The Origins of the Human/Griffin Arrangement

I generally avoid reading reviews of my works, because they make me feel self-conscious and that makes it harder to concentrate when I’m trying to write. But, occasionally, I do read one – most of the time because someone points me to it. And every now and then I read something that makes me think.

I’ve recently been shown this review here, which was very flattering, but one thing it said did make me do a little thinking and eventually made me decide to write something about it.

The reviewer mentions that “the origins of [griffins] pairing with humans is unclear”, and this is in fact true. That led me to think that other people might be wondering the same thing, so I thought I might blog about it.

Interestingly enough, the first draft of The Dark Griffin actually did include something of an explanation as to how humans and griffins “got together”, so to speak. But later on I edited it out on the grounds that it was a bit of an unnecessary infodump. That was some years ago, but I most likely thought at the time that I would explain it later, but never actually did, and in the fullness of time I completely forgot about it and so the explanation has never actually been given.

When I first set out to think it all through, way back in those early days, one thing I wanted was not to have some big “event” that led to it happening. So there wasn’t a war between people and griffins, the gods didn’t intervene (contrary to what popular myth among both races would have you believe), and there were no heroes involved. Nor did it happen in a short time period. I wanted to go for something that felt more natural, and which didn’t rely on any kind of magic or unlikely events.

But to begin with: what do people in Cymria actually think happened? The reviewer hadn’t read The Griffin’s War, so they haven’t gotten to the part where Erian mulls over the bedtime story version he was told as a boy, but the relevant part goes something like this.


“And so the Night God, jealous of the griffins which Gryphus had made, sent her people to steal and murder among the golden-haired followers of Gryphus, and they were afraid and they turned to Gryphus and asked for his help. Then Gryphus sent his griffins and bid them to join with his people, so that together they could be stronger. Then, blessed by the partnership of mighty griffins, the first griffiners drove the Night God’s dark people out of their land, and forever after they swore to protect their lands and families from them.”

Also there was something about Gryphus appearing in the form of a great white griffin and teaching Baragher the Blessed (holy ancestor of all golden-haired Southerners) how to speak the language of griffins.

Obviously, this is all a load of nonsense.


So what actually happened? Why isn’t there a real historical account of how the griffins really wound up living alongside humans? Well, the facts of the matter are that a) There was no recorded history to speak of at the time, and b) There wasn’t really any significant event for anyone to write about anyway.

What actually happened was a much more gradual process, of the kind that people don’t really notice happening. Something that feels more like history. If, for example, I asked a historian “why did white people colonise America?” the answer wouldn’t be short or simple. The story of how humans and griffins first joined up is the same, because I wanted to try and make it realistic.

Basically, more and more humans were spreading through Cymria – Southerners and Northerners. And, as people do, they cut down trees and generally changed the landscape to suit themselves. The wild griffins were dangerous to them, but they never attacked together because they weren’t social creatures, so they weren’t too difficult to deal with. Killing one came to be looked on as something only the bravest and strongest could do, and (at least among the primitive Northerners) wearing the skin of one was a great honour. Some people went hunting them on purpose.

So the wild griffins started to die out, or were driven out of their old homes. And if this sounds implausible, don’t forget that people managed to do it to tigers, lions and poisonous snakes in this world without much trouble.

But, being intelligent, some of them started to loiter around human settlements, stealing livestock and other food. And because they were so powerful, some people insisted they were holy or at least special, and began to feed them and show them some cautious respect. Others, seeing a possible opportunity, stole griffin eggs and tried to raise the chicks themselves.

As for the griffins, some of the smarter ones soon worked out that they could live much more easily if they trained human beings to feed and house them, and not long after that they found they could gather power and privilege the same way. Neither side ever looked back. Ultimately, humans found a way to get power and respect from their fellows, and griffins found a way to survive in a world that was changing too fast for them. Not that any of them would admit it today.

Eventually (a process taking centuries, I should add), people managed to decipher the griffin language and, in bits and pieces, the current society of Cymria came to be. In the end, it came down to a mixture of religion, ambition and something fairly close to domestication.

That’s about the best answer I can give, and perhaps one day I’ll write some prequel stories or books set in that time. I think that could be very interesting.


Neato text ornament here