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Harping On About Harpies

"Grimmer than these scarce any prodigy, nor any plague e'er rose at the wrath of the gods from the Stygian waves: a winged thing with maidenís face, belly o'erflowing and most foul, a hooked hand, and face hunger-pale forever."
Virgil, The Aeneid, Book III, ll. 253-257.

Like centaurs, mermaids, Fauns and Satyrs, harpies are mythical creatures that take the form of Half-Human Hybrids — in this case, one half is a woman and the other half is a bird, usually a bird of prey. They originated in Greek Mythology, where they often took the job of punishing mortals for their misdeeds. This punishment frequently took the form of snatching away or befouling people's food, hence their name which comes from the Greek word for "snatcher." They also can be considered as Anthropomorphic Personifications of violent winds.

They can vary widely in appearance. Most of the time they are seen as ugly, but they were originally described as beautiful, and often are subject to the Gorgeous Gorgon effect. The ratio of human to bird can also vary from human-faced bird to Winged Humanoid. In many classical depictions, their arms are their wings. They often come in groups of three, and are often given the names of Aello, Celaeno, and Ocypete.

Related to the other mythological half-woman half-bird creature, the Enthralling Siren. Sirens and harpies are confused almost as much as sirens and mermaids, usually by giving harpies beautiful voices.

The harpy eagle is named for them, and their tendency to be Always Chaotic Evil has led the word "harpy" to be used to describe any unpleasant woman.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Yubaba has one as a pet in Spirited Away.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the Harpie Lady cards, the signature monsters of Mai Valentine.
  • Humanoid Monster Bem has one as the monster of episode 4.
  • Harpies play a major role in the first episode of the fantasy softcore Hentai The Elven Bride, in which the protagonist attempts to capture a traditional monstrous harpy in order to farm it for its secretions, which are rumored to be the "ultimate lubricant" that would enable him to consummate his marriage to the titular elf (the initial attempt at doing this failed due to the bride possessing an unusually small receptor). However, the attempt leads to him being abducted by the harpy's mother... A Cute Monster Girl called a Harpian.
  • The Mass-produced Evangelions in The End of Evangelion have picked up the Fan Nickname of "harpies" because of their wings, monstrous appearance, and vulture-like behavior.
  • Harpus from Bakugan.
  • A (good-looking) harpy named Monet has recently appeared as an enemy in One Piece.
    • She was seen looking like a regular human woman in flashbacks, so while it hasn't been directly confirmed, it all but seems that she really is a normal human who just had her arms exchanged with wings and legs with talons thanks to, er, magical surgery done by one of her (supposed) allies.
  • Papi from Daily Life with Monster Girl, and her fantasy expys, Aero of Deadline Summonner and a different Aero of 12 Beast.
    • 12 Beast also has several harpies as part of Eita's mercenary army.
  • Kyouka from Fairy Tail channels this although she's actually a demon.

    Art 
  • Francisco De Goya: All will fall in his Los Caprichos series shows a group of winged males circle around a half-woman, half harpy. Down below the fallen males are plucked by a group of women, thus providing Book Ends in how both sexes prey upon each other.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • Jason and the Argonauts - in both versions, true to the original myth, they taunt the blind prophet Phineus. Every day on his island, a huge banquet is laid out but the harpies take the food every day. There are only two instead of the traditional three. In the Harryhausen film they are caught in a net by the Argonauts and locked in a cage while Phineus now eats the food in front of them. In the Hallmark film they are killed when the bricks from their temple crush them.
  • They appear as monsters in the movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • They show up in Clash of the Titans (2006) as the flying, devilish minions of Hades. Although they don't resemble bird-women at all, they do serve the purpose of snatching people up and pulling them into the Underworld.
  • The film The Last Unicorn contains a harpy that looks less like a harpy and more like a ugly, eared and toothed vulture with 3 disgusting breasts that are way too detailed for a film that is supposedly kid friendly. It was captured by a old hag and the unicorn sets it free. It then reveals itself to be just as evil and nasty as most harpies, when it attacks the unicorn. Oddly enough, it speaks with a male sounding voice despite being female.

    Heraldry 
  • The "Great Arms" of the Imperial City of Nuremberg originally depicted an eagle with a king's head; over the decades this was Flanderized into a harpy.

