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Monsters - Mythical Creatures
What is it about monsters that fascinates us so much? Modern man just can’t seem to get enough of them, and movie-makers, television producers, video game designers, and authors have certainly stepped up to the plate to give us what we want. Of course, this obsession with monsters is nothing new. Mythical creatures have existed in the imaginations of mankind for thousands of years, in one form or another. Some of the creatures were benevolent, some were evil, and some were a mixture of both. There are hideously ugly examples, as well as beautiful beings. I haven’t escaped the allure of such creatures – of either type. I’ve been mesmerized by them for as long as I can remember – and that includes the good and the bad critters. As a child, I really wanted to believe there were real unicorns surviving in some dark forest somewhere, and part of me even hoped that there really was a Hydra or two hidden somewhere in the world’s oceans. When you examine world mythology, folklore, and legends, you find plenty of dragons, legendary animals, and mythical creatures. Why has man always been so obsessed with making monsters?
Mythical Creatures – or Monsters?
As I’ve already alluded to, not all mythical creatures are monstrous. Some are helpful to mankind, according to stories and legends, while others might be indifferent. With some of the mythical creatures, it depends on the situation at any given time. For example, a creature might be kind to humans who are good, but they might mete out harsh punishment or an excruciating death to humans who are evil-doers. Of course, there are some mythical creatures that are monsters all the time.
There’s not always a sharp division between monsters and mythical creatures, legendary creatures, supernatural creatures, and magical creatures. “Good” and “bad” aren’t always as simple as black and white, either. In one story, a creature might be good, while in another, it might act evilly. You have to remember that most myths were handed down orally, and each time a story was told, it was often altered by the teller.
How do you decide if the strange being is a monster or a mythical creature? I think it’s a judgment call. All monsters aren’t ugly or hideous-looking. Some might be beautiful and alluring on the outside, while being deadly fiends on the inside. On the other hand, some creatures that might look terrifying can actually be kind and helpful or even meek. For example, some people might describe a lamb born with two heads as being “monstrous,” but I don’t think the unfortunate animal could be qualified as a monster. Of course, such an unusual sheep wouldn’t be a mythical creature, but I think you understand what I’m saying here.
Myths, Legends, and Lore
Many people use the terms myth, legend, and lore interchangeably, but technically, there are a few differences. Let’s start with “myth.” A myth is a story that was created in order to explain natural phenomena that ancient people didn’t understand. Many myths explain how the world and/or how mankind was created, and others might offer an explanation for volcanoes, floods, storms, rainbows, specific land masses, the changing of the seasons, or the existence of certain animals. Deities and/or other supernatural creatures always play a role in myths, too.
Legends are somewhat different. They don’t attempt to offer explanations of unusual natural occurrences. Instead, they usually relate a specific event from a culture’s past. In many cases, legends are mixtures of truth and fiction. In other words, an actual event might be made “larger than life” in a legend, and the treatment of the “heroes” follows suit.
With folklore or lore, the main purpose is usually to entertain. Rarely do they involve gods or goddesses, although other supernatural elements are often included. These might include the use of magic, along with magical creatures like elves, fairies, witches, leprechauns, giants, dragons, or werewolves. Enchanted objects and places might also appear in lore, folklore, and folktales.
As you can probably tell, it’s fairly easy to confuse myths, legends, and lore. For the sake of simplicity, in this article I won’t always differentiate the various sources for monsters and mythical creatures. I will, however, tell you the country, people, or culture that produced them. Fair enough?
Celtic Myths and Legends
Celtic myths and legends from Ireland and Scotland serve up some pretty interesting monsters. Some Celtic mythical creatures are specific to either Ireland or Scotland, while others were known in both countries. Some of the creatures also come from folklore. Perhaps the best known is the banshee, a spirit that foretold death. In some stories, the banshee appears as a beautiful woman, but in others, she’s an old hag. She often utters a piercing scream or wail. Below are some other mythical monsters from Scotland and Ireland that you might find interesting.
Alp-lauchra – an evil fairy that appears in the form of a newt. It crawls into the open mouth of sleeping humans and consumes the food from their stomachs.
Baobhan-sith – a beautiful, alluring vampire woman who seduces unsuspecting young men at night and drinks their blood.
