Since it’s near Christmas, let’s look at the world of fantastical reindeer.
This caribou man, opposite, was included in an AD&D manual as a decorative illustration. He wasn’t listed as a monster with his own stats, which was too bad. (He’s definitely Quebecois because of the hairy chest.) A homebrew gamer did decide to go ahead and tackle Rudolph, however.
Rudolph the Red by Pikeyfaux
I’m not sure why Rudolph’s alignment would vary so, unless he was up against opponents who didn’t believe in the spirit of Christmas, like Mr. Scrooge or The Grinch.
Is Santa on a crusade against evil here… or on a campaign to foment evil? It’s hard to say. Refer to his official AD&D entry.
Mostly, though, reindeer-human hybrids represent a more pagan Yuletide.
Shamen Shapeshifter, by Stephanie Lostimolo
Now, on to reindeer centaurs.
In Greek myth centaurs were horses with the torso of a man from the waist up situated where the horse’s neck and head would be. But fantasy artists have been playing with them for ages using different animals. Reindeer have taken their turn.
Combine this idea with Santa Claus, and you’ve got a winner.
The most sinister winter monster of all, however, is the Wendigo, which many artists represent as a skeletal being with the skull of a reindeer, or some other cervine, as its head. In some Native American cultures it’s a symbol of madness and cannibilism. It’s the dark side of the cheery sleigh-puller as Krampus is the dark side of Santa, and it celebrated as such.
The closely related ijiraq is a similar creature from Inuit lore that kidnaps children.
Reindeer by Tobiee
A peryton is a legendary creature depicted as a deer with the wings, feathers, and tail of a bird. It’s also a fake legendary creature. It was invented in 1957 by author Jorge Luis Borges in his Book of Imaginary Beings, supposedly from a long-lost Medieval manuscript. References to it have never turned up elsewhere. To make things more confusing, other beings mentioned in the book, like the kraken and phoenix, are “real.”
Since then, perytons have slowly eased their way into fantasy media, including the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons where they’re the least threatening monster ever, despite their penchant for eating human hearts.
This version of a peryton uses a reindeer and a bat instead of stag and bird.
A mer-reindeer, anyone?
Illustration by Margot Rogers
Or would you prefer a reindeer gryphon?
Ardea rangifer, by Kuroi-kisin on DeviantArt
Or a dragon reindeer?
Reindeer Monster, by Drawfluent
As terrible and powerful as all these reindeer creatures are, rest assured they are still below humans in the food chain.