    Literature 
  • Celaeno first appears alongside her fellow harpies in The Aeneid, where she prophesies that before Aeneas and his men find their home, they will become so hungry that they will eat their tables.
  • The Black Jewels trilogy includes them as the new forms of dead women who were killed violently by men.
  • Dante's The Divine Comedy puts them in hell, specifically the area inhabited by people who have committed suicide.
  • A rare heroic (and gorgeous) harpy, Chewppa, is the lead female protagonist of Book 5 of Grey Hawk Adventures novels.
  • While there's no evidence of the existence of actual harpies in the Harry Potter universe (the veela are the closest thing to them), there is a Quidditch team called the Holyhead Harpies, that's made up entirely of women.
  • In His Dark Materials, harpies guard the underworld. They were told by the Authority to feed off the misery of the dead by taunting them with whatever they did wrong in life. One harpy betrayed evil by helping Lyra and Will cut open a portal for the dead to escape. As thanks, Lyra gave her a name - Gracious Wings.
  • The Last Unicorn includes the harpy Celaeno.
  • They make an appearance in a Dream Sequence in Last Exit To Brooklyn.
  • They appear in Ronja the Robber's Daughter, possibly with a different name.
  • The Secret of Platform 13 has them as the Island's Good Is Not Nice police force. Eventually, a team is dispatched to rescue the prince when the less nightmarish team of rescuers seem to be failing.
  • Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing has male harpies, called "harpers", mainly as an excuse for a "Harper's Bazaar" pun.
  • The Solomon Kane story "Wings in the Night" has them pop up in Africa. They're called akaanas, and they like to eat people, and are notable for being the only time that Solomon Kane has gone berserk.
  • Xanth harpies are ugly old hags who attack via curses. The One-Gender Race and Gorgeous Gorgon aspects of them are played with, in that there are a few rare male harpies who are the good-looking ones; this is explicitly (not that kind of explicit, they're not that kind of book...usually) contrasted with the goblins, which in Xanth are mostly ugly males with a few beautiful females.
    • Also it becomes clear in one of the novels that young female harpies are actually very pretty; it's not until they grow up that they become ugly.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the harpy is the symbol of the fallen civilization of Old Ghis.
  • In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, harpies help keep curfew at Camp Half-Blood... by eating any camper stupid enough to break it.
    • In The Son of Neptune, they meet Ella, a harpy who remembers everything she reads and doesn't seem interested in eating the kids. Maybe Roman harpies are nicer than Greek ones.
  • From A Fantasy Attraction is Herbert, a scholarly harpy with magic glasses. No, really.

    Live Action TV 

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Harpies are from Greek Mythology, where they seem to be personifications of malevolent storm-winds that abduct people and spread pollution and filth. They were one of the obstacles faced by Jason and the Argonauts.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Harpies appear as a flying unit for Dark Elves and Hordes of Chaos in Warhammer. They are a One-Gender Race, winged female humanoid, group of scavengers and snatchers. The issue of beautiful vs ugly Harpies comes to a head since they are depicted as attractive but only from the belly up to the neck as a "parody of a woman's body".
  • Dungeons & Dragons has had harpies throughout the various editions, though their appearance has varied considerably. Similarly, their status as an Always Female One-Gender Race has fluctuated, from being always female and depending on parthenogenesis/crossbreeding with humanoid men/a combination of the two, to having males who are simply less common and/or expected to Stay in the Kitchen.
    • 2e Harpies are ugly, resembling nasty-looking crone-like women who have the lower bodies and wings of vultures, but with beautiful, enrapturing voices.
    • 3e Harpies were, similarly, ugly creatures who combined the worst aspects of crones and vultures and contrasted it with hypnotic voices. Indeed, the art for the 3.5 Harpy is probably even more hideous than the classical 2nd edition Harpy, if only due to the general Art Evolution.
    • 4e Harpies are... well, see the page image; they definately took a swing into the Gorgeous Gorgon territory for this edition, compared to that of previous editions. In the default Points Of Light setting, they are given an origin as the descendants of an evil Elf queen whose family misused magic to assume the form of birds in order to spy upon their tyrannized subjects. When their people revolted, the magic went haywire and trapped them as half-elf, half-bird beings.
  • Pathfinder Harpies aren't necessarily ugly, in fact their artwork tends to make them look fairly attractive, if inhuman, but they have absolutely no sense of hygiene (and powerful musk). They may not be bad to look at, but you can usually smell them coming a mile away. They are explicitly a One-Gender Race that must mate with humanoids to procreate... unfortunately, not only do they tend to be sadists, they usually eat their partners when they're done. In fact, it's mentioned in one sourcebook on Classical Monsters that in Harpy society, not eating the father of one's daughter is a shameful event, unless said male is strong enough that he's more worthwhile if kept alive.
    • Pathfinder also includes a Siren species, which are bird-women like their harpy cousins (a woman's head, the body of a giant eagle/hawk/owl), but more benevolent. For starters, they don't eat their lovers, and in fact have been known to commit suicide if their lovers are stolen away from or leave them.
  • The Harpie Lady monsters from Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • A very early issue from Games Workshop (now long discontinued) was a set of assemble-and-paint Harpie figures with the distinct faces and hairstyles of Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan and Edwina Currie.