Bloody Bones – an evil being, often covered in blood, that eats bad children.
Bodach – a dark, shadowy creature that slips down chimneys and carries away naughty children.
Cat sith – a large black cat that steals human souls.
Cirein-croin – a sea monster that preys on fishermen.
Cu sith – a huge shaggy dog that foretells death and steals away women who are nursing their infants.
Dobhar-chu – a large water monster that attacks and kills humans. It’s often described as being part otter, part dog, and part fish, with orange flippers.
Each-uisge – a shape-shifting water monster that often appears as a horse. It drowns its riders and then feasts on their flesh.
Fachen – an ugly, deformed creature with one arm, one leg, a huge mouth, and feathers on its neck. It can kill humans with just a look.
Fetch – a harbinger of death that looks exactly like the human who’s about to die.
Gancanagh – a lust-filled male fairy that seduces female humans. Its toxic skin makes the women addicted to the creature’s attention and ultimately causes the females’ death.
Glaistig – a creature that’s half goat and half woman, wearing a green robe. She tempts men and then drinks their blood.
Kelpie – a shiny wet horse or pony that encourages humans to ride it. When an unsuspecting adult or child mounts the kelpie, he becomes glued to the animal’s back, and the kelpie enters a body of water, drowning its victim.
Lavellan – a large rat-like creature that lives in rivers and can kill cattle with its strong poison.
Nuckelavee – an evil water monster that can kill crops and livestock and bring droughts and plagues. It’s an elf that’s part fish, part horse, and part human, with a single red eye that glows in its forehead.
Sluagh – restless ghosts who fly from the west and steal human souls.
Tangie – a water creature that usually appears as a pony covered in seaweed and seashells. It steals humans and takes them into its watery lair, where it eats them.
Tatty Bogle – a creature like a scarecrow that resides in potato fields. It has the ability to attack humans and to destroy crops with blights.
Trow – a small, ugly troll that kidnaps singers and musicians and forces them to perform.
Wirry-cow – another name for Satan or for a ghoul.
Since most of us studied Greek mythology in school, several of the Greek monsters and mythical creatures are somewhat familiar. Most of you know what a Cyclops is, and you probably also know that one of the Gorgons isn’t something you’d like to encounter. Those are some of the “bad guys” of Greek myths. You probably know about some of the “good guys,” as well, including Pegasus and Chiron. As a sort of refresher course, I provide a brief description of some of the Greek mythology monsters.
Aerico – an invisible demon that spreads plagues among humans.
Agrius – a giant who ate human flesh. He was killed by the Moirai.
Alcyoneus – a giant who attacked Heracles and killed many of the hero’s men. Heracles killed the giant.
Amphisbaena – a creature with a snake’s head that has another snake’s head at the end of its tail. It spews poison from both heads.
Antaeus – a giant-like deity that must remain in contact with the earth in order to be powerful. He kills humans and keeps their skulls as building material.
Argus – a giant with a hundred eyes. He was killed by Hermes.
Calydonian boar – a wild boar that destroyed crops and terrorized humans. It was killed in the Calydonian Hunt.
Campe – a female monster that was half woman and half scorpion. Around her waist were fifty heads of various vicious animals. She was slain by Zeus.
Centaurs – wild, savage beasts that are half man and half horse. Only two, Chiron and Pholus, were wise and benevolent.
Cerberus – a fierce three-headed dog that guards the entrance to the Underworld, preventing deceased humans from escaping.
Cetus – a huge sea monster that was sent to devour Andromeda. Perseus killed the monster by turning it to stone with Medusa’s head.
Charybdis – a lovely water nymph that turned into a huge sea monster, with an enormous mouth and numerous flippers. The water she belches causes violent whirlpools that are capable of sinking ships.
Chimera – a female monster that was part lion, part goat, and part snake. She breathed fire and could kill humans and foretold of volcanoes and dangerous storms. She was killed by Bellerophon.
Crommyonian sow – a huge female pig that brought great destruction to farms and cities. It was killed by Theseus.
Cyclopes – giants who each had a single large eye. They killed and ate humans.
Empusa – a female demon with hair of fire, one brass leg, and one donkey leg. She attacks men as they slept and drank their blood and ate their flesh.
