mythological creatures

1. Cyclopes
Description-The Cyclopes were almost like human beings but of a gigantic size
and with only one eye in the middle of their heads. Essentially there were three of
them: Brontes (thunderer), Steropes (Lightener), and Arges (Bright).
Origin-They were born to Gaea and Uranus.
Role-The Cyclopes were the first smiths. Volcanos were believed to be the aftermath
of their underground work.
Story-When Cronus came to power he imprisoned the Cyclopes in Tartarus. They
were released by Zeus and fought with him against the Titans. As a reward for their
release the Cyclopes gave Zeus his weapons of lighting and thunder. They continued as
his workers at Mount Olympus forging his thunderbolts.
Polyphemus, (son of Poseidon), is the most popular cyclops. He fighted with Odysseus
that came out victorious, and left Polyphemus, blinded.
Hermes killed Arges while he guarded Io for Hera. Apollo also killed at least one of the
Cyclopes to retribution for Zeus killing his son Aesculapius.
2. Centaur
Description-The centaur is a mythological creature. Its head, arms, and chest
are those of a human and the rest of its body, including four legs, hindquarters, and a
tail is like that of a horse.
There are also deer-centaurs, dog-centaurs, and the Gaelic androcephalous or manheaded horse. Both Greeks and Etruscans sometimes painted a centaur-like animal with
the entire body of a human rather awkwardly attached in various ways to the lower or
back parts of a horse.
Origin-Presence and illustrations of centaurs date back to Assyria (2000 BC) and
India (3000 BC). Some have traced the Greek centaur origins back to the Gandharvas
who in Vedic mythology drove the horses from the Sun but it is now accepted that they
were a primitive and rough population of horsed shepherds from Thessalony. According
to Greek tradition, there are two families of centaurs. The more numerous and unruly
centaurs are those born of the union of Ixion, King of the Lapithae and a cloud which
Zeus disguised as his own wife, Hera, whom Ixion had bragged of having relations with.
Chiron who was the like the above centaurs in appearance only fathered a different race
of centaurs, sober, learned and studious. His father was Cronus, the Titan and his
mother was Philyra, an Oceanid (or ocean nymph). He was a famous physician and
teacher and was renowned for his skill in hunting, medicine, music, and the art of
prophecy. Taught by Apollo and Diana, Chiron went on to tutor the greatest Greek
warriors, Aesculapius, Jason, Hercules, and Achilles.
Powers-Centaurs lived in herds on Mt. Pelion in Thessaly, Greece, and were a
plague to the people around them. They went about drunk, eating raw flesh, trampling
crops, and raping female humans. The intellectual parts they inherited from humankind
left them ignorant and yet cunning.
The Centaurs were creatures that were sometimes very hostile towards humans. They
were always involved in brawls and battles. Often Zeus would send the Centaurs to
punish gods and humans who had offended him. The hostility between man and
Centaurs is said to have originated when the Centaurs were invited to their
stepbrother's (Pirithous), wedding celebration. At the feast Eurytion, one of the
Centaurs, becoming intoxicated with the wine, attempted to offer violence to the bride;
the other Centaurs followed his example, and a dreadful conflict arose in which several
of them were slain. This is the celebrated battle of the Lapithae and Centaurs, a favorite
subject with the sculptors and poets of antiquity.
Symbol-The wicked centaurs are the antithesis of the knight and the horseman.
Instead of mastering or taming their instincts, these centaurs are ruled by them. They
symbolize violent lust, adultery, brutality, vengefulness, heretics, and the Devil. They
represent the struggle within each heart between good and evil, moderation and
excess, passion and propriety, forgiveness and retaliation, belief and unbelief, god and
Centaurs may be seen in pictures of St. Anthony Abbot who met both a centaur and a
satyr when searching for St. Paul the Hermit in the desert. According to some legends,
this centaur was the Devil himself.
Chiron is known as the wisest of all Centaurs. He did not depict the regular character of
a Centaur; he just had the same body of those creatures. To the Greeks he was a close
representation of a saint. He was a father figure to many of the gods' children. They
were given to him so he could teach them great knowledge of the world. Chiron
represents the positive combination of man's animal and spiritual natures. As early
Christians strove to modernize ancient pagan symbolism with Church teaching, the
combination of the spiritual and the animal natures in the centaur-archer caused this
image of Apollo and the sun to become a representation of Christ, the God-Man.
