I’ve been putting off writing this for a long time, but in the end I had to do it to give you – the reader – some kind of closure. Some kind of explanation, really.

I don’t think I can continue ABC any longer – at least, not as long as things continue to be as they are.

Why? Several reasons.

I think I made it clear at some point that, to my eternal shame, I am Lebanese. Which is one of the worst nationalities to curse your child with. Right now we are running out of fuel, electricity, medicine, education, food, and water. The country is in a death spiral, and every time we think it can’t possibly get worse, it gets worse. I cannot continue to write and draw as long as I live here.

The other reason is that ABC is going nowhere. I think I also made it clear that I hoped to publish ABC in some form. Unfortunately as the years dragged on it became obvious that that wasn’t happening either. My attempts to contact publishers failed. My attempts to contact agents failed. My attempts to contact at least one artist resulted in blatant ghosting. There’s no reason for any author or artist to collaborate with me since everything is already online – all they have to do is use my references without citing me and do their own thing, without having to burden themselves with me.

“Just do patreon or self-publish or something!” I can’t. Most crowdfunding sources don’t work here. I can’t accept any money in this country because the banks will steal it. And if I manage to escape the country, as long as I retain my garbage nationality, I won’t be able to make money outside of what the strict visa rules will allow. So that’s not happening either.

I was fine doing ABC as a hobby. But now it’s impossible to enjoy doing it anymore when I feel that both it and me have no future, and I can no longer continue doing something that I feel is completely hopeless. How long have I been doing this? Feels like forever, and yet it doesn’t feel like my audience has grown at all, like anyone cares.

So the hiatus will go on… indefinitely, I guess. Unless a miracle happens and my life improves enough that I don’t mind doing this for nothing anymore.

Until then, I’m sorry. And I hope you enjoyed this project while I was at it.

Well, things haven’t gotten any better. And they are getting unquestionably worse. But I think I’m starting to get my numbed brain into some kind of routine that should keep me going, somehow.

So let’s tentatively set next Monday (October 19, week from this Monday) for a return to regular entries and I will do all I can do stick to that, alright?

Stay monstrous my friends.

Rest assured that I have seen every single one of your comments and I have plenty to keep me busy. Even if I didn’t respond to it I have a word document with all the suggestions to refer to.

Also rest assured that I will be continuing ABC, it’s guaranteed. But I’ll be pushing the reopening date a bit further back. I was hoping to begin ABC Season 2020-2021 (TM) in August, but then things went kaboom.

So yeah, as you can imagine I’m kind of down right now in general. But nil desperandum! Provided nothing new explodes, aiming for late August/early September.

As always, stay monstrous.

I have been requested (by someone who I hire to request) to explain how, exactly, something like “Leviathan” could end up misread and corrupted into “Kuyūtha” or even “Rakaboûna”. And I’m sure there are some people out there (presumably countable on one hand missing several fingers) who are interested in etymology, language, and how monsters evolve based on those.

Well, fear not, for here’s where it gets technical.

Arabic is tricky to read. Why? Well, for a start there’s different ways of writing it, different types, texts, font sizes (as it were). Look at this, for instance.

Nice and legible text, modern printing of al-Wardi. Easy peasy. Then you get older copies like this version of al-Qazwini.

Slightly less legible, but still readable. But then you get to this version of al-Damiri, and, well, you need to see the whole page to get the full impact.

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The text in the box is al-Damiri. The text in the margins is the Wonders of Creation by al-Qazwini. That’s right, two books for the price of one, all in lovely tiny crabbed handwriting!

And then of course there’s the lovely manuscripts with the flowery text which I can barely decipher.

Let’s put those aside for now and stick to more legible things.

The next issue is the language itself. There are few vowel letters in Arabic. Most vowel sounds are represented with diacritics.

And guess what? Most times they don’t even write the diacritics! So just based on that, Kuyutha, Kiyutha, Kayutha, Kuyuthan, Kayuthan, Kiyuthan are all equally valid based on the vowels assigned. The “an” at the end can be either a letter or a diacritic – if it’s a letter it’s definitely there, if it’s a diacritic it’s debatably there.

Not only that, but based on the quality of the writing, K and L can look identical, Y and B can look identical (hence Kuyuban), T and TH and N can look identical… So combine that with the average vowel movements (haw haw) and you can piece together how Leviathan could get garbled into Kuyūtha.

name 2

“But what about Rakaboûna?” I hear you say. “You even describe it as “hilarious but understandable” in your entry!”

