Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Harry Potter prequel, hits theaters today and we are EXCITED. In keeping with that theme, this week’s Five by Friday is a study of not our favorite mythical creatures (we’re all samesies on dragons, there), but of five that fascinate each of us, even if they aren’t necessarily our favorites.
Join us in the comments or on your own blog–we’ve even provided a graphic for you, which you can either save to your own space or link from tinypic using the following HTML code: <a href=”http://avengingforce.com”><img src=”http://i59.tinypic.com/2d9318w.jpg”><*/a> Just remove the asterisks, and you’re all set!
I’d like to thank Sarah and Teija for leaving dragons off their lists, because it became clear to me as we discussed our lists that I have what one might consider an unhealthy
obsession fascination with dragons. Yes, we all love dragons the MOST, but I honestly had to really stretch to come up with anything to put on my list OTHER than dragons.
The manticore is a creature that has its origins in Persian mythology, with the body of a red lion, a human head but with sharp, shark-like teeth, the tail of a scorpion, and occasionally bat wings. Manticores first came across my radar as a kid watching the movie version of The Last Unicorn, when Mommy Fortuna places an enchantment on an old lion to make spectators believe he was a manticore. He doesn’t play much of a role in that story, but as a concept, I’ve always found them fascinating, mostly because whoever dreamed these creatures up had to have fully embraced the “nightmare mode” setting on their brain.
Seriously, who are the people who come up with these creatures? Who looks at an eagle and a horse and thinks “yes, I will combine those two things into a single creature?” (I mean, besides Teen Me, every time I played SimLife.) Hippogriffs are majestic and can symbolize love, but for me, I mostly just love how fast they can fly, and how very weird they look.
Werewolves are one of those creatures I didn’t realize fascinated me until I noticed how often I gravitate toward stories about them. Starting way back with Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and continuing on with Professor Lupin in Harry Potter, Scott in Teen Wolf, and Tyler in The Vampire Diaries, I have always had a particular fondness for characters who change into wolves during the full moon. I am always intrigued by how they balance the human side of them with the wolf, and whether they decide to fight it or embrace the change.
My love of unicorns can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Legend, that bizarre ’80s fantasy movie starring Tom Cruise as a youthful forest dweller trying to save his true love, Lily, from Tim Curry’s Lord of Darkness, after she touches a unicorn and ushers in the apocalypse. I’ve always been captivated by how much power those unicorns had over their world, and how easily it could be manipulated and wielded by the forces of both light and dark. Between that and the aforementioned The Last Unicorn, I was fully conditioned to find unicorns fascinating from then on.
THE BEST MYTHICAL CREATURES, AMIRITE?
Guys, I’m so enamored with dragons. I love them in every form. I love them whether they fly or crawl, whether they are gentle or aggressive, whether they horde treasure or spin riddles or are simply mindless beasts. I wish I could put into words which of their specific characteristics I find most appealing, but the truth is, it’s all of them. As far as I’m concerned, there will never be enough dragon stories in the world.
Mythology is full of fascinating creatures and it was so difficult to narrow it down to just five, even AFTER I decided to leave dragons off my list. However, going second made it a bit easier, as Teija had already taken selkies and sirens.
Mermaids are popular, legendary creatures who live in the water with the upper body of a human female and the tail of a fish. Although some myths and stories portray them as kind and benevolent, my favorite stories are the ones where the mermaids are more like Sirens and they tempt young men by luring them into the water to drown them.
Is anything more fun to yell than “RELEASE THE KRAKEN”? No? Just me, then? Maybe don’t ever go on a ship or boat with me if you don’t want to hear this at least a half dozen times. This giant, octopus-like creature from Norse mythology typically lives in the Northern Atlantic and tends to attack ships that sail by. As if that wasn’t enough, if the ship manages to escape the grasp of the kraken, they tend to fall to the giant whirlpool left in its wake.
The Chimera is a mixed beast from Greek lore whose body typically consists of various bits of a lion, a goat, and a serpent. It is known to breathe fire and the snake portion is venomous, making it an incredibly difficult foe to face. In Greek mythology, a sighting of the Chimera was said to be an omen of storms, shipwrecks, and natural disasters (particularly volcanoes). It’s odd how much I love this creature because of how much I hate snakes, but the lion wins out.
Gnomes, or Tomte, have had many different variations across literature, but I am most fond of the Scandinavian version of these tiny creatures. Gnomes are believed to live for 400 years, are industrious, kind, wise, and very family-focused. They are guardians of nature and animals, and friendly to humans. Though, they are also very secretive, and never allow humans to know the location of their burrows, never teach non-gnomes their language, and appear only when they want to.
Also I fully blame the adorable Nickelodeon show, David, the Gnome, for sparking my love of this mythological creature.
This mythical bird, found in stories than span multiple cultures, is said to be the true spirit of fire with colorful plumage and a tail of gold or yellow and red. The tears of a phoenix have the ability to heal any wound or infection, and they can even raise the dead. However, it is best known for it’s life cycle, in which it burns fiercely before being reduced to nothing but ashes, out of which a new, young phoenix arises, reborn to live a life just as long, but even better than before.
I opted to just leave dragons off this list altogether (I’ve covered my love for them elsewhere) and focus on five other types that really interest me. In thinking about this, it turns out I’m really most fascinated by creatures that can either fly or that are creepy and mysterious. If they’re nice until you tick them off, even better.
A sphinx, first of all, looks really awesome. With the head of a human, the body of a lion, and giant wings, these creatures probably scare the bejeezus out of someone before they do anything else. What’s more, they use your own mind against you: they’ll give you a riddle to solve, and if you can solve it, you can save yourself. But if not… it’s the end for you, and they’ve got some pretty impressive claws.
Mylings are so creepy! It turns out I’ve known these creatures as “äpärä” my whole life, because they’re a Scandinavian creature and used very frequently to creep kids out about being in the woods at night. Go figure. Mylings are the unsettled spirits of children who died before baptism, left to roam the earth until they can persuade someone to give them a proper Christian burial. And that’s not all: they’ll leap onto your back out of nowhere and refuse to get off until you carry them to a graveyard for burial, but the closer you get, the heavier they become, dragging you down and sinking your feet into the ground. If you don’t get them all the way to their destination, they become enraged and murder you. Not the kind of thing you want to run into on a lonely forest road.
Selkies look like seals in the water, but shed their seal coats and appear as humans on land. Selkie stories are often romantic tragedies; male selkies in human form are said to be highly attractive, and female selkies can be captured by human men, if their seal skin is taken. Selkies will long for the sea and if they can retrieve their seal skin will return to it. Those who have had children with humans will often return to play with their children on the shore.
Sirens are such a great avatar for people who just want to watch the world burn. Using their beautiful voices, sirens lure sailors into driving their ships straight into rocky shores, leading them to their watery graves. Cursed by Demeter for failing to intervene in Persphone’s abduction, they sing a sad and tempting song whose purpose is only death, and are cursed to live until mortals can learn to ignore their song and pass them by.
Gryphons are the super coolest. A wildly popular mythical creature, they continue to feature in fantasy stories to this day. World of Warcraft fans who play as Alliance will recognize them as flying mounts, and Dragon Age fans will recognize them as the sigil for the Grey Wardens, who (in the history of Thedas) used to ride Gryphons until they went extinct. A split species, with the front half being bird of prey and the back half being lion, these creatures are beautiful, dangerous, and wildly fascinating.