Hybrid creatures are among the most commonly used in fantasy but the most well known is that of the Centaur, the creature who is half-man/half-horse.
Where It Started
In Greek mythology the were called the Kentauroi and were believed to be savage tribal beasts that inhabit the mountains of Thessaly. They are seen as the worshipers of Dionysus and were often seen drunk and trying to rape human women. Originally depicted as savage beasts that would carry away women and children, they are much different today. The centaur of today’s fantasy is more based upon the centaur Chiron who was the mentor of Achilles.
The Chiron Mentor Archetype
Chiron seems to be the only Centaur from the Greek Myths that was actually immortal, since he was the son of Kronos and half-brother to Zeus. Because of this, he was able to inherit the wisdom and civility that the later Centaurs did not and was trusted by the heroes to be trained. He embodies the archetype of the mythical mentor for the fact that he is an immortal. Unfortunately he was killed by his pupil Heracles when hit with an arrow soaked in the blood of the Hydra (Which may be covered later.) Much like Chiron, those of the mythical mentor archetype meet an untimely death either by the hand of a pupil or in consequence of their indirect action. Either way the death of a character of this archetype will tug at the heartstrings of your readers, especially if they connect with him as well.
The Modern Depiction
Like I said before, the Centaur of today’s fantasy is much different than that of the past. Mainly because many are based upon the Chiron archetype and little of their original history is left intact.
For example in the Percy Jackson series, a YA Urban Fantasy series with a basis in Greek Mythology, Centaurs are used as mentors to the campers of Camp Half-Blood and includes Chiron himself among them (Played by Dennis Quiad).
Another example is the Centaurs of Harry Potter. They are intelligent, but are still considered tribal and are labeled as Beasts by the Ministry of Magic, but to be honest with you I don’t think I can trust the Ministry anyway. 😉 They are still able to use magic like those in the mythology but are considered a completely different species rather than them be born as hybrids. By keeping with the Chiron archetype, the character of Firenze is different than the other Centaurs because he wants to become a teacher in Divination for Hogwarts.
In the Chronicles of Narnia, the Centaur is a warrior in all cases, but they are also stargazers and healers.
What They Can Do
In many worlds of Fantasy, the Centaur is a magic user, and commonly an archer as well. The latter may be a reference to the constellation of Sagittarius, AKA The Archer, which is meant to be connected to the story of Chiron and his death. With magic, they are normally gifted with the ability of divination by use of the stars. Although there have been cases of healing abilities used as well.
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