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Mythical Creatures -

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

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

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 ...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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

"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...

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...


Terrestrial and Aerial animals were far more familiar to the Ancients
than were the inhabitants of the vast Ocean, and not knowing much about
them, their habits and ways, took "omne ignotum pro magnifico."

We have seen the union of Man and Beast, and Man and Bird; and Man and
Fish was just as common, and perhaps more ancient than either of the
former--for Berosus, the Chaldean historian, gives us an account of
Oannes, or Hea, who corresponded to the Greek Cronos, who is identified
with the fish-headed god so often represented on the sculptures from
Nimroud, and of whom, clay figures have been found at Nimroud and
Khorsabad, as well as numerous representations on seals and gems.

Of this mysterious union of Man and Fish, Berosus says:--"In the
beginning there were in Babylon a great number of men of various races,
who had colonised Chaldea. They lived without laws, after the manner of
animals. But in the first year there appeared coming out of the
Erythrian Sea (Persian Gulf) on the coast where it borders Babylonia,
an animal endowed with reason, named Oannes. He had all the body of a
fish, but below the head of the fish another head, which was that of a
man; also the feet of a man, which came out of its fish's tail. He had a
human voice, and its image is preserved to this day. This animal passed
the day time among men, taking no nourishment. It taught them the use of
letters, of sciences, and of arts of every kind; the rules for the
foundation of towns, and the building of temples, the principles of
laws, and geometry, the sowing of seeds, and the harvest; in one word,
it gave to men all that conduced to the enjoyment of life. Since that
time nothing excellent has been invented. At the time of sunset, this

monster Oannes threw itself into the sea, and passed the night beneath
the waves, for it was amphibious. He wrote a book upon the beginning of
all things, and of Civilisation, which he left to mankind."

Helladice quotes the same story, and calls the composite being Oes;
while another writer, Hyginus, calls him Euahanes. M. Lenormant thinks
that it is evident that this latter name is more correct than Oannes,
for it points to one of the Akkadian names of Hea--"Hea-Khan," Hea, the
fish--and must be identified with the fish-God in the illustration.

Alexander Polyhistor, who mainly copied from Berosus, says that Oannes
wrote concerning the generation of Mankind, of their different ways of
life, and of their civil polity; and the following is the purport of
what he wrote:--

"There was a time in which there existed nothing but darkness, and an
abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were
produced on a twofold principle. There appeared men, some of whom were
furnished with two wings, others with four, and two faces. They had one
body, but two heads; the one that of a man, the other of a woman; they
were likewise in their several organs both male and female. Other human
beings were to be seen with the legs and horns of a goat; some had
horse's feet, while others united the hind-quarters of a horse with the
body of a man, resembling in shape the hippocentaurs. Bulls likewise
were bred then with the heads of men, and dogs with fourfold bodies,
terminated in their extremities with the tails of fishes; horses also
with the heads of dogs; men, too, and other animals, with the heads and
bodies of horses, and the tails of fishes. In short, there were
creatures in which were combined the limbs of every species of animals.
In addition to these, fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other monstrous
animals, which assumed each other's shape and countenance. Of all which
were preserved delineations in the temple of Belus, at Babylon."

But, undoubtedly, the earliest representation of the real
Merman--half-man, half-fish--comes to us from the uncovered palace of
Khorsabad. On a portion of its sculptured walls is a representation of
Sargon, the father of Sennacherib, sailing on his expedition to Cyprus,
B.C. 720--on which occasion he had wooden images of the gods made and
thrown overboard in order to accompany him on his voyage. Among these is
Hea, or Oannes, which I venture to assert is the first representation of
a Merman.

In Hindoo Mythology, one of the incarnations, or avatars of Vishnu,
represents him as issuing from the mouth of a fish. The God Dagon (Dag
in Hebrew, signifying fish) was probably Oannes or Hea--and Atergatis
was depicted as a Mermaid, half-woman, half-fish. The Greeks worshipped
her as Astarte, and later on as Venus Aphrodite she was perfect woman,
still, however, born of the Sea-foam, and attended by Tritons or Mermen.

These Tritons and Nereids, male and female, were firmly believed in by
both Greek and Roman--who both depicted them alike--the Triton,
sometimes having a trident, sometimes without, but both Triton, and
Nereid, perfect man and woman, of high types of manly and feminine
beauty, to the waist--below which was the body of a fish of the
Classical dolphin type. So ingrained have these forms become in
humanity, that it would seem almost impossible to realise a Merman, or
Mermaid, other than as usually depicted.