    Theatre 
  • Ariel disguises himself as one in The Tempest to deliver a message.

    Video Games 
  • 15+ of the Castlevania games have harpies as an enemy.
  • God of War had these as easy to kill but annoying enemies. They are typically seen scavenging off corpses and their behavior implies that they are not sentient. Also, like most female monster in this game, they have exposed breasts, but not very nice ones.
  • Guild Wars has harpies as an enemy type.
  • Harpuia from Mega Man Zero is based on this. His name is derived from the ancient Greek word for Harpy.
  • Harpies appear as enemies in the Might and Magic games.
  • The Warcraft world has Harpies as enemies both in the RTS and the MMORPG.
  • Legend of Mana harpies are bird-women who cause naval disasters with their singing. In one sub-quest, you bring one of the harpies that you befriend on board a ship, whose Hot-Blooded captain practically orders her to sing, and It's Up to You to keep the boat from sinking by attacking the monsters that spawn as a result of said singing.
  • Harpies are some of the standard Mooks in Titan Quest.
  • In Breath of Fire II, a group of three harpy sisters are the first Mini-Boss. They spend the second turn arguing and attacking each other and only attack Ryu (since they find him attractive...or something like that, it's hard to tell).
    • They want to eat him because he's more attractive than Bow.
  • In King's Quest V: Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder!, Graham is abducted by harpies, and has to play on a harp to distract them from eating him.
  • Golden Sun has the Harpy, Virago and Harridan monsters. Amusingly enough, all three terms can refer to a spiteful, shrill woman.
  • Terraria has harpies (sometimes spelled 'Harpeys') as a relatively common enemy on the heights where sky islands usually form.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has an enemy that appears in certain locations called a Hagraven. It is a highly aggressive and unpleasant half-woman / half-bird creature.
  • Stage 2 of Maldita Castilla is called "Road of the Harpies", that's all that you need to know.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings features harpies as enemies, especially down this one road where you encounter hordes and hordes of them, along with a variant called erynias. One Fetch Quest has you harvesting their feathers for a merchant who is essentially a member of the Furry Fandom.
  • Luna Online has harpies as mid-level enemies. You can also get a baby version of them as a pet in the expansion.
  • Harpies have been a recurring enemy type in the Tales Series from the very first game. It's not uncommon for them to have a singing attack that induces the Confuse or Charm status on your party members.
  • Monster Girl Quest has them of the Cute Monster Girl variety. They're actually among the nicest and least dangerous of monsters, and most of them live peacefully with humans.
  • In the first Shantae game, this is the last required transformation that the heroine could get. It grants her Video Game Flight and a short-ranged attack with her talons if she finds the necessary upgrade.
  • Harpies are an enemy in the Serious Sam games. Weak, but annoying, as usual. The game lampshades the use of breasts on a bird monster (they don't actually produce milk, they're just there to attract prey), and the liberal use of Nightmare Face makes it clear the series is rooted in the Fan Disservice side of the harpy lineage.
  • In Skullgirls, Eliza transforms into a harpy (actually the egyptian goddess Nekhbet) during her air throw. She also has a Blockbuster version of the attack.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • One of the collectable pets in Uni Creatures is a harpy, although they aren't evil due to being in an exaggerated Sugar Bowl.
  • A interesting variation where the maiden is half plane in Mind My Gap .

    Western Animation 


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