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For other uses of the word Gargoyles, see Gargoyles (disambiguation)
Living and Architectural Gargoyles.

Gargoyles are one of the Three Races on Earth.


The exact origins of gargoyles lie so far back in the mists of time that we have no certain details as to how they came about. We do know that they are descended from other gargate species, and not aliens or creatures of magic. Gargoyles were the first of the Three Races to come into existence, preceding humans, who themselves preceded Oberon's Children. [1] Gargoyles are, however, younger than the extinct dragons. [2] They enjoy a close link to the Earth that may be the result of their great age, and which strongly affects their stone sleep and strict breeding cycles. [3][4]

By the dawn of recorded human history, gargoyles had spread throughout the planet, and clans could be found all over the world. This period of prosperity came to an end, however, when humans learned how to work metal, particularly with the dawn of the Iron Age. Humans had long feared gargoyles, believing them to be demonic monsters because of their frightening appearance and nocturnal nature, but had up until now been no threat to them; at night, the gargoyles were too formidable to be safely challenged, being much stronger than humans and able to glide, and the crude and primitive weapons of the Stone Age were no danger to a gargoyle in their stone-like sleep. But when humans armed themselves with iron weapons, they could come upon gargoyles in their sleep and shatter them. Many clans were destroyed this way, and the remainder were forced to retreat far from human society, into the wilderness where it was safe.

But not all humans treated gargoyles this way. Some humans realized that the gargoyles, because of their fighting skills, made excellent allies in defending their homes from rival human bands. These humans sought out gargoyle clans and obtained permission from them to build fortified homes for themselves atop the cliffs where gargoyles kept their rookeries. By day, the humans in such a fortress would watch over the gargoyles in their sleep, and protect them from harm, while at night, the gargoyles would protect the humans' home from attackers. And for a while, this strategy worked.

But it did not last long. As time wore on, the humans who had initially formed these alliances came to fear their gargoyle protectors, considering them unnatural creatures and savage beasts. Tensions grew between the two races, and usually, they ended with the humans turning on their former protectors and destroying them. The numbers of gargoyles grew steadily fewer. At last, humans came to abandon these alliances altogether (for the most part), and the surviving gargoyles fled into the wilds to hide. By 1994, there were only eight gargoyle clans left in the world.

Beyond this general course of gargoyle history, a few specific events stand out. The earliest recorded event in gargoyle history took place during the reign of Caesar Augustus (27 B.C. - A.D. 14), the first Emperor of Rome. By Augustus's day, there were few gargoyles living in the lands taken up by the Roman Empire, largely because there was so little wilderness left in it for them to hide in, but occasionally, gargoyles were brought before the Emperor.

At that time, gargoyles' garments did not turn to stone with them in the daytime, and so when a gargoyle awakened from stone sleep at sunset, his or her garments would be torn asunder by the process, rendering him or her naked. Augustus, a man with strong "family values" and very desirous of restoring high standards of morality to Rome, was displeased by this, and had one of his advisers, a powerful wizard, cast a "spell of humility" over the entire gargoyle race, causing their clothes to turn to stone with them henceforth.

At about this time, the legendary Irish hero Cu Chullain was accompanied on many of his adventures, including his defeat of the Banshee, by a gargoyle beast which came to be known as the "Hound of Ulster" (although later on, the name came to be applied to Cu Chullain himself and the gargoyle beast came to be forgotten). About five hundred years later, King Arthur Pendragon of Britain also made the acquaintance of gargoyles, although the medieval romancers who wrote about him and his knights likewise ignored their part in the history of Camelot. [5] Few humans were as willing to accept gargoyles as these two legendary heroes had been.

And so, by the dawn of the High Middle Ages in the 11th century, gargoyles had become so rare that humans believed them to be extinct (and few mourned that). Indeed, in Europe the 11th century saw the end of one of the last alliances between humans and gargoyles, that formed between King Macbeth of Scotland (1040-1057) and Demona, which ended in 1057 when Demona betrayed Macbeth to the forces of Malcolm Canmore, bringing about the destruction of Demona's Clan as well as Macbeth's downfall. The Age of Gargoyles was at an end.

