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Mulefa from The Amber Spyglass by JamesMargerum Mulefa from The Amber Spyglass by JamesMargerum
3DS Max.

From The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman.
A slightly tweaked version of an old model. I'm still not entirely happy, but it's better than it was.

Sky from ~CHOAMstock


UPDATE:

I think I need to include a little extra information about this image because it has turned out to be one of my most popular, even though it's technically not a very good model even by my standards. I do, however, have to defend its basic accuracy against some criticisms it has received.

It's only natural that people are going to have their own image of these creatures in their heads, and the model lacks a lot of realistic anatomical detail (it's not even rigged), but I did base the model on the exact description in the book.

If you read it carefully, the measurements for the seed pods, and the trunk, are given in relation to a human hand and arm. It was fairly simple to use those measurements in Max and then extrapolate for the rest of the body.
The legs, for example, had to be long enough to hold the seed pod away from the body, but making them any longer than necessary risked making the creature's centre of gravity too high.

I've never been happy with the feet, but they had to be very simple and unable to grip: These creatures do every task with their trunks, even though it means working as a pair to tie knots. I positioned the claws on alternating sides because it seemed like the way natural symmetry would work on a diamond framed creature, and it could help with balance.

And, finally, they absolutely do have horns - some even wear gold rings on them (read the book).


Oh, and one more thing. When I originally made the model, some years ago, I sent a print to Philip Pullman. He wrote back confirming that I had got it right, except I had the legs bending the wrong way (with knees like an elephant).
I had to guess about the leg bend, and had tried to imagine how Philip Pullman had come up with the design. I started to think about him walking around Oxford, watching cyclists passing by ... the bike and rider merging into one creature the cyclists legs becoming the creatures lateral legs. I was wrong.

This is the corrected version of the model, with better rendering and some hair.
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:iconwilliamtoaoftrash:
williamtoaoftrash Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I always wondered how these looked. The ending of the book was so depressing, though.
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:iconthesnowe:
TheSnowe Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2014
I always wondered what the heck they looked like...
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:iconcassiopeae:
Cassiopeae Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
It is so... so realistic!
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:iconkiml42:
kiml42 Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is very close to how I imagined them, especially since I re-read the trilogy recently, making my mental image more accurate.
It's rather ugly, but also kind of cute.
Their claws for holding the seed pods look a bit short for me, I can't imagine it rolling well without its wheels falling off.

Did the book describe them as being this elephantine in skin colour and texture, aswell as their foot shapes?
I imagined the only similarity between them and elephants being the trunk, and the rest of them being more like a deer or something like that.
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:iconjamesmargerum:
JamesMargerum Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is old, so without re-reading the book, I really can't remember my thinking on the skin.
If New Line hadn't killed the film trilogy we would have a much better visualisation of them by now.
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:iconkiml42:
kiml42 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It is a shame we didn't get more films, though, having watched the film quite recently I see why. It feels long and slow, and I don't quite know why.
If they had made them all, we may not know what the mulefa are meant to look like better, I head that Philip Paulman didn't care what people did with it.
When My brother's a famous screen writer, I'll ask him to make the trilogy, he'll do it right.
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:iconborabee:
Borabee Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012  Student General Artist
This is EXACTLY how I pictured them, except my ten-year-old mind never really figured how the seed part worked and I guess I thought it was like a small broken brown hairy sphere their feet was inside (?) and it slid because of oil underneath... even though that surely wouldn't work in real life...
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:iconpauerkraut:
Pauerkraut Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I first read the His Dark Materials trilogy years ago when when I was 12-13ish... I had a really hard time imagining the Mulefas, partly because I forget a lot of details when I read. I imagined them green with antlers and since I couldn't figure out how their legs worked, I didn't bother. Haha.

Anyway, I know this is an old model, but it does what it's supposed to do, which is represent something that's only described in literature. You did a great job.
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:iconowlblock:
owlblock Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2012
You're freakin awesome. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how they worked! And this is perfect!
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:iconitsannechickennugget:
I really like this, and I've had it in my Faves for a while. That's interesting about the way the leg is supposed to bend! I was thinking how their legs look almost broken, when I saw that Pullman said they were supposed to bend like that!
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:iconjamesmargerum:
JamesMargerum Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I only mean it's bending in the right direction. The broken look is down to my poor organic modelling skills and lack of anatomical knowledge.
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:iconitsannechickennugget:
It's still interesting that they would bend that way..
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:icongreatsilverdeath:
greatsilverdeath Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Holy shit, this is STELLAR!! I've always had some trouble picturing them, but you've cured me!!
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:iconjirachithegreat:
JirachitheGreat Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Awesome! Now I can get an image of what they look like!
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:iconsangotsubasa:
SangoTsubasa Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Wow, this looks almost exactly as I had imagined it! Great job!
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:iconitsannechickennugget:
I read the passage so many times, trying to get an accurate picture in my head...
Anyone who says you did something wrong, f them...
Epic win, getting Pullman's approval! The British cyclists are wary of Philip :)
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:iconchinmoku000:
Chinmoku000 Featured By Owner May 27, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
Thats a very well done piece of work! Mulefa were amazing! as such if the third book is made into a film, they will remove them. and Dr. Malone =/ simple cos they are a sub plot with nothing to do with the main story (according to what I have read on the Wikipedia.)
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:icongexpert:
gexpert Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2011
This looks honestly amazing, the creature in the book is really hard to picture which you had successfully interoperate very well. This is so close to the one in my head, greta job!
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:iconbridgetothestars:
BridgeToTheStars Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2011   Photographer
Hello. I'm Bee and I'm a part of the staff at BridgeToTheStars.net, a His Dark Materials and Philip Pullman fan site/community.

