A harpy is a maligned humanoid creature with an avian lower body and a pair of wings. It subdues its prey by its ability to magically sing, inducing a trance in those that hear, drawing them closer, and then tormenting them.
Harpies have the upper body of a humanoid and the lower body of a reptile, with scaly, clawed feet and hands. They have filthy, tangled hair on their heads; black eyes; and possess wings which render them capable of flight.
Harpies have the appearance of female humanoids with grotesque, avian features. The hands and feet of a harpy end in long, sharp talons. Most harpies are unclean creatures, who have no regard for their appearance. They tend to wear little or no clothing, so as to not restrict their flying mobility, and what little they do wear usually consists of baubles and tokens stolen from the corpses of those whom they have slain.
The feather coloration of a harpies varies based on the various regions of Toril that they are native to. Rumors even abound of beautiful harpies found in tropical lands, which boast the colorful plumage of parrots or other birds of paradise.
A harpy's song, once heard, acts like a charm, inducing a trance-like state in which the victim is compelled to move towards the harpy, regardless of any dangers that might obstruct his or her path. Once the victim is right next to the harpy, it is at the harpy's whim, and the harpy will often carry or move its prey back to its lair. It is possible, but difficult, to resist the song of the harpy, and creatures who cannot hear are unable to be affected by the magical song. Elves are naturally resistant to the effects of the harpy's song.
Despite their savage minds and appearances, harpies are able to sing beautifully. Their songs can even captivate the minds of those that listen too long. Harpies use this song to lure in victims to slay.
Harpies do not wear clothing, but will adorn themselves with jewelry or trinkets from their victims. They will always take at least one possession from a victim back to their lair as a symbol of their kill, but are otherwise uninterested in treasure or wealth. They are not particularly intelligent creatures, and are prone to cowardice in the face of superior power. They communicate with a language of shrieking and cackling, which dramatically contrasts when compared to the beauty of their magical singing.
Harpies use primitive weapons; usually bone clubs, but they can also bite and rake with their claws. They have no preference over their victims, and enjoy the killing and torture of any creature. They are almost exclusively carnivorous, but if meat is unavailable, they will resort to eating vegetation. Their preferred food is fresh demihuman meat, especially elves. Due to the natural resistance elves have to the harpy's song, harpies view their meat as an especially rare delicacy. The lifespan of a harpy typically ranges anywhere between twenty-five and fifty years old (see discrepancies below).
Harpies are spiteful, hate-filled beings that will attack anything that they take offense to. This can include beautiful things, living creatures, or inanimate objects. The savage mind of a harpy is often fraught with insanity.
Harpies make homes in groups of six or more individuals within marshlands or in caves near shorelines which are preferably near well-traveled routes. An entire tribe (known as a "scream"), although very rare, can be as large as two hundred. Harpies venture out to hunt, and their victims are often brought back to the lair to be killed and eaten. There is no social structure to harpy life, and there are constant quarrels as a result, sometimes resulting in a fight to the death. If a death should indeed occur, harpies are quite content to eat their own kind.
There is no physical difference between male and female harpies. The males possess breasts just like the females do, leading to the misconception that male harpies do not exist. Females are able to lay as many as twenty eggs at will from the age of two, but only around three of those will successfully hatch, and any deformed young are killed by a parent. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when old age weakens a harpy, it is similarly killed by its kin. It is unclear whether harpies look after their young or not (see discrepancies below), but if they do, it consists of nothing more than feeding their young, similar to birds.
It is not unknown for harpies to cooperate with other evil humanoids if it serves their interests.
The Monstrous Manual states on p.184 that harpies do not look after their young whatsoever, leaving them to fend for themselves, but the "Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of Beauty" article in Dragon #115 states that they feed their young, similar to birds.
The Monstrous Manual also states that it is believed that harpies live around fifty years, but the "Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of Beauty" article in Dragon #115 contradicts this, saying that they live between twenty-five and thirty years at most.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual 3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 150–151. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 184. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Barbara E. Curtis (Novemeber 1986). “The Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of beauty...”. In Roger E. Moore ed. Dragon #115 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 50–52.