A Gryphon Newsletter

Volume 2, Number 4

Autumn 2002


Michael D. Winkle

Aren't you impressed?IN A.D. 43, ROMAN INVADERS founded a settlement just north of the Thames estuary, which they named Londinium. In A.D. 60, Queen Boudicca and her people, the Iceni, rebelled against the Roman Empire and burned the settlement to the ground. The Romans rebuilt Londinium and fortified it with a coping wall about A.D. 200, which enclosed a square mile of land. This area eventually became the City of London.

Eventually London grew far beyond its former borders, and the walls were swallowed into the spreading town. Within the walled area, where Fleet Street meets the Strand, an inner gate to the City has existed nearly as long as the City itself. "The earliest residence of the Knights Templar was in Holborn, but they removed hither in 1184," writes Augustus Hare. The inner gateway was thus christened Temple Bar.

Hare mentions that "anciently there were only posts, rails, and a chain" at Temple Bar. It is believed that a wooden arch was erected in the 16th century. "We know that it was 'newly paynted and repayred' for the coronation of Anne Boleyn (1533), and that it was 'painted and fashioned with battlements and buttresses of various colours, richly hung with cloth of arras, and garnished with fourteen standards of flags' (1547) for the coronation of Edward VI." [1]

The older Temple Bar burned in the Great Fire of 1666. A new archway of red brick was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral. This Temple Bar stood until 1878, when it was dismantled to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic. It was replaced in 1880 by a column set in the middle of Fleet Street, surmounted by the figure of a griffin, sculpted by the artist C. B. Birch.

Temple Bar is the official entrance to the City of London, and ceremonies and processions that are to march through the streets begin there. Traditionally, even Kings and Queens are supposed to stop at Temple Bar -- in fact, they are supposed to ask permission to enter London!

There the Sovereign halts, members of the Royal household on the King's business halt and troops marching with fixed bayonets halt to remove them, for troops do not pass through the City streets with fixed bayonets though they go with fixed bayonets everywhere else. To enter the City at all, the troops must get the permission of the Lord Mayor. . . In accordance with that ancient custom that requires the Sovereign on his way to visit the City to knock and ask leave to enter, a ceremony is performed at Temple Bar on these State occasions with all the stately pageantry that Royalty on the one hand and the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London on the other can command. [2]

The Lord Mayor presents the Sword of London to the King or Queen, who immediately returns it. Since 1880, any such ceremonies have beneath the gaze of the fearsome Griffin.

Why a Griffin? Because the Griffin is the Official Beast of the City of London!

Peter Ackroyd, author of London: The Biography, stated in a recent interview: "The griffin is to be found upon the coinage of the Iceni tribe, which inhabited part of the area now known as Greater London. It has survived as the emblem of the city itself and is posted on all the boundaries of the City of London. It is an appropriate emblem, since the griffin was a legendary monster which guarded gold mines and buried treasure."

So if you ever visit old London Town, be sure to arrive via the Official Entrance at Temple Bar -- an pay your respects to the Official Beast -- the Griffin! -- proud and vigilant atop its high column.

1. Hare, Augustus J. C. Walks in London (New York: George Routledge and Sons, 1880) p. 52.

2. Gordon, George Byron. Rambles in Old London (New York: Robert M. McBride and Co., 1924), p. 101-102.


From the Land of the Rising Sun, where the daikaiju crush buildings and blow the shingles off rooftops in their lumbering ballet, come rumors of gryphon-esque monsters and mecha -- but big, really big!



In 1967, the now-defunct Nikkatsu Studios had a go at the daikaiju (giant monster) genre which has been the mainstay of Japan's Toho Films for decades. The Nikkatsu entry into the monster rally was entitled Daikayoju Gappa, known in English as Gappa, the Triphibian Monster and Monster from a Prehistoric Planet.

