Fantasy and Mythology scholarship, est. April 2016.
Official Editor-in-Chief of Zebrabird Publishing, owner of the ImaginaryCreatureAuthority blog, leader of the C.H.Z. Comic Club, and aspiring webcomic creator. I enjoy drawing mythical creatures (the stranger, the better!), preferably battling anteater warriors.
A five tailed leopard with one horn growing out of its forehead. The five-tailed thing is a common motif in mythologies worldwide, like the backwards-toed wildman or the winged serpent. Zheng lived in the mountains of China.
A heraldric Chimericae with the head of a boar, the body of a camel, the hooves of a goat, and the tail of a serpent.
Turns out L Frank Baum didn’t entirely create his most famous monstrous minions. Flying Monkeys were around, as a type of imp in Chinese folklore.
Heraldic creatures, with thick manes and either goat or bird forelegs. They are similar to the Griffin, though their name is etymologically related to wolves. Their tails are tied in knots and they have long snake-like tongues.
Japanese bird spirits. They block your path and climb inside your umbrellas.
Giant winged pig from Greek Mythology. He is the brother of Pegasus, and his favorite food is golden wheat.
Needle-shooting cactus monsters.
Giant dogs representing pure good or pure evil depending on the color. They are sometimes depicted as having goat hooves, or dragging a chain behind them. As is classic, they only appear at night, the good one guarding travellers. The bad one is sometimes literally the Devil, this version causing bad luck to anyone who sees or speaks to it. Other times, the Evil Cadejo kills you or causes insanity, and when killed its deathplace become a spot where no plants will ever grow again.
These tiny imps are a personification of disease (their name means ‘Cold People’). They are pale, skinny, and scrawny- as well as tiny enough to crawl into their victims nose and infect them.
Normally seen as ravens, flying over battlefields and eating the corpses. They can turn into a knight, or a half-wolf creature. This second is particularly interesting as wolves and ravens were the two creatures associated with death in battle.
A very kind early-Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas, is famous for giving money to poor families by secretly throwing the sacks of gold through their windows at night.
As time went on, other stories became attributed to him such as calming a storm at sea, saving innocent prisoners from death, punching heretics at the Council of Nicaea, and resurrecting three children who had been killed and sold as ham during a famine.
Over time, Saint Nick became combined with another figure…
Celebrations of ‘Yule’ in Germanic Cultures have been around since ancient times. After all, in all that cold and grey there is a basic need for some feasting and fire.
The Aesir (Thor, Loki, etc.) were associated with the event, particularly Odin. According to tradition, the first toast of Yuletide was drunk to him, the second to Njord and Frey, and the third to the king. Strangely, Yuletide was also associated with the activity of ghosts and wandering Draugr. Today we have Halloween for that.
Tomte (also from Norse Folklore) are little troll-like creatures that can be either a help or a hassle for a Scandinavian home. They wear pointy red hats (like garden gnomes) and are particularly associated with Christmas. They ride around with the Yule Goat, leaving presents on doorsteps or even bringing them directly to the children.
Over time, the Yule Tomte became one character, who gradually became more like Santa- though there are differences. Instead of living at the North Pole, he lives in a local forest, or perhaps in Greenland. He is not overweight, and his carriage is pulled by goats. His helpers are the traditional farm Tomte.
After the Odin/ Saint Nick/ Father Christmas character was born, the legend began to grow. And his uniform changed as well.
First came ‘Green Santa’. Introduced into American culture in the 1700’s. Unlike the traditional bishop image, this Santa was a fat man wearing a green winter coat. Because he was a legend brought over by Dutch immigrants, he became a stereotype of New York Dutch subculture- smoking a pipe, sometimes wearing a sailor uniform. Other images simply showed him as a jolly man who gave presents in stockings.
The Dutch Sinterclass became Santa Claus.
Though the green coat didn’t stick, it paved the way for depictions of Santa to exchange his bishop apparel for more generic winter clothes, though still a red coat.
Probably the most recognizable part of the Santa Suit is the hat. Most don’t know that Santa’s headwear is actually a nightcap.
But the hat wasn’t always around. See this image from Old Santeclaus with Much Delight:
A fur cap, and a brown beard!
Also note the reindeer. Traditionally, Saint Nick rode around on a white horse. Odin rode on his eight-legged steed, Sleipnir.
In all likelihood, the eight-legged horse was just too weird, and the white stallion was a bit over-the-top-noble for the newly emerging ‘fat elf’ Santa.
So where did the reindeer come from?
Old Santeclaus with Much Delight is the first source to mention them. When asked, the anonymous writer described magical animals resembling reindeer, which lived near the North Pole and were known to be able to fly. He said his mother had witnessed these.
Once the tale entered the public imagination, the reindeer’s number expanded from one to eight, thanks to our next influential source.