I really like your work here, and wanted to suggest that you submit it to our fan art collection. You can submit creations to fanart@bridgetothestars.net.

You can check out the whole site and community at [link]
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:iconadella:
Adella Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2011
Holy shit this is amazing!!!! *_* I've been struggling with a mental image of these creatures so I did a DA search and this is the one that stuck out to me the most because of the awesome job you did at making it photo realistic! I'm going to imagine this concept now when I read the book because I'm only in the very middle of it now when Lyra is woken up finally by Ama and Will. That's so cool you got the author's approval! Congrats!!!
Reply
:iconkageoushu:
kageoushu Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2010
It was really weird in my mind to imagine an animal being with wheels but holy shit you took the image right out of my mind.
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:iconcozmospark:
cozmospark Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2010
I had such a hard time picturing them. This is beyond awesome. Thank you for making this at all.
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:iconnydalynn:
NydaLynn Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2010  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I had pictures the feet much differently from the descriptions of the young not moving very fast. Nice rendering.
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:iconthegriffin88:
thegriffin88 Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Being a rather scientific person I always had trouble wrapping my head around the way their front and back feet fit around the seedpods and I always pictured the pods to be spherical but that always gave my imagination issues and 404 errors. I like your version, I think I'm going to use that from now on. :)
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:iconlady-bear:
Lady-bear Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
I had a hard time imagining them. (: i loved it. kudos,my friend.
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:iconxxestelxx:
XxEstelxX Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2010  Student General Artist
Wow!! It is exactly as I had imagined!! I love it!!
Reply
:iconalbinotree:
AlbinoTree Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2009
This makes so much more sense than how I imagine them. I thought of the seedpods as way larger, with the width of Mary's palm thing describing the rind. I thought of it like they hooked their two middle legs through sort of like putting your hand in a hand muff.
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:iconcasomess:
casomess Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2009
U = BEAST!!!!!!!!!!
Reply
:icontj-random:
tj-random Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2009
I had imagined them different when I read the 3rd book, but this is much better than what I had in mind. Bravo!
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:iconceledhel:
celedhel Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2009
Great render.. Problem, the seedpods are supposed to be small round balls.
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:iconjamesmargerum:
JamesMargerum Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The seed pods are described as large round objects, about a yard across. Perfectly circular, and as thick as the width of Mary Malone's palm.
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:iconceledhel:
celedhel Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2011
My apologies, I had remembered the description wrong.
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:iconsusan1224:
Susan1224 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
WOW! :O I imagined it almost EXACLTY the same! :D
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:iconfaerie-fungi:
Faerie-Fungi Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2009  Student
Wow thats Great.
I couldn't quite imagine them whilst reading but i love your image of it.
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:icontheblueferret:
TheBlueFerret Featured By Owner May 16, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
...wow what is that thing ^^?
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:iconstammetje91:
Stammetje91 Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2009
This is not exactly what I had in mind. ><
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:icondeemuun:
deemuun Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2009  Student Filmographer
i had a hard time imagining what they looked like until now. i like your composition, and the black bars for that ciniematic feel.
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:iconjamesmargerum:
JamesMargerum Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's a shame that New Line won't be filming the rest of the trilogy. I'd like to have seen them done professionally.

Incidentally, the guy who made the Bear's Fire Thrower for the Golden Compass film is on DA.
[link]
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:icondeemuun:
deemuun Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2009  Student Filmographer
ooh, thanks alot for the link! and yes, it is a shame. i actually thought they did a superb job translating the book to screen.
Reply
:iconjamesmargerum:
JamesMargerum Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The final edit was pretty awful really, it almost looks like New Line deliberately sabotaged a perfectly good film so they wouldn't have to make the more controversial sequels. But I still bought the DVD, because the documentaries on the bonus disk are very good.

If you haven't seen it yet, the real ending is on YouTube [link]
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:icondeemuun:
deemuun Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2009  Student Filmographer
that was facinating. i believe this is an example of tying their own noose? and yeah, i did the same- movie just for the special featues? awesome.
Reply
:iconvanawillemiel:
vanawillemiel Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
i always thought that they had one wheel that they linked with both feet, but this is more practical i think.
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:iconahmettorun:
ahmettorun Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2009  Professional General Artist
It looks like Mulefa that in my mind. Good job.
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:iconaniimali:
Aniimali Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow, I tried drawing one and it looked like CRAP compared to this Beauty.
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:icontwilighter95:
Twilighter95 Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2008  Hobbyist
This is like exactly how I pictured what a mulefa would look like!!! AWESOME!
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:icondavemetlesits:
davemetlesits Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2008
Amazing! So filled with sraf :D
Reply
:iconrivermyst:
rivermyst Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Hey, this is pretty close to how I pictured them! Awesome!

It brings a whole new perspective to it, as a matter of fact, now I wanna go read it again!
Reply
:iconbubblesdubeau:
bubblesdubeau Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2008
wow, i had a hard time picturing them, but this is a really good job. congrats! ^__^
Reply
:icondaderth:
Daderth Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2008
i didn't picture zalif like this one ~__°
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:iconjdwolpert:
JDWolpert Featured By Owner May 26, 2008   Traditional Artist
Wow, that\'s beutiful. They look just the way I pictured them!
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January 19, 2008
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