We continue onward with our trek through the A monsters of the Bestiary.
The thing that immediately jumps to mind when I look at the Pathfinder ankheg is how it’s the exact opposite of the animated object that preceded it. Not because of any particular thematic dichotomy, but simply in terms of how evocative the artwork is. For the animated object, the picture was very inspiring. But for the ankheg, not so much.
Even a casual glance at the picture to the left should be enough to take in the fact that this ankheg has been squashed like, well, a bug. I can only imagine some titan going out to water his lawn and finding these things burrowing up through the flowerbed, earning an annoyed snort and a quick stomp.
I mean, I’m sure that’s not what the artist was intending with this, but given how the thing’s head is lower to the ground than the rest of its body, and is leaking green fluid, it’s quite clearly the most obvious conclusion.
It’s just as well; I personally found that the ankeg never quite fulfilled the role that was intended for it. It’s a big burrowing bug that can spit acid…that should sound fearsome, but really just seems to harken back to childhood fears of what a frightening insect should be.
As children, we’re afraid of the things that are bigger than us, since a lot of the world seems to be filled with dauntingly tall things. As adults, we’re afraid of the small things that can move around undetected and kill us with something like a tiny, poisonous bite. Something big is usually going to attack its prey head-on, and we’ve grown pretty confident in our ability to handle things in a straight-up fight, since we have guns. Deadly insects don’t play by those rules, however, using subterfuge to get us when we’re not expecting it.
The ankheg, by contrast, is the insect version of the drunken guy on a street-corner, loudly hooting that he’ll take on all comers. He’s a threat, but obviously so, and doesn’t really strike terror into peoples’ hearts. You know that as soon as you’re out of this guy’s reach (or at least, the range of his acid attack) he’s ceased to be any kind of immediate threat, since you won’t find him making a nest in your attic. Unlike, say, the brown recluse spider who’ll jump down and bite you the next time you go up there.
That’s really the ankheg’s lesson (one that it teaches by being an example of what not to do): the worst threats are the ones you don’t see coming…probably like the titanic foot that squished the example ankheg in the Bestiary.