Kindred Shizzards

It is satisfying to learn that out there in the wide world, separated by time, space and the M40, others have also theoretically crossbred lizards with farmyard animals.

Porl by Katherine

What are the odds of that? Presenting: The Shizzard! Half sheep, half lizard, it’s got an impressive fleece that would keep it warm as far north as say, Newcastle, extending the range of this unusual beast by a good few miles. It’s got Wuzzle written all over it, and I love an excuse to mention Wuzzles, but it could likely eat those guys for breakfast.  Luckily Porl’s great fire-breathing skills should keep him in check for now, that fleece would probably go up a treat.

Artist: Katherine


His Porl Materials

Decanter of Tokay

Lyra and her porlmon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.

But enough about that. On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending an excellent talk by William Horwood and Philip Pullman at Christchurch College as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. The talk was on the theme of “The Fantasy Tradition in Oxford”, teaching us that weird and wonderful characters don’t need to be created here; they’re hanging out in punts singing madrigals or walking under archways in billowing gowns or full tweed just waiting to be reimagined as mad hatters, talking beavers and Endeavor Morse by the authors who take their inspiration amongst the dreaming spires.

Indeed it tran-spired that a book signing would follow. As we casually sauntered back into the bookshop area of the marquee (because that’s the sort of thing you do in Oxford) I picked up one of the author’s books I didn’t yet have and went to stand by the cash desk behind one or two other people. The lady behind the desk assured us that Philip Pullman would be here shortly, avast! This be the book signing table. He then promptly appeared and I had but seconds to ask myself “am I really going to ask him to draw a horse-lizard?” You have probably already guessed how I answered that question. So I asked Stan, “am I really going to ask him to draw a horse-lizard?”. Let’s see if I did, shall we?

Porl by Philip

Greetings to you, Mr. Pullman! You quite made my Literary Festival. With next to no deliberation and a very affable degree of amusement, the author sketched this delightful character in a book that to all intents and purposes I had stolen at that point. Many thanks and £4.99 later I’m very much enjoying book, and am positively chuffed to have Porl there on its title page.

Artist: Philip Pullman

Lost Porls Part II – ¡Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán!

Another lost Porl coming up now, and this one’s exciting, too: the artist went on to write a book! Or maybe it was the other way round… I know which is more important though. Bring on the Porl! (Can you believe I haven’t written that before now? I promise I never will again.)

Space Captain Smith

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Porl by Toby

Lizard’s head? Check. Horse’s body? Check. Why? “Why”! This from an author of futuristic sci-fi novellas documenting the affairs of a tea-swigging space captain and his crew of terrifying kung fu offworlders, sexbots, alien ghosts, dragons and a hamster? I feel he could perhaps be able to tell us why, in a way that is both intriguing and hilarious, though sadly – none is offered. Authors can be cruel beasts. (Let us not forget Sirius Black – that’s right, Rowling, it still hurts.) Though perhaps he means to challenge us and that is how we learn, children. I couldn’t even begin to match the levels of creativity and stiff-upper-lip humour that these chronicles plunge head first into, so I shan’t attempt it, not here, people are looking (fives of twos of them somedays…) Mr. Frost does however make up for tantalising us so, because the peach is that when the sequel came around, our friend Porl appeared again, but the peachiest bit of the peach is,

God Emperor of Didcot

I didn’t even have to ask. (Plus from the improvement it almost looks like he’s been practising. Please let’s indulge my imagination this once.)

Artist: Toby Frost c. 2008. Toby’s excellent books can be found here, and at all good book retailers.

Space Captain Smith


Lost Porls Part I

Ok, so… from time to time, the odd Porl might somehow be… “unaccounted” for, and spend a little bit of time hanging out in one of my books o’ crap, a coat pocket or a letter rack, but that doesn’t mean we value them any less. In fact, I am most delighted when I stumble across them a year or two later. And now you can be too! I am delighted to present, for the first time ever into the light of blog, the *Lost Porls*. Let’s start with this delightful fellow:

Porl by Irene

This is a simply adorable chap in a delicious Friesian flavour. Let’s not go into the mechanics of it, but even this cross-species curiosity is not the strangest incarnation of Porl we’ll be featuring here today. For example:

Porl by AustinNow this, I love. I think it might well be the first and only instance in which Porl has a horse’s body and a lizard’s head to the extent that he is in fact a chap in possession of a horse’s body and a lizard’s head. A possible explanation is offered: Perhaps he is a scientist? Perhaps. Perhaps he is the increasingly desperate purveyor of a failing ventriloquism puppet double-act who has resorted to mishmashing anything he can get his hands on into a semi-operational soubrette capable of both complex emoting and slapstick solely by the means of hand-control in an attempt to regain his once great following as The Legend of the South Creek Sideshow, where for threepence you’d get unlimited rides on the jig-a-ma-round and a peep at the bearded lady before elbowing your way to the front of Porl’s Grotto to be amazed by the realistic and hilarious stylings of his puppet antics. But really, it could be anything – comments are open for suggestions below. Moving swiftly on,

Porl by Jamie

The goings-on here are far more peaceful. This pleasant Porl of the two-legged variety has nothing to fear from the deranged ventriloquist sort, he’s got just the stocky build and stiff upper lip that will see him fend off any form of assault at the hands of a puppeteer without having even to raise an immaculate eyebrow. There is nothing to fear here, ladies and gentlemen, let us then proceed:

