Thursday, May 11, 2017

Believable Non-human Character

I've given a lot of thought about how a centaur could exist. I mean, I've thought of it ever since I was a kid. I once saw this kit where you could see through the skin and see how all the bones and organs fit together. I'm pretty sure it was something that needed to be put together maybe something like a puzzle. I never got a chance to actually look at it. I never got to handle the box even. But then, not long after that, I saw one of a horse. I so wanted to get both of them and see if I could build a centaur out of the pieces. But then I've never seen them again, and I know I wouldn't be able to mold the pieces well enough for my idea to work.

So that left me with my imagination and what little I know of the anatomy of both creatures. Of course the biggest issue is things like a heart and the intestines, because if you just shove them together, you get two. Here is how I put them together in my head and subsequently in my book, Druid Derrick.

Heart, digestion, and reproduction is all in the horse part where they belong, albeit with a few alterations which I'll get into later. Up in the human half is all the throaty stuff normally found in the neck of a horse, though sized and adjusted just a little differently too, what with the more upright posture.

So how does the chest and arms work in all this, you ask? Quite simply, really. We all know that the bone structure is there to support muscle, and there is an entire chest and back structure necessary to support arms, even the ribs are important in this, SO they are there. Upper body ribs in a centaur are less important for protecting vital organs so there aren't so many of them and they are wider to support more muscle as well as the bone structure of the shoulders. Shoot a centaur in the human-half heart and you'd be lucky to get past a rib let alone hit an artery, which is there.

That accounts for most of what one might see, but there are other differences smaller and more subtle.
  • The hand:
We know from archeological digs that the horse evolved from a small critter that actually started out with five toes. What might count as your little finger and your thumb never touched the ground, and through evolution, they quickly became vestiges. Of the three remaining toes, the two outer toes withdrew up into the ankle leaving only the center toe we see today. If you feel around in that area, you can still feel something of a narrow palm-like structure, like if you were to squeeze your thumb and little finger together.

Since I didn't know about the five finger thing with early horses, I went with a four finger structure, giving my centaurs an opposable thumb, but it's not like ours. For us, if someone were to tell you to hold up your primary finger, you'd probably hold up your first finger since it is the most versatile finger on your hand. If you were to ask my centaur to do this, he or she would hold up their middle finger. It is the heaviest and strongest of the three, and their thumb is directly opposite that finger. For us it would be like it was growing out of the middle of your wrist, and no, they cannot set their hand flat on the ground.
  • Eating:
The digestion of a horse is something like that of a human, only they have a much larger gut. To my thinking, since centaurs are hunters, their diet would be much like ours, getting little useful sustenance from grass. Following that logic, their gut would be trimmer around the belly. Now if you were to stand a grain-fed horse next to a grass-fed horse, the grass-fed horse might look pregnant by comparison. I took that comparison one step farther toward the skinny end and gave them a noticeably thin waist and possibly a tighter appearing rib-cage. I figure this structure would also lend to agility if fighting in close quarters. Also this trimness gets a little thick around the middle with childbearing and age. I mean, we all get kinda thick around the middle as we get older.
  • Face:
Faces are interesting, and centaur faces are a study in blending. They need to have a humanoid face, but I let them be a little heavier than your average man. Since they are hunters, their eyes are in front, but they are still very horsey in appearance - not human eyes - no whites to speak of, and not inset like ours.

Their noses and mouths are very horse in nature, being more molded into their face than ours, and being more closely molded into their lips, which are also very horsey - You wouldn't put lipstick on these lips no matter what. However the mouth is flexible and articulate like ours making speech possible, they just look horsey.

Their hair is also very horsey, as is their ears. They have a mane which gives them the horsey forelocks and it trails clear down their human-half spine until it reaches their horse-half withers.
  • Size:
I took an image of an average man standing next to an average horse and the man's shoulder was about even with the horse's withers - that's the top of the spine at the shoulder. I figured a centaur would be roughly the same as a man sitting on said horse, so if your average man was to approach one of my centaurs, his head might be about even with the centaur's elbow.
  • Coloring:
For this, I'm using every kind of horse color I can think of. There are dominate kinds of coloring per herd, but centaur clans also tend to mix as young males are known to travel to other clans in search for a mate. Not always, but it happens frequently enough to keep the colors mixing. And since they are covered entirely in horse hair just like any horse, the coloring can extend even onto the face, and it's not always symmetrical.
  • Society:
I had a lot of fun with centaur society. There is a ritual with the changing of leadership, and there is a very elaborate affair surrounding a marriage, but I don't think I'll go into it with this post. Suffice it to say, since I have a marriage, I need to have a divorce something too.



William Kendall said...

They're fascinating critters, looking at them in mythology.

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