Helvetii DevBlog #4: The Tatzelwurm

Hello everyone !

I hope you had a good time these last two weeks ! Sorry for being two days late on this one ! I was at GDC for the very first time, and had loads of fun meeting a whole bunch of devs and showing my games around, including Helvetii. There are some very exciting things regarding that which I can’t talk about just yet, but stay tuned either here or on my twitter !

Anyway, this week I thought I’d do a short blog tackling one of the creatures of Helvetii. There are many myths and legends, old and new from which to pick and choose from when making a game about the “local” culture. One of them that sprung almost immediately when I started doing research on this project, especially on native monsters to the alps, was the Tatzelwurm.

The Tatzelwurm in history

tatzelwurm

“A shepherd in the Innschweiz encounters a Tatzelwurm” (Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, 1723)

There are a few different takes on the origins of the Tatzelwurm, also known as Tatzlwyrm (which roughly translates as “Pawed Worm”). Mostly, it seems that part of its inspiration could be nordic in origin (The lindworms, or wyverns, wingless bipedal dragons. In italian, the Tatzelwurm is named “Basilisk”, a name we are more familiar with in our popular culture).

The general consensus is that the Tatzelwurm roams the mountainous landscapes of the alps (from France to Switzerland and Austria, but several other areas like Germany and Italy are also included). It is described as a large and stubby snake/lizard-like creature, and usually reported to have a round face resembling a cat. Lastly, it is said to be extremely venomous, either through its bite or by toxic fumes accompanying it.

As far as “official” myths being told around Switzerland and our neighbours, the Tatzelwurm is one of the few ones that actually is fairly common (more so in the german speaking parts than here. I had to look up a few cryptozoologists websites to get more information on them). But I had a few testimonies from friends from the east that they did indeed hear of the Tatzelwurm as kids. The game’s very own sound designer, Rahel M., apparently heard it from her grandmother.

The creature keeps being referenced several times throughout the 18th and 19th century when it was even considered fact that it indeed existed.  It appeared in the swiss almanac and there are several statues in Switzerland, Germany and Austria depicting the monster. Even up to very recently, there are reports of sightings of “strange, big lizards” roaming the mountains, either discarded as lost monitor lizards or just fabrications.

One of the most vibrant stories is documented on the cryptid wiki

“The first tale is that of a young girl who was working on a Swiss farm. While chopping down bean poles she accidentally disturbed the burrow of a Tatzelwurm and was attacked. The Tatzelwurm in this account was described as being of a gray coloration and about the size of a common domesticated cat with a fleshy hairless body and possessing only two front legs. According to the story the Tatzelwurm glared at the girl and she ran away describing big bright eyes to intense to meet.”

The existence of the creature was never truly proven. The believers would say that it went extinct a long time ago. Others theorize that the Tatzelwurm is in fact a variant of some rare salamander like the Gila Monster (however the Gila Monster is not really native to the alps, bur rather South America. But it would explain the venomous fumes of the Tatzelwurm, as the Gila monster is extremely venomous). In any case, some of the folk still believe to see odd, slinky creatures moving along the mountain crevices, and preying on their livestock.

The Tatzelwurm in Helvetii

tatzelwurm_web

The TatzelWurm (Concept Art)

It was fairly obvious that the Tatzelwurm would be featured in Helvetii due to how iconic this monster is, even amongst other cultures. The awkwardness of how this creature was “composed” made it a pretty interesting challenge to try and come up with a design.Most of the elements gathered from the different stories were kept (stubby lizard body, cat face) but with an added sinister tone of “decay” as to fit most of the visual of helvetii.

Helvetii has a lot of visuals that represent overgrowth and the implacability of nature at that time. A lot of the creatures encountered are being ruthlessly taken over by an ever-so wild force, and at the height of its strangeness lies the Tatzelwurm. An absurd creature the size of a cow, which despite its grotesque appearance is a frightening foe.

A living carcass being kept away from death by unspeakable sources, the Tatzelwurm relentlessly hunts for food, only to be kept hungry by a cruel twist of fate. Its pale, slithering skin dotted with patches of dark fur flashes only for a moment before it rushes its prey. And while its strength might not kill you outright, the toxic fumes that accompanies it will make short work of most who try to defy it on its turf.

The Tatzelwurm will probably one of the first animated bosses to be in the alpha of the game, so look forward to see more of our slittery friend in action !

Anyway, that’s it for this week’s devblog, shorter than the others but sometimes you gotta keep it nice and short ! See you in two weeks for more information about the world !

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