NOT EVEN A MOUSE
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, yet another anonymous short story, solidified the image of Santa.
He was small, a ‘jolly old elf’ in fact. He rode in a ‘miniature sleigh’, pulled by ‘eight tiny reindeer’.
In the first edition illustrations of the poem, Santa wears a fur cap and pretty much normal (for that time) clothes.
Later editions show him with a long coat, very Saint Nicholas like.
In 1958, the year of the ’58 Chevy, Santa was bald and wore no hat. The sixties brought in orange and green Santa Clothes, and a pink sleigh.
Back to the poem itself.
Referred to throughout the poem as St. Nick or Saint Nicholas, this iteration of Santa brought in the mode of entry (through the chimney, of course) and the names of the Reindeer.
Later, Dunder and Blixem were replaced by Donner and Blitzen. And we haven’t even reached the most famous reindeer of all…
Rudolph was one attempt at building the legend that succeeded madly, to the point that for many people, the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the only one they can name!
ELVES AND THE NORTH POLE
As seen above, Santa Claus was sometimes considered an elf. In some depictions from the early twentieth century, he made all the toys himself. But then, workers from the Salvation Army began dressing up as Santa, and Coca Cola commercials started using him for advertising.
These commercials, and popular fiction The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, ended the idea of Santa being an elf.
But what about those other elves?
Nobody knows the precise origin of the elves. It probably has something to do with the Yule Tomte from Scandinavian mythology.
The first literature to describe them was Christmas Elves, by Louisa May Alcott. After that, the American magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book depicted elves at work preparing for Christmas. They have continued that role ever since.
Thomas Nast was a cartoonist, whose drawings of Santa Claus added all sorts of stuff to the legend.
Before Nast, Santa was generally assumed to live somewhere in Europe. Dwelling at the North Pole made him even more iconically Wintry, and also made Snowmen a permanent part of his entourage.
The Naughty and Nice list was also important. When Odin (father yule) wanted to know what was happening down in the lower worlds, he would send his two ravens to spy. They would sit and the chimney of houses and report back to Odin about which people were being good, and which bad.
Saint Nick would always have a sort of evil alter ego, for instance Krampus or Black Pete. They would punish bad children (in extreme cases whipping them or carrying them to Spain for punishment, in later days just giving them coal). They were the accusers.
Anyway, there was always an idea of Santa Claus distinguishing between bad and good. Today, thanks to Tom Nast, it takes the form of the naughty and nice list. The modern accusers are little demonic elves on the shelves.
The King of Jingling, Kris Kringle, is one of the many epitaphs of Santa. But where did it come from?
The Christkind (Christ-child) is traditionally the giver of gifts in places such as Australia, Switzerland, and Quebec. He is sort of a Baby Jesus archetype, though many others consider him an angel. He (or in some cases she) flies around with St. Nicholas and delivers presents.
Martin Luther tried to make it the Protestant Christmas tradition, during the reformation. He hoped it would bring attention back to the true meaning of Christmas.
The Christkind was Americanized as Kris Kringle, and applied to Santa.
Well, that’s it everybody! See you next time- on Imaginary Creature Authority!
Why did A, B, C, and D get coal in their stockings?
This week, we have Ten Rare and Lesser Known Creatures from Greek Mythology!
I’m sorry for the delay. WordPress did this stupid new update that made me have to start over twice, so I got really uninspired for about a month.
Though lesser known, the Ophiotaurus was one of the original cosmic beings. It was born from primordial Chaos, along with Gaia and Ouranos. Ophiotaurus is half serpent and half bull.
These birds can shoot their feathers like bullets and kill their prey! Also, their dung is poisonous. So don’t eat it!
They initially belonged to the goddess Artemis, but when she moved into a swamp some got loose and soon spread all over the countryside, shooting their bronze, armor-piercing feathers at the locals. These ferocious avians still inhabit swamps today, but luckily have more natural predators.
Like many mythical creatures (leprechauns for instance), the taraxippoi were sometimes considered a type of ghost. This is because, in the classical cultures of the Italian Peninsula, it was a tradition to have the tombs of great heroes be the turning point of a race track. These taraxippoi would inhabit certain places and scare horses, causing them to run away. Sometimes it would be a flashing light, sometimes just a malevolent presence. These ‘presences’ were also associated with the god Neptune.
Alexander the Great supposedly was attacked, while traveling through India (classically regarded as a land of mystery and strangeness), by a group of ferocious creatures with saw-toothed horns on the top of their heads, like land sawfish.
A strange creature, bred by a lion and a hyena, that inhabited India and Ethiopia. It particularly hates dogs, and will lure them out of the house by imitating the voice of the owner. They also imitate human voices and call out to the master of the house. Its eyes change color, its shadow strikes any dog it falls on dumb, and it uses magic to cause anything it thrice looks on to become paralyzed. Besides luring humans and their dogs, they will also dig up corpses to get a meal, ripping them apart with their one huge tooth protruding directly from their skull with no gum.