3. Griffin
Description-The griffin or gryphon is a mythical quadruped with the foreparts of an eagle
and the rear, tail and hindquarters of a lion.
Its eagle-like head had pointed, upstanding ears like those of an ass. Feathers grew
upon its head, neck and chest and the rest of the griffin’s body was covered in leonine
fur, subtly colored in shades of tawny brown.
Aelian said the wings of griffins were white and their necks were variegated in colour
with blue feathers. The griffin claws were especially valuable as they were reputed to
change color in the presence of poison, which is why they made useful drinking
vessels. At times, it is portrayed with a long snake-like tail. In some traditions, only
the female has wings. Its nests are made of gold and its eggs resemble agates. It is
supposed to be of gigantic proportions, the morphology being left to our own deduction
after we have been informed that one claw is the size of a cow's horn.
There are a number of different types of griffins;
the snake-griffin has a lion’s body, a snake’s head
and a bird’s legs;
the lion-griffin is lion-like but has hind legs shaped like those of a bird.
The hippogryph, living far beyond the seas in the Rhiphaean Mountains, is the
result of the rare breeding of a male gryphon and a filly. It has the head, wings
and front legs of a gryphon, and the back and hind legs of a horse. It is a large
powerful creature that can move through the air more swiftly than ligthning. It
figured in several of the legends of Charlemagne as a mount for some of the
knights. The Hypogriffin is a mix of a griffin and a horse.
vast gold mines of India and Scythia. The Arimaspians, a bold, one-eyed race of
humans, constantly tried to steal their treasure and eventually drove the griffins
away the mountains. Because of its association with the Holy Grail, one of the
treasures most commonly guarded by griffins was emeralds.
Other popular treasures guarded by griffins were the Tree of Life, knowledge,
and the roads to salvation. Greeks and Romans used griffin images to guard
The griffin also became the adversary of serpents and basilisks, both of which
were seen as embodiments of satanic demons.
In its body, the griffin is blessed with the speed, flight, and penetrating vision of
the eagle and the strength, courage, and majesty of the lion.
4. Pegasus
Pegasus is a winged white horse. Most often described as a large white stallion with
wings, they have been a mainstay of fantasy art for generations.
Pegasus sprang from the blood of the Gorgon Medusa when the hero Perseus beheaded
Pegasus is the one that brings the thunder to Zeus.
Pegasus' story became a favourite theme in Greek art and literature, and in late
antiquity Pegasus' soaring flight was interpreted as an allegory of the soul's
immortality; in modern times it has been regarded as a symbol of poetic inspiration.
5. Sirens/ Mermaids
The Sirens or Mermaids were odd looking creatures who had features of a bird from
the waist down and a body of a woman from the waist up. The Sirens were thought to
be three in number, but that is not certain. The most common names were Teles,
Raidne, Molpe,Thelxiope, Aglaophonus, Parthenope, Ligeia, and Leukosia.
It is said that the Sirens induced by Hera competed with the Muses in a singing contest
and lost. The Muses plucked the Sirens of their feathers and wore them as a trophy.
With their feathers plucked the Sirens were no longer able to fly and turned half of their
body into a fish tail.
Half-woman and half-dolphin or fish depiction's today are more common than the early
sixteenth century part woman, dolphin and lion. The fish tail was thought to be shed
when needed to make the mermaid more attractive to men. There is a theory that
mermaids were actually misidentified sea-cows, mamals or porpoises.
Place -Sirens lived then on an island, called Anthemoessa, in the sea between Sicily
and Italy. Huge boulders surrounded their island where ships would be destroyed if
they ventured too closely.
Role-The Sirens sang songs to sea travelers to lure them to their deaths. Their
songs were enchanting and would make sailors forget their sense of direction. The
sailors would steer straight toward the island and crash into the rocks that surrounded
The island grew white with bleaching bones, from which the Sirens would make musical
instruments. According to Appolodorus, the talented Sirens boasted not only a vocal
trio, but a small instrumental ensemble, two accompanying the third on lyre and flute.
Powers-Also known as 'Sea Sirens', the personality and appearance is most
commonly known to be that of a seductive temptress. Her beauty has been said to
reflect the wondrous treasures and power of the sea itself.
The sound of the mermaid singing was once thought to be a reason for sailors meeting
disaster, as the haunting lilting voice was said to be heard coming from the waves
forecasting bad weather.