In spite of this, humans vaguely remembered that gargoyles were protectors, and although it did nothing to change their opinions about living gargoyles, they still placed gargoyle-like sculptures atop their castles and cathedrals, believing that they would protect these places from demons and evil spirits. So some measure of the true legacy of gargoyles remained. [6][7]

In 1996, humanity as a whole suddenly became aware of the existence of living gargoyles once again when Goliath and the Manhattan Clan were revealed to the public in New York City by the Hunters, and most of them were terrified. Most of the human citizens of New York called out for the gargoyles to be destroyed or captured and locked away, and some of them even joined an organization of gargoyle-hunters called Quarrymen.

The years that follow for gargoyles will be dark and dangerous ones, but in the end, humans would gradually come to realize their true nature, and learn to at least tolerate them. At some point before 2188, the United Nations will finally adopt the "Gargoyle Minority Protection Act", which will grant the gargoyles Protected Minority status and treat their scattered clans as an independent nation-state. Gargoyles will still be only grudgingly tolerated at this point, however, not altogether accepted. They will make a comeback, however; by 2188, their numbers will have increased to twelve clans (one at New Camelot in the Antarctic, and another at Wyvern Hill in Scotland), and a thirteenth clan, the Liberty Clan, will be founded on Queen Florence Island in 2198.

For more information on Gargoyle Clans, please see that entry.


Gargoyles are neither mammals, nor reptiles, nor birds. They are part of a biological class called gargates, presumably descended from the great reptiles of the Mesozoic Era or the late Paleozoic Era. [8] The only other known species in this group is the gargoyle beasts, which were domesticated by gargoyles as companions millennia ago.

The most prominent biological feature of gargoyles is that they turn to "stone" in the daytime. This trait of theirs, known as "stone sleep," is dealt with in greater detail in a separate entry; suffice it to say that at sunrise gargoyles (and gargoyle beasts) turn to stone or, to be more accurate, an organic substance similar to stone and remain that way until sunset. [9] During this time, gargoyles sleep and dream, injuries sustained during the night heal, and they possibly absorb thermal energy from the sun's rays that gives them most of their energy. [10] Doctor Sevarius has hypothesized that without this last feature, a gargoyle would have to eat the equivalent of three cows a night in order to get airborne. Of course, it should be noted that the Sevarius was probably basing his theory on the assumption that gargoyles use their wings for flight. Since they can only glide, the need for this much energy (either from the sun or food) seems unnecessary. Stone sleep is an exotic biological process common to all gargates and is not magical. [11]

Gargoyles have a greater resistance to the cold than humans do, possibly due to a thicker skin, or hide. Gargoyles are probably at least partly warm-blooded, especially considering their activity level in cold weather. However, because they obtain most of their energy from heat and sunlight during their sleep, they could be considered partially cold-blooded as well. [12]

Gargoyles are strongly in tune with the natural cycles of Earth, and there is some evidence that due to the nature of their stone sleep, they may not be capable of living off of the planet. [13]

Breeding and Ageing

Like most animals, but unlike most mammals, they lay eggs. Female gargoyles nurse their young with breastmilk, however. [14] Gargoyles and humans are not capable of reproducing together without the aid of science or magic. [15] For more information on gargoyle reproduction see this entry.

Gargoyles do not age during their stone sleep, so they age only half as quickly as humans do. Thus, a 30-year-old gargoyle would be biologically equivalent to a 15-year-old human. A gargoyle can theoretically live to close to 200, but for centuries most gargoyles died premature deaths through being slain in battle or smashed in their stone sleep. Gargoyles such as Hudson who lived to a ripe old age were rare indeed. [16] In modern times however, when most clans live in hiding and most humans regard them as nothing but stone statues, far fewer gargoyles die by the sword or the hammer and some - like Old Pog of the London Clan - are reaching their 190s. [17]

As a gargoyle gets older, healing from stone sleep becomes more difficult and slower, especially if an injury sustained is severe enough (such as Hudson being blinded in one eye when fighting the Archmage) . . . but for the most part, degenerative problems are quite rare. [18]


