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Chimeras of birds and deer; rarely pleasant creatures.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Theriocephalus on Oct 10th 2018 at 9:57:44 AM
Last Edited By:
Theriocephalus on Oct 24th 2018 at 3:07:33 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Perytons are chimeric creatures that combine the features of deer and birds; they are usually depicted with the forequarters and head of a deer and the hindquarters and wings of a bird, but the ratio of cervine to avian can vary between portrayals — perytons may range from deer with Pegasus-like wings to giant birds with deer heads.

They are rarely pleasant company — they are often depicted as rapacious, dangerous carnivores, and are often actively malevolent or alien beings. They also tend to be associated with shadows: often, they cast human shadows instead of their own and only begin to cast a peryton-shaped shadow after they kill a human being.

Unlike many other fantasy creatures, perytons do not have any true mythological roots. Rather, they originate from Jorge Luis Borges' Book Of Imaginary Beings, where the author purports to have learned about them in a (fictitious) long-lost medieval document. Over time, perytons percolated into broader popular culture to join more ancient myths in Western civilization's roster of fantastic beasts and monsters.

Compare Pegasus, for another cross of birds and ungulates. Contrast The Marvelous Deer.

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    Fan Works 
  • Perytons show up from time to time in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction:
    • In The Sun, the Moon, and the Hunt, perytons are strange, immortal beings who cast no shadows until they take that of another creature in a coming-of-age ritual. In the ancient past, they were a powerful and arrogant people who cast their own shadows and lived in a vast forest to the south, and unlike all the other species cruelly rebuffed Luna and Celestia's offer of friendship. They possessed extremely powerful shadow magic until Luna burned their shadows away with moonlight in punishment for their humiliation of her sister, leaving them shadowless and forced to steal those of other beings.
    • In To Perytonia, the perytons live in a collection of city-states across the ocean west of Equestria that Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are sent as ambassadors to. Rather than being malicious monsters, they are a civilized people with a very rich culture and a complex religious system that Rainbow and Rarity often struggle to understand.
    • One fanmade map plotted on the outlines of real-life geography places a peryton nation on the northwestern shores of Africa. The description notes that, as flying carnivores, the perytons get along a lot better with the griffons than with their fellow ungulates.

  • Book Of Imaginary Beings: The Trope Maker; Jorge Luis Borges describes a medieval manuscript talking about the creatures, but both the source and the perytons are Borges' invention. According to the book, perytons originated in Atlantis and fled the island-nation's demise by flight, cast the shadow of a human being until they kill one, and were prophesized by a Sybil to someday cause the fall of Rome.
  • Fablehaven: Perytons with golden fur and poisonous antlers are among the creatures living in Wyrmroost, a Fantastic Nature Preserve home to creatures too powerful, dangerous or unruly for other preserves to house.
  • Forgotten Realms: In The Moonshae Trilogy, the Big Bad summons a flock of perytons — here described as enormous birds with deer skulls for heads and mouths full of fangs — to hound the protagonists.
  • My Little Pony: In the fourth book of the Ponyville Mysteries series, Peryton Panic, the Cutie Mark Crusaders track down a peryton described as an indistinct, shadowy deer-like creature with the wings of a bird, which was summoned by the Princesses to guard Nightmare Moon's helmet. As it is a creature of shadows, and actively shuns the light, it is never fully seen.
  • In The Unicorn Sonata, by Peter S. Beagle, perytons are cat-sized, fanged and winged deer that move in swarms and are the natural enemies of unicorns.
  • Whiskey And Water: A murderous peryton named Orfeo is one of the novel's main antagonists.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Perytons resemble enormous eagles with the heads of stags and the fangs of predators. They're Chaotic Evil as a rule, and are gluttonous eaters of hearts — especially human ones. There's a great deal of in-universe debate about the nature of their shadows — some believe that a peryton casts the shadow of the last creature whose heart it ate, in a reversion of how Borges had it, while others say that they always cast human shadows and yet others that they only cast their own shadow after killing a victim but before devouring it.
  • Palladium Fantasy: Perytons, also known as demon deer, are winged deer of mysterious origins that cast human shadows instead of their own. They are vicious predators and particularly enjoy hunting intelligent humanoids — one of their favorite tactics is to attack a ship in numbers and destroy its masts and sails, crippling the vessel and allowing them to pick off the sailors at their leisure — although they go after unicorns, pegasi and other beautiful and benevolent creatures as well.
  • Pathfinder: Perytons are evil, ferocious monsters with the wings and hind legs of birds, the front legs and antlers of stags and the heads of wolves. They are fond of eating humanoid flesh, especially hearts. They are also known for their extremely violent mating rituals, which usually result in the male peryton's demise.

    Video Games 

  • Skin Deep: Adelle Noir, a minor character, is a peryton resembling a roe deer with the wings and forelegs of a bird. Her son and husband are both white stags — cross-species couplings are not normally viable without the help of powerful magic, but their shared nature as primarily cervine creatures makes perytons and white stags close enough for it to work.


Feedback: 10 replies

Oct 10th 2018 at 9:58:38 AM

The Other Wiki lists several more examples in its own article on the subject, but I'm afraid I'm not familiar enough with the works of origin to draft good entires myself.

Oct 10th 2018 at 10:02:38 AM

Warcraft III's hippogryphs are closer to perytons, being raven/stag hybrids rather than a cross between a gryphon (itself a lion/eagle cross) and a horse. They're the Night Elves' anti-air melee unit and can mount archers on their backs.

Oct 10th 2018 at 3:04:44 PM

I've genuinely never heard of such a creature before. I look forward to seeing how this trope develops.

Oct 12th 2018 at 11:30:25 AM

I wanted to make this once but I thought it was too obscure. I've seen a lot of art involving perytons but rarely see it in works.

Oct 17th 2018 at 7:06:05 PM

Why isn't the trope just called "Peryton"?

Oct 20th 2018 at 4:48:38 PM

^ It was just "Perytons" at first, but I changed the title to reflect the fact that besides the "deer parts, bird parts, likely hostile" basis, perytons can and do vary a lot.

I mean, in terms of physical variety the examples include

  • "Classic" perytons with deer front halves and bird hind halves
  • The same, but with wolf heads
  • Winged deer
  • Winged deer, but cat-sized
  • Birds with deer heads
  • And other variations.

The exact proportions of avian and cervine, as well as the exact positions of each part, can be very different between works — the main things that stay stable are that both animal traits are present in some form, that the creature has wings, and that the head is a deer's or similar to a deer's.

Their thing with shadows varies, too — some cast human shadows until they kill a human, some cast human shadows after they kill a human, some cast human shadows period, some have normal shadows and some have outright shadow magic.

Oct 20th 2018 at 10:44:23 PM

I think the Spirit of Tuan pet in Mabinogi is supposed to be this?

Oct 20th 2018 at 10:52:32 PM

^ Hmm, maybe. The appearance is certainly there, but the description seems more in line with The Marvelous Deer... maybe it's an overlapping example?

Oct 23rd 2018 at 12:47:23 PM

Right, is there anything else that needs to be done here? Any problems that might get in the way of this being a viable trope?

Oct 24th 2018 at 3:02:54 PM

Okay, if there are no more thoughts incoming I'll send this up in a couple hours.