When I was compiling the Dreamlands Express itinerary I thought about the fauna and flora of the Dreamlands and added it to the views from the train by way of local colour.
The fauna included Dreamlands fauna like magah birds, at least one animal of my own invention (from a dream in fact), and a smattering of real animals, mainly African. After all there are elephants and peacocks, yaks and zebras in the Dreamlands, so there must be a few other exotics tucked away. This had an unexpected side-effect. Just before Mark play-tested the Dreamlands Express scenario I found him leafing through the Dreamlands bestiary looking for quagga and okapi. I hadn’t realized it was possible to mistake these real world animals for dream beasts, but I guess their names do look kind of made up.
The okapi, a pleasingly defined “giraffid artiodactyl mammal”, is fortunately still with us:The quagga, alas, is not.
A South African sub-species of zebra, it was hunted to extinction in the wild. The last quagga died in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883. I included the quagga in the Sona-Nyl description because one of the few things we now know about the quagga – the sound of its cry – was described in a poem. As Robert Silverberg notes dryly in The Dodo, The Auk and the Oryx, it is not a good poem, but it gives us today this one useful fact. I thought that any animal immortalized in poetry should have a chance to live on in Sona-Nyl, the Land of Fancy.The other important Dreamlands animal is of course the cat. Lovecraft loved cats and the Dreamlands was one of the few areas of his fancy where he could give this affection full play. I had great fun with a cat sub-plot on the Dreamlands Express, where cats have their own compartment and are treated as full passengers. If the dreamers ask about this, they are given reasons taken straight from Lovecraft’s DreamQuest and The Cats of Ulthar: For the cat is cryptic and close to strange things that men cannot see; for the Sphinx is his cousin and he speaks her language; but he is more ancient than the Sphinx and remembers that which she hath forgotten.
So in closing, here are some cats of Istanbul. Remember, they are looking out for you in their dreams.
11 responses to “The Dreamlands Express II – The Bestiary of Dreams”
A few things:
Isn’t the top hatted explorer on the cover of the box set of the Dreamlands (an image I prefer to the ship) riding a Quagga?
Okapi are not real. At least i don’t think so. It’s a Moreau construct. Surely.
…and shouldnt someone tell the cat in the first picture that his house is on fire?
laughed out loud at Steff’s parting words 😉
It sounded like a goat sounding like a human doing an impression of a goat mimicking a Quagga.
You’re right, first edition Dreamlands has a marvelous cover from Tom Sullivan. The sartorial dreamer depicted is riding a zebra, as it has stripes all the way down. Generally zebra riding is frowned upon, except in dreams, although it hasn’t stopped the fellow in the article below.
I love this.
But I am sad the description of the quagga’s cry is not quoted. I am desperately curious!
From “Afar in the Desert” by Thomas Pringle (1789–1834):
And the timorous quagga’s shrill-whistling neigh
Is heard by the fountain at twilight gray;
hm. maybe, but I guess if the sky was purple that need he’d have said it made the sound ‘burple’.
And: Why is my name akismet-(random number)? We may never know.
Although “Akismet” is not a bad name for a dreamland creature!
“Mr Tibbles always loved curling up to the fire. Until it turned to summer and Mr Tibbles found he had to start a few fires of his own to get comfy.”
Just saw a quagga yesterday – a naturalized one in the Galerie des espèces disparues in the Paris Natural History Museum. Incidentally, this quagga was part of King Louis XVI Ménagerie in Versailles, so it might have met this German aristocrat, Count F.
I am so glad you found one Tristan. Alas that it is long gone (although I hear they are trying to breed zebras with the right DNA to recreate them). Thanks for sharing!