch rats, like those freaky toads that hatch babies on their backs.

Giant Bog Rat. Mv: 12″ AC: 6 (14) HD: 6 Att: 1 bite (d10 + venom) SV: F6 Ml: 7. Special: surprise, d6 pups hatch from back every round, for six rounds, after the GBR first takes damage; treat the pups as Giant Rats.

Giant Bog Rats (GBR) are a subspecies of the common Rodent of Unusual Size (ROUS), and like them has the ability to hide, despite their large size, surprising prey on a 1-4 on a d6.  GBRs are usually encountered alone, but during mating season they may be encountered in groups of 2-6. GBRs are true hermaphrodites, and can reproduce without a mate, but more typically mate with multiple partners who place fertilized zygotes on each others backs.  The zygotes bond with the GBR’s bald back and develop into amniotic sacks which look like large boils.  When agitated, the sacks may burst, exuding fully formed GBR pups who, unlike many rodents, are born with fur and open eyes.  They emerge ravenously hungry and attack any nearby creature on sight. Adult GBRs are more cautious and will attempt to use surprise to catch prey. They prefer to feed on humans and demihumans above all else, but will eat anything. Its relatively weak but copious venom causes those hit by the bite to save versus poison at +2 or die in 2d6 rounds.

****

I just looked at the insert that came with the Horrors of the Marsh set, and the GBR was statted out as having armor equivalent to “reinforced leather,” speed comparable to a leopard, 20-60 hp, and two attacks: bite for d12 and claw for d6; its special attacks are a 10% chance of inflicting disease with a bite, and on a critical hit, it drags the foe down and crushes it beneath its bulk (400-900 pounds!) for 2d8 damage; no. appearing 1 or a “large pack”.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Would you trust these murderhobos with your campaign?

So with the ACKS Barrowmaze campaign on indefinite hiatus, we’re trying out some fairly BtB AD&D 1e!

 

pcs-1

Click to embiggen!

The original idea was to have each player make 2 PCs, since we’ve all been so erratic about participation, but in the end six players showed up so we had 12 PCs the first night!  One guy is out-of-town tonight, but another is back from having a procedure.  The crew from the first session is pictured above — I don’t recall most of the names but have (left to right) a 1/2 orc Fighter/Assassin,  Human cleric, elf thief/MU, human fighter, dwarf fighter, elf Fighter/MU/thief, 1/2 elf cleric/MU, 1/2 elf fighter/thief, human druid, halfling fighter, human monk, 1/2 orc fighter.  The pairs (front/back rows) are each controlled by a single player.  The returning player, I hear, will run an elf assassin and a human ranger.

I think most of these minis have featured before on this blog.  The monk and druid are the oldest paint jobs, the rest having been painted in the last five years or so. Grenadier, Reaper, Heritage, Ral Partha, even TSR sculpts are on display, as well as a Citadel/Milton Bradley joint mini for HeroQuest.

They are all 5th level (or 4/4, or 3/3/3) and I believe we are playing in the Slavers series…though that is based mostly on the fact we’ve been sent to deal with bad guys in the Pomarj, the nature of whose crimes we never even asked, because hey, there is a bounty.

<Update: Ack! Fighter/assassin 3/3 and Fighter/thief 3/3.  Damn your eyes, wight!>

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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For the birds

For no particular reason, I decided to clear a few bird monsters off the painting table — in this case, three cockatrices.

cockatrices

They are two versions of the Grenadier cockatrice (the earlier one, I think, is the single-piece casting; it was later reworked to have one separate wing, which I guess enhances the three-dimensionality a little but it never fit quite right on the model.  In between them is a casting of the Metal Magic sculpt, produced by MegaMinis.

The cockatrice is one of the many mythical creatures attested to in the Bible, so I guess some sizable percentage of the US population is committed to believing in them, like unicorns, dragons, and so on. Cockatrices are often confused with basilisks, since in folkore the terms are equivalent but in D&D they are very distinct monsters. Apart from the Book of the Dun Cow, my favorite cockatrice story is probably the cockatrice of Warsaw, since it is presented as true account.

