Mythical creatures have been around for thousands of years. They range from legendary beasts to supernatural and god-like beings. Myths, folklore and legends are based upon exaggerated depiction of real life creatures brought to life through stories, songs and works of art. The origins of many of these creatures are varied and often disputed but they have played a significant role in stimulating our imagination and desire to experience something more than our everyday physical world.
In this article, people around the world share their favourite mythical creature and folklore.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
The Kelpie: the other Scottish Loch monster.
Only two lochs in Scotland are reported to have monsters: Loch Ness and Loch Morar, but the Kelpies are a whole other thing. They appear usually as beautiful white horses and lure you in. Then they trap you and drag you below water to drown you.
They don’t mess around. They drag you down into the depths and drown you.
Medusa is pretty cool. She has a tragic story of being cursed by a goddess, so you can really sympathies to her plight. If told right, you could frame her as a threat that needs to be stopped for the greater good and safety of the local people. Her powers are magical rather than just brute strength. And defeating her requires thought/intelligence as opposed to just strength.
I’ve always had a dark fondness for the ghoul of Persian folklore; basically a shape shifting monster who lurks in wastelands and/or graveyards, with a fondness for dead human flesh. It can assume the guise of an animal, and lures you into abandoned places to slay and eat you. The ghoul then takes on your appearance, and returns to live your life, but in reality it drains and destroys those you loved.
The purple man from aboriginal legend! I don’t remember the name of the tree, but there’s a type of tree that you’re not supposed to sleep under. If you do, a tiny purple man will climb down the tree, eat you and either barf or poop you out (can’t remember which). You’ll come out still asleep, but a little smaller and a little purpler. If you do this too many times, you’ll become one of the little purple men waiting in your own tree to eat unfortunate sleeping people.
My favourite is the lesser known Irish Clurichaun. It’s similar to the Leprechaun, but spends his nights breaking into rich men’s cellars and drinking all their whiskey.
Also, the Banshee and Pooka are pretty cool too.
Krampus was always a favorite of mine.
The original folklore stories surrounding Krampus are terrifying. Some giant goat hybrid monster that seeks out, steals, and eats children who misbehave.
I love Yokai with a burning passion, but I especially love two of them: Umibozu and Nopperabo, I think they’re called. Umibozu lives in the ocean and will demand ships hand it a barrel, which it will fill with water and flood the ship with (only way to avoid it is to give it a barrel with a hole), while Nopperabo takes the form of a person with no face, and just plays pranks on people.
Saehrimnir, the magic boar that is slaughtered and cooked by Andhrimnir every night in the hallowed halls of Valhalla. The prospect of an afterlife filled with never-ending ham, bacon and pork chops is enough to make me believe in an actual afterlife.
I’m going to have to go with Pesta, an anthropomorphic personification of the Black Death from Norwegian folklore. Pesta was an old woman dressed in black, carrying with her a broom and a rake. She travelled from village to village, bringing petulance and death with her. If she carried the broom, she would take the lives of everyone at the farm. If she carried the rake, a few would survive.
There’s a lot of stories told about Pesta, one of which is about a ferryman.
There are different variations of it, but basically it’s a water-spirit that can either do terrible or good things to you. If you please it (and there are many different variations on what it considers pleasing) it can play beautiful music or teach you how to play beautiful music.
If you piss it off, one version is that it transforms into an ugly old man who dances naked. This sight is so horrifying that it’s been known to drive men mad.
Selkies, also known as seal people. They come from Scottish, Irish, Icelandic folklore. They are people, mostly women, who live as seals but can take off their pelts and come to shore as humans. In stories men hide their pelts and marry the human selkies but in most of them the women find their skins and go back to the sea. I have a lot of realistic dreams about being a seal so that’s what got me interested in them.
I like that Korean ghost lady. She wears one of those masks they wear when they’re sick, and she sees you and is all “Am I pretty?” If you say yes, she takes the mask off and reveals her mouth has a huge slit on both corners, up to her ears, and then she asks “How about now?” If you say yes, I think she slices your face too, if you say no, she kills you or something?
But why I like her is if you say she’s average-looking she gets confused and gives you time to escape, if you tell her she’s making you late for an appointment she apologizes and leaves.
I have a love of golems and wish I saw them in fiction more often. Iron Council and The Golem and the Jinni are the only books I’ve read so far that put them in the spotlight. I’m not sure what it is about them. I think I like that their animation has nothing whatsoever to do with what they’re made of or how it’s arranged. Your typical fantasy creature has some sort of logic to its frame and its musculature that makes its movements possible. A golem is moved through magic and will alone.
The Each Uisge (pronounced something like “ak ishka”). In Scottish mythology it’s a shapeshifting horse that frolics around enticing riders to climb up and go on an adventure with it. These adventures typically last as long as it takes the Each Uisge to get near a body of water, because then its skin turns adhesive and it drags the rider screaming to the bottom to be drowned and eaten. It can shape-shift into other things, but the “Scottish Murder-horse” aspect is easily the most metal.
The Pukwudgie. An American criptid with a mythological history.
Its said to exist in the forests starting in the east coast mountains and all through to Kentucky. Several Native American tribes describe these creatures. They resemble small men, around a foot tall with gaunt features. Their most prominent attributes would have to be their unusually large noses and shaggy long moss-colored hair.
