The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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Some of the creatures that we read about in the books of the old travellers are quite easy to believe in, for, after all, they are not very unlike the birds and beasts that are to be seen to-day in different parts of the world. The Phoenix, though bigger, was not more beautiful than the tiny humming birds that dart through tropical forests, nor more splendid than the noisy macaws, and we can picture it to ourselves without any difiiculty. But nobody now will ever go in search of the gourd that grows on a tree, and contains a little flesh-and-blood lamb; or expect, in travelling through Scotland, to find a Barnacle-Goose tree, with ducks instead of fruit, as a very clever gentle­man who later became Pope did about four hundred and fifty years ago!
To us, who can look at a giraffe or a rhinoceros any day we choose, there is nothing so particularly strange about a griffin, which had the body of a lion, and the wings and head of an eagle, and was as strong as ten lions, or a hundred eagles. ' He will carry,' we are told, ' flying to his nest, a great horse, or two oxen yoked together as they go at the plough, or a man in full armour. For he hath his talons (claws) so long and so large and great upon his feet, as though they were the horns of great oxen, so that men make cups of them to drink of: and of his ribs and wing-feathers they make a very strong bow, to shoot with arrows and querrels.' A ' querrel,' it is needful to explain, was a bolt shot from a crossbow.
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