The crocotta was said elsewhere to be the same as a hyena (ancient historians often used known animals to describe unknown creatures- i.e. the body of a horse and the horn of a goat. Later people misinterpreted these and that is where many of our legends come from), but I shall stick with the accounts identifying it as a separate thing. Another very similar creature is the leucrocotta.
These dog-headed creatures with flippers for hands once inhabited the island of Rhodes. They fashioned the Trident of Poseidon and the Scythe of Cronus.
Little finger-people created from the fingers of the Titaness Rhea. They were skilled in math, metalworking, and magic, the last perfected especially by the evil sorcerer Epimedes. Three of them were dancing warriors known as the Korybantes, who served the goddess Cybele. One of them, a forger named Celmis, was a childhood friend of Zeus back in the Golden Age, and five of the original ten were the founders of the Olympic Games!
In the far north lived the one-eyed Arimaspians, beyond them the gold-guarding Griffins. But even farther north live the Hyperboreans, whose country lies beyond the north wind. The Hyperboreans were giant, ten feet tall, because they were sons of Boreas, the god of the North Wind.
And one more, not technically an entire species but a lesser known character.
Orthrus was the son of Typhon and Echidna, and his siblings included such monsters and the Chimera, the Sphinx, the Nemean Lion, the Lernean Hydra, the Liver-Eating Eagle, the serpent Ladon, the Crommyonian Sow, Gorgon (mother of Medusa and her two sisters), the Colchian Dragon, Scylla, the Harpies, several Sea Monsters, at least one snake footed giant, and of course the three-headed Cerebus.
Orthrus was killed by Heracles (his own stepfather, in some myths), and it can be assumed he now lives in Hades with his bro.
On the side, I would just like to point out that despite the Disney cartoons Hades is not presented as an entirely bad guy. At least not all the time. The bad things he does don’t actually seem that bad in comparison to some of what Zeus and even Poseidon do, yet both of them are treated as good guys almost with exception.
Hades was not a particularly horrible place either. Elysium was there for heroes and great kings, the Asphodel Meadows for indifferent people, and the Mourning Fields for people who have wasted their lives on unrequited love.
Tartarus (the land reserved for the wicked and the titans and such) was technically a separate place, said to be as far below the underworld as the earth is below the sky.
Have a good Hallowed Evening, followers and random readers!
I hope you enjoy Trick or Treating/watching scary movies! Or if you read this after Trick or Treating, I hope you had a good time and didn’t forget to leave out some victuals on the porch for wayfaring spirits.
If not Halloween, then as the choice be thine, Happy Scarecrow Day!
Most of us are familiar with the standard classical mythology creatures- satyrs, centaurs, nymphs, cyclopes, chimeras- but there are also quite a few lesser known creatures that deserve more appreciation. The next post shall deal mainly with those, but for a little free sample I present the Potamoi.
Brothers of the Oceanids (which were later absorbed into the concept of Mermaids), the Potamoi are exactly like mermaids but for their bull head. They are the river and stream gods. And plus, a mer-cow is just cool amiright?
Evil, short little men who walk around at night and capture children. They also steal stuff.
A vampire sock that turns into a snake and sucks your blood (from Sierra Leone).
A creature that literally has eyes on the back of its head, as well as an entire hyena face. To disguise this they wear their hair either as in long braids or all puffed up as an afro.
A demonic pool-dwelling serpent, twisting and furious, that emerges from the depths only to find food.
Looks like a normal leopard, but when it prepares to eat its mouth open huger and huger and sucks you in.
There are two races of raksasa, the blue and the green. They have long teeth, dirty hair, and vertical slits for eyes. Their fingers are backwards, and they walk around kidnapping children. They won’t, however, eat anybody who claims to be related to them. So that’s nice at least.
Though it pretends to be a futon, and looks strikingly like one when curled up, the Kumo is actually an impostor! When somebody sits on it the insectoid monster sticks out its furry legs, drags them down through a secret passage to its web, ties them up for later, and goes back to being a futon.
A zombie from China that emerges from its grave at night and sucks the blood of the living.
A giant bat with a long pointed tongue that lowers into houses and sucks the blood of people. Have you noticed that at least forty percent of mythical creatures suck the blood of humans? Must be some deep psychological fear or something.
The driver of the Death Carriage, the Ankou is a skeleton whose head revolves around looking for the people he is commanded to carry away. Only dying people see his cart pull up in the driveway or see him walk over while his horse gets a drink from your Koi Pond.
Invisible shadow creatures that suck the blood of babies while they sleep.
VUKODLAK AND KRESNIK
A type of zombie that is created when an evil person comes back to life. They are, like Nocnitsae, vampiric. When they drink enough blood they have the appearance of an empty skin ballooned to the size of an elephant. Their arch-enemies are the Kresnik, friendly spirits who guard homes from evil.