The story goes that at one point the Pukwudgie tribes didn’t mind humans but when one was accidentally killed they went hostile. Now they hate people with a passion. They can blend in or become invisible to humans, they also can make basic weapons like poisoned darts designed to create pain. They use these abilities to torment people, or even kill as they revel in tricking humans to their deaths.
I really love the Japanese folklore concept of “Tsukumogami,” which are tools and household items that have acquired a soul, after serving faithfully for 100 years. It’s why I started buying singular dinnerware/cups whose design I really, really love, so all of my plates and bowls are unique pieces. Makes everything whimsical and I never worry about not matching because nothing matches. Just as well because they’re much cheaper than if you were to buy them in a matching set (since they’re probably supposed to be part of one.) I’d like to think they’re my companions in the kitchen.
Coyote is a key figure in Navajo mythology, and of all the figures in Navajo mythology, Coyote (Maii’) is the most contradictory. He is a shadowy figure that can be funny or fearsome. Coyote is greedy, vain, foolish, cunning and also occasionally displays a degree of power. “In common with Tricksters generally, he serves to test the bounds of possibilities and order.”
Coyote looks like a coyote in animal form and he looks like a man with a mustache in human form.
The Gumiho from Korean legends. They’re slightly different to the Kitsune, as the Gumiho are always evil and feast upon human flesh, while the Kitsune is more of a prankster type.
The Gumiho disguise as female to attract men, and once they’re finally both in love, they feast on their organs and flesh.
I’ve grown up in Minnesota. I’ve heard people laugh about Bigfoot and Aliens and other ‘fake’ monsters that you hear about on the interwebs. These are the sort of stories we tell around the campfire in hunting camp. You laugh about ghosts and have a pint while that one weird friend goes on about witches again.
The one we don’t talk about is the Wendigo.
The scary thing about the wendigo is that, unlike bigfoot or aliens or witches, it isn’t some far-away threat that you can hide from. The Wendigo is your brother. The Wendigo is your sister. The Wendigo is your father or mother. Driven compleltely mad by the cold that blows from the north wind and a hunger that rots you from the inside out.
It hungers for warmth and humanity again, but cannot have these things since it committed the greatest crime of all. It wanders the woods forever.
The spirit of the Wendigo rides on the coldest of winds and whispers through frozen pine trees, calling the names of it’s victims in an unending chant. If you ever hear your name called on the breeze in an icy night, don’t listen, just run.
From when I was growing up in the Philippines.
Tikbalang: half man and half horse. They live in jungles and get people lost. It’s said if you manage to take one of their spines from their back, theyll be loyal to you.
Kapre: a giant that lives in trees and smoke tobacco all day. The word actually came from Kafir and its from black slaves that escaped when the spaniards occupied the islands.
La Segua is a beautiful woman that drunk men encounter while riding home late at night on rural roads. She asks if she can hitch a ride on the back of their horse and if and when they turn back to look at her, perhaps to try and kiss her, they will notice the woman with the rotting face of a horse skull.
She then presumably kills them or just scares the ever loving life out of them.
There is a Trickster god in almost every mythology, and he’s always fascinating. Not the strongest, or bravest, not necessarily the smartest. He’s almost always the cleverest, and gets what he wants one way or another (that is, until pride gets the best of him). Loki has some ridiculous accomplishments under his belt (like transforming into a mare and seducing a horse and then giving birth to an eight-legged horse who would be ridden by Odin), Native Americans had Coyote who stole for them the gift of fire. And who can forget the great rabbit Trickster, El-ahrairah!
Azathoth, from H.P Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos.
Basically a mass of teeth, tentacles and milky blind eyes sitting in the center of reality, being soothed by his demonic chorus.
In the Cthulhu mythos this thing is god, a blind, constantly dreaming entity, and our universe is but one of his many dreams. Also somehow this thing has descendants, one of which is the big Cthulhu himself.
I just really find the idea of god being a loving, kindhearted entity, he is instead an abomination that barely is even aware of our existence interesting. Also another thing about azathoth is Lovecraft didn’t really ever write a story detailing too much about azathoth. He was going to but he died before it could be completed, leaving only a partially started draft which honestly I think is much more interesting than having a full story, since it then leaves azathoth where he belongs, beyond our understanding.
Ive always had a soft spot for Tomten. My grandpa was Swedish-American and had a farm and would read us the Tomten poem a lot, so its purely sentimental. Tomten or Tomte are little farm elves that are generally harmless, but will absolutely mess with your stuff if you dont respect them. Generally, my understanding is that they want the humans to treat the farm and its animals well, and so thats the easiest way to make them angry. That, and not leaving them their share of porridge.
The Vampire. Not the sparkly teen romance/True Blood versions, but the Bram Stoker/White Wolf cursed-through-the-ages, both more and less than human, dooming everything and everyone it loves version that combines phenomenal power and sex appeal with hopelessness and the eventual fall into endless hunger and rage.
I’m also fond of Cthulu and the rest of the Lovecraft mythos. All those things that Man Was Not Meant to Know, non-Euclidean geometry and alien designs millions of years old, and the whispers of voices in the winding corridors of your brain that you can only understand enough to wish that you couldnt.
Nuckelavees are pretty cool and also horribly terrifying. It’s the torso of a human fused to the torso of a horse. The horse has one eye and it breathes disease and has really long arms that reach the ground from where the human part is “sitting.” It also has no skin and is considered to be the most evil creature in Orcadian mythology.