Gargoyles' appearance varies from clan to clan, and even gargoyles within the same clan look very different, and are usually easily told apart. Some sort of overall gargoyle anatomical norm does seem to exist, however, judging from the Scottish, Guatemalan, and Japanese clans. And many gargoyles depart from this "norm" dramatically. The London gargoyles, for example, resemble heraldic animals with feathered wings, and Zafiro of the Mayan Clan looks very much like a winged serpent, with no visible (external) hind legs. The Loch Ness gargoyles are semi-amphibious, though the details of their appearance is unknown. [19]

Besides their shared trait of stone sleep, the most prominent gargoyle feature is the number of limbs they possess. Gargoyles are the only (living) vertebrates with more than four limbs. There are individuals like Zafiro who appear to have only four limbs, but it is possible that x-rays of Zafiro would reveal vestigial legs not visible on the exterior of his body. [20] Gargoyles are bipedal, although they can easily run on all fours if they need to, and more or less humanoid in shape. Their wings are usually leathery, most commonly bat-like with the digits dividing the wing membrane into multiple segments, but sometimes pterodactyl-like with one continuous membrane and the digits forming a small hand atop the wing (as with Brooklyn) or web-like in the manner of a flying squirrel (as with Lexington). However, most of the gargoyles in the London Clan, and some members of the Mayan Clan, have covering on their wings that resembles feathers.

Some gargoyles have human-like faces, such as Goliath, Demona, and Angela, while others have long snouts or beaks such as Brooklyn, and still others seem to have a sort of rounded muzzle, more simian in appearance like Broadway or Lexington. Some gargoyles have hair, while others, such as Lexington and Broadway, are bald. Hairlessness or thin hair seems to hold no significant influence on Gargoyle society or relations. Hudson's hair is gray and thinner, and has likely (if Brooklyn is any indication) always been gray. Hudson is the only living gargoyle of the Wyvern clan to exhibit facial hair, so body-hair may not be common amongst gargoyles. None of the gargoyles have been seen to shave, or indeed even groom, so the growth may take a tremendous amount of time and effort on their part.

Most if not all gargoyles have some sort of brow-ridge above the eyes in place of eyebrows, and/or horns upon their foreheads. These seem to be genetic, but they also suggest a certain amount of individual distinction. No two gargoyles have identical brow-ridges, and the ridges move with their expression, which seems to suggest they are not bone, or are covered in thick soft tissue.


Gargoyle skin color varies noticeably within a clan; for example, Goliath and Angela are both lavender, Demona sky-blue, Hudson a tan color, Brooklyn red, Lexington a sort of khaki, and Broadway turquoise. Other observed colors are teal, green, golden, tawny, orange, pink, white, pale green, and grey. Hair may be brown, white, black, yellow, or red.

All gargoyles, even web-winged types like Lexington, possess a complicated and highly refined set of additional musculature and skeletal structures above what humans identify as lateral muscles on their dorsal (back) side allowing use of their powerful wings. Their tails are prehensile, they possess enlarged canines like those of big cats, and typically have four digits adorning each limb (including their wings), though this too seems to have a degree of variance. Their major hinge joints often feature a type of spike or horn-like growth, particularly protruding from their elbows and knees, and some gargoyles' wings are adorned with these bony ornaments.

Gargoyles' arms end in hands with three clawed fingers and a fully opposable clawed thumb. Their legs are digitigrade, with hip, knee, and ankle joints fully flexible like that of a cat; they walk upright on their toes. Gargoyles refer to their feet and hands as "talons," and accurately so considering the strength they possess. In the case of their feet, they are roughly talon shaped, with three arched toes each ending in a powerful claw, and a fourth toe on each heel that points backward like that of a bird of prey, perhaps in order to provide the gargoyles with superior grip and balance even in the precarious environs of their preferred habitats.