Echidna – a giant, wife of Typhon. She had the face and upper body of a woman and the lower body of a snake. She killed and ate human travelers. Argus killed her.
Erinyes – three minor female deities with bat wings, eyes that bleed, and snakes around their waists. They torture souls in the Underworld.
Gegenees – a race of giants that lived on an island near Phrygia. They had six arms and were savages. They tried to trap and kill the Argonauts, but the Argonauts were able to slay all the giants.
Geryon – a three-headed giant with wings who lived on an island, Erytheia. He was killed by Heracles.
Gorgons – three terrible sisters, the most famous of which was Medusa. She had snakes for hair and could turn humans to stone if they looked at her. She was killed by Perseus.
Harpies – cruel female beings that have the head and breasts of a woman and the body, talons, and wings of a bird. They steal food and torture humans who are on their way to hellish Tartarus.
Hekatonkheires – three hideous giants who each has fifty heads and one hundred hands. Cronus had them held captive in Tartarus.
Hydra – a water monster with many heads. If a head was cut off, two more grew in its place. It’s often described as having the appearance of a snake or dragon. It’s breath and tracks were poisonous. The Hydra was killed by Heracles.
Karkinos – a giant crab that attacked Heracles as the hero was attempting to slay the Hydra. Heracles killed Karkinos.
Kobalos – shape-shifting sprites who enjoy scaring and stealing from humans.
Ladon – a hundred-headed dragon that guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides. It was killed by Heracles.
Laestrygonians – a group of man-eating giants that Odysseus encountered on his way home from Troy. The giants destroyed eleven of Odysseus’s twelve ships, and their crews were killed by the giants’ spears. Odysseus’s ship escaped.
Maenads – women who followed Dionysus. They had poison claws that they used to rip open their opponents. They had the power to force humans into frenzied states of violence.
Manticore – a terrifying creature that’s part lion and part human, with a tail like a scorpion’s and wings. It kills humans and animals with poison and consumes every part of its prey – bones, fur, hair, clothes, etc.
Mares of Diomedes – four female horses that belonged to Diomedes, a giant. The mares were wild and savage and ate human flesh. They were captured by Heracles.
Minotaur – half man, half bull that resided in the Cretan Labyrinth. It survived by consuming human flesh. The Minotaur was killed by Theseus.
Mormo – an evil creature that bit and sometimes kidnapped naughty children.
Lamia – a beautiful woman who turned into a child-devouring monster.
Orthrus – a fearsome two-headed dog belonging to Geryon. The beast and its master were slain by Heracles. Orthrus and Cerberus were brothers.
Polyphemus – the Cyclops that held Odysseus and his men captive and planned to eat them. The giant was blinded by the hero.
Python – a huge snake that pursued Apollo’s mother when she was pregnant with him. Apollo killed Python years later.
Satyrs – savage goat-men with an affinity for human women and wine.
Scylla – a sea monster with six heads, twelve tentacles, and a cat’s tail. Each head had four eyes and several rows of razor-sharp teeth. The heads were joined to the body with long snake-like necks. She attacked ships and killed sailors. She was killed by Heracles but was brought back to life by Phorcys, her father, a primordial god of the seas.
Sirens – island-dwelling female creatures who had enchanting voices that lure sailors to their deaths.
Sphinx – a beast with a woman’s head and breasts, a lion’s body, and the wings of an eagle. When humans passed by, she asked them a riddle. If unable to solve the riddle, the Sphinx killed and ate the victim.
Stymphalian birds – birds with metal beaks and hard, sharp feathers that were shot like arrows. They ate human flesh, and their droppings were poisonous. Heracles killed some of the creatures and frightened away the rest of the flock.
Taraxippus – a spirit that terrified horses, causing their riders to be injured or killed.
Telchines – creatures that were part fish, part dog, and part human. They had magical powers and produced excellent works of metal. They turned to the dark side, however, and caused storms. They also emitted a poison that could kill animals and plants. Zeus killed them.
Triton of Tanagra – a sea monster that attacks swimmers and small boats. The creatures are half man and half fish, with green hair, scales, gills, and sharp teeth.
Typhon – the largest of all Greek monsters. He had the body of a winged serpent, along with one hundred dragon heads and an equal number of black tongues. Typhon tried to destroy the earth, but he was defeated by Zeus, who imprisoned the monster under Mt. Etna.
