It goes without saying, but there’s quite a number of peculiar creatures in the Voynich manuscript. Not in the least these four critters on f79v. The green one is normally more to the bottom left but I set him in the top frame for your viewing convenience. Let’s call them Green (top left), Red (top right), Blue (bottom left) and Yellow (bottom right).
What annoyed me about these creatures is that we couldn’t get a clear view of them, and this for several reasons:
- In some places, the lines are covered in the thick, green paint, making them harder to see
- …or totally impossible to see.
- The color, white background and green water don’t “follow the lines”. This results in a confusing patchwork crossing the borders of the creatures in various places.
- At some places where the green paint dries at the edges, it creates a darker line which can be mistaken for a creature outline.
- Some parts, like the tails on the blue and the red one, have been totally covered in “water”.
So what I decided to do is meticulously trace line by line in Photoshop. I traced one one of the high res images from Beinecke, and constantly used an older but brighter scan as an additional reference. I only traced those lines which I could make out, however faintly. This involved lots of zooming in and out, going back and forth between various images, and a lot of time. I didn’t do the green one because he’s clear enough. got a pretty complete outline for blue and yellow. The red one got covered in a thick layer of green paint at places, and I have only traced those lines of which I was certain. His snout, tail and legs show gaps. I left a bit of paint so you can still see the intended colors.
After having traced everything, I was able to make the following observations:
- Red and Blue have forked tails like Green.
- Red has a ridged back.
- Blue has a saw pattern on the top of his snout and a line pattern on his back.
- Yellow has a forked snout. It’s small, but clear upon close inspection.
This leads me to believe that Green, Blue and Red belong to the same “class”. I’d even dare to suggest that the forked fish tail suggests an aquatic nature. That doesn’t mean that these three are fish, but the forked tail communicates that they were seen as belonging to the water. They are distinguished by three different patterns: Green has dots running across his flank, Blue has a subtle pattern of lines on his back, and Red has a ridged back. Whether this means that they are different species, I don’t know.
Yellow has been given a different tail, a fuller body and a different neck. His stance seems to suggest hostility or fear towards Blue, and perhaps also Red and Green.
It seems very clear to me that the later painter, perhaps Pelling’s ‘heavy painter’, obscured exactly those elements that gave these creatures their aquatic character: the fish tail, suggestion of scales, pointy snout.
It is possible that this hybridisation was foreign to him, and he felt more at ease with swimming or drowning mammals. This alteration has allowed some modern viewers to interpret the scene as one similar to the biblical flood.
My outlines allow for a rather different reading: that of a mammal drinking at a pond and being spooked by three of its inhabitants.