Gargoyles are winged creatures in Europe who are made of stone or have a stony hide, and often roost on chapels and other large structures. They were said to scare away evil spirits with their growling, distorted expressions.

The name originates from the French gargouille, which was a dragon that the Gargoyle is based off of. The French name most likely means "throat/gullet" or "to swallow" which represented the gurgling sound of water.

Myths & Legends

Gargoyles are creatures of night and the shadows, but they have been known to step in the light to protect someone they have bonded with or who they consider to be a good person.

Humans who see Gargoyles as living creatures and show them respect may be acknowledged by them. Those who truly have respect for such a creature tend to bow their heads in passing, and the creature often will return the respect.

Abilities

Its been said that gargoyles can only communicate when either the wind or the rain passes between their mouths. Stangely enough its also been known that gargoyles have the strange ability of water manipulation.

Gargoyles can generally use their wings (if they have any) to fly or glide. If they don't have wings, they will use their claws to scale buildings.

They are often capable of turning into stone, a reference to their structural roots as statues. In certain cases, they are stone during the day, and can only move once night falls.

Appearance

Gargoyles are bestial humanoids made of stone (or with a stony hide) and with monstrous fanged mouths. The commonly have leathery wings, a pointed tail, and sharp horns and talons very similar to demons. They are meant to be terrifying enough in appearance to even scare away true demons. There are some variations in features, such as som having beaks or hooves. Many Gargoyles are also depicted with chains around their necks, symbolizing that they are controlled, or domesticated in a way.

Protectors or Monsters?

Despite their frightening appearance, Gargoyles are guardians who are known to protect buildings from evil spirits, and do no harm to humans. Due to this, churches, which were considered holy places, often had these creatures on the roof to ward off the devil and demons. They are also suitable as guardians, as they have a high defense from their stony skin making them difficult to wound.

In a few variations on the legends, gargoyles can be seen as the evil beings that eat humans or are vessels for demons, serving those who have summoned them. In some cases, due to this change in reputation a few Gargoyles were removed from their buildings.

Gargoyles mounted on the Notre Dame

Architecture

In architecture, a gargoyle is a stone-carved guardian mounted on the sides of buildings. With a spout design to convey water from a roof and away from the side of the building to prevent water from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between. Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm. 

Modern Depictions

Literature

  • Gargoyles also appear in the Discworld universe, such as Constable Downspout in Feet of Clay.

Film & Animation

  • In the TV series Gargoyles (1994–1997) by Disney, gargoyles are nocturnal creatures that battle other monsters to protect humanity. 
  • They appear in the Doctor Who episode "The Daemons" (1971).
  • In The Horn of Vapula (1932) a demon familiar is bound into a horned and goatlike gargoyle.

Games

  • Gargoyles are a type of monster found in Dungeons & Dragons.

Gallery

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