The plot of Gappa combines aspects of King Kong, Gorgo, Mothra, and, of course, many Godzilla movies. A money-hungry Japanese publisher sends an expedition to the south Pacific in search of exotic animals for his new jungle-themed resort. The expedition finds something unexpected on a volcanic isle: a giant egg that hatches into a gryphon-esque reptilian creature. "You will make Gappa angry!" the local natives warn over and over. The enlightened explorers pooh-pooh the native superstitions, of course, and transport the baby Gappa back to Japan.

Then, from a lake within a volcanic grotto, the titanic, gryphon-like parents of the hatchling rise. They are, of course, incensed by the abduction of their chick, and they burst out of the cavern and trash the native village.

The greedy publisher keeps Gappa Jr. in a huge cage at his estate -- huge because the little beast grows at a rate of about 3 meters per day. Fortunately for the monstrous tyke (and unfortunately for Japan), the hatchling gives off a high-frequency signal that the parents can home in on. The adult Gappas reach Japan, and the usual urban destruction ensues.

Although the humans actually build a weapon that can injure the beasts (based on hypersonics), the Gappas avoid it simply by flying away. The military forcefully retrieves the baby Gappa and transports the now building-sized critter to an airport via a pair of Zeppelins. The parents find their child, and all three fly off in peace.

Recent Internet reviews have heaped abuse upon Gappa. True, when compared to the world of films in general it is pretty poor. In the realm of giant monster movies, I'd say it was adequate, certainly not too original. Some reviewers have decried the monsters' appearance as ugly and ridiculous. The Gappa suits are rather stiff, and their wings only partially open, but their hawklike beaks, eerily glowing eyes, and general gryphony appearance look good to me! The best shots are of the monsters taking flight, leaping forward and upward smoothly (of course they're being lifted by wires). When a human being "flies" horizontally and tucks up his/her legs, it looks rather silly. Add a creature suit with a long, tapering, reptilian tail, however, and it looks surprisingly natural.

In Toho's Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (1993), the towering robot MechaGodzilla is accompanied by a more mundane jet-like vehicle called the Garuda. The Garuda was a man-bird of Hindu mythology, very gryphonlike in certain ways. Together the two weapon platforms destroy Fire Rodan and almost kill Godzilla himself.

In Godzilla vs. Megaguiras (2000), the Japanese military uses a jet-weapon called the Gryphon against Big G. It is fast enough to dodge Godzilla's radioactive breath, but not the oversized dragonfly Megaguiras. Eventually it crashes into Godzilla so that a weapon called the Dimensional Tide can lock on the skyscraping lizard.


The TriStar/Dean Devlin Godzilla (1998) has often been panned by fans of the original Big G. Timothy D. Gallagher, who read an earlier draft of the script, revealed in the fanzine G-Fan that the film was originally meant to feature a second monster, a beast for "Zilla" to battle called -- the Gryphon! "The version I have," writes Gallagher, "is dated December 9, 1994 and is labeled a second polish revision." In this script, Godzilla turns out to be the bio-engineered creation of an ancient, alien civilization, left on Earth to protect it from an approaching "doomsday beast." "The doomsday beast reveals itself in Utah as the gigantic Gryphon, which can fire electrical bolts." [1] Inevitably the neo-Godzilla and the titanic Gryphon meet and battle in New York City. Eventually "Godzilla spikes the decapitated head of the Gryphon on one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge." [2] (Gryphons just can't get a break, even as towering daikaiju!)

Gallagher points out that the screenplay is in every major respect identical to the plotline of Daiei Studio's Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe (1995), with the pterodactyl-like Gyaos taking the part of the giant Gryphon.

Would the TriStar Godzilla have been better received with the inclusion of the super-Gryphon? I'll echo the Jewish mother who prescribed chicken soup for every ailment: "Couldn't hoit!"

1. Gallagher, Timothy G. "Separated at Birth?" In G-Fan Vol. 1, No. 24 (November/December 1996), p. 36.

2. Ibid., p. 37.

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