A to Z: Vouivre

Published April 25, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Today’s demon is one I first met in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey on the Nintendo DS…the 3DS remaster of which will be releasing on the 15th of next month!  YAY!  (I am frankly astonished that I somehow managed to go this long through this process without mentioning that…)  Okay, “YAY” might be a bit of an exaggeration, though;  Strange Journey was even more ham-fisted in certain story aspects than the rest of the Shin Megami Tensei games, but I can’t help being excited every time a new MegaTen game comes out in English, you know?  Besides, I never forced myself to get the Law and Chaos endings of it the first time around, so this way I can do the smart thing and start with them, so that the Neutral ending becomes my reward.  (Thankfully, I had learned that lesson by the time Shin Megami Tensei IV came out…)

Right, lengthy digression over with.  Let’s get on to today’s featured entity…

Image copyright Atlus. Provided by the Stealing Knowledge blog on tumblr. Click for link.

Yeah, this was one of those demons where my first reaction was “WTF?!”  (Though it’s nothing compared to the bondage Angels…)  When I finally got one in my party and could read the information in the Compendium, that didn’t really help explain to me why she was half human and half red, winged Silurian.

This is her entry from Shin Megami Tensei IV/IV Apocalypse:

A female dragon with bat wings.  Sometimes depicted as a beautiful female spirit.

They have bat wings, eagle legs, and a snake tail, and are all female.  The secret of their power is the garnet gem in their forehead.  If it is stolen, they lose their power and must obey the gem’s owner.

Yup, not…not…not really explaining anything, is it?  (Her wiki page has her Strange Journey entry, and it’s not significantly different.)  Honestly, I have a feeling that what we have here might be another Porewit situation, only the wiki hasn’t caught on to this one.

You know why I think that?  This is the only image off the appropriate Wikipedia page:

From the Liber Floridus, circa 1448. Via Wikimedia Commons.

It describes the vouivre (Franc-Comtois dialect), or guivre (old French), as having “a long, serpentine body and a dragon’s head” and “venomous breath.”  Aside from living in small bodies of water (EDIT:  when I wrote this last night, that said “small bodies of language”; I must have been more tired than I thought) and having a strange tendency to be embarrassed by (or afraid of) naked people, they were pretty much just plain old dragons, if perhaps rather small ones.  In fact, Wikipedia claims that the English word “wyvern” comes from “guivre,” and that “guivre”/”vouivre” had in turn come from the Latin “vipera”

None of that has much to do with the highly specific MegaTen description.  The closest I could come to that in the Wikipedia article was this bit here:

in The Drac: French Tales of Dragons and Demons, the vouivre is depicted as a female creature with dazzling, green scales which emanate sound as the vouivre flies. The vouivre is depicted as greedy, her head crowned with pearls and a golden ring about her tail. The beast in this story stayed in a cave for most of her time, then left to bathe only for a few minutes.

The page didn’t actually cite the book properly (like listing author, year of publication, etc), so I had to look it up on Goodreads.  Turns out the book was published the same year I was born!  Given that the sole Goodreads review mentions that one of the other dragons in the book is the Tarasque, another odd MegaTen demon with strangely specific compendium entries, I have a feeling that someone among the MegaTen staff has a copy of that book.

And yet what little Wikipedia and the review has to say about the voivre in that book doesn’t quite fit with the compendium entry, either, so it still feels like something a bit weird is going on.  Exactly what, though, is hard to pin down.  Did that book’s version of the vouivre become popular enough in Japan to receive a fictional version that became so well known as to feel like it was the real thing to the average Japanese reader?  Did some name substitution go on somewhere?  Or is that really what that book has to say about the vouivre?

Needless to say, I plan on buying a copy and reading it to find out!  (That makes three books I’ve come across in this process that I’ll be buying…)

So this post has ended up being a bit more of a mystery than I intended.  Sorry about that.  (I’ll (hopefully) come back and edit in a bit more after I read that book, but that won’t be much use to those just passing through for A-to-Z…)

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