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Our Gryphons Are Different
Fearsome, majestic, and...wait, what's #5 called again?!
Image by TastesLikeAnya. Used with permission.

Pinkie Pie: What's a griffon?
Rainbow Dash: She's half eagle, half lion.
Gilda: And AAAAAALL awesome!

Our Monsters Are Different, dealing with bird/mammal hybrids.

While not as popular as Dragons or Unicorns, Gryphons, also known as Griffins or Griffons, with Alces and Keythongs being archaic alternatives, are still prominent beasts in modern fantasy.

The oldest gryphon myths come from the Egyptian Mythology and ancient Sumer. Later, they were picked up by Greek Mythology, and afterward used in Heraldry. They became a symbol of Christianity thanks to being a mixture of two majestic creatures that Christians back then saw as the "kings" of animals. After that, they went into literature, but their popularity would be low until the 1990's.

Gryphons are fairly more consistent in their portrayal in modern media; almost invariably they are portrayed as guardians of sorts, mostly of treasures, or as winged steeds of sorts. If you are really prone to do some research you can see that their love for gold, their negative reaction towards horses, and their old conflict with vaguely cyclopean races are in fact drawn from myth, but don't expect them to be very prominent. All in all, gryphons seem to have three main body plans:

  • The Classical Gryphon, or Griffin, which is portrayed as a Mix And Match critter with the body, back limbs and tail of a lion (often with a feather fan at the tip), the wings, head, and front legs from a bird of prey and big ears that may or may not be based on the "ears" of eagle owls.
  • The Opinicus, a slight variation with has the front legs of a lion, rendering only the wings and head (and sometimes they even don't have the wings) as being bird like; don't expect ears to show up. It may or may not have a snake's tail.
  • The Hippogriff, which resembles a gryphon with the body and back limbs of a horse instead of a lion, was made newly popular by J. K. Rowling—but was otherwise already well established in Renaissance lore due to its use in Ludovico Ariosto's epic Orlando Furioso. It seems originally to have been meant as an extravagant joke, since "to breed gryphons with horses" was used as a metaphor for an impossible task (since gryphons ate horse). This meant its appearance was sort of a variant of Cue the Flying Pigs. Nowadays, though, it's become synonymous with certain teenage wizards. Other ungulates might be used instead of horses.

The Marigryph or "Mergryph", a Heraldic creature that is essentially a Classical Gryphon with a mermaid tail instead of a lion tail and sometimes other underwater features, has faded into obscurity — except in Neopets, of all places. Sometimes other mythological winged bird/mammal hybrids are referred as "gryphons"; the most Sadly Mythtaken case must be the Peryton.

May overlap with Giant Flyer should the gryphon have wings. The wingless opinicus never flies, being seemingly not as magical as eastern dragons. In contrast to their formerly benign religious symbolism, an example being the Gryphon in Dante's Divine Comedy, which represents the mingling of the human and divine natures in Christ, modern gryphons often appear as dark if not demonic, though they might still be good; or they may be light-themed but evil. They are sometimes used as flying steeds. If gryphons are used as part of the Furry Fandom, one may then expect a Winged Humanoid to be present.

See also Call a Pegasus a "Hippogriff" and Hold Your Hippogriffs.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon has Gryphomon, a truly awesome-looking Mega-level Phantom Beast Digimon who has sadly only made brief appearances thus far. He's the version that has a snake for its tail. However, it's the front end of the snake, meaning his tail should be just as capable of killing you (assuming it's poisonous) as his front end. There's also a hippogryph Digimon. All There in the Manual says he's Gryphomon's previous form, but in the actual show, he was a disguise for a bad guy.

