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Mythical Creatures -

Amazons
The race of Amazons or fighting women, is not yet extinct, ...

Pygmies
The antitheses of men--Dwarfs, and Giants--must not be over...

Giants
This last sentence seems almost a compendium of The History...

Early Men
On the antiquity of man it is impossible to speculate, beca...

Wild Men
Sometimes a specimen of humanity has got astray in infancy,...

Hairy Men
If, as we may conjecture from the above, the ancient Briton...

The Ouran Outan
Transition from hirsute humanity to the apes, is easy, and ...

Satyrs
He also mentions and delineates a curious Ape which closely...

The Sphynx
"The SPHYNGA or Sphinx, is of the kind of Apes, but his bre...

Apes
Sluper, who could soar to the height of delineating a Cyclo...

Animal Lore
We are indebted to Pliny for much strange animal lore--whic...

The Manticora
Of curious animals, other than Apes, depicted as having som...

The Lamia
The Lamiae are mythological--and were monsters of Africa, w...

The Centaur
This extraordinary combination of man and animal is very an...

The Gorgon
In the title-page of one edition of "The Historie of Foure-...

The Unicorn
What a curious belief was that of the Unicorn! Yet what myt...

The Rhinoceros
The true Unicorn is, of course, the Rhinoceros, and this pi...

The Gulo
Olaus Magnus thus describes the Gulo or Gulon:--"Amongst...

The Bear
As Pliny not only uses all Aristotle's matter anent Bears, ...

The Fox
By Englishmen, the Fox has been raised to the height of at ...

The Wolf
The Wolf, as a beast of prey, is invested with a terror pec...

Were-wolves
But of all extraordinary stories connected with the Wolf, i...

The Antelope
When not taken from living specimens, or skins, the arti...

The Horse
Aldrovandus gives us a curious specimen of a horse, which t...

The Mimick Dog
"The Mimicke or Getulian Dogge," is, I take it, meant fo...

The Cat
Aldrovandus gives us a picture of a curly-legged Cat, but, ...

The Lion
Of the great Cat, the Lion, the ancients give many wonderfu...

The Leontophonus The Pegasus The Crocotta
The Lion has a dreadful enemy, according to Pliny, who says...

The Leucrocotta The Eale Cattle Feeding Backwards
"There are oxen, too, like that of India, some with one hor...

Animal Medicine
We have already seen some of the wonderfully curative prope...

The Su
Topsell mentions a fearful beast called the Su. "There is a...

The Lamb-tree
As a change from this awful animal, let us examine the Plan...

The Chimaera
Aldrovandus gives us the accompanying illustration of a ...

The Harpy And Siren
The conjunction of the human form with birds is very eas...

The Barnacle Goose
Of all extraordinary beliefs, that in the Barnacle Goose, w...

Remarkable Egg
No wonder that a credulous age, which could see nothing ...

Moon Woman
One would have imagined that this Egg would be sufficien...

The Griffin
There always has been a tradition of birds being existent, ...

The Phoenix
Pliny says of the Phoenix:--"AEthiopia and India, more espe...

The Swallow
"And is the swallow gone? Who beheld it? Wh...

The Martlet And Footless Birds
Of the Martin, or, as in Heraldry it is written, Martlet, G...

Snow Birds
But we must leave warm climes, and birds of Paradise, and s...

The Swan
The ancient fable so dear, even to modern poets, that Swans...

The Alle Alle
"There is also in this Lake (the White Lake) a kind of b...

The Hoopoe And Lapwing
Whether the following bird is meant for the Hoopoe, or the ...

The Ostrich
Modern observation, and especially Ostrich farming, has ...

The Halcyon
Of this bird, the Kingfisher, Aristotle thus discourses:--"...

The Pelican
The fable of the Pelican "in her piety, vulning herself,...

The Trochilus
This bird, as described by Aristotle, and others, is of a p...

Woolly Hens
Sir John Maundeville saw in "the kingdome named Mancy, whic...

Two-headed Wild Geese
Near the land of the Cynocephali or dog-headed men, there w...

Four-footed Duck
Gesner describes a four-footed duck, which he says is li...

Fish
Terrestrial and Aerial animals were far more familiar to th...

