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Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Royal Mail Stamps: Mythical Creatures

A set of six stamps depicting Mythical Creatures will be issued by Royal Mail this summer.

Fantasy and myth are popular subjects for both films and books. Here fantasy artist Dave McKean (who worked on the Harry Potter movies) takes a look at some of the most popular and unusual creatures from legend.

The UK has a rich and diverse folklore around mythical creatures: some famous nationally and others regionally. This set features: unicorn, mermaid - legends very common around UK coast inc northern isles of Scotland), Giant (inspired by Finn McCool associated with the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland), Fairy queen (in a chariot pulled by birds), Pixie (which feature in Cornish folklore), and Dragon (emblem of Wales).

The stamps in detail

1st Class – Unicorns
Traditionally represented as a horse with a single horn, a billy goat’s beard, cloven hooves and a lion’s tail, perhaps the unicorn made sense of travellers’ descriptions of the rhinoceros? Two unicorns support the Coat of Arms of Scotland, while one together with a lion the Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.

1st Class – Dragons
Common to the mythologies of many countries the dragon has a reptilian body, traditionally breathes fire or spits poison and often has a pair of bat like wings. Often the guardian of treasure hordes, and frequently the terror of fair maids. Apart from the famous associations with St George and the red dragon of Wales, dragons also appear in the Mabinogion, a series of 12 medieval Welsh stories.

62p – Giants
Legend has it that the Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway is the remains of a pathway between Scotland and Northern Ireland created when the Scottish giant Fingal hurled the first clod into the Irish Sea and the Irish giant Finn McCool hurled more back.

62p – Pixies
Or Piskies as they are known in their native West Country look like old men with wrinkled faces. They are small in stature with red hair and dress in the colours of the earth especially green, usually cheerful and helpful, but they also like playing pranks.

90p – Mermaids
Part woman and part fish the Mermaid would often entrance sailors with their song causing them to run ships aground or jump overboard, then carry them off to their undersea home forgetting that they breathe air.

90p – Fairies
Sometimes good and sometimes bad, the fairy folk come in many forms; here Queen Mab takes to the air in her hazelnut chariot. Queen Mab is described in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a tiny fairy who drives her chariot across the faces of sleeping people.

Source: www.royalmail.com/creatures

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