Let’s take the hydra. Chaos Wielder, for whom I am creating this model, asked me to work within a couple of parameters in designing the creature:
- The hydra is a many-headed venomous snake like the monster that appeared in Jason and the Argonauts. In other words, Chaos Wielder wants the classical, mythological hydra, not the many-headed dinosaur from the D&D Monster Manual.
- The hydra should be appropriate for a swamp setting.
Whether I wanted the hydra to sprout two heads for every one that got chopped off was up to me. Now this is fortunate, because apart from the difficulty of creating a model that could do that, this capability just doesn’t make sense. If the hydra is a vertebrate, as all snakes are, where would the neck bones of the extra head attach to? Isn’t there a physical limit to how many heads a hydra can grow? Otherwise, wouldn’t the whole world eventually be covered with hydra heads and necks?
At this stage, I could see that growing new heads just wasn’t going to happen.
For a snake to have more than one head raises more problems than it solves. Snakes do not bite off chunks of flesh from their meals. They swallow their prey whole. Snakes’ teeth are designed not for tearing off meat but for keeping prey from escaping their mouth. A snake with more than one head would have a tug of war over who gets to swallow their food. This isn’t a what-if scenario. It’s a fact. Like other animals, snakes occasionally give birth to conjoined twins. A two-headed snake could struggle for hours over which head gets to swallow its prey. Having multiple heads is not an adaptation. It is an accident of nature, and the unfortunate creature with this trait is unlikely to pass on its genes to the next generation.
But that’s not all, as they say in infomercials. Looking at stills from Jason and the Argonauts, I had more questions that I probably should have asked before I started modeling the hydra. If the hydra is a serpent, why does it have a bird’s beak? Putting in a trait because it looks frigging awesome isn’t a good enough justification. Remember, form follows function. Also, if the hydra lives in the water, wouldn’t having a split tail make it more difficult for it to swim?
Holy Harryhausen, Batman. After all that work I did on the hydra, I realized I had to start over from scratch. Nevertheless, as they say, no experience is ever wasted. I learned some new creature design principles and 3D modeling techniques.
In case anyone is wondering, I did make progress. Since the hydra is basically a water serpent with many heads, I’ve been creating a 3D model of a snake.
Don’t laugh. It wasn’t easy. More on my next blog post.