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Gargoyle

Grotesque, Gargoyle, or Gorgeous Fictional Hero?

If we walk gritty metropolitan streets when the moon is shrouded with insidious clouds and penumbrae loom oppressive and foreboding and hiding untold dangers in their depths, we walk with one hand on our cell phones and the other on our pepper spray. We keep our heads down, our eyes averted, and pretend to ignore any dangers in the darkness.

Gone are the days where people led simple lives. Where tradition and superstition governed their beliefs and behaviors. Where the setting sun brought out more than shadows, and supernatural forces both threatened and protected.

Our ancestors didn’t hide their eyes or rely on their own wits and fortitude. When peril presented itself, they looked up—to the gargoyle.

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The word “gargoyle” comes from the French word “gargouille” which means throat. Traditional gargoyles were decorative rainspouts that took water away from buildings, the runoff appearing to come from their throats and out their mouths.

There’s lore, though, that also lays claim to the derivation of the word. It holds that the term actually comes from the French legend, La Gargouille, who was a dragon that tormented the citizens of Rouen. He terrorized them for hundreds of years until Romanus, a Catholic priest, arrived and promised to vanquish the beast in exchange for the townspeople’s conversion to Christianity. He defeated the dragon through the power of his faith, and the villagers burned the creature at the stake. La Gargouille’s body was destroyed, but his head would not burn, so they cut it off and mounted it on their church as a warning to other monsters. (This is how gargoyles got the reputation of being protectors of the church and warriors against demons.)

Most gargoyles looked like hideous beasts. People came to think of them as the representation of evil outside of church, therefore inside the church, they would find salvation. An interesting twist to this concept is that the more fearsome a sculpture, the more pagans would relate to it. They found the images familiar and relatable, and therefore welcoming. Thus began their conversion to the church.

Today, “gargoyle” has come to mean any fearsome sculpture in the gothic tradition at the top of a building, including “grotesques” which are not functional, but are purely decorative. La Gargouille’s head was actually a grotesque, not a gargoyle, which shows that the term “gargoyle” became inclusive of all carvings fairly early. Furthermore, although the word is only a few centuries old, gargoyles actually date back several millennia. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all liked to adorn their monuments with fierce lion heads. The oldest known gargoyle is a 13,000-year-old crocodile head in Turkey.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was swept up in the Gothic revival of the 19th century. Dozens of churches, government buildings, and other Gothic-style structures were erected with gargoyles and grotesques on them, and the city still boasts more than twenty gargoyles and hundreds of grotesques, many of which can be seen in the city’s Downtown Dragons tour.

I hail from Western Pennsylvania. Maybe that’s why I have a fascination with Gothic architecture and the gargoyle/grotesque. It’s only natural this interest would eventually result in Love Set in Stone, a novel set in Pittsburgh featuring a gargoyle as a main character.


Description of Love Set in Stone:

A cold stone heart breaks more easily than it beats. Than it loves.

Damien was a loyal warrior, killed in battle in 1203. Because of his true heart, he was given the option to pass on to his eternal reward or exist in another state of being as a protector… until he could resume living the life he’d been cheated of. A soldier by nature, he chose the latter. And he waited centuries—as a gargoyle—growing increasingly bitter about his choice.

Then he sees her.

Rina is a hard worker and loyal friend. But she has the worst luck. One night, after saving her best friend from a violent assault, she finds herself at the attacker’s mercy. Then, out of nowhere, a savior comes and rescues her.

With only an angel to guide him, Damien must make the right choices to win Rina’s heart or be forever damned as a grotesque mockery of the guardian he once was.


Short Excerpt from Love Set in Stone:

He gasped but only succeeded in inhaling thick embers. “I hate it when you do that to me, Anael. What the hell?”

“Not what, Damien,” Anael said. “Where. It’s against the rules, but you needed to see.”

“Hell.”

“The first level.”

