Examining the legend of the great, mysterious Piasa bird

Legends involving a variety of monstrous creatures were common among the peoples who inhabited this land long before the arrival of the first Europeans.

One of the best known creatures is the Piasa, often called the Piasa Bird. Situated on the face of a bluff near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, it was first seen by Europeans in the summer of 1673. Gazing upon it were Father Jacques Marquette, Louis Jolliet and other members of their party.

Modern depictions show the Piasa as a winged dragonlike creature, but Marquette described something very different:

“While Skirting some rocks which by Their height and length inspired awe, We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made Us afraid, and upon Which the boldest savages dare not Long rest their eyes. They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish’s tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place conveniently to paint them.” &nbsp;&nbsp;<ahref="http://etypeservices.com/Cass%20County%20Star%20GazetteID497/"><spanstyl... 13px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">To view more, please log in or subscribe to the digital edition.</span></a></p>