The Sea-mouse
"The Sea-Mouse makes a hole in the Earth, and lays her Eggs...

The Sea-hare
"The Sea-Hare is found to be of divers kinds in the Ocean, ...

The Sea-pig
Again we are indebted to Gesner for the drawing of thi...

The Walrus
Of the Walrus, Rosmarus, or Morse, Gesner draws, and Ola...

The Ziphius
This Voracious Animal, whose size may be imagined by compar...

The Saw Fish
"The Saw fish is also a beast of the Sea; the body is huge ...

The Orca
is probably the Thresher whale. Pliny thus describes it:--"...

The Dolphin
Pliny says:--"The Dolphin is an animal not only friendly to...

The Narwhal
generally called the Monoceros or Sea Unicorn, is thus show...

The Swamfisck
The accompanying illustration, though heading the chapte...

The Sahab
"There is also another Sea-Monster, called Sahab, which hat...

The Circhos
"There is also another Monster like to that, called Circhos...

The Remora
Of this fish Pliny writes:--"There is a very small fish tha...

The Dog-fish And Ray
Olaus Magnus writes of "The cruelty of some Fish, and th...

The Sea Dragon
Of the Ray tribe of fishes, the Sea Dragon is the most ...

The Sting Ray
Pliny mentions the Sting Ray, and ascribes to it marvellous...

Senses Of Fishes
He also tells us about the senses of fishes, and first of t...

Zoophytes
Writing on the lower phases of Marine Animal life, he says:...

Sponges
"We find three kinds of sponges mentioned; the first are th...

The Kraken
This enormous monster, peculiar to the Northern Seas, is sc...

Crayfish And Crabs
Pliny tells us that in the Indian Ocean are Crayfish four c...

The Sea-serpent
Of the antiquity of the belief in the Sea-Serpent there can...

Serpents
Of Serpents Topsell has written a "Historie," which, if not...

The Crocodile
The largest of the Saurians which we have left us, is the C...

The Basilisk And Cockatrice
Aldrovandus portrays the Basilisk with eight legs. Topse...

The Salamander
Many writers have essayed this fabled creature, but almost ...

The Toad
Toads were always considered venomous and spiteful, and the...

The Leech
The Leech has, from a very early age, been used as a means ...

The Scorpion
Of the Scorpion, Pliny says:--"This animal is a dangerous s...

The Ant
No one would credit the industrious Ant, whose ways we are ...

The Bee
The Busy Bee, too, according to Olaus Magnus, developed, in...

The Hornet
So also, up North, they seem to have had a special breed...



Animal Lore








We are indebted to Pliny for much strange animal lore--which, however,
will scarcely bear the fierce light of modern investigation. Thus, he
tells us of places in which certain animals are not to be found, and
narrates some very curious zoological anecdotes thereon. "It is a
remarkable fact, that nature has not only assigned different countries
to different animals, but that even in the same country it has denied
certain species to certain localities. In Italy, the dormouse is found
in one part only, the Messian forest. In Lycia, the gazelle never passes
beyond the mountains which border upon Syria; nor does the wild ass in
that vicinity pass over those which divide Cappadocia from Cilicia. On
the banks of the Hellespont, the stags never pass into a strange
territory, and, about Arginussa, they never go beyond Mount Elaphus;
those upon the mountains, too, have cloven ears. In the island of
Poroselene, the weasels will not so much as cross a certain road. In
Boeotia, the moles, which were introduced at Lebadea, fly from the very
soil of that country, while in the neighbourhood, at Orchomenus, the
very same animals tear up all the fields. We have seen coverlets for
beds made of the skin of these creatures, so that our sense of religion
does not prevent us from employing these ominous animals for the
purposes of luxury.

