Friday, June 17, 2016

Killer Clams

Tridacna gigas

Giant clams were at one time scurrilously portrayed as capable of trapping divers underwater until they drowned, and the myth persists despite evidence to the contrary.

I have been searching for giant clam miniatures for a long time because I wanted to represent the Arduin monster known as the Mantrap (aka Leg Eater, Jaws, Big Mouth), which was essentially a giant land clam.

It probably seems strange that I would be interested in such an obscure monster, but I bought my first Arduin book when the film Dark Crystal was released, and when I saw the sequence at 0:27 in the following clip, it crystallized the image of the Mantrap in my mind.

The thought of fighting giant clams in RPGs seems rather silly (ala the giant mutant fire clam from World of Synnibar), but I was surprised to find that monster clams did appear in real world mythology.

In Chinese mythology, there is the shèn/chèn (蜃), a giant clam (or sometimes dragon-like creature) that released bubbles or mist from its siphons that rose to the surface of the ocean and appeared as fabulous structures or landscapes to observers.

Meretrix lusoria

The ideograph for shèn is incorporated into the Japanese (and Korean) word for "mirage" (蜃気楼; shinkirō, shèn breath tower). The shèn also makes an appearance in the series Naruto as the ōhamaguri.

A giant clam is also found in the Tahitian myth of Rata and its derivatives. Pahua-tu-tahi (Coral Rock Standing Alone) was a sea god in the form of a giant clam the size of a mountain. It attacked by rising from the depths and opening its valves so that its victims were drawn in with the rushing water that filled its mouth. Then it would close its shell to entrap them for leisurely digestion.

In some legends, Pahua-tu-tahi has been transcribed as just Paua. It was also known as one of the Children of Puna.

For giant monsters like Pahua-tu-tahi, there are lots of aquarium decorations or even real clam shells that can probably be used to represent it.

Tridacna squamosa

Normal sized 1/72 scale giant clams are more difficult to find. It is only recently that I've discovered some nice giant clam models from Morland Studios in their Sea Accessory Set 2. The set comes with one sprue consisting of two giant clams, and another sprue with four small clams.

The giant clams work well for moderately large giant clams, but the small clams are oversized, and probably better suited for 1/35 or 1/32 scale.

While the Morland clams are very nice, options for the largest specimens of giant clam remain elusive. I did stumble across a toy that was part of the Matchbox Mega Rig Shark Adventure playset, but it scales out to 10.5' wide, which is about twice the width of a large giant clam.

Unfortunately, the Matchbox clam is toy-like, with hinges and a socket underneath that detract from its appearance. It also has poor shape when viewed from overhead and the folds of the shell are not well defined. Still, with a little work, I believe it could make a passable giant clam.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Archelon ischyros

Archelon was a giant sea turtle of the Late Cretaceous period. The first fossil of the creature was unearthed by G.R. Wieland, who shares a somewhat dubious reputation like his two mentors, E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh. Archelon is probably not the most exciting of creatures, but it did make an appearance in the 1966 film One Million Years B.C.

Some liberties were taken with the movie version of Archelon, the most obvious being that it is portrayed as being five time bigger than the actual creature, but I guess nobody claimed that the film was scientifically accurate.

Two models of Archelon are made by Kaiyodo. One is part of the Capsule Q Museum series (left), while the other is from series 3 of the UHA Dinotales line (right).

The Capsule Q turtle is billed as being 1/72 scale, and has multiple ridges on its back similar to a leatherback turtle. The UHA turtle has a smooth shell with a central ridge like more typical depictions of Archelon found in dinosaur art. The UHA turtle is also about 10% larger than the Capsule Q turtle, but can still represent a larger specimen of Archelon.

Harryhausen's design is based on the green sea turtle.