Undine – sea creatures with the faces of attractive humans and the bodies of seahorses. The Undine have no souls.
Egyptian mythology is much different than Greek mythology, as far as their deities are concerned. The Olympian gods and goddesses of Greece were beautiful – except for one. They embodied the physical qualities that mankind admires. Hephaestus alone was ugly, as he was disfigured. The Egyptian deities, for the most part, are another story. Take Amunet, for instance. She had the body of a woman and the head of a snake. Ra is often depicted with a falcon’s head, and Osiris had green skin and mummy legs. Then there’s Khnum, who had the head of a ram. And if those aren’t scary enough, there are also a few monsters of Egyptian mythology. It’s interesting to note, however, that Egyptian mythology actually had few evil monsters. I suppose they felt that their gods and goddesses were scary enough. Here’s a mythical creatures list from Egypt:
Ammit – a demon that was part crocodile, part lion, and part hippopotamus. She ate the heart of humans who were judged as impure.
Apep – a giant snake or dragon that tried to swallow the sun every day. He also caused violent storms and earthquakes, along with solar eclipses.
Disturbed mummies – these “undead” creatures had super powers and were sometimes able to take the form of animals, insects, or storms in able to kill or torment humans.
El Naddaha – an evil being in the form of a beautiful woman. The creature lured men to the Nile River and drowned them.
Sefert – a creature with the body of a lion, the head of a bird, wings, and a tail like a snake. The sefert guarded Osiris’s body.
Roman Mythology and lore
Roman mythology is almost identical to Greek mythology, and most of the deities are the same, yet they have different names. One big difference in the two mythologies is that in the early years of Roman mythology, there were actually few myths or tales of heroes. For the most part, the Romans didn’t try to “humanize” their gods and goddesses the way the Greeks did. The Roman deities are more functional and less romantic.
Roman mythology has fewer monsters than Greek mythology, and the monsters and mythic creatures aren’t generally as detailed and elaborate. Most of the Roman mythical creatures were borrowed from the Greeks. For example, the Roman fauns are pretty much the same as the Greek satyrs, and Furies is the Roman name for the Greek Erinyes. We also get descriptions of strange creatures and humanoids from Pliny the Elder, in his collection of books, Natural History. Most, but not all, of the beings described in the mythical creatures list below come from the Roman naturalist and author.
Achlist – a creature like an elk, with very large lips and jointless rear legs.
Anthropophagi – a tribe of cannibals who drank from human sculls and used their victims’ scalps as napkins.
Cacus – a man-eating giant who nailed his victims’ heads to the walls and door of his cave. He was killed by Hercules.
Catoblepas- a medium-sized animal with a heavy head, red eyes, and shaggy eyebrows. Its breath can kill, and so can its gaze.
Choromandae – a tribe of humans with hairy bodies, dogs’ teeth, and no voice.
Eale – a dark-colored animal with the body of a hippopotamus, the mouth of a wild boar, the tail of an elephant, and mobile horns.
Forest Bulls – large, fierce bulls with a hard hide that repels weapons. They have blue eyes, movable horns, and are very swift.
Leucrocotta – a swift horse-like creature with cloven hooves, a badger’s head, a stag’s rear legs, and the neck, chest, and tail of a lion. They have the ability to mimic human speech.
Monocerotem – a type of unicorn. It has a stag’s head, a horse’s body, a boar’s tail, and an elephant’s feet. It’s horn is black and is about a meter long.
Murex – a fish that fastens itself to ships, making the ships wreck.
Pegasi – winged horses that have long horns on their heads.
Regulus - a snake-like monster that was the most poisonous creature in the world. Descriptions vary, which isn’t surprising: to view the regulus caused instant death. A single sting from some of these beasts could cause the victim’s flesh to fall away from the bones.
Strix – an owl that drank human blood and gorged on human flesh.
Werewolves – Several Roman writers told accounts of werewolves, including Ovid, Pliny the Elder, and Virgil.
