Half Man Half Goat – The Satyr vs The Faun

European lore depicts a mythical half-man half-goat beast known for its mischievous nature and rambunctious personality. They have been known by many names, most commonly called Satyrs and Fauns. 

While these two mythical creatures are similar in nature, they hold many differences that were founded in the mythology they originated in. In this article, you’ll find the similarities and differences between the Satyrs and Fauns, discover their appearance, and learn about their roles in European mythology. 

“I fear that we are such gods or demigods only as fauns and satyrs, the divine allied to beasts, the creatures of appetite, and that, to some extent, our very life is our disgrace.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Key points 

  • Both fauns and satyrs both originated from the same creature from ancient mythology. 
  • Fauns are associated with roman mythology and are handsome, gentle, benevolent creatures known for their sometimes mischievous nature. 
  • Satyrs are associated with Greek mythology and are known for their lustful desires, rambunctious personality, and destructive behaviors. 
Faun with pipes
Faun with pipes, from PompeiiHouse of the FaunRoman copy of a Greek original dating back to the 1st / 2nd century. B.C. displayed in the Archeological Museum of Naples.

Origins of the Faun and the Satyr

Fauns were originally found in Roman mythology. The Romans described these creatures as residents of Arcadia, an untamed area of Greece with many wild animals and beasts. 

The Greeks have a god named Pan, depicted similarly to fauns, as a hybrid between man and goat. Fauns are believed to have stemmed from Pan, potentially being a descendant of him. (Check also our posts about the goat: The Goat In My Dream: Learn About The Dream Meaning and The Symbolism Of The Goat)

Although they are mischievous, they are seen as lovable mythical creatures that aren’t considered either “good” or “evil.” 

Satyr
Satyr

Satyrs were originally found in Greek mythology. They are depicted as wild beasts, often occurring in stories with themes of lust and chaos. 

They are the more “evil” of the two, although they weren’t often seen as exuding evilness on people. Satyrs were lazy partiers and only cared about meeting their animal instincts. 

Ancient Greeks saw them as unuseful creatures that couldn’t work and couldn’t be fully trusted. It’s unclear whether Fauns or Satyrs originated first.  

Appearance: half man half goat

Originally, both Satyrs and Fauns were depicted in various ways before they took their infamous characteristics. There are instances in Greek art that portrayed them having horse tails, and they were also seen as ugly, foul creatures that looked completely animalistic in nature. 

After both the Greeks and Romans adopted these creatures into their mythology, they became known as they are today. 

half man half goat
Half man half goat

Satyrs 

Satyrs have been classified as half-man, half-goat. Their upper body appears to be human, but their legs are animalistic, hairy, and have hooves. 

They also have the horns and tail of a goat. Throughout history, they have been depicted in art as having heavy beards, pointed ears, and legs made of animal skin. 

These creatures were very large, intimidating, and strong. Sometimes, they appear wearing a cloth cover-up and other accessories associated with warriors or soldiers. 

Satyrs may carry a bow, arrow, or flute to play their beautiful songs. They have usually appeared as men, looking very masculine, rough, and hairy. 

“From forty to fifty a man is at heart either a stoic or a satyr.”

– Arthur Wing Pinero

Faun

Fauns have a similar appearance to Satyrs, although they appear much less striking and abrasive. They were often even considered handsome and gentle in nature. 

Fauns are smaller and have been seen as small men or children, in contrast to the large stature of Satyrs. They don’t contain much body hair and only have semi-hair legs compared to Satyrs. 

They have short horns on the top of their heads that look like tiny spikes. Similar to Satyrs, they are often depicted as men, but these men aren’t seen as intimidating as their counterparts. 

Pan: In Greek religion and mythology, Pan is a god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, rustic music and impromptu, and a companion of nymphs. He resembles a faun or satyr in that he possesses a goat’s hindquarters, legs, and horns. See: Wikipedia

Characteristics

Satyr

Satyrs are known for being both hedonistic and mischievous. They enjoy wine and women and are often seen chasing nymphs through the forest. 

While they can be fun-loving and carefree, they can also be quite irritable and quick to anger. They are also known for being excellent musicians, often playing the flute or lyre. 

Due to their fiery nature, they are known for causing trouble, being impulsive, and not caring about the consequences of their actions.