    Films — Animated 
  • Quest for Camelot has a particularly weird gryphon (voiced by Bronson Pinchot of Perfect Strangers fame). While following the classical griffin design, said body design is pretty much distorted: the bird front quarters are proportionally much larger than the lion hindquarters, while the head is the not particularly eagle-like, except for the beak, which resembles more that of a vulture. Overall, his pathetic appearance reflects his status on the story as a Butt Monkey, being continually beaten by a falcon ten times smaller than him and by his boss, to whom he is loyal though sadly very incompetent at doing his job. Finally he is burned, presumably to death, by Siamese twin dragons, and on top of that he is considered The Scrappy by the fans. Alas, Poor Scrappy indeed.
  • In Fantasia 2000, a gryphon can be seen among the various mythical creatures (the others being a dragon and a unicorn) that were mocking the animals as they were boarding Noah's Ark , and presumably drowned in the flood.
  • At the end of DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, the villain Merlock transforms into a gryphon as part of his One-Winged Angel act.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Buckbeak/Witherwings, of course. Perhaps currently the most famous example of an hippogriff-style gryphon. More "traditional" griffins also exist in the Potterverse, but as part of the background lore.
  • In the Star Trek Novel Verse, the Kinshaya race are essentially griffins, being mammals with four legs and a pair of wings sprouting from their back. They are too heavy to fly, though- in modern Kinshaya, the wings are used for display purposes instead.
  • Alice in Wonderland has a classical gryphon, which is about as much of a help as the mock turtle. He only appears rarely in the movie versions, being no help to Alice opposite Cary Grant in 1933. In the 2010 movie it is implied he once fought against the Jabberwock, as a picture of him fighting the monster appears in a mural.
    • Both the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle do appear in a commercial promoting the Disney film, however.
  • The Firebringer Trilogy has gryphons that prey on unicorn colts, probably a reference to the mythical horse-eating gryphons.
  • Frank Stockton, the author of the well-known story The Lady or the Tiger wrote another popular story entitled The Griffin and the Minor Canon. Stockton's Griffin is, from its description, quite obviously meant to be a dragon.
  • In The Spiderwick Chronicles there is a gryphon called Byron. In the original books his design is actually quite original, as while following the classical griffin design his beak has teeth/teeth-like serrations and his ears are actually similar to those of a lion. The movie had him as a typical griffin however.
  • Keladry from the Tortall Universe raises a baby Opinicus-type griffin until his parents are found, getting savaged often in a subversion of Pet Baby, Wild Animal. Griffins there are intelligent, if hard to communicate with and not quite on the level of humans and some other immortals. They're also Living Lie Detectors - it's physically impossible to lie when they are near - whose feathers have related properties such as seeing through illusions and making arrows fly truer. Griffins can sense if someone has handled their young, and will kill whoever that is unless, as with Kel, there's a translator there to explain. And there are also hurroks (horse-hawks), which like griffins are magical immortals, but decidedly nastier and more animal.
  • In the Diana Wynne Jones novel Dark Lord of Derkholm and its sequel, Year of the Griffon, feature a mixed human and griffon family, the result of a wizard who created intelligent griffons by mixing lion, eagle, (and later, cat) germ plasm with his own and his wife's and raising the hybrid kids alongside his own.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey, gryphons are highly intelligent beings who were some of the earliest magic users of the world. In-world, they're considered to be extreme hedonists — though by our standards, this applies to most of the humans as well.
  • Like all Speakers in The Dragon Wars Saga, gryphons come in various types depending on affinity. Kimi has an ice affinity and is half arctic eagle, half snow leopard.
  • The Ursula K. Le Guin short story "Darkness Box" features gryphons used as war animals, which are apparently immortal (or near to it) and which bond closely to their owners.
  • In the Hell's Gate series by Dave Weber and Linda Evans, griffins are barely controllable killing machines created by magical genetic engineering.
  • The Alice in Wonderland gryffin also appears in the Thursday Next books.
  • E.R. Eddison's fantasy novel Mistress of Mistresses, featured hippogriffs as part of an Impossible Task. (They also appear in The Worm Ouroboros.) He illustrated the book himself, and gave them horse heads, raptor wings and front legs, and lion rear halves. Not quite your classical hippogriff!
  • Edward Ormondroyd's David and the Phoenix features three different species, each with a slightly different spelling. The reader encounters the lazy, thick-headed gryffens and vicious, territorial gryffons; the amiable, red-feathered gryffins remain off-screen.
  • Griffons are used as artificial soldiers by the Gaian entity in Robert Reed's short story, Aeon's Child. The griffons have claws adapted to be compatible with high-powered laser rifles, and have beaks made of hyperfiber; a nearly indestructible compound. They are sentient (sort of)
  • In Imagine Someday, griffins are Proud Warrior Race Guys but have no magic powers to speak of.
  • In Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, Celia uses them as figures on the carousel. Once Widget and Poppet both wanted to ride one, and Celia had to tell of the Kitsune to get Poppet to ride the nine-tailed fox instead.
  • Rachel Neumeier's Griffin Mage Trilogy features griffins who are magical and fully intelligent — even if they mix with humans only very problematically.
  • In the short story "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" while the front half matches the usual type the wings have spikes on their joints and it has no hindquarters, having a snakelike tali that ends in a barbed tip that glows red hot when it's angry. It eats only at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes and feeds only on the brave and the good.
  • Bob and Sally, two just married griffins, appear in A Fantasy Attraction, as well as a murderous hippogriff.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Merlin has an opinicus, which acts pretty much as a one-time terror, eventually meeting its demise.
  • In the miniseries Merlin, Merlin and Arthur are attacked by creatures that Merlin calls "griffins". They look a little like monkeys with the patagia of a flying squirrel and the heads of hawks, and they act an awful, awful lot like the "raptors" in Jurassic Park.
  • Goldar from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is something of an odd example, as his leonine features include a muzzle. This, along with his fur colour and the shape of his forward fangs have lead some to assume he's a gorilla or wolf-man, but he is in fact an anthropomorphic griffin. This is backed up by his Zyuranger self being named Grifforzer.
    • In season two, the Yellow Ranger had a Griffin Zord (as a Western version of its Dairanger counterpart, a Kirin).
  • In Kamen Rider Wizard, Kamen Rider Beast has a Griffin familiar that seems to be the Classical style.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Europe really had very different gryphons.
  • It has been suggested that the myths of the gryphons are connected to the sphinx and the mesopotanian shedu and lammassu (which also influenced the origins of cherubs, other lion bodied creatures generally depicted with wings).