Norse mythology was practiced by the peoples of Scandinavia and Northern Germany, and there’s some overlap with German folklore and the lore and legends of Scandinavia, which in its broadest definition, includes Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. It's also important to note that the Germanic tribes that invaded and settled in Britain also followed a religion based on Norse mythology. The major gods, goddesses, heroes, and demigods are Odin, Thor, Sigurd, Bald, Loki, Frigg, Frey, and Fryja. Below is a list of mythical creatures and mythical monsters from Scandinavian and German cultures.
Ajatar – a female Finnish spirit that often takes the form of a snake. She lives in wooded areas and spreads diseases and other forms of human suffering.
Alp – vampire-like creature from German folklore. Male beings, they most often prey on female humans.
Antero Vipunen – a Finnish giant who lives underground. He’s a keeper of magical secrets.
Askafroa – a malicious, destructive being that guards ash trees.
Bysen – a Swedish gnome that causes travelers to lose their way. They also create other sorts of mischief.
Doppelganger – a human’s ghostly double, foretelling of death or trouble.
Draugr – the undead who are powerful. They attack and kill humans and drink their blood.
Drude – a German demon, often in the form of an old hag. It possesses humans as they sleep.
Eldjotnar – a Norse fire giant.
Erlking – a malevolent being that carries humans to their death
Fafnir – a large, powerful dragon from Norse mythology. Fafnir was killed by Sigurd.
Fenrir – a huge, ravenous wolf from Norse mythology
Firedrake – a Germanic dragon.
Garmr – a huge, ferocious hound that guards the gate of Hel in Norse mythology.
Gjenganger – a resless ghost from Scandinavian folklore.
Grendel – the monster from Beowulf. Grendel lived in Denmark.
Gulon – a gluttonous creature from Scandinavian lore and legends. It’s a combination of a fox, a dog, and a cat. Once it kills and eats its prey, it forces itself to vomit so that it can eat again.
Haugbui – an undead spirit that can’t leave its grave. It attacks humans who pass near its grave mound.
Hraesvelgr – a giant eagle from Norse mythology. It causes the wind to blow across the earth when it flaps its huge wings.
Iku-Turso – a sea monster from Finnish mythology.
Jormungandr – a giant sea serpent that encircles the entire earth. It’s often referred to as the “Midgard Serpent.” Thor is the serpent’s arch enemy.
Jotunn – a race of Norse giants.
Kraken – huge sea monsters from Norwegian folklore. They can swallow ships whole, including passengers and crew.
Lindworm – a two-footed dragon from Germanic folktales. It lacks wings but can deliver venom with its bite.
Midgard Serpent – see Jormungandr
Mara – an evil goblin from Scandinavian folklore that gives humans nightmares by sitting on their chests as the people are sleeping.
Mylings – the restless souls of deceased unbaptized children from Scandinavian lore. They desire a proper burial so they can rest, and they try to force humans to take them to hallowed ground. If the human carrier fails, the myling kills him.
Nachzehrer – an undead from German folklore that feeds on live humans and on corpses.
Niohoggr – a dragon from Norse mythology that tries to eat one of the roots of the World Tree.
Orc – a demon or bogeyman, from Old English, a Germanic language. In Alpine folklore, an “ork” can be scary and savage, or it might be a helpful guardian.
Piru – a devilish creature of the forest in Finnish mythology.
Poltergeist – from German folklore, a destructive spirit that has the ability to move objects and make noises.
Quinotaur – a Germanic sea beast that resembles a bull. It has five horns.
Sleipner – Odin’s eight-legged horse, which is the finest steed ever known.
Surtr – a frost giant from Norse mythology. He carries a fiery sword and will burn the entire world.
Thrivaldi – a nine-headed giant that was killed by Thor.
Trolls – dangerous beings from Scandinavian folklore and Norse mythology. They’re often described as ugly cave dwellers.
Warg – a huge, evil wolf-like creature from Scandinavian lore.
Ymir – a giant and the first being, according to Norse mythology. He was killed by Odin. The giant’s flesh became the earth, his skull became the sky, and his blood was used to make oceans and rivers.
