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When doing research for a fantasy novel, often writers will turn to the expansive universe of mythological creatures mankind has built through centuries of storytelling and overactive imaginations. The fact that those are two qualities of fantasy writers may be part of the reason ancient myths lend themselves so well to today's writing. We love to use dragons, griffins, mermaids, and centaurs. The list goes on and on.
Some of these creatures were perhaps too fantastic. There are creatures so bizarre that it makes one wonder if they were created simply to be bizarre. Here's a list of the 10 most ridiculous mythological creatures I've come across in my research.
10. Gryllus - The gryllus is basically a head on two legs. While it can have a tail and some sort of mane, it doesn't really have a body, nor does it have arms or wings. So this creature could eat, but I'm not sure how it would have digested food. Also, it's brain must have doubled as a heart.
9. Hippalectryon - Animal combinations are one of the most common ways mythological creatures were created. One of the most popular animals to use were horses. This is how we get centaurs (horses + humans), hippogriffs (horses + griffins; see Harry Potter's Buckbeak), and hippocamps (horses + fish). Sometimes this union doesn't work so well. The hippalectryon answers the question no one was asking: what happens when you combine a horse and a rooster? Basically what you get is the front half of a horse and the back half of a rooster. Terrifying.
8. Monster of Ravenna - This creature is a hodge podge of body parts. It has a horn on its head, wings instead of arms, a single leg with scales, an eye at the knee, and a claw foot. Oh, and it appears to be both male and female. One belief is this creature is the result of thousands of people passing along the information of a child with birth defects in one giant, misguided game of Telephone.
7. Manticore - This is one of the most recognizable creatures on the list. Once again this creature is made up of various animals. It has a lion's body, a scorpion tail that could hurl poisonous barbs, a mouth with three rows of teeth (like a shark), and a voice like a trumpet. What made this creature most disturbing is the fact that it had a human head. Sounds like a bad horror movie monster.
6. Mandrake - You might recognize the mandrake from the Harry Potter books. Like many authors, J.K. Rowling borrowed heavily from mythology. The mandrake is also the only plant on the list. Its roots looked like a miniature person, and when it was pulled from the ground, it would scream, killing whoever heard it. To capture it, they used to suggest tying your dog to the plant and letting Rover pull the mandrake from the ground. Oh, and your dog would die in the process. Thanks, but I think I'll keep my dog.
5. Chimera - Another recognizable name, the chimera is a Greek monster. It has a lion's body, but it has a goat head sticking out of its back and a snake for a tail. If that wasn't enough, the goat head could also breathe fire. Because of this creature's outlandish features, the word "chimera" has become synonymous with over-the-top fantasy.
4. Nasnas - This one comes from Arab mythology, but it isn't a fantastic creature made from the parts of other animals. In fact, it doesn't even have all the parts from the creature it is based on: man. The nasnas is a person with half a body. It has half a head and half a body, one arm, and one leg, which it uses to hop around.
3. Achlis - The achlis is basically an elk with a couple mistakes. It has a huge upper lip. I'm talking massive, so massive that it has to walk backwards to graze, otherwise it would trip over its own mouth. To complicate the whole walking thing, the achlis has no knees. This meant they couldn't get up from the ground, so they slept against trees. The suggested method for capturing an achlis (as if they would have been fast enough to run away without knees) was to partially cut a tree. When the achlis leaned on it to sleep, it and the tree would topple. I guess that means the achlis had to be born standing up.
2. Headless Mule - This one is new to me, but has quickly become one of my favorites. The headless mule started out as a woman, who committed some sort of sin and, as punishment, was turned into this outrageous creature. The headless mule is just what it sounds like, a mule without a head. It's body is purple and it has silver hooves. Even though it doesn't have a head, it can somehow spew fire. Also, it shoots rainbows from its neck or non-existent nostrils. Ridiculous? Yes. Do I want one? Absolutely.
1. Bonnacon - I admit, choosing between the bonnacon and the headless mule for #1 was tough. A creature that can shoot rainbows automatically jumps toward the top of any list. I went with the bonnacon at #1 because it is so different from any mythological creature I've seen. It has the head and body of a bull and the mane of a horse. It also has curled horns. This creature is probably based on the bison. What makes this creature so ridiculous? It's most dangerous weapon is its flaming pooh. That's right, the thing basically shoots napalm out of its butt, covering a distance of nearly a kilometer. It also has noxious gas, but it had me at flaming pooh.
Did I miss any creatures? Is there anything else that should have found its way into the top 10? Let me know.