May 14, 2021

Creatures You May Encounter at the Faire

You step into the square, surrounded by vendors selling pewter mugs and leatherbound journals and flower crowns. Mildly inebriated revelers bounce through the festivities, sloshing mead in the dirt as they bounce through the festivities. You decide to follow their lead and head to the nearest booth, draped in a banner that reads “Turtle Races.” 

Typical racing turtles are box turtles–small, tortoise like, and commonly kept as pets. They average about seven inches in length, and as anyone who’s actually put money on a turtle race can attest, they are not fast. Experiments clock them at going about .17 miles per hour, but actually tracking their movement shows that they don’t go further than about 100 yards per day. They don’t particularly like leaving home, and reportedly “Some specimens will wander aimlessly until they die…” which also sort of sums up turtle races. 

But what if you were to race other types of turtles? 

The Galapagos tortoises are probably the best known and currently the largest species of shell dwelling reptile. The largest recorded Galapagos tortoises were about six feet long, and the discoverer of the Galapagos islands, Fray Tomas de Berlanga, described them as large enough to carry a man. (Also of note is that the islands are actually named after the tortoises and not the other way around–galapagos is an old Spanish word for tortoise.) Though they’re about ten times bigger than box turtles, they actually move more slowly, though also over greater distances. 

Let’s try out something even bigger

Archelon: Credit Getty Images

Archelon was a monstrous turtle that lived in the Cretaceous period and measured about fifteen feet from nose to tail and thirteen feet from flipper to flipper. It’s the largest turtle that’s yet been found, and seems to have had a lot in common with leatherback turtles despite not actually being related. They were likely carnivorous, hunting fish and squid and jellyfish, so they had to be faster than their land dwelling, largely vegetarian counterparts. But not much faster–paleontologists expect they probably couldn’t keep up high speeds, and probably preferred shallower, calmer waters. Archelon likely would have been the best turtle for racing, assuming you can hold your breath for a while. 

The smell of roasting meat lures you away from the turtles, and you find a stall selling giant turkey legs, the official food of any Ren Faire. In fact, the number of turkey legs consumed strongly imply the existence of a creature that can help vendors meet the voracious demand for leg meat: the Turkeypede. 

The turkeypede has the appearance of a domestic turkey, but with a lot more legs. Probably not 100, though, that seems scientifically improbable and unwieldy. A turkey with twenty pairs of legs would be easier to transport, and still offer twenty times the leg of a traditional turkey. If you ever encounter a turkeypede in the wild, I highly recommend a strategy of eating rather than defeating. 

You move on to the next booth, occupied by your final foe: The mead man. 

He’s just a dude who sells mead. Buy a drink and go have a good time, don’t be weird about it.

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