Fairy Lights, Will O’ the Wisp, Elf Fires, whatever. This is just another name for the same thing.
Forest dwelling monsters, covered in moss for camouflage. They are two legged, no arms, and will stack on top of each other to look like boulders. In this way they confuse travelers into wandering from the trail. Then they jump out suddenly with a cry of “Bllllaaaaaarggggiiieee!” I don’t know why they like to do that so much, because after scaring the person they let them continue their hike.
Basically poltergeists. Drive people crazy and cause messes.
Spirits that live in fields. They ask riddles to farmers and if you don’t know the answer you get eaten.
Always hungry and thirsty, Abiku crawl inside people and steal all the food they eat. Then they take it back to the Abiku lair and share with their friends. When the next mealtime comes around, the Abiku returns. Sadly, the person starves unless someone wise and/or completely random hangs a bell on their neck. Abiku hate that awful ringing sound and will give it up as a lost case.
Ghuls dwell in uninhabited deserts, waiting for travelers to come through. They are like ostriches, except they have one eye. And long, sharp teeth.
Greetings all. I realize I haven’t been consistently posting in a LONG time, and for that, I apologize. Right when I started getting a lot of followers (by my standards at least) I abandoned them all.
I hope you haven’t all left and gone on to other blogs during my absence.
The reason I’ve been so inconsistent is that I’ve been devoting all my time to the publishing of my first book- The Adventures of Gardus Ningo!
So, in repayment for my absence, I give you a special edition of the List, featuring ten ultra-obscure creatures from all three categories (Cool Creatures with Humanoid Features, Spirits of the Unknown, and Monsters) that I recently discovered.
Now, normally when we hear the word ‘pantheon’ we think of a group of gods, such as the Greek pantheon ruled over by Zeus or the Norse pantheon ruled over by Odin. Even the word pantheon means ‘of all the gods’.
(Shown- Greek, Norse, and Memeland Pantheons)
But you probably didn’t know there’s also an obscure heraldic creature called the Pantheon. Why they named it that? Who knows.
Anyway, the Pantheon is usually depicted as a fox or deer type creature, or chimericae thereof. They are white with purple stars or purple with gold stars. And that’s literally all there is to say about them. At least be grateful I gave you the collage.
A chimeric creature found in the ruins of Babylon, the Mushushu Dragon (sometimes translated as the shirrush) is part ‘dragon’, part lion, and part eagle. Mushushi are found on a couple other artifacts from Mesopotamia, but the main one is the one on the Ishtar Gate.
Shapeshifters that live in whirlpools and try to drown people.
Minuscule vampiric creatures from the Pacific Northwest, Alkuntani look and sound like mosquitoes and fly around feeding on people’s blood. They are evil abominations waging eternal war on all that is good. So in other words, they’re mosquitoes under a new name.
The only difference is these will also sometimes drill through your ear and suck out your brains. (I couldn’t find any Alkuntane pictures- besides one that was more of a wasp- so I went with mosquito memes.)
A god/monster from Mesopotamian mythology and folklore, Ningishzida is depicted as a Chaos archetype, similar to the Uktena or other snake beings of mythology. Though some stories depict him as bad or at least chaotic neutral, others give him the role of Vegetation God as well.
An ancient story written in the early days of this blog, the tickly tickly, involves these creatures. They are wild forest spirits, from Finland, that enjoy playing mean pranks. They are sometimes heard laughing and clapping deep in unexplored woods. They also like tickling people to death, thus its role in the above story.
A huge, poisonous stink-cloud shooting skunk found near the Great Lakes. Usually they just wander through the forest, but if they hear somebody inside a cave they spray right into it, killing the unfortunate spelunkers. Aniwye also will sometimes, though this is more rare, go crazy and start attacking houses- biting the roofs off and spraying inside.
Like most monsters, the giant squids of the Andean mountains have retreated into the wilderness, still attacking and killing with ferocity anything they can find. Some theorize they are related the the Kraken, but this is unlikely as Kraken live in the Ocean, and Huecu live in mountain lakes pretty far inland. Also, Huecu look pretty weird- flattish and pink with eyes all around it and four big ones in the center.
A giant, invisible, cannibalistic giant that rides around on an equally giant, invisible (and possibly even cannibalistic) canoe. They only way to see one coming is to keep a careful eye on the water, as you’ll be able to see the canoe’s wake.
Wild women who dwell deep in forests. They are tall, skinny, and have really long fingers and hair. All this makes them look incredibly creepy, but they are actually sweet people who take care of lost children until they can return them to their parents. The only problem is that they might accidentally squash babies while protecting them from the cold or tickle them to death, at which they cry and this eerie wailing makes other children beware of the forest and therefore not get lost, so it all adds up in the end.