Căpcăun, or Ogres

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alex_greene
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Căpcăun, or Ogres

Postby alex_greene » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:00 pm

Some myths of dog-headed ogres are sourced from Romanian mythology and lore, and this article here describes them.

“The explanation is psychological in nature: namely the fear of the steppes. I don’t know how many people know the actual meaning of the word “căpcăun” that is ogre in English. An “ogre” is a frightening character of Romanian fairy tales and of the folk subconscious. Well this “ogre” is no one else but the great khan, the Kap-Kan. The khan embodies the fear of the steppe. Indeed, the encounters of the Romanians with the Khans, the Tartars, the Mongolians, the Cumans and pretty much all the tribes coming from the east, were not among the most pleasant experiences. The fact that the official history plays down the role of the Cumans in Romania’s history is the reaction of the academia to this involuntary fear.”
- Virgil Ciocaltan, Nicolae Iorga Institute of History, Bucharest

""Marco Polo saw such a tribe, which he called 'the chinocefalilor' and mentioned that their faces were like the bulldog dogs. They used to cut their cheeks, their teeth pilească, ciuntească their ears and heads to reshape since [they are] small children."

And a definition of the word “căpcăun”:-

"ogre (ogres), sm - 1. Popular fantasy monster imagined to have the dog's head, sometimes with one eye in the head or with four feet, whose main characteristic is cannibalism. - 2. Nickname for the Turks and Tatars, pagan. - 3. Cannibalistic, cruel man. - Var. cătcăun, capcîn (s), hapcîn."

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Why am I bringing this up? A close friend of mine is researching Eastern European history extensively as part of her efforts to produce, write and direct a movie based on J Sheridan LeFanu's lesbian vampire novel Carmilla, and this is part of what she has come up with.

And why am I personally bringing this up now? Let's just say that something I am working on may, or may not, include ogres - in some form or another. Whether they will be dog-headed or Gloranthan humanoids indistinguishable from regular folks ... well, just wait and see.
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DamonJynx
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Re: Căpcăun, or Ogres

Postby DamonJynx » Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:05 am

You have ...interesting friends...
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Olaus Petrus
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Re: Căpcăun, or Ogres

Postby Olaus Petrus » Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:54 am

Ogre seems rather odd translation, because outside fantasy literature ogres exist mostly in Arthurian myths or in German fairy tales. Those "ogres" seem more like cynocephaly, a race of dogheaded men, whose legend is known all around the Europe and who according to medieval writers lived somewhere in Asia, for example Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (first Papal legate who visited in Mongolia) mentions them in his book and tells that Mongols had encountered them.

They are fine fantasy monsters and I have used them in my campaigns occasionally, but I consider them more as beastmen than as ogres.

PS: Those pics seem to be historical pictures of cynocephaly rather than ogres.
Last edited by Olaus Petrus on Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Matt_H
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Re: Căpcăun, or Ogres

Postby Matt_H » Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:47 am

I am inclined to agree with Olaus.
But are not the origins of such creatures found in the legends concerning Alexander the great?
Pre-dating Arthurian myth and German folklore they first appeared in text in Greek (as the word cynocephaly indicates) in the 3rd century, and slightly later contemporary versions in Arabic, Hebrew and Persian.

also:

5th Century BC - Ctesias the Greek physician remarks on them in India which was later corroborated by Megasthenes who saw dog men living in the mountains of India.
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Olaus Petrus
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Re: Căpcăun, or Ogres

Postby Olaus Petrus » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:09 am

Matt_H wrote:I am inclined to agree with Olaus.
But are not the origins of such creatures found in the legends concerning Alexander the great?
Pre-dating Arthurian myth and German folklore they first appeared in text in Greek (as the word cynocephaly indicates) in the 3rd century, and slightly later contemporary versions in Arabic, Hebrew and Persian.

also:

5th Century BC - Ctesias the Greek physician remarks on them in India which was later corroborated by Megasthenes who saw dog men living in the mountains of India.
I meant that Ogres exist mostly in Arthurian myths (as inhabitants of the realm of Logres) and German fairy tales (where they are child eating monster giants). And I edited my first post to make it more clear.

Indeed Cynocephaly exist in ancient Greek stories. They also exist in Celtic (there's a Welsh story about King Arthur's men fighting against them), Germanic and Finnish stories, just to mention few examples. I'm most familiar with medieval Christian stories about them, although I have seen some ancient references too, which is why I mentioned that they are quite universal monsters.
Matt_H
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Re: Căpcăun, or Ogres

Postby Matt_H » Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:13 pm

alex_greene wrote:
""Marco Polo saw such a tribe, which he called 'the chinocefalilor' and mentioned that their faces were like the bulldog dogs. They used to cut their cheeks, their teeth pilească, ciuntească their ears and heads to reshape since [they are] small children."
I was interested as to what the untranslated words meant, so I asked a Romanian friend to look at the original Marco Polo text.
So, the members of the tribe are named "chinocefali". The word you used, "chinocefalilor", is an articulated form of the word.

"Ciunteasca" is coming from "a ciunti", which is sort of "to snip" (or "to curtail") and refering to ears, they say the chinocefali used to snip their ears to look like dogs ears.
The other word, "pileasca", is - again - coming from "a pili" and it means "to file" or "to rasp". Again, they used to do this with their teeth to look like dogs teeth.

Yes, we still use these words in our current language.

Oh, and by the way: plural for "capcaun" is "capcauni"
The world is such an interesting place.
Lives of great men all remind us we may make our lives sublime and departing leave behind us footprints in the sands of time.

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