    Pinball 
  • Paragon prominently features a lion/eagle/lizard hybrid griffon on both its backglass and playfield.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has griffins as a creature type. They're usually white flying creatures, stronger than pegasi and some spirits but weaker than angels.
    • The plane of Innistrad has gryffs, which are like hippogriffs, but instead of a bird of prey, their head and wings are those of herons, and they appear slimmer and sleeker than most hippogriffs.
    • Scars of Mirrodin has Razor Hippogriff, currently the only true hippogriff in The Multiverse.
  • The current Emperor of The Empire (well obviously) in Warhammer can ride a gryphon into battle. (or a regular horse, or a dragon, depending on what you're willing to put together)
    • Normal Empire and High Elf Lord-class Generals have the option to have their generals ride on Griffons. Bretonnians may ride Hippogriffs. Griffons in Warhammer are a bot more varied than the traditional depiction - they've been portrayed with markings like leopards and tigers as well as lions.
    • One Imperial hero rides to battle on a wingless breed, called a Demigryph. Demigryph-riding knights are an Imperial unit choice as well.
  • While not actually a gryphon, the Winged Dragon of Ra from Yu-Gi-Oh! looks more like a griffin with teeth than a typical dragon. He's also light themed.
  • In Werewolf the Apocalypse, the Griffin spirit is the tribal totem of the Red Talons.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has long included the griffon and the hippogriff as part of its many, many monsters. In 2e, it also included the Hieracosphinx mentioned in the page image, which is here depicted as an Always Chaotic Evil variant of the sphinx that can be mistaken for a griffon quite easily, due to having an eagle's head and wings on a lion's body. It's an Always Male race that reproduces by raping the Always Female gynosphinxes.
    • Pathfinder includes griffon, hippogriff and hieracospinx, ultimately based on their D&D incarnations.

