Okay, first, every spelling up in the title of this post is considered correct except the last. Although normally a fan of the letter “y” in fantasy, I obviously prefer the spelling “griffin,” or at least I did when I was writing the Griffin Mage trilogy. I will add, I didn’t think about the spelling at all; this is the spelling that just fell off my fingers onto the keyboard. I still prefer it, if only because it’s the spelling I’m most used to.
It’s also the spelling Diana Wynne Jones used in her FANTASTIC books which Charlotte mentioned in a recent comment. I should have thought of those because they’re some of my favorite griffons. We see them in Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin. I don’t much care for the griffins pictured on the regular covers of that duology, but I like the audio cover:
The above griffin, incidentally, is really about what the adult male griffins from Nick O’Donohoe’s books ought to look like. BIG and rather SCARY and definitely like beasts of prey, not anything cuddly that you would want to pat. DWJ’s griffins are perhaps not really as large as the one shown above.
Okay, moving on:
“Griffon” is frequently used in the names of dog breeds, in which case it means ‘wire-coated.” The Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen is the small, short-legged, wire-coated dog from Vendee. There is indeed a Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen, if you would prefer a slightly larger dog.
The Brussels Griffon is a little wire-coated dog, quite charming. There is in fact a smooth Brussels Griffon variety, which is an oxymoronic statement and incidentally is probably going to be mistaken for a Pug or Pug mix except at a dog show.
Also, there’s a hunting breed called the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, which is a redundant name rather than oxymoronic, but once again suggests that it might be nice if people think for a second about the words they’re using before naming a breed.
So, the point is, I don’t care for the “griffon” spelling when you’re talking about half-bird / half-cat mythological animals, because it makes me think of dog breeds and that’s distracting.
Now, “gryphon.” This is another accepted spelling, of course! It does look a little odd to me just because it’s not the spelling I’ve used myself. Several of you mentioned Andre Norton’s Crystal Gryphon series, which I’ve never read. It’s got some covers where the artist made a nod to the idea of gryphons:
The animal could easily be an eagle. The musculature and proportions are not quite right for an eagle, but the artist is nevertheless cheating by failing to show the lionine part of the gryphon, which is too bad.
However, the above artist’s cover is sooooo much better than this ludicrously unsuitable Polish cover, which Alan Shampine sent me over the weekend:
Uh huh, Crystal Gryphon, right. I’ll add that I bet that’s a Boris Vallejo cover. the style is very familiar and the book is probably from the era when Vallejo was doing a lot of covers. Oh, interestingly, if I’m reading this right, Vallejo did BOTH covers above. I wouldn’t have guessed that!
How about the “gryfon” spelling? That one is not standard! It’s used in some of the most artistically beautiful books, though:
That’s the complete artwork for the cover of Skyfire, from the Song of the Summer King series. I still think this is my favorite griffin/gryphon/gryfon cover ever. This is by Jennifer Miller, who has an extensive online portfolio and offers prints, in case you want to take a look.
Okay, so, if you have a strong preference for spelling this mythological animal, which spelling do you pick? And have you seen any other spellings?