There were a lot of good options for this post, but I ended up going with this guy because of my personal story to tell about him. (Personal story re: his video game appearances, not the mythical original.) Back in…uh…probably around 2005, I was playing Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, the first MegaTen game I ever played all the way through. (I had the original Persona and Persona 2 Eternal Punishment on the Playstation, but had gotten lost so many times in the forest in the first one that I ended up not finishing it until shortly before Persona 3 came out.) So I’m going along and suddenly I’ve got this boss battle against an enormous, cyclopean elephant who makes fun of my character and reflects physical damage. (He always reflects physical damage. I have no idea why.)
This was him:
That screenshot seems to have been taken in the Cathedral of Shadows (where you fuse and summon demons), but it’s the same 3D model he had everywhere else. (And I remember the model looking more effective at the time. It’s been awhile since I played a Playstation 2 game, apparently…)
For whatever reason, I was convinced his name was Grimehalka.
Over time, I realized part of my mistake, and started calling him Girimehalka.
I think I finally noticed that it was “hkala” not “halka” sometime around…maybe last year? Maybe the year before? I still keep falling into the trap of pronouncing it “halka” instead of “hkala.” (Overwrites are hard…)
Anyway, that has nothing to do with who Girimehkala (which is spelled Girimekhala in pretty much every non-video game source, like Wikipedia) is in or outside of the games, so I’ll just move on. Or rather, I’ll start over, because Girimehkala has two main versions of his appearance, and recently the games have been trending towards the other one, so I’ll post that image now:
Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker has this to say about Girimehkala:
A giant elephant monster of Sri Lankan lore. It is typically portrayed as being ridden by the Evil One, Mara.
Whoever looks into its evil eye is said to be met with misfortune. It was originally thought to be Airavata, the mount of Indra, but was later regarded as an evil entity.
(I will not be using the “M” entry to talk about Mara, btw. You’re welcome.) Persona Q, Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse have this to say about him:
A giant elephant monster of Sri Lankan lore.
It is typically portrayed as being ridden by the Evil One, Mara. Whoever looks into its evil eye is said to be met with misfortune.
It seems pretty straightforward. And, as far as I can tell, it is.
The Wikipedia entry consists just of this:
Girimekhala (Pali: Girimekhalā) is the elephant that carries Mara in Theravada Buddhism. Its height is 250 yojana. According to tradition, when Mara and his army of evil tried to prevent the future Buddha from achieving enlightenment, the Buddha asked the earth to bear testimony for his deeds, and Girimekhala fell in front of the Buddha.
…followed by an untranslated Buddhist chant, and a list of popular culture influences which are entirely video game appearances. (It includes some Dragon Quest series appearances, but a simple Google search indicates the name (though perhaps nothing else) was also used in the MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV.)
To save you the effort of following the links I didn’t bother disconnecting, Theravada Buddhism did develop in Sri Lanka, as the MegaTen text indicates, but has since spread to other parts of Southeast Asia. As to Mara, he’s a demon who tried to tempt Prince Siddhartha away from the enlightenment that would let him become Gautama Buddha. But he’s also seen as a metaphorical force representing lust and fear, forces that interfere with meditation. Oh, and a yojana is a measurement of distance that is listed very vaguely on its Wikipedia page, ranging from 12-15 km (or 7.64-9.09 miles). Which makes Girimehkala thousands of miles/kilometers tall, and one of the largest foes the heroes of a MegaTen game can face. (Not that he ever looks that tall. Nor do the others ever really look their proper size. Devil Survivor tried to show Metatron’s size (at least in Yuzu’s route, if not in any of the others), but if Devils and Realist was at all accurate about Metatron’s size, he was still too small. (Though MegaTen is probably the more accurate of the two…))
So, I’d just like to close out this rather uninformative post with a few words about the frustration that is Internet research. (Which translates to “OMG, if I do this again next year, I am absolutely picking a topic where I have physical books on hand to use as sources.)
Seeing that Wikipedia was not providing me with much information, I did a quick Google search. Most of the results, other than the Wikipedia entry, were game-related. But I saw one for a site called “Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia.”
Excited to get a good source, I clicked on the link…
…and was greeted (after scrolling down past a screen’s worth of headers and requests for PayPal donations) with an illustration of the MegaTen version of Girimehkala.
All the text looked very familiar, too, and at the bottom was the entry’s source link…back to the MegaTen wiki.
And that sums it up pretty well, yeah? If it’s an unusual topic, then no matter how many hits you get on the search engine, most of them seem to be the same information over and over and over again. Usually copied-and-pasted. I had the same problem with the letter “J” last time I did this.
So, like I said, I need to have actual books next time. (Though there’s no reason I couldn’t use ebooks rather than physical ones, now that I think about it. So long as they’re proper, reputable, scholarly books. I’ve come across Google books previews for a couple of promising ones already in the process of writing these posts for this year. I should use this year’s posts as notes for next year’s potential themes…)
4/10 EDIT –
In looking for images to use for “N”, I came across a picture of the party in battle against enemies who included Girimehkala in the game Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. And I thought I’d share, ’cause why not?