Persian mythology began around the year 1,000 B.C. and preceded Zoroastrianism, which began around 500 B.C. Zoroastrianism is based on the teachings of Zoroaster, an Iranian prophet who claimed to have had visions of God. The old Persian mythology somewhat merged with Zoroastrianism and largely persisted until the establishment of Islam. They mythology of ancient Persia dominated by a stark division of forces and beings representing good vs. those that represented evil. The creator and the source of goodness and light is Ahura Mazda. Nothing bad can come from him. The opposing force is the god Ahriman, the source of darkness and evil. Other important deities include Mithras, Verethraghna, and Anahita. The beliefs of Persian mythology and lore also included angels, mythical monsters, and other mythical creatures. Some are described below.
Al – an evil being in the form of an old hag, with a red face and a nose of clay. She steals the lungs, heart, and/or liver from pregnant women and from women who have just given birth.
Angha – a huge bird with a dog’s head and a lion’s claws. It’s usually seen as a helpful creature.
Azhi Dahaka – a three-headed monster that was slain by Keresaspa. It was like a dragon.
Bakhtak – an evil being that visits humans as they sleep, causing sleep paralysis
Chamrosh – a winged creature with the head of a bird and a dog’s body.
Hadhayosh – a huge land creature that’s somewhat like an ox.
Homa – a type of bird that flies continuously, sometimes described as half lion and half eagle.
Huma – Persian version of the phoenix.
Karkadann – a huge, ferocious beast with one horn and scaly skin. It can be tamed only by virgins.
Manticore – one of the legendary creatures that appears in more than one mythology. The beast from Persian folklore has a shark-like mouth, a human head, a lion’s body, and a dragon’s tail. Sometimes it has horns and/or wings.
Peri – winged, flying beings from Persian mythology. They can be good or evil.
Roc – a huge white bird from folklore. It’s large enough to carry an elephant in its talons.
Takam – a nature spirit that often takes the form of a large male goat.
Zahhak – an evil dragon in Iranian folk tales.
Mesopotamian and Sumerian Religion
The Sumerians lived in Sumer, or what is now Iraq. The ancient civilization of Sumerians grew crops, tended livestock, fished, and made impressive crafts. The Sumerian religion was a combination of myths, deities, demigods, heroes, and religious rites that were closely related to the religions of Mesopotamia, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Akkadian people. To make this clearer, Babylonia, Assyria, and Sumer were all part of Mesopotamia, and Akkadian was a language that was spoken in the region.
Every city-state had its own god or goddess, and each deity was associated with a specific aspect of life. Some of the major deities in Sumerian mythology were An, Enki, Nammu, Nanna, Enlil, and Inanna. Major Mesopotamian deities were Anu, Ishtar, Shamash, Enlil, and Ashur.
The Sumerian religion and the Mesopotamian religion also included the belief in monsters and demons. All demons weren’t evil – some were good. In fact, a demon could encourage a human to do good deeds. Another demon, however, might encourage a person to do evil deeds. In the mythical creatures list below, I’m including those from the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Akkadians, and the Assyrians.
Alu – a frightful demon that has no mouth or ears. It possesses humans and puts them in a coma.
Apkallu – seven demigods that are half fish and half man. They were made by Enki and served him as priests.
Aqrabuamelu – legendary creatures that have the body of a scorpion and the face, arms, and legs of a man.
Asag – a hideous demon from Persian mythology. He was rock-like. When he waded into rivers, it caused the water to boil, killing the fish. He was defeated by Ninurta.
Edimmu – wind spirits, ghosts of humans that didn’t receive proper burial. They often stole the life force from people as the humans slept.
Gallu – seven demons that carried humans to the underworld.
Gud-elim – a supreme winged being that has the body of a bull and the head of a man. It serves as a protective creature.
Humbaba- a fierce giant of the forest that fights with Gilgamesh and is beheaded by Enkidu.
Labdu – a gigantic sea serpent that’s like both a lion and a dragon. It’s slain by Tishpak.
Lilitu – a female wind spirit that spreads diseases
Mushussu – a dragon hybrid that has the front legs of a cat and the rear legs of a bird. It’s covered with scales and has a horns on its head.
Rabisu – an evil demon that crouches in corners, waiting to pounce on its human victims. The rabisu is a vampire-like creature.
Urmahlullu – a place guardian, usually of bathrooms. It’s half man and half lion.
Utukku – a group of demons that could be good or evil. They’re often depicted as servants of the underworld.
