Why We Need King Kong, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster
Imaginary monsters could save us all . . .
Humankind has been dealing with monsters for a long time. Thousands of years ago, Paleolithic cave-dwellers fought monstrous creatures such as short-faced bears and saber-toothed cats - and when they lost, they were devoured! So cave people with an artistic bent painted such carnivorous creatures (as well as herbivores) on cave walls at places such as Lascaux in France, to help them imagine dominance over the beasts of the world and thereby improve their chances of survival.
Then, at the dawn of civilization some 5,000 years ago, imaginary monsters entered the oral tradition, as well as some of the literary works: The Epic of Gilgamesh , Nibelungenlied, Beowulf and The Odyssey . Of course, Greek mythology is filled with horrific monsters such as the Medusa, Hydra, Minotaur and Cyclops. And, in ancient China, the dragon represented a beneficent creature whose presence could mean good luck and prosperity, but these were always terror-inspiring creatures – particularly the fire-breathing ones!
In ancient Mesoamerica, perhaps the most fearsome monster was Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent. Another monster that is generally given friendly, if not godlike attributes, Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulcan to the Maya, was at times given the characteristics of a person - perhaps the worst kind of monster! The Aztecs thought Cortes was Quetzalcoatl returning from the East after a long journey, and this led in part to the collapse of their empire in the Valley of Mexico.
By the twentieth century, monsters of a different sort captured the imagination of scientists, scholars and lay people. These were the techno-mythic monsters such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti or Abominable Snowman, as well as supposed dinosaurs of one sort or another living in the Amazon rain forest and/or the jungles of Equatorial Africa.
Soon technicians began creating monsters of the celluloid nature – King Kong, Godzilla, Gorgo and The Blob. They brought back to life dinosaurs and other fearsome extinct reptiles as well. Monsters of the extraterrestrial nature also came into being in sci-fi novels, movies and television shows. And The Lord of the Rings trilogy provided folks with plenty of hair-raising monsters and just plain old grotesquely ugly folks such as orcs.
On the current television program, Monster Quest, crypto-zoologists and other scientists search for creatures such as Sasquatch, werewolves, “Nessie,” vampires, or dog-sized spiders in the jungles of South America, just to name some. You gotta love these intrepid men and women putting their lives on the line to find monsters that reputedly attack people and even consume them in some cases. Naturally, no such evidence for the existence of the aforementioned creatures has been discovered as yet, but stay tuned.
Video games offer plenty of monster action as well. In this virtual world, people can fight monsters or become monsters themselves. The possibilities of video games seem endless. Perhaps one day all life will become virtual (maybe that’s what heaven or the afterlife is all about), and the ramifications for such – positive or negative - can only be imagined at this time.
However, there’s no need to worry, because this is all good for modern civilization. Humankind needs combat - even if only imaginary - with monsters to help prepare us for the perils in the coming years and decades. After all, couldn’t Global Warming be a kind of monster? How about environmental contamination? Or that asteroid, Apophis, which might hit the earth in 2036? Perhaps it could be said that people are no better than their prowess battling monsters of some kind or another. Monsters can make us better.
(But, perhaps our greatest battles against monsters may be the ones against the monsters within us. After all, Napoleon, Hitler or Stalin could have taken a bite out of King Kong or Godzilla!)
Therefore, let’s hear it for the imaginary monsters. May they help us prosper.
The following is a list of some the most famous and terrifying imaginary monsters:
1. The Loch Ness Monster is reputedly a plesiosaurus that got stuck in some lake in Scotland. To date, Nessie has avoided detection or capture and could be deceased.
2. Bigfoot, that purported primate of the Pacific Northwest, apparently keeps tromping around, leaving huge footprints, but nobody can lay a hand on him no matter how hard they try.
3. Talos is the colossal bronze titan in the Jason and the Argonauts' myth, so well done by stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen in the movie made in 1963.