    Toys 
  • There has been some speculation surrounding the Transformers Beast Machines toy of Silverbolt, which ostensibly turns into a condor... a condor with plainly visible, not-hidden-in-the-least legs in front of its wings. The toy can be reconfigured into a griffin mode by turning these legs downward, and for all world, this makes it actually look like something. However, beyond the fact that this configuration looks a hundred times better than its "condor" mode, and that it's also something of a callback to Silverbolt's original form (a wolf-eagle hybrid), there is nothing official to suggest that this was the original intent of the designers, and the character appears as a condor in the animated series as well — although the cartoon was notorious for often disregarding what the toys looked like, so perhaps releasing the toy as a condor was a (failed) attempt to make it resemble its on-show counterpart.
    • 2013 brought Grimwing, a Predacon in the Transformers Prime toyline, who is an ursagryph, which is basically a classical gyphon with the lion swapped out for a bear. He never appeared on the show, but a Palette Swap named Darksteel was in the Predacons Rising finale movie (with his own limited toy release), and Budora is their counterpart in Transformers Go.

    Video Games 
  • World of Warcraft has both opinicus style gryphons and hippogriffs, the later with antlers. Whether these are meant as a reference to perytons or just a function of the Rule of Cool is unknown.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night introduces these as a boss, before Degraded Boss settles in... 50% into the game.
  • A alternate branch class of the Wyvern Rider sub-group in Fire Emblem Awakening, is the Griffin Rider, a Jack of All Stats armed with an Axe.
  • In the lore of Dragon Age, the Grey Wardens of old rode on Griffins. They all eventually died out by the present, though. Warden armor still carries a griffin crest in their honor.
  • In the second God of War, there's a sequence where you fight people riding griffins. This being God of War, you hop on the griffin's back, cut off its wings, and let it plummet to its death while you hop back on Pegasus.
    • And closer inspection of artwork and scenes suggests the creatures have a hooked blade at the end of their tail similar to a manticore.
    • Also there are the dark griffin riders, who ride black griffins wearing bronze masks.
  • In the first three Heroes of Might and Magic games, the griffins stood on their hind legs, while in IV and V, they go on all fours.
    • At least in the old setting (I-IV, and all the Might and Magic RPGs except for the upcoming X), while the recruitable creature is consistently called griffin across the games, variant spellings do appear when it comes to people actually in the setting referring to them — mainly gryphon (the Gryphonheart family was named that because they got to power by managing to tame Erathia's native griffins).
  • Griffons appear in Riviera: The Promised Land as demons, and in Yggdra Union and Blaze Union as mounts alongside horses and dragons. The latter two games have griffon-riding units as female-only, seeing as all the characters riding anything else happen to be male. In Yggdra Unison, the superior mobility of griffon riders during the daytime makes the only two of them in the game, Kylier and Emilia, Lightning Bruiser-style Game Breakers for as long as the sun is up and Mighty Glaciers at night; the other two Ancardia games give the class the Weaksauce Weakness of lacking terrain bonuses, making them far easier to pummel.
  • American McGee's Alice has the Gryphon, who is initially held captive by the Mad Hatter. Alice frees him, and he helps lead her force against the Red Queen's army. He is killed in an aerial duel with the Jabberwock, and his corpse is pretty much one of the only things that Alice can take cover behind in the ensuing boss fight.
  • The Angels from Darksiders ride angelic creatures called Ortho that look like armored white griffins.
  • One of the Skylanders is Sonic Boom, a mother Opinicus.
  • They show up a few times in the Suikoden games.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Hercules The Animated Series had two griffins. One was elderly and had the job of guarding the first diamond. The other was a talk show host and was voiced by... Merv Griffin.