Their wings typically feature the same configuration as their hands, with the phalanges/fingers in the wings operating similar to that of large bats, with a thumb-like structure they use to "cape" their wings, or to grip at a rough surface. Some gargoyles, such as Lexington, have no digits in the wing limb, while others, like Brooklyn, have only one digit to support the wing membrane while the others stick out somewhat like fingers of the hand. Further variances exist between particular individual gargoyles, but physical characteristics tend to share some commonality across individuals from the same clan.

Strength, Traits, and Abilities

Gargoyles seem to be omnivorous, but like some humans they prefer a general diet focusing on meat or fish as a primary food source. It can only be inferred from their evidence and physical appearance that gargoyles are descendants of a highly efficient, specialized group of predators. Hunting from the air would require superb eyesight (quite possibly enhanced by whatever biochemical reaction causes the glow of their eyes), sophisticated reaction times, and excellent hearing. Visual evidence suggests these attributes as well; their ears are pointed and seem to be deeper than human or simian ears, giving them greater reception of noise. Goliath demonstrates his attenuation to his senses during his first trip through Central Park with Elisa, when he heard the subtle movements of a highly trained, highly coordinated group of special-operations mercenaries, clues that even Elisa with her police background missed.

Gargoyles also seem to have a highly developed sense of smell, often using it to verify an unknown or to initially inspect an area, as Brooklyn did when first meeting Elisa; he gave two quick sniffs and then immediately questioned Goliath as to whether she was a new friend (or potentially an enemy). They seem to also use their sense of smell to steady themselves when surprised. Gargoyles will frequently inhale deeply via their noses when in deep thought, an observable trait across all gargoyles, though because of his philosophical nature, Goliath does this more often.

When gargoyles are awakening from their stone sleep or are angry, their eyes glow. Their ability to see doesn't change when the eyes begin glowing. [21][22] In general, male gargoyles' eyes glow white, and female gargoyles' eyes glow red. Gargoyle eyes have visible irises and whites; a feature which they share with humans, but which most animals lack.

Gargoyles are immensely strong, and can actually scale stone walls, digging their claws into the stone to provide footholds for themselves. However, despite their wings, they are not capable of actual flight. They can only glide upon air currents. When gargoyles are not gliding and are on the ground, they can "cape" their wings about or rest them upon their shoulders, which allows the beings to avoid being hindered by them as well as for the cosmetic value (with the exception of such gargoyles as Lexington, whose wings are attached to their arms). It should also be noted that, while incapable of flight per se, gargoyle wings are extremely nimble and powerful.

Gargoyles on the ground use their wings as a projection of their size, often flaring their wings outward to do battle, even in confined spaces. This serves two purposes: a perceived increase in size, and an extra weapon, as gargoyles will frequently slap their enemies with their wings, or use the back of the wings as a sort of shield. They also use their wings as we use our arms, tapping objects (as Goliath did when he tapped on the camera lens in Macbeth's house) or pointing with them when it is more convenient.


At CONvergence 2014, it was explained that gargoyle mating rituals involve "lots of flying," as well as feats of strength. Intimate gestures include stroking the hair and/or the horns, bumps, and ridges of one's mate. [23][24] In gargoyle culture these are considered similar to kissing (originally a human custom, but over the centuries kissing, like names, has proven to be addictive). [25][26]

Although gargoyles of the same rookery are unlikely to have closely related siblings, pheromones and similar scent markers would help reduce the risk of biological incest. [27][28]

Naturally, gargoyles are biologically very different from humans. Typically, female gargoyles are only fertile at ages 50, 70, and 90 (biologically the human equivalent at age 25, 35, and 45) in the days that fall around the autumnal equinox. [29][30] After a six month term, the females lay their eggs during the days that fall around the spring equinox, with the eggs hatching during the spring equinox ten years later. [31] Gargoyles mate in both sexual and ritualistic fashion. [32]

Although both species are sentient and native to Earth, gargoyles and humans cannot produce children together, short of scientific or magical intervention. [33] Indeed, gargoyle-human pairings are almost non-existent; Goliath and Elisa's own relationship plus an as yet unrevealed relationship between another gargoyle and human on Greg Weisman's timeline, sometime between c. 3000 B.C. and A.D. 2199, are probably the only two throughout the course of history. It's so rare, there isn't even a cultural taboo against such a relationship. [34]

Culture and Social Customs

Gargoyles have a unique culture known as the "Gargoyle Way". For more information about Gargoyle Culture, see that page.