The satyr has been used as a symbol of lechery and debauchery, as well as a representation of nature and the wilderness. In ancient Greece, the satyr was often portrayed as a creature who was wild and unrestrained but also had a deep connection to nature.

They are easily distracted by food and drink. Excessive love often leads to satyrs becoming overweight and out of shape, making them easy targets for predators. In Christianity, they are considered sinful.

They are also notoriously lecherous and will often pursue nymphs and other creatures relentlessly until they tire themselves out. This can make them careless and leave them vulnerable to attack.

Also, their hooves are not very good for running on hard ground, so they can be easily outpaced by those who wish to harm them.

satyr - half man half goat
A medieval representation of a satyr with a wand that looks like a jester’s club is seen in the Aberdeen Bestiary. Western European wild men and satyrs were mixed together in medieval bestiaries. See also, Wikipedia.

Faun 

Although usually considered to be a benevolent creature, the faun can also be mischievous and even dangerous. The faun is often portrayed as being carefree and enjoying life to the fullest. 

They are known for their love of music and dance and often enjoy playing tricks on humans. In some stories, the faun is also said to be able to grant wishes or bestow magical powers on those who cross their path. 

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Despite their playful nature, fauns can also be quite deceiving. In some tales, they are said to lure humans into the forest, where they will become lost forever.

One weakness of fauns is that they are very easily distracted. This can lead them into trouble, especially if they are in an unfamiliar place or situation. 

They may also be more inclined to take risks than other creatures, which can backfire on them. Another potential weakness of fauns is that their hooves make it difficult to run long distances. 

This can limit their escape options if they find themselves in danger. Additionally, their horns can sometimes get in the way, making it hard for them to see clearly.

A faun, as painted by Hungarian painter Pál Szinyei Merse

Associations

Satyr

The Roman poet Ovid wrote about the satyr in his work Metamorphoses, portraying them as creatures who were lustful and often engaged in drunkenness and orgies. 

Satyrs have also been depicted in some of your favorite movies. The Disney movie, Hercules, has a Satyr character who is aggressive, crass, and masculine in nature

Satyrs are one of the most popular mythical creatures in movies. They are often depicted as half-man, half-goat creatures with horns and hooves. 

They are known for their love of wine and women and their mischievous nature. Satyrs have appeared in many films over the years, including “The Lord of the Rings” franchise, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” 

In most cases, they are portrayed as friendly creatures who enjoy a good party. However, they can also be dangerous if angered. 

While satyrs are not as well-known as some other mythical creatures, they continue to be popular in the film due to their interesting appearance and fun-loving personality.

“Around the hero everything turns into a tragedy, around the demigod, a satyr-play, and around God–what? perhaps a “world”?”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Faun

In more modern times, fauns have appeared in various works of literature and art. One of the most famous examples is the character Mr. Tumnus from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series. 

In the book, Mr. Tumnus is a kind and gentle creature who befriends the main character Lucy. He helps her to understand the magical world she has entered and teaches her about the different creatures that live there. 

In Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth, the character of the Faun is a key figure in the story. He serves as a guide for Ofelia, the film’s protagonist, and helps her navigate the dangerous labyrinth she must travel through to save her father.

The Faun is first introduced to Ofelia in a dream, where he tells her that she is destined for great things. When she meets him again in the real world, he tasks her with completing three challenges to save her father’s life.

Though they are not always portrayed as good guys, fauns are usually seen as benevolent creatures.

Pans labyrinth faun - half man half goat
Faun in Pan’s labyrinth

Were there women fauns or satyrs?

While no named fauns or satyrs are found in mythology, several other mythical creatures are part human and part goat. The most famous of these is the Minotaur, a creature with a bull’s head and a man’s body. 

There are also lesser-known creatures like the centaur, which has the upper body of a man and the lower body and legs of a horse. It’s possible that there are no female satyrs or fauns because the Greeks and Romans associated goats with sexuality and lustfulness. 

In their culture, females were not supposed to be sexual beings, so they did not create female versions of mythological creatures that represented sex and debauchery. However, this is just speculation, and there is no way to know for sure why there are no female satyrs or fauns.

Check out this video for more information on the differences between the satyr and the faun. 

We also have written a post about Famous Paintings Of Mythical Creatures, in case you’re interested.

Sources

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