Japans mythology is an interesting combination of folk tales, Buddhism, and Shinto. It includes many deities, myths, and legends, along with plenty of monsters and legendary creatures. In fact, through all my research, I didn’t find another culture with nearly so long a list of mythical creatures. On the one hand, this collection seems dark and fatalistic, but on the other, there are also many good and beautiful beings, spirits, and creatures who are helpful and benevolent.
Akkorokamui – an enormous sea monster from folklore. It has tentacles like an octopus.
Amanojaku – a small demon that encourages humans to commit wicked deeds.
Amazake-babaa – an old hag who visits human homes at night, asking for a drink. If a person responds to her, that human will become sick.
Aobozu – the ghost of a one-eyed priest in Japanese folklore. He steals children.
Bake-kujira – a whale’s skeleton that prowls the coastline. It often brings misfortune, and it’s also aggressive.
Baku – a spirit with the feet of a tiger, the eyes of a rhinoceros, the tail of an ox, and the trunk of an elephant. This shy spirit helps humans by keeping away nightmares and evil.
Basan – a chicken-like bird that breathes cold, bright fire.
Chochinobake – a paper lantern that’s possessed by a spirit. It has a long tongue and one eye.
Datsu-ba – an old hag that resides in the underworld. She steals the clothing or skin from the deceased and sometimes tortures them in other ways.
Gashadokuro – a humongous skeleton creature. It tries to catch humans, and when it does, it attempts to bite off their head.
Harionago – a beautiful female spirit with long hair. At the end of each hair is a barbed tip. She ensnares men with her beauty and traps them with the barbs.
Hibagon – a wild, hairy creature about the size of a man. It has black fur and white feet and hands.
Hone-onna – a female creature that looks like a skeleton. She steals the life from men by holding their hands.
Ikuchi – a snake-like sea monster that’s covered in oil
Isonade – a sea monster that’s somewhat like a large shark. It has a hook on its huge tail that it uses to snatch humans from boats so that it can eat them.
Jinmenju – a tree that appears in Chinese and Japanese folklore. It bears fruit with happy human faces.
Kappa – water creatures that are sometimes covered with scales. They are somewhat human-like, but they have a beak or wide mouth and fingers and toes. They often grab children and drown them. I saw a show about these legendary monsters on TV, and experts think the source for these monsters is the giant salamander that lives in Japanese rivers.
Karura – a huge creature with a man’s body and a bird’s head. It breathes fire and eats dragons.
Kyonshi – a zombie-like creature that sucks the life from living humans.
Mizuchi – a dragon that lives in or near water.
Mujina – a shape-shifting creature that appears as a dog, a raccoon, or a badger. It’s known for tricking and deceiving human beings.
Namazu – a catfish that is so enormous it causes earthquakes and tsunamis when it flails around.
Nue – a creature from Japanese legends. It has the body of a dog, the face of a monkey, the legs and paws of a tiger, and the tail or a snake. It brings evil and sickness.
Nukekubi – a creature from Japanese folk tales. During the daylight hours, the monster appears as a regular person. At night, it turns into a headless monster that attacks people by biting.
Nuribotoke – a ghoul-like creature with black, rotting flesh and a fish’s tail. Its eyeballs dangle, and its flesh is bloated. It often tricks humans.
Omukade – a huge mountain dwelling worm or centipede that devours humans.
Ryu – a large dragon that usually lives in water. It has a snake-like body and clawed feet, and it lacks wings.
Satori – mountain-dwelling monsters from Japanese folklore. They have the ability to read the minds of humans.
Sojobo – the powerful king of the tengu, minor deities. This one has long white hair and a very long nose.
Tsurube-otoshi – a creature that hides in treetops and drops onto humans as they pass by. It can be in the form of a head, a ball of fire, or a tengu.
Umibozu – a sea monster-spirit from Japanese folklore. It’s huge in size and has arms like tentacles. It sinks ships.
Wani – a Japanese mythology monster that lives in the ocean. It’s usually described as being like a shark or a crocodile.
Yamata no Orochi – an immense dragon with eight heads, eight tails, and red eyes. It was killed by Susanoo, the god of storms and seas.
Dragons are part of the mythology, legends, and lore of numerous civilizations. This has always intrigued me. How is it that groups of people who had never had any contact with one another create monsters that were so similar? Did they happen upon some fossilized remains of dinosaurs and create a monster that we know as the dragon? And if you think dragon mythology is limited to the Old World, think again. Dragons were even part of Native American mythology and Native American legends.
