Hello, people of the internet. You friendly neighbourhood Elou here with the second of our Cryptozoologist Folklore Thursday posts. I discovered this creature while looking up Persian mythological beasties I could hide behind a door in a drabble I wrote recently. I didn’t end up hiding anything behind the door but I did stumble across the shadhavar. So without further ado…
Everyone has heard of unicorns, beautiful white horses with iridescent horns atop their heads and maidens swooning here, there and everywhere just to touch them. Shadhavar are also unicorns but not the ones I obsessed over as a little girl. Some accounts list shadhavar as peaceful creatures, loping around forests, making animals listen to them. This version paints the shadhavar as a deer or gazelle-like creature, with one hollow horn protruding from its head.
This horn is what interested me most. Unlike the twirled, straight horn of a unicorn, the shadhavar has a horn with 42 branches, which creates beautiful music as the wind travels through it. When the wind comes from one side, the tune is happy and jubilant but when it is blown through the other, the song becomes so mournful that it could make a listener cry. These horns were often made a present for kings and could be played as an instrument. (What king wouldn’t want a musical instrument which could so easily alter the emotions of their subjects?)
The other version makes the shahavar more like a siren – though still taking the form of a deer-like creature. Its horn has 72 branches instead of 42, and the music used as a lure. The shahavar calls to its victims through music, like the siren, and then eats them, bloodthirsty as it is.
In The Temptation of Saint Anthony Flaubert draws on this second interpretation for le Sadhuzag, a black stag with the head of a bull and 42 antlers. When the wind hits them from the south, they create a sweet tune which charms all animals nearby but when hit by the north wind they begin to shriek.
Whether carnivorous or calm, the shadhavar are intriguing creatures and I am very glad I found them.
Do you have any creatures you think I’d like? Have you heard of the shadhavar? Do you want one of those horns? We ask the important questions.