Worldbuilding Wednesday 8/23/23: Centaurides (Narnia XLVIII)

 

Decorative medallion, 1770s

A centauride is the Greek term for a female centaur. Though only one was named in Greek myth, they were common motifs in ancient Greek and Roman art and have remained so up until the present day. Walt Disney even played a riff on them for Fantasia (1940); they were going to be bare-breasted like the one above, but the censors nixed that, so they got garlands or bikini tops made of flowers.

I love the 1930s Art Deco stylization of this sequence, which is set to Beethoven’s Pastoral, but narratively I cringe because it’s so sappy.

The candy-colored creatures, however, may have inspired the creations of two later fantasists, writers Piers Anthony and John Varley. Anthony used them as a template for the magical unicorns in his Apprentice Adept series, whose first book was published in 1980. Anthony’s unicorns can shapeshift between human and centaur versions of themselves and are as crazily-colored as Disney’s version. Plus, their horns emit the sounds of different musical instruments through which they communicate. But Anthony was beaten to the punch by John Varley, who came out with a similar creation, the Titanides, who were published a year earlier in his SF novel Titan. Did the latter steal from the former? Or the former, the latter? Or did they both drink from the same source?

Wraparound jacket from John Varley’s Wizard, the second of his Gaea trilogy.

Varley’s Titanides are the creations of Gaea, a living orbital ring space habitat in the vicinity of Saturn. They all look like sensual, multicolored female centaurs and are gendered only by the human organs growing out of their human torsos; their horse parts are hermaphroditic. Titanides also communicate in song and have a unique reproductive system because of their three sets of genitals, the various combinations referred to by the names of chords. (The author helpfully includes a chart of them in the back of the book.) They come across as “improved” versions of human beings because they are stronger, smarter, braver, purer, and don’t need to sleep; in keeping with the time the book was written (the 1970s) they are enthusiastic proponents of recreational sex and polyamory so they don’t fall victim to nasty human jealousies, which, in the ethos of the decade, makes them morally superior.

The Titanides show their silly side. Line drawing by Connor Freff Cochran.

Neither book is discussed much today, which is a shame. But on the other hand, there are thousands of artists creating their own centaurides on sites such as Deviantart.com. The one below is based off an antelope or gazelle.

Artwork by Skeptic Archer

No female centaurs were mentioned by Lewis in the Chronicles, but at least one was depicted in the movies.

She’s a little… off-putting, I guess? The rustic clothing and braided hairstyle doesn’t fit in with the Greco-Roman aspect of Narnia’s inhabitants. It looks like something from the Viking Age, save for that crocodile leather armor. But, more on the awkwardness of the movie centaurs later.

Here’s a bunch of names that would be appropriate for centaurides who are named in the Greek style. They were culled from lists of actual names of Greek deities, historical personages, and demigods. (Note: The Charities are demigodesses in the same vein as the Muses or Graces.)

 

Some Greek Names for Narnian Female Centaurs

Aella (Amazon)

Agnodice (Historical woman)

Arktos (Goddess of the night sky)

Aspasia (Historical woman)

Bremusa (Amazon)

Calleis (Beauty – a Charity)

Cheimon (Winter goddess)

Cleta (Glorious- a Charity)

Dysis (Sunset goddess)

Eiar (Spring goddess)

Epione (Goddess of soothing a sick one’s pain)

Erada (Goddess of crossroads)

Hesperis (Evening goddess)

Hydna (Historical woman)

Hypatia (Historical woman)

Iaso (Goddess of healing)

Mesembria (Noon goddess)

Myrina (Amazon)

Orithyia (Amazon)

Paidia (Play and amusement – a Charity)

Pandaisia (Banquet – a Charity)

Phaenna (Shining – a Charity)

Philaenis (Historical woman)

Pthinoporon (Autumn goddess)

Telesilla (Historical woman)

Thargelia (Historical woman)

Theros (Summer goddess)

 

1 ping

  1. […] Cloudbirth, Roonwit, and Oreius. Oreius was Greek-inspired; I went into Greek centaur names here and […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.