The other bird-monsters are a pair of TSR Broobies, and a cheap plastic pelican which I painted to look like them.  The shape of the head and body are pretty off, and I made a rather poor effort to reshape the bill, but for as often as I’ll use them I guess it’s good enough.  One of the Broobies I bought back when it was in production (I liked the firbolg that was packaged with it, probably) and since his legs broke repeatedly, he’s got a piece of paper clip holding him upright (you can see it pretty well in the first pic). I always think of them as axebeaks, rather than broobies, for some reason.

axe-beaks-2

ax-beaks-1

Published in: on September 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The world’s laziest posts, part 1: GIS dungeons

I’m terrible at drawing maps, and designing rational floor plans.  Sometimes I’ll Google image search (GIS) things like crypts or temples, which is always turns up tons of great stuff. Like this Egyptian temple:

Khonsu Temple Floor Plan

and this plan of Olympia:

Or this abbey:

 

But sometihng you might overlook are other types of plans, particularly those for old gardens. If you GIS “garden plans” (or better yet, “historical garden plans” so you don’t get as many modern drawings that are actually illustrations rather than plans).

The garden a the palace of Versailles is particularly vast and you’ll find lots of images like this map:

or this elevation:

Weird symbolic plans can be inspirational too:

Whether you were planning to run it as an outdoor maze or an underground dungeon, the unusual layouts can help break the monotony of halls and rooms.

Limiting your search line drawings or black & white makes even generic searches for “plans” useful.

 

Published in: on September 19, 2014 at 9:01 am  Comments (1)  
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Dyson’s delves

Some time ago I got a pdf copy of Dyson’s Delves. I didn’t have to pay for it — it was a consolation prize to replace something else he’d tried to send to me and which was apparently lost or stolen in the mail — and he didn’t ask for a review, but it’s only fair to post one now because I have had some time to look it over and have even used one of the scenarios. <Edit: There is also a Dyson’s Delves II? I didn’t know about that until just now when I went looking for links. So this review is just about the first one.>

Anyway idea behind Dyson’s Delves is to provide both a set of usable dungeon adventures and a set of maps, ready to be keyed and stocked (with sheets of blanks provided on facing pages for those who want to keep a permanent record in their copy). Some of the maps and adventures have already been published on Dyson’s blog. They are all pretty good. There is a “mini-mega-dungeon” that was originally published on the blog as “Dyson’s Delve,” and which consists of eleven smallish levels (with room for expansion). This mini-mega-dungeon has multiple entrances, so higher level adventurers could bypass the goblins-infested uppers, and there are multiple paths through the dungeon — the party may need to go “up one, down two” to find everything. This dungeon could easily serve as the centerpiece to a dungeoneering campaign, and yes there is dragon in there somewhere. The dungeon is designed to take a party from first to sixth level. (I have a copy of the “deluxe edition” printed out that I keep on hand just in case I ever need to run something with no preparation… though I’d probably swap out the goblins for almost anything else.)

There are several other keyed dungeons, ranging from single-level adventures to multiple-level dungeons. The dungeons have a variety of difficulties, which is very nice for DMs looking for a quick side-adventure in a campaign, as I am often am because I did not have time to prepare or because the players go so far afield of what I expected. There is a surfeit of first-level one-page-dungeons, so it’s nice to find delves here for mid-level parties. My favorite is probably The charmed grotto (for level 5-8 characters), which I ran  in my home campaign and provided a decent challenge to a mid-level party, but you’ll also find adventures for 3rd-6th level parties, ranging from the award-winning one-page The worm’s gullet  to another multi-level crawl, Erdea Manor.

The blank maps are generally very good.  Anyone who has visited Dyson’s blog will have seen his work, so there is not much for me to add about that.

It’s available in PDF, softcover, and hardback. No-one asked me, but if he did I’d tell him to see about offering in a spiral bound edition, as my experience with perfect-bound print-on-demand has been that they do not hold up well to use at table, especially if you’re writing in them. As it is I guess you could get the pdf and print yourself a copy and have it spiral bound at an office supply store. Or just three-hole punch your printout.

In any case Dyson’s Delves is great idea, well-executed and worth a look.