Damien choked on clouds of brimstone and looked around. Bodies hung on racks, some scourged by demonic creatures wielding whips of fire, others stretched until their limbs tore off only to reassemble and stretch again. Some souls were skinned and devoured, the torment cyclical, never-ending. Giant beasts with nine-inch claws and twelve-inch teeth tore people into bloody shreds. They gnawed on the bones of writhing beings, snarling and snapping at anything near them.

There was no blessed retreat into unconsciousness or death. This was their other side, their ever-after, their eternity. The tormented endured each torture, alert and unprotected. Impossibly hot gusts of wind howled through the cavern, tossing the departed from one horror to the next. And the maniacal screeches of the tormentors were only overpowered by the anguished wails of the damned.

“I’ve seen enough.” Damien’s words were barely intelligible through his coughing and wheezing.

“Are you certain? This is only the first level. The second level hosts souls feeding on their own entrails, or having a myriad of sexual violations forced upon them. Rape. Sodomy. Bestiality. And then there’s—”

Damien clutched Anael’s arm. “Enough!”

“Do you understand now?”

Damien looked up and howled, his throat burning, his voice mingling into the sounds of all the other lost souls, an agonizing dirge melodic only to Satan himself.

When he thought the devil’s name, the most sinister laugh echoed through the cavern, a shadow given voice and power. It sent chills down his burning spine. The demons cheered, their victims cowered, and Damien cringed, seeking escape that would only be denied him.

·•◊♦◊•·

I hope you enjoyed this brief history of gargoyles/grotesques, as well as the short snippet from my novel. I’d like to thank Melanie for opening her site to me today, and I’d like to thank all of you for taking the time to learn more about these misunderstood creatures and my take on them.

Website | Blog | Love Set in Stone Info Page |Universal Buy Link

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52 thoughts on “Gargoyle”

  1. Very interesting info on gargoyles, Staci. I love them, myself. A local craft mall has a pair sitting outside, each about 6 feet tall, and I would LOVE to acquire them for my garden, but the price is prohibitive. 🙂 I’ve downloaded Love Set in Stone, and am looking forward to reading it. (I have the others.) Off to check your other links. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I imagine a pair of six-foot stone creatures would be costly. Would be really cool to have them, though. Maybe you’ll hit the lottery…

      Thanks for downloading Love Set in Stone. I really appreciate it and would love to know what you think once you’ve read it.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I have every confidence I will. Can’t wait. (Today is the first day in nearly TWO weeks I’ve been alone, and able to sit at my computer and try to catch up with stuff, without a constant stream of interruptions. I’m going to do an update later and why I’ve still been MIA.) 😀 I’m ready for my own gargoyle to take me awaaaaaaaaaaay. 😀

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            1. If a gargoyle is going to whisk you away, you could do worse than Damien. LOL

              Glad you’re getting back to a regular schedule. Sometimes it seems like we’ll never get there, doesn’t it?

              Like

        1. I’m right there with you. I don’t think people use green enough, and it usually pops. I’m about to release a novel (different publisher, different series) and that cover is also primarily green. It’s also one of my favorite covers to date.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to offer my apologies for not being here last week when the post went live. I had to have surgery, and that’s when the doctor could fit me in.

    A huge thanks to all of you for your patience, to Melanie for hosting me, and to Mae for stepping in and replying to everyone.

