“The Great Queen of Wonderhaven” is a novella included in my upcoming collection The Girl Wakes. It is also the first part of my novel-in-progress. See an excerpt of it here, along with an interview. It was partially inspired by the Mughal artwork exhibit in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. There I encountered composite animals for the first time.
Composite animal paintings are:
“… Mughal miniature paintings of fantastic animals which are mosaics of intertwined animal and human forms. In the Hindu tradition such paintings possibly represent the belief in the internal unity of all beings and illustrate the doctrine of the transmigration of souls through successive reincarnations. […] In the calligraphic Indian portraits of animals, as well as in the interesting and provocative displays of the Wunderkammer, an effort was obviously made to stress the mystical and ambiguous relationship of man to the natural world.”—From Asia in the Making of Europe, Volume II: A Century of Wonder
(Quote taken from this site, which features lots more examples of composite animal paintings.)
These paintings struck a chord in me because — who isn’t a “composite animal”? All of us have beasts forever brawling with, or at the very least pacing uneasily alongside, each other. It’s like in that movie The Missing — the villain says something essentially like: “There’s a good dog and a bad dog always fighting inside me.” In him, the bad dog always wins. In the best people, the good dog wins more often than not, but I’d imagine not without quite a lot of discipline, quite a lot of practice, quite a lot of training.