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pages from a rutterkin’s notebook

The gaming group is has been pretty irregular over the summer, what with work schedules, vacations, and assorted BS.  One of our players is going to start an indefinite AD&D 1e game though — first we’ll try out a module with 5th level PCs and if we’re enjoying it, we might continue with him as DM for as long as he can stand our shenanigans.

So we each making two PCs, and naturally one of mine will be a half-orc fighter-assassin. 4th/4th then, and any equipment normally available in the PHB, but no poisons, elfin mail, strong bows or magic, as those are all the purview of the DM.  Sticking to BtB AD&D 1e, with only the MM, PHB, and DMG should be interesting.  That’s how I started D&D thirty+ years ago.

But who can resist poring over the books looking for a loophole? Not I. So I discovered some obscure AD&Disms that I had mostly never really understood or taken note of before.

ITEM: Belladonna and wolvesbane.  These two herbs are for sale in the PHB and easily overlooked.  In the real world, both are poisonous — belladonna (or “deadly nightshade”) is the most toxic European plant, and a single leaf or a handful of berries could kill, though it was also used medicinally and cosmetically.  Wolfsbane is also poisonous if eaten, but you’d need to eat a fair amount.  Belladonna was also supposedly used to make arrow poison at some point in history but I forget by whom or how effective it was — even I would not push that.  Anyway, Gornor stocked up on a few sprigs just in case he could feed it to something or someone in the game.  But then I started looking for rules related to them and I found that the MM and DMG both give somewhat contradictory information about how they are used to prevent lycanthropy.  The important bit for an assassin is: eat some belladonna, and there is a very small (1%) chance you’ll die.  But in any case you will be incapacitated for d4 days!  (MM, p. 63) I assume that is a very bad trip, given belladonna’s reputed hallucinogenic properties.  Still, no save is mentioned, so that makes it pretty useful.  There is no explanation of how wolfsbane drives away weres as it does in B/X.  DMG p. 220 only mentions that it is reputed to be a sedative and drive away werewolves.  NPC clerics use it (along with belladonna) in lycanthropy cures though (DMG p. 22).

Belladona image

Atropa Belladonna, from Wikimedia.

ITEM: Assassins can set traps pretty darn well.  The DMG (p. 20) clarifies that the Find and Remove Traps (FART) ability can be used to set traps, and that assassins set traps as thieves two levels higher than their level, not level minus two as with most abilities.  So my 4th level assassin sets traps as a 6th level thief, 45%, plus 5% for being a sneaky ass half-orc, or 50% chance of success!  Not too shabby!  Time to dig out my Grimtooth’s books.  :)

https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3753/9153727363_9571123568_z.jpg

Church trap. Source: Aaron Muzalski, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sfslim/9153727363/

ITEM:  Assassins attacking with surprise and who choose to assassinate rather than backstab automatically cause weapon damage (it is not, however, multiplied as if it were a backstab).  So with surprise you might try the assassination table with a chance for automatic death and guaranteed damage, or go for a backstab, risking a miss but causing somewhat more damage.  We used to play that you had to make a backstab, and if you hit you roll on the assassination table, or something like that.  BtB looks like an improvement.  On the other hand the chance of an assassin moving silently or hiding is pretty weak at low levels so you’re really not likely to get a lot of surprise opportunities without careful planning.

Zarak!

Surprise! Zarak attack! From the D&D cartoon & action figure line. Source: http://www.dungeonsdragonscartoon.com/2009/08/zarak.html

 

Published in: on September 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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St. Guinefort of Lyons

