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Satan’s bugbears

March 11, 2012

Last week Stefan Poag posted on his art blog this tremendous, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks image of Satan by the Russian artist Nicholas Kalmakoff (1873-1955). You can find out more about the – ahem – “troubled” Kalmakoff here.

Now there’s a lot to look at there. The coiling serpent with its dragony catfish face. The horde of scuttling spider-things with their unsettling orifices that I hope are mouths. Satan himself with a horned, bat-crowned animal skull for a head, a bodybuilder’s torso, and a weird pyramidal light obscuring his privates. But most unsettling of all, I find, is the crowd of looming giant beings (devils?) with their melting candlewax skin, teddy bear ears, and runny-looking glowing eyes. They are truly fantastic. Look at their lashing, whip-like tails. Look at their weird hands. Are their gestures welcoming, beckoning, or threatening? What do they want, and what will they do?

Ever since I saw the piece, those creatures have been creeping with soft steps into my mind and looming there, looking at me with those inscrutably strange eyes. Yesterday evening as I was on my way home from work, sitting on the top deck of a bus gazing out at the moving darkness, they crept up on me again and I suddenly realised what they were.

bug·bear
(bgbâr)


To me, Kalmakoff’s diabolical creatures definitely look like something out of a morbidly imaginative child’s nightmare. From now on, in my D&D games, forget giant hairy goblins. This is what bugbears look like.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2012 12:05 am

    Thank you for this detective work. I was also impressed by that image when I saw it on Mr. Poag’s blog, but was not able to track the artist down.

    • March 12, 2012 12:14 am

      It was Stefan who uncovered the artist’s identity. A fascinating tale and a remarkable body of work.

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