    Like

  3. Great post, Staci! I love learning about the origins of mythic creatures beyond the typical Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley. Love the evolution of the gargoyle (okay, I love the dragon story 😀 ). There’s a great gargoyle character in Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series that’s very endearing. Cute, even.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved the pictures, the explanation (but gargouille has also another meaning than throat in French, gargouille is the sound your stomac can make when you’re hungry LOL), the excerpt… everything. And I love that each post is so unique!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting, thanks for sharing the history and lore behind gargoyles, especially about the dragon! I’ve once thought gargoyles look like a skinny (and more grotesque) version of dragons, and that legend explained why. While gargoyles are usually portrayed as evil creatures, like dragons I like to think of them as not evil by nature, just the individuals. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Nicole. Staci is offline this week so I thought I’d reply for her.
      I can see where gargoyles could be conceived as skinny dragons. There is definitely a connection and resemblance between the two. I think they got a raw deal being labeled evil– probably based partially on appearance. Staci introduced me to another side of gargoyles in Love Set in Stone. I love the modern spins authors put on archaic myths.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and commenting on the post!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Mae, thanks for replying on Staci’s behalf! I agree they could have been labelled evil partially because of appearance. It’s nice to see modern spins on archaic myths, though I’d like to think of gargoyles as protectors of a building of sorts. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Saw lots of gargoyles in Europe this summer. The most ever on the church of Notre Dame in Dijon in the old city. Turns out the many decorating the front of the church are not real (don’t serve as down spouts) but the ones on the sides of the church are.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Noelle, they must have been amazing. Strangely, the ones that actually serve as downspouts would be the ones that intrigue me the most. Thanks for sharing (I’m jealous of all the beasties you saw 🙂 )
      Staci is offline this week, but I know she would find this fascinating.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I found the legend about the dragon who terrorized Rouen fascinating. I wrote a bundle of short stories about gargoyles, so I find them intriguing. The depiction of Hell made Dante look nice. Can’t imagine the bottom level. But I’m rooting for Damien!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the Rouen legend, and although I don’t think there was an actual dragon beast, I bet there’s a lot of truth in the remainder of the history.
      Gargoyle short stories sound wonderful. Sometimes I forget about your urban fantasy side 🙂
      P.S…Staci is offline today, so you get me here instead!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I remember seeing an old movie about gargoyles when I was a kid, and I became instantly fascinated with them .Later, I discovered the legend associated with them and became even more intrigued.

    I’ve read Love Set it Stone and really enjoyed how the author wove the myth of these creatures into the plot!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love gargoyles, particularly the more complex renditions. In some versions they can only speak when water runs through their mouths, but they have a mind and will at all times. There was one story I read as a child where gargoyles gamboled about at night, careful to avoid the eyes of man, and careful to return to their station before dawn, lest they be discovered.
    I like the idea of gargoyles as creatures that have their own ways, their own concepts of justice, obligation, and fun. It’s really interesting when a story can engage characters who are, in their own way, good, but subscribe to very different values from our own.
    I think gargoyles as a main feature are tricky, since they are a little of a lot of things, but I do agree that the 90s cartoon did something unique, particularly when they decided that a gargoyle would only heal by turning to stone, but healed completely when they awoke again. The whole concept had that classic “stronger in some ways, but also more circumscribed by rules.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Adam, I’m intrigued by the idea they can only speak when water runs through their mouths. I’d never heard that before, but it already has my mind spinning story threads. 🙂

      Staci had something come upm and is offline this week, but I know she’d be fascinated by your take on these mythological creatures. Thanks for checking out her post!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. In some ways I like exploring the less explored magical creatures. While I love dragons and unicorns, they are very well established, while creatures like gargoyles have far more left for us to discover. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    1. HI, J.W. Thanks for checking out Staci’s post. Something came up and she is offline this week, so I thought I’d hop over and reply for her. Frequently, gargoyles are portrayed as evil creatures. I agree that it’s refreshing to see them cast as one of the good guys now and then. I read Love Set in Stone and enjoyed how Staci was able to take a creature (normally associated with darkness) and make it so compelling in a different light.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I had forgotten all about that cartoon until seeing it mentioned here.I liked the animation in that 🙂

      Thanks for checking out Staci’s post. I’m hopping on to reply for her since she is offline this week.

      Liked by 2 people

            1. I’m pretty old-school. I like the older stuff better than many the modern things. I’ll try to track it down. Maybe Netflix or YouTube… Who knows? It might be on Boomerang or something late at night.

              In any event, thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

              Like

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