"When hares have been brought to Ithaca, they die as soon as ever they
touch the shore, and the same is the case with rabbits, on the shores of
the island of Ebusus; while they abound in the vicinity, Spain namely,
and the Balearic isles. In Cyrene, the frogs were formerly dumb, and
this species still exists, although croaking ones were carried over
there from the Continent. At the present day, even, the frogs of the
island of Seriphos are dumb; but when they are carried to other places,
they croak; the same thing is also said to have taken place at
Sicandrus, a lake of Thessaly. In Italy, the bite of a shrew-mouse is
venomous; an animal which is not to be found in any region beyond the
Apennines. In whatever country it exists, it always dies immediately if
it goes across the rut made by a wheel. Upon Olympus, a mountain of
Macedonia, there are no wolves, nor yet in the isle of Crete. In this
island there are neither foxes nor bears, nor, indeed, any kind of
baneful animal, with the exception of the phalangium, a species of
spider. It is a thing still more remarkable, that in this island there
are no stags, except in the district of Cydon; the same is the case with
the wild boar, the woodcock, and the hedgehog."

He further tells us of animals which will injure strangers only, as also
animals which injure the natives only.

"There are certain animals which are harmless to the natives of the
country, but destroy strangers; such as the little serpents at
Tirynthus, which are said to spring out of the earth. In Syria, also,
and especially on the banks of the Euphrates, the serpents never attack
the Syrians when they are asleep, and even if they happen to bite a
native who treads upon them, their venom is not felt; but to persons of
any other country they are extremely hostile, and fiercely attack them,
causing a death attended with great torture. On this account the Syrians
never kill them. On the contrary, on Latmos, a mountain of Caria, as
Aristotle tells us, strangers are not injured by the scorpions, while
the natives are killed by them."

He also throws some curious light, unknown to modern zoologists, on the
antipathies of animals one to another. He says:--"There will be no
difficulty in perceiving that animals are possessed of other instincts
besides those previously mentioned. In fact, there are certain
antipathies, and sympathies among them, which give rise to various
affections, besides those which we have mentioned in relation to each
species, in its appropriate place. The Swan and the Eagle are always at
variance, and the Raven and the Chloreus seek each other's eggs by
night. In a similar manner, also, the Raven and the Kite are perpetually
at war with one another, the one carrying off the other's food. So,
too, there are antipathies between the Crow and the Owl, the Eagle and
the Trochilus; between the last two, if we are to believe the story,
because the latter has received the title of 'the king of birds;' the
same, again, with the Owlet and all the smaller birds.

"Again, in relation to the terrestrial animals, the Weasel is at enmity
with the Crow, the Turtle-dove with the Pyrallis, the Ichneumon with the
Wasp, and the Phalangium with other Spiders. Among aquatic animals,
there is enmity between the Duck and the Seamew, the Falcon known as the
'Harpe,' and the Hawk called the 'Triorchis.' In a similar manner, too,
the Shrew-mouse and the Heron are ever on the watch for each other's
young; and the AEgithus, so small a bird as it is, has an antipathy for
the Ass; for the latter, when scratching itself, rubs its body against
the brambles, and so crushes the bird's nest; a thing of which it stands
in such dread, that, if it only hears the voice of the Ass when it
brays, it will throw its eggs out of the nest, and the young ones,
themselves, will, sometimes, fall to the ground in their fright; hence
it is that it will fly at the Ass, and peck at its sores with its beak.

"The Fox, too, is at war with the Nisus, and Serpents with Weasels and
Swine. AEsalon is the name given to a small bird that breaks the eggs of
the Raven, and the young of which are anxiously sought by the Fox;
while, in its turn, it will peck at the young of the Fox, and even the
parent itself. As soon as the Ravens espy this, they come to its
assistance, as though against a common enemy. The Acanthis, too, lives
among the brambles; hence it is that it also has an antipathy to the
Ass, because it devours the bramble blossoms. The AEgithus and the
Anthus, too, are at such mortal enmity with each other, that it is the
common belief that their blood will not mingle; and it is for this
reason that they have the bad repute of being employed in many magical
incantations. The Thos and the Lion are at war with each other; and,
indeed, the smallest objects and the greatest, just as much.
Caterpillars will avoid a tree that is infested with Ants. The Spider,
poised in its web, will throw itself on the head of a Serpent, as it
lies stretched beneath the shade of the tree where it has built, and,
with its bite, pierce its brain; such is the shock, that the creature
will hiss from time to time, and then, seized with vertigo, coil round
and round, while it finds itself unable to take to flight, or so much as
to break the web of the spider, as it hangs suspended above; this scene
only ends with its death."





Next: The Manticora

Previous: Apes



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