  • According to Fu-Dog in American Dragon Jake Long, gryphons lay an egg only once every thousand years. Once the baby hatches, the mother actually SWALLOWS the baby, which lives in its digestive tract for a week or two before it's healthy enough for the mother to throw back up and live on its own. Of course, this all grosses out Jake.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002): Beast Man's control over wild creatures allows him to use whale-sized, twin tailed gryphons as his mounts.
  • Just what is Graer the gryphon from World Of Quest supposed to be anyway? Sure doesn't look gryphonesque.
    • He kinda looks like Magilla Gorilla with Anime-wings.
    • He's more or less a cartoony Opinicus. Has the beak, the wings, the tail, and the lion forelegs. His cartoony proportions just make it a bit less obvious.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a few, but since their native country is on a different hemisphere they're generally not very familiar to most of the pony citizens. Biologically, they're Classical Griffons without the "ears". No horse eating Griffons here, or at least not any more. Many fan works postulate that relations with Equestria were not always so cordial, and this has yet to be definitively Jossed.
    • "Griffon the Brush-off" has Rainbow Dash's friend from flight school, Gilda the Griffon. It turns out she's a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who has an aversion to all of the ponies except Rainbow Dash for being 'uncool', so at least at some level maintaining an aversion to horses. Or maybe she's just possessive, whho knows?
    • "MMMystery on the Friendship Express" included Gustave LeGrande. He is a baker with a thick French accent who comes off initially as a jerk, but then again so do his baking contest opponents. Strangely, he has a mustache on his beak.
  • The Daughter from Star Wars: The Clone Wars can turn into a gryphon.
  • In keeping with the plethora of Mix-and-Match Critters in the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe, one episode briefly featured a griffin (with what appears to be a griffon vulture's forequarters) that was used as one of the trained animals in a traveling circus.
  • The Lizard Crow from The Legend of Korra is a scavenger that can be seen scouring the city for scraps, especially around industrial and coastal areas.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends had Orson and his friends Separate Scene Storytelling themselves in their own version of Camelot called "Hamelot" where they must bypass a hungry talk show host griffin who was obviously a spoof on Merv Griffin.
  • A few episodes of Aladdin: The Series involved griffins. One episode had Aladdin and his friends try to return an egg stolen by Abis Mal to a rampaging mother griffin, another had the group encounter one of a bunch of mechanical monsters piloted by a grumpy insect, among them a mechanical griffin, while another had a clumsy thief transform himself into a griffin from the Stone of Transformation given to him by Mozenrath. This was an appalling move on his part since the claw of a griffin was needed to transform Jasmin's father back to normal after magic powder turned him into a golden statue. Although this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the transformed griffin had Frickin' Laser Beams.

    Real Life 
  • The dinosaur Hagryphus. The group that it belongs too, Oviraptorosauria, is in itself quite gryphon like, having bird of prey like beaks and powerful claws on both front and hind-limbs, and have long tails.
  • There's a theory that the legend of griffons was based on a misinterpretation of protoceratops fossils. There's no real evidence either way for this theory, but it's something to think about.
    • See below, though.
  • The logo for Sprecher Brewery of Wisconsin is a fairly standard gryphon, but the more cartoonish version (named Rooty) on their root beer has a huge beak and a vaguely monkey-like body.
  • Merv Griffin is naturally a very different griffin, being a person with that family name. The emblem for his company, Merv Griffin Enterprises, was a stained glass window of an Opinicus griffin with lion ears (and strangely, a single horse hoof). This emblem appeared after the closing credits for each Enterprises television show in the 1980s and 1990s, including Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!


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alternative title(s): Our Griffins Are Different; Our Griffons Are Different; Hippogriff
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