Pliny, of course, tells about them:--"A deputation of persons from
Olisipo (Lisbon) that had been sent for the purpose, brought word to
the Emperor Tiberius that a Triton had been both seen and heard in a
certain cavern, blowing a Conch shell, and of the form they are usually
represented. Nor yet is the figure generally attributed to the nereids
at all a fiction, only in them the portion of the body that resembles
the human figure, is still rough all over with scales. For one of these
creatures was seen upon the same shores, and, as it died, its plaintive
murmurs were heard, even by the inhabitants, at a distance.

"The legatus of Gaul, too, wrote word to the late Emperor Augustus, that
a considerable number of nereids had been found dead upon the sea-shore.
I have, too, some distinguished informants of equestrian rank, who state
that they themselves once saw, in the Ocean of Gades, a sea-man, which
bore in every part of his body, a perfect resemblance to a human being,
and that during the night he would climb up into ships; upon which the
side of the vessel, where he seated himself, would instantly sink
downward, and, if he remained there any considerable time, even go under

AElian tells us, that it is reported that the great sea which surrounds
the Island of Taprobana (Ceylon) contains an immense multitude of
fishes and whales, and some of them have the heads of lions, panthers,
rams, and other animals; and (which is more wonderful still) some of the
Cetaceans have the form of Satyrs.

Gesner obligingly depicts this Pan, Sea Satyr, Ichthyo centaurus, or Sea
Demon, as he is indifferently called, and wants to pass it off as a
veritable Merman, probably on account of its human-like trunk. He also
quotes AElian as to the authenticity of this monster,--and he gives a
picture of another Man-fish, which he says was seen at Rome, on the
third of November, 1523. Its size was that of a boy about five years of
age. (See next page.)

Mermen and Mermaids do not seem to affect any particular district, they
were met with all over the world--and records of their having been seen,
come to us from all parts. That was well, and occurred in the ages of
faith, but now the materialism of the present age would shatter, if it
could, our cherished belief in these Marine eccentricities, and would
fain have us to credit that all those that have been seen, were some of
the Phocidae, such as a "Dugong," or else they would attempt to persuade
us that a beautiful mermaid, with her comb and looking-glass, was
neither more nor less than a repulsive-looking "Manatee."

Sir J. Emerson Tennent quotes in his "Natural History of Ceylon" from
the description of one of the Dutch Colonial Chaplains, named Valentyn,
who wrote an account of the Natural History of Amboyna. He says that in
1663, a lieutenant in the Dutch army was with some soldiers on the
sea-beach at Amboyna, when they all saw mermen swimming near the beach.
He described them as having long and flowing hair, of a colour between
grey and green. And he saw them again, after an interval of six weeks,
when he was in company with some fifty others. He also says that these
Marine Curiosities, both male and female, have been taken at Amboyna:
and he cites a special one, of which he gives a portrait, that was
captured by a district visitor of the Church, and presented by him to
the Governor.

This last animal enjoyed European fame, as in 1716, whilst Peter the
Great was the guest of the British Ambassador at Amsterdam, the latter
wrote to Valentyn, asking that the marvel should be sent over for the
Czar's inspection--but it came not. Valentyn also tells how, in the year
1404, a mermaid, tempest-tossed, was driven through a breach in a dyke
at Edam, in Holland, and was afterwards taken alive in the lake of
Parmen, whence she was carried to Haarlem. The good Dutch vrows took
kindly care of her, and, with their usual thriftiness, taught her a
useful occupation, that of spinning; nay, they Christianised her--and
she died a Roman Catholic, several years after her capture.

The authentic records, if trust can be placed in them, are various and
many--but are hardly worth recapitulating because of their sameness, and
the smile of incredulity which their recital provokes.

Let us therefore turn to the monarch of the deep, the Whale--and of this
creature we get curious glimpses from the Northern Naturalists; but,
before investigating this authentic denizen of ocean, we will examine
some whose title to existence is not quite so clearly made out. Olaus
Magnus gives us an introduction to some of "The horrible Monsters of the
Coast of Norway. There are monstrous fish on the Coasts or Sea of
Norway, of unusual Names, though they are reputed a kind of Whales;
and, if men look long on them they will fright and amaze them. Their
forms are horrible, their heads square, all set with prickles, and they
have sharp and long Horns round about, like a tree rooted up by the
roots: they are ten or twelve Cubits long, very black, and with huge
eyes, the Compass whereof (i.e., of the fish) is above eight or ten
Cubits: the apple of the eye is of one Cubit, and is red and fiery
coloured, which in the dark night appears to Fisher-men afar off under
Waters, as a burning Fire, having hairs like Goose-Feathers, thick and
long, like a beard hanging down; the rest of the body, for the greatness
of the head, which is square, is very small, not being above fourteen or
fifteen cubits long; one of these Sea Monsters will drown easily many
great ships, provided with many strong Marriners."