There are several different types of dragons. Some have wings and can fly, and some have wings but can’t fly. Some have two legs, and some have four. Some have horns on their heads, and some can breathe fire. Some examples of dragon mythology are listed below, with their origins and the names of the dragons.
Ajatar – Finland
Balaur – Romania
Campe (a hybrid) – Greece
Dilong – China
Drac – Catalonia
Drakaina (female dragons) – Greece
Druk – Bhutan
Firedrake – Germanic peoples
Fucanglong – China
Gaasyendietha – Native America, Iroquois
Gargouille – France
Herensuge – Basque Country
Imugi – Korea
Jiaolong – China
Knucker – England
Kulshedra – Albania
Ladon – Greece
Lindworm – Sweden
Long – China
Mizuchi – Japan
Niohoggr – Norse Mythology
Panlong – China
Peluda – France
Rong – Vietnam
Ryu – Japan
Shenlong – China
Sirrush – Mesopotamia
Smok – Belarus and Poland
Tatsu – Japan
Unhcegila – Native American, Lakota
Veri Selen - Siberia and Turkey
Vibria – Catalonia
Vision Serpent – Maya
Wyrm – England
Wyvern – Germanic peoples
Yilbegan – Mongolia
Yong – Korea
Zahhak – Persia
Zburator – Romania
Zennyo Ryuo – Japan
Zhulong – China
Zmey Gorynych – Russia and Ukraine
Zmiy – Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia
Along with dragons, this is another recurring motif in legends and folklore. Many, many cultures had stories that told of little people. Sometimes the little people were evil, sometimes they were helpful, and sometimes they were simply mischievous. How did all these legends get started? The belief in little people isn’t as far-fetched as some other beliefs in legendary creatures. The genetic mutation of dwarfism could easily have led to the belief. Below is a list of legendary creatures that are described as “Little People,” along with the country or culture of their origin.
Alom-bag-winno-sis – Native American, Abenaki
Alux – Mayan
Aziza – Africa, Dohomey
Backoo – South America, Guyanese
Canotila – Native American, Lakota
Chaneque – Aztec
Clurichaun – Irish
Coblynau – Welsh
Dactyl – Greek
Di sma undar jordi - Gotland
Duende – Spanish
Duergar – English
Duwende - Philippines
Dvergar – Norse
Dwarfs – Germanic
Eloko – Central African
Far Darrig – Irish
Ishigaq – Inuit
Jenglot - Java
Jogah – Native American, Iroquois
Kabouter – Dutch
Kahaku - Japan
Karzelek – Polish
Knocker – Wales and Cornwall
Kobold – German
Koro-pok-guru – Russia and Japan
Korrigan – Brittany
Krasnoludek – Polish
Mannegishi – Native American, Cree
Menahune – Tihitian and Hawaiian
Menninkainen – Finnish
Moss People – Germanic
Negret – Catalonia
Nimerigar – Native American, Shoshone
Nuno – Philippines
Ork - German
Pech – Scotland
Pygmy – Greek
Spiridus - Romania
Sprite – Medieval Europe
Tikoloshe – South African, Zulu
Trow – Scotland, Shetland and Orkney Islands
Create a Monster
Why did so many cultures feel the need to create a monster? The world was often a terrifying place for our ancestors. They had little understanding of what caused death, destruction, and other calamities. Hunger was always at the door, and savage beasts roamed the forests. Making a monster was often how they dealt with explaining something they didn’t understand. In some cases, they’d create a monster in order to control people’s actions and behavior. This can especially be seen with creatures that harm, steal, or kill bad children. Okay, all that’s understood…but what about us? We have scientific knowledge to explain our world, yet we’re still making monsters. Think about it. We have Freddy Krueger, Jason, Leatherface, and Hannibal Lecter as human monsters, but we also have some mythical monsters, though some don’t have names: Alien, Predator, Godzilla, vampires, zombies, and Frankenstein. Mythical creatures appear in American folklore, too, like Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, Mothman, and various lake monsters. I guess we’ll just have to face it: humanity will never tire of monsters and mythical creatures!