The gryphon* is one of the most regal mythical creatures. In historical renditions it was usually shown with four legs, having the talons of an eagle in front with a lion’s paws and hindquarters in back. It also had a beak, feathered upright ears, and a lion’s tale. Gryphons often were winged, although in British heraldry they display spikes instead. A few traditions attribute wings to female gryphons only. Some writers described gryphons with a serpent’s tale.
Because the gryphon paired the strength of a lion with the majesty of an eagle, it became a powerful heraldic symbol.
A rampant golden gryphon adorns the surcoats of the guardians of Rivenn in my Tales of Faeraven trilogy. The gryphon is the widest-used creature in heraldry, and the rampant posture (upright and standing on one leg) the most popular. Gold represents faith, or obedience and gentility.
The gryphon became parent to the hippogryph, a creature that combined the hindquarters of a horse or goat with the forequarters, head, and wings of an eagle. Gryphons and hippogryphs were mortal enemies.
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*Other spellings include gryphen, griffen, griffon, and gryphin. A later (15th-Century) term for a male gryphon (with spikes instead of wings) was a keythong.