Couerl

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Couerl is the creation of the late science fiction novelist A.E. van Vogt (1912–2000).[1] It is an immortal alien predator that sustains itself by feeding upon the id of other beings.

Couerl, which has a physical form that resembles that of a panther (two thick, undulating tentacles sprouting from its shoulders), first appeared in the 1939 short story "Black Destroyer", which would later be incorporated into Vogt's novel Voyage of the Space Beagle. Like a number of Final Fantasy monsters, the couerl takes its cues from TSR's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. In this case, one of D&D's more well-known nasties: the displacer beast. Its history, however, is a little more complex than that.

As with so many design decisions made by Square in the early days of the series, it's hard to fathom why the designers of the original Final Fantasy chose to consciously plunder the world's most popular pen-and-paper role-playing game for material. Other D&D beasties referenced in Final Fantasy I include the Mind Flayer, the Sahuagin and the Otyugh, though FFI's reinterpretation of one of D&D's signature monsters, the Beholder, was altered for its US release, presumably for fear of legal action from the then-notoriously cantankerous TSR. While traditional pen-and-paper role-playing has always been a niche hobby in Japan — almost ensuring that Square's original 'borrowings' would be unlikely to attract much attention from gamers — Final Fantasy I's international success possibly spurred Square to make a few changes.

Come FFII, most of the prominent D&D references had disappeared, save for one notable exception: a magically active cat-creature known as the couerl. While the name change obscured the original source of the monster, it also happened to shed a little light on the actual origins of the displacer beast, whose entry in the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual[2]"a magical creature that resembles a puma with two powerful black tentacles growing from its shoulders [...] a fierce, savage creature that hates all forms of life" — was almost an exact match for the original description of van Vogt's Couerl.

As the FF couerl has little in common with its D&D/van Vogt counterpart — where Coeurl sported tentacles, the Final Fantasy couerl has prominent elongated whiskers, and is largely patterned after leopards — one might speculate that this may have been intended as a sly jab at the D&D team, pointing out that the high-and-mighty TSR wasn't above stealing other peoples' creations either. If that seems out-of-character for Square, one should also note that one of FFI Japan's in-jokes killed off The Legend of Zelda's hero, Link; and, in the US version, rival CRPG Dragon Quest/Warrior's Erdrick. That this particular reference didn't come to Western gamers' attention until eight installments later speaks volumes for the quality of early FF translation efforts.

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References

  1. van Vogt, A.E. {1992). Voyage of the Space Beagle, London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-58602-439-5.
  2. Stewart, Doug (1993). Monstrous Manual (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition), Geneva, WI: TSR. ISBN 1-56076-619-0.
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