He also speaks of a Cetacean, called a Physeter:--"The Whirlpool, or
Prister, is of the kind of Whales, two hundred Cubits long, and is very
cruel. For, to the danger of Sea men, he will sometimes raise himself
beyond the Sail yards, and cast such floods of Waters above his head,
which he had sucked in, that with a cloud of them, he will often sink
the strongest ships, or expose the Marriners to extream danger. This
Beast hath also a long and large round mouth like a Lamprey, whereby he
sucks in his meat or water, and by his weight cast upon the Fore or
Hinder-Deck, he sinks, and drowns a ship.

"Sometimes, not content to do hurt by water onely, as I said, he will
cruelly over throw the ship like any small Vessel, striking it with his
back, or tail. He hath a thick black Skin, all his body over; long fins,
like to broad feet, and a forked tail 15 or 20 foot broad, wherewith he
forcibly binds any parts of the ship, he twists it about. A Trumpet of
War is the fit remedy against him, by reason of the sharp noise, which
he cannot endure: and by casting out huge great Vessels, that hinders
this Monster's passage, or for him to play withall; or with Strong Canon
and Guns, with the sound thereof he is more frighted, than with a Stone,
or Iron Bullett; because this Ball loseth its force, being hindered by
his Fat, or by the Water, or wounds but a little, his most vast body,
that hath a Rampart of mighty Fat to defend it. Also, I must add, that
on the Coasts of Norway, most frequently both Old and New Monsters are
seen, chiefly by reason of the inscrutable depth of the Waters.
Moreover, in the deep Sea, there are many kinds of fishes that are
seldome or never seen by Man."

We have the saying, "Throw a tub to the Whale," and we not only find
that it is the proper treatment to conciliate Physeters, but Gesner
shows us the real thing applied to Whales, trumpet and all complete, and
he also shows us the close affinity between the Whale and the Physeter,
in the accompanying illustration, which depicts a whale uprearing, and
coming down again on an unfortunate vessel.

There is another Whale, described by Gesner, which he calls the "Trol"
whale, or in German, "Teuefelwal," or Devil Whale. This whale lies asleep
on the water, and is of such a deceptive appearance that seamen mistake
it for an island, and cast anchor into it, a proceeding which this
peculiar class of whale does not appear to take much heed of. But, when
it comes to lighting a fire upon it, and cooking thereon, it naturally
wakes up the whale. It is of this "Teuefelwal" that Milton writes
("Paradise Lost," Bk. i., l. 200):--

"Or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all His works
Created hugest that swim the ocean-stream.
Him, haply slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind,
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays."

And the same story is told in the First Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor,
or, as Mr. Lane, whose translation (ed. 1883) I use, calls him,
Es-Sindibad of the Sea:--"We continued our voyage until we arrived at an
island like one of the gardens of Paradise, and at that island, the
master of the ship brought her to anchor with us. He cast the anchor,
and put forth the landing plank, and all who were in the ship landed
upon that island. They had prepared for themselves fire-pots, and they
lighted the fires in them, and their occupations were various: some
cooked, others washed, and others amused themselves. I was among those
who were amusing themselves upon the shores of the island, and the
passengers were assembled to eat and drink, and play and sport. But
while we were thus engaged, lo, the master of the ship, standing upon
its side, called out with his loudest voice, 'O ye passengers, whom may
God preserve! come up quickly into the ship, hasten to embark, and leave
your merchandise, and flee with your lives, and save yourselves from
destruction; for this apparent island upon which ye are, is not, in
reality, an island, but it is a great fish that hath become stationary
in the midst of the sea, and the sand hath accumulated upon it, so that
it hath become like an island, and trees have grown upon it, since times
of old; and, when ye lighted upon it the fire, it felt the heat, and put
itself in motion, and now it will descend with you into the sea, and ye
will all be drowned; then seek for yourselves escape before destruction,
and leave the merchandise!' The passengers, therefore, hearing the words
of the master of the ship, hastened to go up into the vessel, leaving
the merchandise, and their other goods, and their copper cooking-pots,
and their fire-pots; and some reached the ship, and others reached it
not. The island had moved, and descended to the bottom of the sea, with
all that were upon it, and the roaring sea, agitated with waves, closed
over it."