Mixed omens surround the stories of their sudden appearance being feared but also
known to have saved the lives of sailors who had fallen overboard. Women saw them as
enemies, as they were often thought to seek out men as partners, getting married,
turning their partners into 'mermen'. Medieval engravings have shown the mermaid to
carry a small hand-mirror, which is the attribute of the prostitute.
Rejecting the approach of a mermaid was thought to bring severe misfortune to the
man, and if she was injured a period of misfortune would meet a crew or coastline. Yet
despite all this, the mermaid is currently viewed as a gentle creature kind in nature.
6. Unicorn
The unicorn is a mythical creature. Strong, wild, and fierce, it was impossible to tame
by man. Plinie, the Roman naturalist records it as "a very ferocious beast, similar in the
rest of its body to a horse, with the head of a deer, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a
boar, a deep, bellowing voice, and a single black horn, two cubits in length, standing
out in the middle of its forehead."
The unicorn is an archetypal monster, present both in eastern and western mythology.
In the Bible, God is said to have the strength of a unicorn. [Num 23:22 & 24:8]; The
warlike fierceness of the unicorn is referred to when Ephraim and Manasseh are
described as being like the horns of unicorns. [Deu 33:17]; The terrifying destruction of
Idumea is completed when God sends unicorns and wild bulls to attack the people. [Isa
34:8 see also Psa. 92:10 & Psa 22:21]
Modern zoologists have generally disbelieved the existence of the unicorn. Yet there are
animals bearing on their heads a bony protuberance more or less like a horn, which
may have given rise to the story. The rhinoceros horn, as it is called, is such a
protuberance, though it does not exceed a few inches in height, and is far from
agreeing with the descriptions of the horn of the unicorn. The nearest approach to a
horn in the middle of the forehead is exhibited in the bony protuberance on the
forehead of the giraffe; but this also is short and blunt, and is not the only horn of the
animal, but a third horn, standing in front of the two others.
Other believes that the narwhales, along with the Indian Rhinoceros (which only has
one ‘horn’) are creatures that, through travelers’ exaggerations, became the fabled
unicorn. The narwhale is a whale that has a single tusk protruding from its forehead.
One can admire two carved narwhal horn in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London
and in the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside (NMGM); the two are thought
to be a pair. The horn is 110 cm long with a diameter of 5.2 cm tapering to 2.5 cm.
The Oryx, a desert antilope, is also a potential candidate.
Powers-It was traditionally believed that a young girlwho was naked sitting
beneath a tree could only catch the delicate unicorn. The unicorn, who craves purity,
would be irresistably drawn to the girl and lie down with his head in her lap. While it
slept, the hunter could capture it. If, however, the girl was merely pretending to be a
virgin, the unicorn would tear her apart.
Throughout the stories of the unicorn, its horn, the alicorn, is said to have great
medicinal powers. In Ctesias’ writings, the dust filed from the horn was supposed to
protect against deadly diseases if mixed into a potion. Or, if you drank from the horn,
you would be protected against any poison.
Often, a narwhale tusk was sold as an alicorn, and it was often ground up and used for
its magical properties.
Symbol-Its white coloring made it a natural symbol for purity, chastity and
virginity. The horn of the unicorn was the weapon of the faithful and of Christ.
The mythological unicorn was a symbol of chivalry with qualities befitting this status,
proud and untamable.
The legend of the hunter and virgin bait became an allegory of the Incarnation of the
Christ and was later forbidden by the Council of Trent because of the lack of real
unicorns in the present world.
Today-As far as modern fantasy literature for children is concerned, another
mention of unicorns is in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone". The "bad guy" uses it
to prolong his life by a drinking a very little amount of the unicorn’s silver blood.
7. Hydra
A huge serpent with nine heads
(although in some accounts she may have six, seven, eight or fifty heads). It lived at
Lerna, in a pool formed by the Amymone spring. It is sometimes said that the hydra
had the body of a dog.
The Hydra was the daughter of Echidna and Typhon and the half-sister of the Nemean
An African Hydra is a water-monster with seven heads. It keeps the river flowing and
people brought offerings to them. One day a woman asked for the Hydra's help, in
return for her Jinde Sirinde. Her water jar had been filled with mud.
The Hydra agreed to the deal, cleaning out her jar, and filling it with water for her.
