A large bird-type animal that moves at great speed, but across the ground, which I think is desert and the creature is enclosed inside a walled region. I must have read it about 40 years ago. Might it be Michael Moorcock or Jack Vance? This creature haunts my subconscious even now. And no, it's not The Roadrunner!

closed as unclear what you're asking by Paulie_D, Chenmunka, Valorum, Binary Worrier, FuzzyBoots Sep 27 '16 at 2:40

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    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! Please try to add anything that may help identification. What language was it in? Are there any other plot details you remember or descriptions of scenes or characters you can give? Anything at all? Feel free to edit any additional details into the question. – Paulie_D Sep 26 '16 at 11:27
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    How about giving a few more details, if you can remember any. A setting (future, past, parallel world, other planet), a main character (name, occupation), or a genre (science fiction, fantasy, horror, young adult) can go a long way toward helping us discover what you are looking for. How fast is your mystery bird? Natural animal, fast? Race car, fast? More details limits searching and enhances the chance of a hit. – Thaddeus Howze Sep 26 '16 at 14:06
  • If this is the story I am thinking of, the bird is inside of a box canyon on an alien planet. The narrator/main character was similarly stuck inside, and the bird was the only thing to eat. Problem was the damn thing was so fast it could run (yes roadrunner style) straight up the canyon walls so he could never catch it. I keep thinking of the second World of Tiers book, but might be confusing the presence of the time traveling kangaroo from that book. I always pictured a scene familiar to anyone who ever played Super Metroid because of the similarities. – Broklynite Sep 26 '16 at 16:31


You're thinking of the sandgorgon from "White Gold Wielder" in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. It's confined by a curse to a particular geographic region. It can leave only if someone speaks its name. Covenant is in prison in a walled city in the desert. He speaks the name; the creature comes at tremendous speed and bashes through several layers of walls to enter his cell. The curse includes pummeling the speaker to a dead pulp, but because Covenant is the 'white gold wielder' he can override the curse.

  • Yes. It's definitely the sandgorgon, I tried to edit my original posting to mention other books that I'd read at the time and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant was one (three) of them. I was also going to say that although it was a fierce creature there was more to its encounter with the human character than naked violence. I was also going to call it a griffon. But well done for identifying it on such paltry details. Thank you. – Catherine Sep 27 '16 at 7:06

This reminds me of the sandgorgon from Stephen R. Donaldson's various and sundry works about Thomas Covenant. It's been… uh… decades since I last read the first two series, but as I recall, the sandgorgons—elementally fierce two-legged creatures from the desert—are only mentioned in the first trilogy, but one is encountered in the The One Tree (the second book of the second trilogy), and has yet another, perhaps deeper, encounter in White Gold Wielder, which concludes that trilogy.

Points about sandgorgons that match your memory:

  • They have a backward-bending (digitigrade) leg.

  • They are described as moving phenomenally fast. For example, the character Covenant summons one across intercontinental distance in a time measured by minutes merely by calling its name.

  • Sandgorgons were historically imprisoned in the wizard "Kasren's Gyre," which was a massive magical maze-like sandstorm that equaled their ferocity. I believe that the last four books (which I have not read, so grain of salt) address the migration and consequences of the sandgorgons leaving the captivity of the Gyre.

The creatures are also described as being bleached by the sun.

  • Thank you Lexible. That's what it is, a sandgorgon. See my comment above. You mention "last four books". I didn't know about these. Perhaps the sandgorgon was trying to tell me I need to read The Last Chronicles. – Catherine Sep 27 '16 at 7:13

How about The Iron Thorn by Algis Budrys? That has the Amsirs which are flightless birds. More info here


Maybe Hyperion? The creature sounds like The Shrike...

  • I can't find any details that seem to match up other than desert and speed, but adding a link – FuzzyBoots Sep 26 '16 at 13:32
  • Thank you Fuzzy Boots and vinchuca. The description of the The Shrike as 'of uncertain origin and incredible power' certainly tapped into the same weird as the sandgordon. Impales adversaries on a tree of thorns - interesting motif. – Catherine Sep 27 '16 at 7:28

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