Porl by Eoin

A terrible horse? I’d say more just slightly unreasonable, going by his crossed arms – stubborn, maybe. He does though have the air of one perturbed, perhaps he has just lost a slanging match and is now forced to resort to the hunched stance and sticking-out-of-the-tongue, which is just the sort of insolence-up-with-which-we-shall-not-put. On to the next:

Porl by Kieran

There’s a lot happening at once with this Porl: he himself seems to be engaged in a little chomping of dried herbs hung from the kitchen rafters in a Regency home, which he does with a noticable degree of angst. It could be because someone has struck him very hard on the croup wearing a striped Cath Kidston oven glove, leaving him thus imprinted. Or it could be the small bit of tree that has implanted itself just behind his eye there. Or perhaps his microchip collar is playing up, applying unwarranted electric shock therapy all day, every day, resulting in this jittery character of the spindly legs. And is that a 5 o’clock shadow? The state of him! Let us move on so that we can now come full circle to this reverse-Friesian variety:

Porl by James

Here is a smart beast with ample neck and an expression of great purpose. A fine Porl, ladies and gentlmen: take note. And thus our little tour is concluded. Thank you for coming, please take a flyer on the way out.

Moral of the tale: If you’ve drawn a Porl but it’s not in the book, the Facebook group, or here, you might be one of those lucky folk who gets a second attempt at drawing Porl! Oh ho!

And yes, of course I’m very sorry I have mislaid your drawing. It won’t happen again.

Artists: Irene, Austin, Jamie (a “Devonshire lad in Oxford”), Eoin, Kieran and James. All c. 2008

Anniversary Edition – You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

As Porl celebrates his ninth year flitting from imagination to imagination, from pen to paper, from scanner to book, from computer to blog, we’d like to invite you back for a little retrospective.

From humble beginnings etched onto lined paper in a highschool drama changing room to an idea reimagined more than 1000 times over 55 different countries, Porl has touched many people right in the soul. As an existential thought experiment he was quirky and inspiring, now as a character that is never the same twice he represents to us the spark of creativity that’s in everyone, their interpretations making him so much more than he could be if we’d never shared him or encouraged others to ask what or who they think he is. When we repeatedly see him depicted in ways that we just never would have thought of, it forces us to ask, can anything be pinned down and defined? Do we take our own ideas and perceptions for granted and think them not unique or  special? Do we forget how different another’s perception could be, when we think we have it all worked out?

So on this note, I invite you, dear reader, to perceive these. These are the first two drawings of our friend Porl, scribbled by his loving creators all those years ago in Karen’s daybook, not knowing at the time what he was to become. Perhaps you imagine they will be wild and creative images, artfully fashioned into the very essence of an intangible dream that no other being could perceive? Let’s take a look.Porl IHmmm. This would be more one of those dreams in which a strange being who insists that you spell his name P-o-r-l appears licking jam off a manhole cover being carried by bearded hawks and then turns to smile benignly at you just as you wake up craving toast and unsure if you’ll ever look at a horse the same way again.

But this is unquestionably an adorable image. Porl has just sprung into visual existence and seems to be loving every minute of it! And why wouldn’t he? Let’s move on then, to this:

Porl II

Convinced that what this creature is decidedly lacking is a big horsey neck, a second attempt is made to capture him, his lizard’s head now perched at the top of a long neck complete with mane. However, I can’t help but feel that this might have been at the expense of more attention being paid elsewhere.

He appears with an intriguing inscription, could that be “Porl?” or “Porl’s”? And if the latter, does it continue just under where he’s been cut out to say “got four of the funkiest legs I’ve ever seen on an animal and a tongue so big a chameleon wouldn’t touch it with yours”? I guess we’ll never know. But Porl has come a long way since then, a long long way indeed.  Witness:Porl by GrahamAnd just to echo a sentiment that has come up a few times, “If I’d known it was going to turn into something like this, I’d have drawn it better!!”

Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

Porl by Kevin Artists: Karen and Rachel, February 5th, 2001. Graham, Kev.

All Creatures Great and Porl

Jamie's Magic Porl

On a sunny day here, we find Porl out for a spot of exercise. While his blonde locks swirl pleasantly in the zephyr, his expression rather belies a slight disgruntlment as he wonders how many more laps of this ruddy paddock he’ll have to do before attracting the attention of the good young ladies of the farm and procuring a sugar cube and a pat on the rump. But then his mind wanders to the severe underuse of the term “flimflammery” today and a dream he once had in which he is a camel and a woman tells him repeatedly “don’t jump, Porl”. Thus he continues his pacing until dusk when that curmudgeon of a stable boy finally brings him his worsted jacket and a hay bale to nibble.

Artist: James

Set a course for Porl!

I am most delighted to reveal the first Porl of 2010…

A Porl for Adventure

Here is a marvellous creature, about to leap onward and away as the very embodiment of poetry in motion. This is a Porl with somewhere to be. Possibly there’s a buffet. He stares with one cold-blooded eye as though daring you to get there before him and take all the crackers. Do you not see his powerful legs made for running? His head streamlined like an oiled piranha in a vacuum? Safe in the knowledge that no one would be fool enough to try, he sets his course and arrives in a leisurely manner in plenty of time for cheese and a toast of brandy to the hostess.

Artist: Kev