Real World Background

Real-world waterspout gargoyles.
Notre Dame grotesque overlooking Paris.

In the real world, gargoyles are primarily associated with the great stone buildings of medieval Europe, particularly cathedrals, although they were also placed atop castles. Technically speaking, the term "gargoyle" applies only to waterspouts shaped like bizarre creatures, made to carry water away from the building that they have been mounted on; such statues, when they do not serve such a purpose but are merely mounted atop a wall as pure decoration, are called "grotesques" or "chimeras."

The exact origins of architectural gargoyles are uncertain, although they may have been rooted in part in the pagan beliefs of pre-Christian Europe, lingering on in the people's memories even after the dawn of the High Middle Ages. As per the animated series, medieval people often saw gargoyles as a means of frightening demons away from the cathedrals upon which they were mounted, protecting them from the forces of Hell. The image of gargoyles as protectors, therefore, is indeed an accurate one. However, not all medieval churchmen approved of these sculptures; one in particular, the famous theologian St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), denounced them as absurd, useless, disgraceful, and a waste of money. Judging from how many gargoyles were raised upon such cathedrals as Notre Dame in Paris, few seem to have heeded his angry words.

One colorful legend about the origin of gargoyles states that in the 7th century, the town of Rouen was threatened by a dragon named Gargouille that arose out of the river Seine. Gargouille laid the lands around the town waste and devoured everyone in his path, until Archbishop Romanus defeated and slew him. He then consigned the dragon's body to the flames, but Gargouille's head and neck were too toughened by its fiery breath to be consumed. So the Archbishop had Gargouille's head mounted upon the walls of the town as a commemoration of the dragon's defeat. This, so the story goes, is the origin of both gargoyles themselves and their name. (In actual fact, the word "gargoyle" appears to derive from the French word "gargouille", meaning "throat", used here in an onomatopoeic sense to echo the gurgling noises that water makes when it goes down a throat.)

Legend also states that the gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris come to life at night and go flying about the city. (This legend was unknown to the Gargoyles production team at the time of the making of the series, however, and must be judged as merely an amusing coincidence in the Gargoyles Universe.)

Gargoyle-like sculptures, depicting fearsome creatures as "protectors", can be found in various other cultures, such as Maya, China, India, Mesopotamia, Persia, ancient Egypt, and even ancient Greece and Rome. This is reflected in the series' portrayal of the non-European gargoyles discovered during the Avalon World Tour in Guatemala and Japan. (The series also made use of a parallel notion in "Heritage", the totem poles of the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, although as a red herring here: the creatures portrayed on the totem poles were actually "animal ancestors" of the humans who had originally raised them, rather than gargoyles, and the apparent gargoyles which Goliath and Angela met there were actually illusions created by Raven.)

Stone gargoyle statues, as seen on the TV show.

Gargoyles still crown buildings today even in modern times, in the United States as well as in Europe. In real life as well as in the world of the television series, New York is filled with gargoyles; there are more gargoyles there, in fact, per square mile than anywhere else in the U.S. These new gargoyles are less horrific and more comical in appearance, however; a great many of them are even caricatures of noted personalities (particularly the gargoyles built in universities, who frequently bear a suspicious resemblance to members of the faculty).

Living gargoyles are often found in modern-day works of fantasy, and even more often in fantasy role-playing games, such as TSR's "Dungeons and Dragons", although unfortunately they are usually portrayed in such games as evil monsters. Somehow, perhaps because of their monstrous appearance, gargoyles have been transformed in the public imagination from protectors of the Church to demonic creatures. The Disney animated series has, happily, gone back to the older roots of gargoyles and restored them to their original function in it, although acknowledging the more recent and darker interpretation of them through the theme of the humans' fear and hatred of these beings.

See Also

  • Gargoyle at Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia