Wednesday, January 20, 2010



THE KHIMAIRA (or Chimera) was a monstrous beast which ravaged the countryside of Lykia in Anatolia. It was a composite creature, with the body and maned head of a lion, a goat's head rising from its back, a set of goat-udders, and a serpentine tail.

The hero Bellerophon was commanded to slay it by King Iobates. He rode into battle against the beast on the back of the winged horse Pegasos and, driving a lead-tipped lance down the Khimaira's flaming throat, suffocated it.

The Khimaira may have once been identified with the winter-rising Constellation Capricorn (the serpent-tailed goat). The constellation Pegasos appears to drive her from the heavens in spring.

Late classical writers represent the beast as a metaphor for a Lycian volcano.

The Khimaira may have symbolised the cold of winter: her fire-breathing lion-head representing frost, her goat-head the storms of winter (aigis in Greek means both goatish and storm), and her serpentine-head winter sickness. Khimaira's name appears to be derived from the Greek words kheima (cold, frost, winter) and aera (air). The father of Khimaira was Typhoeus the Daemon of deadly, winter-storms and her mother was Ekhidna a Daemon of illness and disease.
In the popular myth, her opponent Pegasos has a place amongst the stars as the spring-rising constellation Pegasus. Conversely, the Khimaira may have been represented by constellation Capricorn (the serpent-tailed goat), whose rising heralded the onset of winter.

A Greco-Roman mosaic recently unearthed in Syria indicates that the famous medieval scene of St George and the Dragon was derived from ancient Greco-Roman depictions of Bellerophon spearing the Khimaira from the back of Pegasos.


Although the chimera has mythological roots, the word is now used to mean a fabulous beast made up of parts taken from various animals. You will create your own unique chimera. There are several steps to this project.

Step 1: Texture Hunt. Texture is a word that refers to the qualities of surfaces. Real texture can be felt with the hand. Apparent texture is how artists use two dimensional media to make a flat surface seem like it has texture. Textures can be rough, smooth, furry, scaly, glossy, bumpy...

You need a sheet of plain white paper folded to make sixteen equal boxes, and a wooden pencil. Walk around the school. In every other box on your paper, take rubbings, using the side of your pencil tip. Write a word or two at the bottom of each rubbing to remind yourself of where the texture came from: for example, "carpet," "brick," etc. You will end up with a paper that has eight different textures with blank boxes next to them.

Step 2: Show your skills! In the empty boxes, use line to reproduce the textures you collected as best you can. These look better the more time you spend on them. Exaggerate the textures to make interesting patterns.

Step 3: Monster baby. What three animals (or insects) will you use to make your chimera? List them.

_______________________ _______________________ _____________________

Step 4: Draw. On a new sheet of plain white paper, very lightly sketch your chimera. Will it have bat wings? Fish scales? Chicken legs? An elephant's trunk? It's up to you.

Step 5: Texturize! Go back to your texture hunt sheet. Use all eight of your copied textures to create patterns on your chimera. You can use colored pencils if you like, or you can choose to keep it black and white.

Step 6: Name that beast. Write the name of your new chimera somewhere on the front of your drawing.

Extra Credit: Write a poem about your chimera. It can explain how the beast came to exist, or tell a story about things it's done. Maybe it's a riddling beast, like the Sphinx, or a magical helper, like the Pegasus. Perhaps it guards a particular place, like Cerberus. You decide!

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