4. The Alien, a ruthless, heartless creature with the inner mouth of a moray eel and acidic blood, terrorizes space folks in this quintessential monster-run-amuck tale.
5. The Predator comes to earth looking for blood sport. Blending with vegetation to the point of invisibility, he’s tough to beat. While confronting this big bad space dude, Arnold tells him, “You’re one ugly motherf-----!”
6. King Kong, the lonely 50-foot ape, takes a shine to a pretty blonde, and then falls head-over-heels in love in New York City.
7. The Medusa is one aspect of the mythical Gorgon. With snakes growing from her head, she ain’t much fun to be around and, if you look her in the eye, she'll rock you out!
8. Godzilla, an atomic age cross between a dinosaur and a gorilla, lays waste to Japan. Later, Godzilla becomes a heroic character, fighting monsters from space and others. In the 1998 remake, Godzilla is so big you know what it eats – everything!
9. The ID monster stars in the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet. A product of the mind of Dr. Morbius, this cat-like monstrosity wreaks havoc on space colonists.
10. The Hydra is a seven-headed reptilian creature that Jason battles in his quest for the Golden Fleece. In the movie, its teeth become skeleton warriors that fight Jason.
11. Dracula just wants to drink your blood – that’s all, so he can live forever. This devilish guy could have a historical counterpart – Vlad the Impaler. Who is worse?
12. The Werewolf is just a tough guy with lots of hair on his face and big claws. And as long as you don’t try to shoot him with a silver bullet, he won’t tear you apart.
13. The Cyclops, another monster from Greek mythology, has only one eye in the middle of his forehead; nevertheless, he’s big and tough and likes to eat humans for dinner.
14. The Dragon features prominently in Old World myths. The European version has scaly, pterosaur-like wings. Many spit fire, poison or ice. Leave them alone!
15. The Blob comes from space in search of humans. As it eats them, their skeletons remain visible in its massive, gelatinous bulk.
16. The Rhedosaurus, thawed from arctic ice by an atomic explosion, sacks New York City, until the military impales it with a nuclear dart. You’d think it would be use to such stuff by now!
17. Frankenstein is the personification of electrically reanimated body parts, though he doesn’t have much upstairs. What he needs is a bride!
18. The Fly is the story of two creatures – a house fly and a man, which accidentally come together in a teleportation machine and end up in a spider’s web. Help me!
19. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is an Amazonian “gillman” with a fondness for hot chicks. If they’d just let him do what he wants with them!
20. Mr. Hyde of Dr. Jekyll fame, this Victorian-era story presages the chemical or "drug culture" of the twentieth century. By taking a potion, Dr. Jekyll turns into the immoral Mr. Hyde, which leads to Jekyll’s ruin.
21. Gorgo is a 20-foot reptilian creature that lives on land and under the sea. Some jerks capture it for the circus – until momma shows up - she’s 200 feet tall and fairly pissed!
22. Pinhead, once human, and then disillusioned by human suffering, becomes a Cenobite, a supernatural, hedonistic, sadomasochistic Hellraiser who tortures people and steals souls.
23. Chucky is a child’s doll who, possessed by the Lakeshore Strangler, becomes, well, a horribly, foul-mouthed, pint-sized adult, eventually acquiring an equally bratty wife.
24. Jabba the Hut, the mountainous, toad-like creature with a snotty nose, is the evil gangster who captures Princess Leia, duels with Luke Skywalker and talks gibberish.
25. The Thing, essentially an alien vegetable in a humanlike form (at least in the original movie), crashes his flying saucer in the arctic, freezes, then gets thawed out and starts killing people for no particular reason.
Please leave a comment regarding your favorite monsters and any other pertinent subject matter.
Please try these links to similar stories . . .
- Ray Harryhausen: Wizard of Stop-Motion Special Effects
This article summarizes the career of special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, who made the best sci-fi monsters in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
- Five Great Science Fiction Novels You Must Read before Aliens Invade!
- Was Arthur C. Clarke the Greatest Science Fiction Writer?
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