Well, yes. Yes it is. This misreading is unique to Perron, and he attributes his translation to al-Damiri, which you may remember as being teeny-tiny-textual. I’ll admit I couldn’t figure out how he got “Rakaboûna” out of “Kuyūtha”, until I saw it in context and it all made sense. Here’s the actual part:

I’ve highlighted “and the name of the bull [is] Kuyūtha”. See how cramped the text is? Turns out Perron glued the last letter of “bull” (thawr), which is an R, to the name of the bull. Then he proceeded to read the Y as B and the TH as N, giving “Rakaboûna”. Here’s how the magic happened:

name 3

And there you have it. The poor cosmic bull got saddled with increasingly bizarre monikers, when in reality it should have just been called Behemoth, poor bovine.

Not Appearing in ABC: The Ol-maima

While searching for information on the dingonek, I found that it’s been synonymized with a whole bunch of other creatures. These include, for instance, the Lukwata (a far more “legitimate” creature), the Ndamathia, and the Olmaima or Ol-umaina. That last one piqued my curiosity, and further research into it serves as a cautionary tale – one that cryptozoologists would do well to heed.

The original reference is Hobley (1913):

At the time this story appeared it was considered that this [Bronson’s account] was probably a traveller’s tale, told to entertain a newcomer, but I have since met a man who a few years back wandering about the Mara River or Ngare Dubash which rises in Sotik, crosses the Anglo-German boundary and runs into Lake Victoria in German territory. He emphatically asserts that he saw the beast [i.e. the Dingonek]. He was at the time where the Mara River crosses the frontier, and the river was in high flood. The beast came floating down the river on a big log, and he estimated its length at about sixteen feet, but could not certain of its length as its tail was in the water. He describes it as spotted like a leopard, covered with scales, and having a head like an otter; he did not see the long fangs described by Mr. Jordan. He fired at it and hit it; it slid off the log into the water and was not seen again.

I made inquiries of the District Commissioner, Kisii, Mr. Crampton, and he wrote recently and said he had visited the Amala River and made inquiries from the Masai in the neighbourhood, and they knew of the beast, which they called Ol-umaina, and described it as follows: About fifteen feet long, head like a dog, small ears marked somewhat after the fashion of a puff adder, has claws, short legs, short neck, is said to lie in the sun on the sand by the river-side and to slip into the water when disturbed; when in the water only its head is visible. This story does not radically disagree with the others…

There are a few conclusions to draw here. First, the author believes the dingonek, the unnamed Mara River creature, and the ol-umaina to be one and the same. Second, the features shared by all three are notable size, scales, spots like a leopard, and possibly a long tail.

Heuvelmans (1958) quotes Hobley (1913) (in fact, almost exactly the previous quote) and concurs that the “description agrees fairly well with the dingonek”. However, he has a comment on the ol-umaina’s description:

The puff-adder has no external ears. Perhaps Hobley means the small horns on the horned viper, but the text is by no means clear.

The ears thing confused me as well, but the most logical conclusions I can come up with is that a) like the puff adder, it has markings by its ears, or b) like the puff adder, it has no visible ears, or c) both of the above.

Finally Karl Shuker, in his In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), straight-up refers to the Mara River creature as a dingonek, and makes a correction to the ol-umaina’s name: it is now the ol-maima.

So what are we to make of all this? Turns out there is a creature that answers to the descriptions given. A normal, unremarkable creature, but not as big as it is claimed to be.

Image from Wikipedia.

That’s right, it’s the humble Nile monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus). Note the scales, the “leopard” spots, the tail, an otter- or dog-like head without long fangs, sharp claws, short neck and legs, and a long tail. It basks in the sun and dives into the water when threatened.

Of course, Nile monitors don’t grow 15 feet long, but this can be chalked up to exaggeration and/or honest overestimation.

The final nail in the coffin is the name ol-maima or ol-umaina. Looking up a reputable Maa dictionary, we discover that ɔl-máɨ́má is the Maa word for a) a cripple and b) a Nile monitor lizard.

There is no need to invoke aquatic walruses, relict dinosaurs, or crocodiles with missing jaws. If the dingonek and the ol-maima are the same animal, then they are no more than fanciful descriptions of Nile monitors. The Dingonek gets a full entry because its description is so unusual, but the ol-maima, literally “Nile monitor lizard” in Maa, will not be so lucky.