Monday, October 26, 2015
Zombies, and Werewolves, and Ghouls, Oh My!
Yes, my friends, it's that time of year again, and whether you're a horror writer or not, there may come a time in your writing when you need a monstrous reference. Most everyone is familiar with the Big Four: vampires, werewolves, mummies, and Frankenstein's creature (and remember--Frankenstein is the man who created the creature). But there are other critters out there that you may want to call on from time to time. Here's a brief list A to Z, along with brief definitions. My selections are mostly random.
Alp-luachra: Of Irish origin, this fairy ain't Tinkerbell. If you fall asleep beside a stream, this invisible fairy becomes a newt, crawls in your mouth and eats your food. Hmm, wonder if that's why I'm always hungry?
Blemmyes: These critters, of ancient origin from various parts of the world, have no head. Their faces are on their torsos. Doesn't sound as though they're particularly dangerous, they just can't wear hats of normal size.
Cyclops: Primarily of Greek origin, these one-eyed giants were rumored to have nasty temperaments, especially if you watch the old 1950s and 1960s mythology flicks. Related to the Titans, they also built enormous structures and were the inspiration for some of H. P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones.
Dzunukwa: A hideous hag of Kwakwaka'wakw origin from British Columbia, she steals children, then eats them. If you can trick her into falling into a fire pit, you'll be rid of her. Perhaps.
Echidna: Of Greek origin, when you talk about the mother of all monsters, she's it. Half human, half snake, her child is the Gorgon. Think Medusa. Echidna had dominion over "...the corruption, rotting, and pestilence of the lower dregs of the earth." Refer to the link http://www.gods-and-monsters.com/echidna-mythology.html
Fachen: This half-bodied creature could kill you with just a look. It had only one leg and an enormous, vile-looking mouth. So frightening in appearance was the fachen that whoever gazed upon died of terror. Of Scots-Irish origin.
Ghost: Of English origin (in Old English, gast), versions of ghosts are everywhere around the globe. The spirit of a dead person, sometimes benevolent, occasionally malevolent with the ability to do harm to the living.
Headless Mule: This Brazilian-based creature began as a woman who offended God, and for her sins she was turned into a fire-breathing, headless mule. The stuff of nightmares.
Ittan-momen: Anyone afraid of a flying roll of cotton that wraps itself around your face and smothers you? I wasn't either until now. This Japanese monster falls into the category of Yokai, meaning "ghost, phantom, or strange apparition."
Jackalope: A jackrabbit/antelope from the wilds of America, it's a rabbit with antelope antlers. It can gore a hunter's legs, so hunters are advised to wear stovepipes on their legs for protection. Known to appear around Stuckey's, Howard Johnson's, or Cracker Barrel.
Kraken: "Release the Kraken!" Just had to say it. From Scandinavia, it is often represented as gigantic octopus or squid. It can easily sink ships at sea with its tentacles. The suckers on its tentacles may have spikes, as well.
Loup-garou: A French version of the werewolf, it was used to frighten children into behaving, as we see with many myths and monsters. This werewolf variation can transform at will and remains fully aware and intelligent.
Mogwai: In Chinese folklore, the mogwai is a vengeful spirit that will cause you harm if you did evil to it while it was alive.
Nachzehrer: A German variation on the vampire, a person becomes a nachzehrer if they commit suicide, or sometimes if they die accidentally. A little confusing, as an accidental death you had nothing to do with, but oh well. These creatures do not prey on the living, but eat dead bodies.
Obia: From West African folklore, this beast is a large animal under the employ of witches. It wears human skin for a coat, which it has obtained from its victims. Okay, that's gross.
Piasa: Of Native American legend, images of this winged dragon were found on bluffs along the Mississippi River in Illinois. Antlered, it has a human-like head, and was covered in scales. Loved to eat people.
Qalupalik: In the Inuit culture, this monster was good for keeping children in line. A sea creature that resembled a human, it would steal bad children. If you hear the sound of humming near the ocean, chances are it's a Qalupalik.
Redcap: Dwelling in castle ruins along the Scottish/English border, it appears as an old man with talons. If you wander into its home, it will kill you then use your blood to make its hat red--red cap.
Surma: The surma, of Finnish origin, is a huge snake-tailed dog that turns its victims into stone. Its stare is worse than its bite.
Talos: I remember this mountain-sized man of bronze from Jason and the Argonauts. Created by Hephaestus, he defended Europa from outsiders. In some depictions, he's winged.
Uma-no-ashi: I had to include this one. In Wikipeida it's defined as "A horse's leg which dangles from a tree and kicks passersby." I didn't make this up.
Vampire: These folks are all over the place, but the one many of us know is of Slavic origin, but contrary to the anorexic, pale vampire of today, the old school vampire appeared well-fed, with a dark complexion. Also, sunlight didn't turn them into piles of ashes. They just needed to use sun-block.
Will-o'-the-wisp: Some Scots-Irish versions have it that a fellow named Will or Jack is doomed to haunt bogs or marshes for some wrongdoings. Don't know why Will or Jack is singled out, though. If you see one of these ghostly lights, in a boggy area, it will lure you off your path, into trouble.
Xing Tian: Similar to the blemmyes, this headless giant wages a continual battle against the Supreme Divinity in Chinese folklore. With its face on its torso, it wields a battle axe and a shield.
Yeti: Also known as an abominable snowman of Himalayan origin, the creature is a large, ape-like biped. Reclusive, it is unknown whether or not it likes donuts, as does the American bigfoot.
Zombie: Originating in Haiti, zombies are more common than roaches these days. Starting as slow-moving, reanimated corpses, now they're speedy flesh-munchers. Zombieism is now attributed to a type of virus. We are losing some of our fear of zombies now, as some can even hold jobs as medical examiners (iZombie.)
Well, I hope you've found this little alphabetically monstrous romp entertaining and even perhaps insightful. Know that there are plenty of monsters to choose from out there, and every culture has some version.
Keep writing, friends.