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mythical creatures

8 mythical creatures and their legends

The world of blood-sucking vampires, fire breathing dragons, shape-shifting werewolves, and many other surreal creatures are believed to exist only in the pages of storybooks or in native folklore. But they are the ones who enable us to think beyond the limitations of our real world. They introduce us to the realm of fantasy and fiction where we let our imagination fly along with these mythical creatures. While doing so, they also teach us about the cultures around the world they originated from.

We grew up hearing stories about half-dead-half-alive beasts or part-lion-part-eagle creatures that sounded real and scary at that time. But their stories stayed with us, making us come back for more. Whether it is a bedtime story or a conspiracy documentary on Netflix, mythical creatures add colour to our mundane lives by enabling us to ponder and imagine the unreal. In this listicle, Soulveda takes a flight into the world of mythical creatures to explore their origins and the legends that weave them into the fabric of our lives.

Werewolves

A legend mostly famous in the European countries, a werewolf is believed to be a human who turns into a ferocious wolf on a full-moon night. Werewolves are tall, hairy, biped wolves, with razor sharp teeth and claws. One swing, and they can destroy, well, almost anything.

werewolves

The cursed humans

In the medieval era, a werewolf was seen as a real monster, that led to countless executions of innocent men and women, who were wrongly accused of being shape shifters. Today, werewolves are seen as any other fictional character that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Be it Dr Hank in X-Men, Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the pack from The Twilight saga—werewolves have come a long way from folklores to modern culture.

Loch Ness Monster

Said to be lurking in the waters of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, the eponymous monster has made several headlines since its first alleged sighting in 1933. But it was St Columbia who first wrote about it in his biography in 565 CE—a monster that looked like the mythical water creature from the Scottish folklore.

loch ness monster

The search continues

Over several decades, there has been thousands of eye-witness accounts and a few pictures of the monster that has left experts confused and dazed. Known by her local name Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster is believed to be a creature from the Mesozoic era that resembles plesiosaur—a marine reptile that went extinct some 65.5 million years ago.

Experts and hunters have made several attempts to capture the monster, in vain. No one has found any legitimate evidence of its existence. Nevertheless, the Loch Ness Monster is still one of the most popular mythical creatures in the world that adds millions of pounds annually to Scotland’s economy through tourism.

Golem

A mythical creature straight from the pages of Jewish folklore, golem looks like a human, sculpted in clay, yet very alive. According to the legend, a golem is brought to life with the help of ancient rituals or by inscribing the letters aleph, mem, and tav on the forehead of a clay-creature. Once alive, a golem’s life purpose is to obey his master whether it is to carry logs or destroy a village.

golem

Sculpted in clay, yet very alive

In Talmud—the central text of Rabbinic Judaism—the word golem was first used to represent Adam’s soulless body. But the legend of the golem is not just limited to the Jewish folklore; it is referred to in other cultures as well, with slight variations. For Mayans, a golem is a wooden man, created by the gods before they created humans. An improper version of humans, if you will. These beings were destroyed by the same gods because of their evil deeds. Greeks had their own version of golems, which were created by an inventor named Daedalus who built living statues.

Bigfoot

In North American folklore, Bigfoot is an 8-feet tall, hairy, ape-like creature that is believed to be alive since prehistory. Bigfoot has been a part of bedtime stories and children’s books for long, but the mythical monster rose to popularity when footage showing a giant gorilla-like man walking in the woods surfaced. Global news channels and scientists from all across the world rushed to the county in California where the Bigfoot was allegedly seen, but nothing was found.

bigfoot

The curious case of an ape

After Bigfoot’s first sighting was reported, thousands of people came forth with their own personal account. These weren’t just people from America but also from Asian countries who claimed they had seen a creature with similar features in the Himalayas. They called it Yeti or a snowman.

Dragons

Possibly the most popular creature in the world of mythology, dragons are large, “flying reptiles” that breathe fire at will. They are the only few mythical creatures that can be found in cultures across the world—America, Europe and Asia, all have dragons of their own. Interestingly, almost all scriptures talk about a giant serpent, flying high with stretched wings and tail, like they were real and omnipresent.

dragons

The one who breathes fire

Only in China dragons are considered sacred and divine, despite their fearful appearance. Chinese people believe that every river, lake and sea in their country has come from the sacrifice of dragon-gods. The folklore also says that Chinese people lived alongside dragons for thousands of years, and the creatures used to protect the kings against foreign invaders.

The word dragon comes from the Greek word draconta which translates “to guard”. For Greeks, dragons were the guardians of treasures, believed to be buried deep within the mountains and remote islands. No wonder when fossils of dinosaurs were discovered, many assumed they belonged to dragons that lived millions of years ago.

Phoenix

We have all heard the adage “rise like a phoenix from the ashes” in our lives—from our football coaches, parents and motivational speakers. But not many people know that the phrase actually describes the regeneration process of a creature from Greek mythology called phoenix. A bird with colourful feathers and a golden tail, the phoenix is said to have been born from the ashes of its predecessors. For its mysterious ability to ‘rise from the ashes’, a phoenix is hailed as a symbol of immortality or rebirth. Hence, people who come back to life after being declared dead are often referred to as a phoenix.

phoenix

Rising from the ashes

According to Greek folklore, a phoenix had a lifespan of 500 years. On its final night, the mythical bird would create a nest with twigs and spices, sit in it and wait for the first ray of the sun. At the break of dawn, the nest would catch fire from the sunlight, reducing the phoenix to ashes. Miraculously, a worm would regenerate from the cinder and within no time, transform into a phoenix.

Vampires

Vampires are mythical but in the world of cinema, they are as alive as humans. Since the black and white era, vampires have been on the screen, sometimes scaring people out of their wits and at other times saving a neighbourhood from the enemies. Due to their fame on screen, we all know everything there is to know about vampires—they thrive on human blood, they turn into a bat and they can be killed with a wooden dagger. But in reality, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

vampires

Fanged creatures of the night

The term vampire comes from the Albanian Dhampir which means “to drink with teeth”. That is why bats who also feed on bird’s blood and vampires are so closely related in folklore. But according to stories and myths, vampires can shapeshift into other animals such as rats, owls, and moths.

Chupacabra

Most of the scary stories unfold at night when a deadly creature appears out of the darkness and preys on its victims. Chupacabra from the American folklore is one such mythical creature that lives on animal blood. Like many mythical creatures, even Chupacabra is mired in conspiracy theories and rumours. Thanks to several alleged sightings and killing of animals, many believe Chupacabra is real.

Chupacabra

Nightmare in the woods

Eyewitnesses claim Chupacabra to be a four-legged creature, with sharp teeth and claws, a long tail and spines protruding from the back like that of a stegosaurus. It first made headlines in the late 20th century when carcasses of livestock were found in various parts of Puerto Rico. Signs of large teeth sunk into the body and heavy blood loss churned the rumour mill. Villagers held Chupacabra responsible for the killings. Soon, the accounts of sighting started gaining momentum, and people from as far as Russia joined the buzz. The internet is filled with pictures of hairless creatures that are believed to be the Chupacabra.

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