Nathan (vovat) wrote,

Roc This Town

In my ongoing quest to highlight the most interesting of mythological creatures, it was pretty much inevitable that I would sooner or later come to the roc (also sometimes spelled "rukh"), that giant bird of prey. And when I say "giant," I don't just mean run-of-the-mill enormity. I mean a bird with legs the size of tree trunks, that can pick up full-grown elephants and rhinoceroses in order to eat them. Marco Polo mentions rocs in his own writings, but they're probably better known from their appearances in the 1001 Nights. When Sinbad the Sailor was marooned on an island where a roc nested, he had to use his family-friendly comedy routine to escape. No, he actually hitches a ride to another island on the roc's leg. On a later voyage, his crew disobeys Sinbad's orders and kills a baby roc, only to be bombarded with rocks by the parents. (Sinbad seemed to lose an entire crew on pretty much every voyage. Compared to him, Captain Kirk's track record was pretty good.) And if you're like me, you remember when Popeye fought Sinbad and cooked a roc in a volcano.

And since I try to take pretty much everything back to Oz, I feel obligated to mention that, in Captain Salt in Oz, the titular character tells his cabin boy of his desire to be a roc collector. He's heard that the birds nest on Rock Island (no, not the one in Illinois, but the one in the Nonestic Ocean, shown on the Oz Club's map to be some distance south of Peakenspire), and hopes to find a way to preserve a roc's egg and get it to the Emerald City. If it were to hatch, even a newborn roc chick (no, not the Debbie Harry variety; that's spelled differently) would be powerful enough to carry off his entire ship.

One fantasy series that makes extensive use of rocs is Piers Anthony's Xanth, probably largely because of how many puns you can make out of the word. (Hey, I've made at least three of them so far in this very post.) What with his tendency to come up with odd cross-breeds, I'm surprised we haven't yet seen him mention a Crocodile Roc or a Roc Lobster, but maybe they're coming in future books. Xanthian rocs actually don't seem to be anywhere near as large as the varieties that Sinbad and Samuel Salt were familiar with. I seem to recall one book suggesting that they were about the size of elephants, while the traditional roc was much bigger than that.

Anyway, roc on, everybody. And happy birthday to jenhime!
Tags: monsters, mythology, oz, xanth

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