When I think of plantish animals I think of things like the stick bug, or maybe insects that look like leaves.
When I think of animalish plants I think of the Venus fly trap or the pitcher plant.
But only a couple centuries ago there were documents detailing the strange characteristics of something that is both animal and plant.
The barometz, or Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, is a mythical animal/plant hybrid originating somewhere in central Asia.
Let me pitch this thing to you:
There’s this plant somewhere around the Caspian Sea. It has these fluffy white flowers, but they aren’t really flowers. They’re sheep. And they are mean buggers. They try to bite and kill anything that gets too close. If you are brave enough, you can kill them by cutting them from their stem. And, get this, their meat is sweet and succulent like crab meat. And, if you put their bones in your mouth you can see the future!
Crazy huh? I mean, that is some out there stuff.
This crazy cryptid seems to be a mishmash of folklore originating around central Asia during the middle ages. A king thought that it must exists, given that there were so many stories about it. So he sent someone out looking for it. And that person, Sigismund, Baron von Herberstein, lied. He lied and wrote it down in books that were copied down through the ages. (This is very similar to what happened with barnacle geese during the middle ages.)
Much of the barometz’s features are similar to that of a cryptid from Jewish lore known as the Yeduah (Faduah). Its bloom is a small human, rather than a sheep. Witches use their bones to divine the future. Also, they are aggressive and will grab and kill anything (dogs, other Yeduah, children) that get too close. The traits of these two mythological plants seem to be interchangeable.
I first came across the wonderful Vegetable Lamb of Tartary in an art book called Beasts! In it different artists each draw their own interpretations of different cryptids from different cultures. The image of the Barometz in this book looks like an evil little cotton ball with blood dripping from it’s tiny maw. I saw this image and I was hooked. I had to write some sort of story involving them.
So, if you are a Patron of mine, be on the lookout over the coming months for a short story involving these strange critters.
Beasts! Book 1 – edited by Jacob Covey