Welcome, reader and friend of animals!
I’ve often been asked to explain the name of the press: Why “Gryphon”?
Well, for one thing, a gryphon is an amalgam of animals — mammal, bird, and reptile. The mythical gryphon has the body of a lion, the head of an eagle, and the tail of a serpent. How economical for a press publishing children’s books about animals to be represented by this wild and remarkable blending of the animal kingdom! (Our signature gryphon is more peaceful than wild, holding a flower in his paw.)
There’s another and even better reason for the name. Over the ages, the gryphon has appeared in the myths of many cultures. In some cultures, as I discovered, the gryphon has been a symbol of justice.
Thirty years ago, I spent a week on the beautiful island of Crete. Five thousand years ago, the Minoan civilization on Crete was known for its civilized behavior. I visited Knossos, the masterful reconstruction of the fabled palace of King Minos. In the lower level of the palace is a chamber the king used when he dispensed justice to his people. On the walls of the chamber of justice is a fresco of regal gryphons. I learned from the guide that, to the Minoans, the gryphon was a symbol of justice and also of bearing fair witness.
Those gryphons must have made an impression on me, because a few years ago, when I was looking for the right name for the press, I was struck by how appropriate the gryphon would be to symbolize our desire to be a fair witness for animals, and to see that animals receive justice in an often hostile world. Hence: The Gryphon Press.
Here’s a less than ideal photo I took of the king’s chamber of justice last fall (from a window grating!) when I had the chance to revisit Crete last September.
The round basin is for water in which the king washed his hands before delivering justice.
On that recent visit, I found Knossos as magical as ever, but our trip was marred for our family by the sight of a large number of homeless dogs outside the gates, humbly approaching visitors for a bite of food. It was obvious that they were used to being ignored. I asked a taxi driver about the large population of homeless dogs, and he told me that homeless animals are a major problem on Crete and throughout Greece. People will take on a puppy or a kitten, grow tired of it, and turn it out into the street to fend for itself. I was told that there is no national animal welfare organization in Greece or on the Greek islands.
I saw for myself not only in Crete but in Athens homeless animals everywhere; people didn’t give them a second glance. Unfortunately, this same situation exists in most countries in the world, aggravated by a lack of spay-neuter programs – or even the idea that the way to eliminate homeless animals is to shut off the breeding cycle. Only when this cultural norm is transformed by education, especially the education of children, will animals in these countries have a chance for a decent life.
I am more grateful than ever for our own animal organizations and all that they do to raise the level of compassion in our country. I believe that most of you who read these words are already committed to animal well-being. While it is overwhelming to imagine what needs to be accomplished, each of us can be an animal advocate in our own community. Joining a local animal humane group and encouraging the work of our national organizations is a crucial first step.