This is what they did recently in the diocese of Lyons. When preaching there against sorcery and hearing confessions, I heard many women confess that they had carried their children to St. Guinefort. I thought he was some saint. I made inquiries and at last heard that he was a certain greyhound killed in the following way. In the diocese of Lyons, close to the vill of the nuns called Villeneuve, on the land belonging to the lord of Villars-en-Dombe, there was a certain castle whose lord had a baby son from his wife. But when the lord and lady and the nurse too had left the house, leaving the child alone in his cradle, a very large snake entered the house and made for the child’s cradle. The greyhound, who had remained there, saw this, dashed swiftly under the cradle in pursuit, knocking it over, and attacked the snake with its fangs and answering bite with bite. In the end the dog killed it and threw it far away from the child’s cradle which he left all bloodied as was his mouth and head, with the snake’s blood, and stood there by the cradle all beaten about by the snake. When the nurse came back and saw this, she thought the child had been killed and eaten by the dog and so gave out an almighty scream. The child’s mother heard this, rushed in, saw and thought the same and she too screamed. Then the knight similarly once he got there believed the same, and drawing his sword killed the dog. Only then did they approach the child and find him unharmed, sleeping sweetly in fact. On further investigation, they discovered the snake torn up by the dog’s bites and dead. Now that they had learned the truth of the matter, they were embarrassed that they had so unjustly killed a dog so useful to them and threw his body into a well in front of the castle gate, and placing over it a very large heap of stones they planted trees nearby as a memorial of the deed.

But the castle was in due course destroyed by divine will, and the land reduced to a desert abandoned by its inhabitants. The local peasants hearing of the dog’s noble deed and innocent death, began to visit the place and honor the dog as a martyr in quest of help for their sicknesses and other needs. They were seduced and often cheated by the Devil so that he might in this way lead men into error. Women especially, with sick or poorly children, carried them to the place, and went off a league to another nearby castle where an old woman could teach them a ritual for making offerings and invocations to the demons and lead them to the right spot. When they got there, they offered salt and certain other things, hung the child’s little clothes on the bramble bushes around, fixing them on the thorns. They then put the naked baby through the opening between the trunks of two trees, the mother standing on one side and throwing her child nine times to the old woman on the other side, while invoking the demons to adjure the fauns in the wood of “Rimite” to take the sick and failing child which they said belonged to them (the fauns) and return to them their own child big, plump, live and healthy. Once this was done, the killer mothers took the baby and placed it naked at the foot of the tree on the straws of a cradle, lit at both ends two candles a thumbsbreadth thick with fire they had brought with them and fastened them on the trunk above. Then, while the candles were consumed, they went far enough away that they could neither hear nor see the child. In this way the burning candles burned up and killed a number of babies, as we have heard from others in the same place.

One woman told me that after she had invoked the fauns and left, she saw a wolf leaving the wood and going to the child and the wolf (or the devil in wolf’s form, so she said) would have devoured it had she not been moved by her maternal feelings and prevented it. On the other hand, if when they returned they found the child alive, they picked it up and carried it to a swiftly flowing river nearby, called the Chalaronne [tributary of the Saône], and immersed it nine times, to the point where if it escaped dying on the spot or soon after, it must have had very tough innards.

We went to the place and assembled the people and preached against the practice. We then had the dead dog dug up and the grove of trees cut down and burned along with the dog’s bones. Then we had an edict enacted by the lords of the land threatening the spoliation and fining of any people who gathered there for such a purpose in future. —  De Supersticione, Stephen de Bourbon

It’s probably worth noting that the legend of St. Guinefort, like so many saints, grew out of older folklore. There is a pretty solid disentangling of the story at Lapham’s Quarterly. Basically, the ‘faithful hound’ story (which has Welsh, Indian, and other versions) was apparently incorporated into the story of an actual saint, and garbled together.  The healing ritual described by de Bourbon is itself probably a sensationalized version of an older pagan ritual, as de Bourbon was a sort of inquisitor, rooting out heresy.  So there is probably a “real” saint somewhere … filtered through folklore, superstition, and an inquisitor’s penchant for finding the Devil behind things.

As far as I can tell there were not a lot of animals revered as saints. In fact the only other case I can think of is St. Christopher, who was often depicted as dog-headed (but ultimately still human).

The hagiographies of many human saints involve many animal-related miracles, such as animals raised from the dead or healed, animal companions, and extraordinary encounters with helpful wild animals.  For example several Irish saints resurrect animals like geese during their lives, and a number of English saints, working posthumously through their shrines, raised cattle and horses from the dead. Other saints speak with animals, are given warnings by birds, or are offered protection by wild animals.

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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