A monster is yanked from the Wellworld – illustration by Patrice Aggs
When historians write about Lyonesse, they are inclined to concentrate on the exotic monstrosities that rise from the land’s bottomless Wells. The original animals of the Land were curious in their own way. Their descendants can be seen in the cave paintings of Lascaux and Les Eyzies, in France.
Direwolves,similar to the modern wolf, but the size of a moderate ox.
Longtooth cats, later vulgarized under the name of sabretooth tigers. These were about the size of a modern domestic cat, but had enormous teeth, designed for rending.
Foxes and badgers – similar to those found in Europe now, but bigger. The foxes were rather stupider than our modern foxes. The badgers, however, grew to enormous size and had the power of transmitting thought. In some corners of the kingdom, this enabled them to run informal parliaments of animals, able to call temporary truces in which (for instance) foxes and meece could live side by side without eating or being eaten.
None of the wild animals could be trained. Among the tameable animals here were dogs, bred for obedience from carefully selected direwolves, and stints, small weasel-like creatures kept in houses to control pests like meece and rainbees. Animals were kept so they could be useful to humans and each other. The principal beast of burden was the aurochs, which was like a modern cow, with one important difference: Alph Hakestall, the loftiest man ever seen, could walk under an aurochs’ belly without ducking his head. Aurochs were milked, and drew heavy carts. There were also sheep and ponies, which did the things sheep and ponies have done since time began.
A curiosity was the ancient Lyonesse tradition of sealherding. The Sealherds were a tribe that specialised in travelling the rookeries of the Outer Banks when the grey seals came ashore to have their babies. They milked the mother seals, only a little, so as not to deprive their babies, and saved the milk, which they made into cheese, heavy, pungent, golden.
Finally, there were small animals – meece, raa, frits. Meece were like mice. Raa were bigger, with orange teeth like chisels, and were a major pest, ravaging and destroying granaries. It was often said that the only useful thing the monsters did was to eat the raa. No monster ever ate a frit. The frits smelled too bad even for monsters. They lived in colonies known as frit tumps. Nobody went near them, so little is known about them.