When Jinde was old enough, she was sent to the river to collect water but eventually
the Hydra came to the shore and took her away to be his wife. Jinde pleaded with him
to be allowed to go back.
The Hydra agreed to let her go for one day to see her parents one last time but she went to
the house of her lover, who took his sword and killed the Hydra by cutting off all seven heads.
8. Satyrs
The Satyrs were creatures who looked like men, but had the hooves and feet as well as
the tails of goats. They could be best described as goat-men. Their preferred pastimes
were to chase after the wood nymphs and to play nasty tricks on men.
One of the most famous Satyrs was Pan, a son of Hermes by Penelope (possibly the
daughter of Dryops) or of Zeus and Hybris. Also called Hylaeos, or forest god, Pan was
represented as a bearded man with a large hooked nose, and with the ear, horns and
legs of a goat. His body was covered with hair and he held a seven reed shepherd's
pipe. His name is the basis for the word "panic". He was the god of green fields and the
guardian of the shepherds associated with the worship of Dionysus, and as a mountain
deity with that of Cybele. He is at home in any wild place but, is favorite is Arcady,
where he was born. He is always in pursuit of one of the nymphs but, always rejected
because he is ugly. He was fond of sportive dances, singing with woodland nymphs and
playing on pipes, the sprinx or Pan pipes, invented by him according to this story.
Satyrs are always represented at Dionysus banquets, the god of wine and ecstasy.
9. Kraken
Probably no legendary creature was as horrifying as the Kraken, a giant sea monster.
According to stories this huge, many armed, creature looked like an island when
motionless and could reach as high as the top of a sailing ship's main mast with its
arms deployed.
When the Kraken attacked a ship, it wrapped its arms around the hull and capsize it.
The crew would drown or be eaten by the monster. Kraken were mostly noticed in the
seas of Scandinavia. Fishermen said that huge amounts of fishs gravitate around
Kraken and the boat that succeeds to fish around the monster without awaking it will
take more than possible to carry aboard.
The Kraken of legend is probably what we know today as the giant squid or cephalopod.
Though they are considerably less then a mile and a half across, they are large enough
to wrestle with a sperm whale.
Early stories about Kraken, from Norway in the twelfth century, refer to a creature the
size of an island. Even in 1752, when the Bishop of Bergen, Erik Ludvigsen
Pontoppidan, wrote his Natural History of Norway he described the Kraken as a "floating
island" one and a half miles across. He also noted: "It seems these are the creatures's
arms, and, it is said, if they were to lay hold of the largest man-of-war, they would pull
it down to the bottom."
Later Kraken stories bring the creature down to a smaller, but still monstrous size and
assimilated it as a giant octopus.
On at least three occasions in the thirties they attacked a ship. While the squids got the
worst of these encounters when they slid into the ship's propellers, the fact that they
attacked at all shows that it is possible for these creatures to mistake a vessel for a
10. Medusa
The gorgon Medusa, unlike her sisters, was a mortal. Born beautiful, Medusa was
seduced by Poseidon, disguised as a horse, in one of Athena's temples. Athena became
incensed and turned Medusa into a fearsome winged creature. Originally, Medusa was
depicted as a horse with wings, then a woman with equine hindquarters and wings on
her hair. At a later date, portraits of her reveals that her teeth were transformed into
the tusks of a wild boar, her black tongue protuded and became too large for her
mouth, her hands became brazen claws and her wings were changed into serpents. Her
gaze alone turned men to stone.
Medusa was a Gorgon, one of three sisters and daughters of ancient, pre-titan gods,
Phorcys and Ceto.
The sisters Sthenno and Euryale were immortal but the third, Medusa, was mortal. All
three were so hideous (“not to be approched and not to be described” according to
Hesiod) that the mere shock of seeing them would turn anyone to stone. Medusa is
called The Gorgon or simply, Gorgon. She is also the “Mistress of the West Gate of
Death” because her home lay at the entrance to the Underworld on the side of the
western Ocean. She is the Krone Goddess in her most terrible aspect
Gorgons symbolize the female genitals and the "devouring" female sexuality behind
them. The original Gorgoneion may have only been a head. It has been suggested that
the body was added for the purpose of enabling Medusa to be killed, not only as a
means of explaining the origin of this disembodied terror-head, but also to enact the
conflict between man and his fears of a demonic female sexual energy.
In ancient Greece, ovens and kiln doors were embellished with Gorgon masks to
frighten away children who could hurt themselves.