Olaus Magnus, too, tells of sleeping whales being mistaken for
islands:--"The Whale hath upon its Skin a superficies, like the gravel
that is by the sea side; so that oft times when he raiseth his back
above the waters, Sailors take it to be nothing else but an Island, and
sayl unto it, and go down upon it, and they strike in piles upon it, and
fasten them to their ships: they kindle fires to boyl their meat; until
at length the Whale feeling the fire, dives down to the bottome; and
such as are upon his back, unless they can save themselves by ropes
thrown forth of the ship, are drown'd. This Whale, as I have said before
of the Whirlpool and Pristes, sometimes so belcheth out the waves that
he hath taken in, that, with a Cloud of Waters, oft times, he will drown
the ship; and when a Tempest ariseth at Sea, he will rise above water,
that he will sink the ships, during these Commotions and Tempests.
Sometimes he brings up Sand on his back, upon which, when a Tempest
comes, the Marriners are glad that they have found Land, cast Anchor,
and are secure on a false ground; and when as they kindle their fires,
the Whale, so soon as he perceives it, he sinks down suddenly into the
depth, and draws both men and ships after him, unless the Anchors

But apropos of the whale casting forth such quantities of water, it
is, as a matter of fact, untrue. The whale has a tremendously strong
exhalation, and when it breathes under water, its breath sends up two
columns of spray, but, if its head is above water, it cannot spout.

One thing in favour of whales, is "The Wonderful affection of the whales
towards their young. Whales, that have no Gills, breathe by Pipes, which
is found but in few creatures. They carry their young ones, when they
are weak and feeble; and if they be small, they take them in at their
mouths. This they do also when a Tempest is coming; and after the
Tempest, they Vomit them up. When for want of water their young are
hindered, that they cannot follow their Dams, the Dams take water in
their mouths, and cast it to them like a river, that she may so free
them from the Land they are fast upon. Also she accompanies them long,
when they are grown up; but they quickly grow up, and increase ten

According to Olaus Magnus, there be many kinds of whales:--"Some are
hairy, and of four Acres in bigness; the Acre is 240 foot long and 120
broad; some are smooth skinned, and those are smaller, and are taken in
the West and Northern Sea; some have their Jaws long and full of teeth;
namely, 12 or 14 foot long, and the Teeth are 6, 8, or 12 foot long. But
their two Dog teeth, or Tushes, are longer than the rest, underneath,
like a Horn, like the teeth of Bores, or Elephants. This kind of whale
hath a fit mouth to eat, and his eyes are so large, that fifteen men may
sit in the room of each of them, and sometimes twenty, or more, as the
beast is in quantity.

"His horns are 6 or 7 foot long, and he hath 250 upon each eye, as hard
as horn, that he can stir stiff or gentle, either before or behind.
These grow together, to defend his eyes in tempestuous weather, or when
any other Beast that is his enemy sets upon him; nor is it a wonder,
that he hath so many Horns, though they be very troublesome to him;
when, as between his eyes, the space of his forehead is 15 or 20 foot."

The Spermaceti whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is the subject of a
curious story, according to Olaus Magnus. He declares Ambergris is the
sperm of the male Whale, which is not received by the female. "It is
scattered wide on the sea, in divers figures, of a blew colour, but more
tending to white; and these are glew'd together; and this is carefully
collected by Marriners, as I observed, when, in my Navigation I saw it
scattered here and there: This they sell to Physitians, to purge it; and
when it is purged, they call it Amber-greese, and they use it against
the Dropsie and Palsie, as a principal and most pretious unguent. It is
white; and if it be found, that is of the colour of Gyp, it is the
better. It is sophisticated with the powder of Lignum, Aloes, Styrax,
Musk, and some other things. But this is discovered because that which
is sophistocated will easily become soft as Wax, but pure Amber-greese
will never melt so. It hath a corroborating force, and is good against
swoundings and the Epilepsie."

As a matter of fact, it is believed to be a morbid secretion in the
intestinal canal of the whale, originating in its bile. It is found in
its bowels, and also floating on the sea, grey-coloured, in lumps
weighing from half an ounce to one hundred pounds. Its price is about L3
per oz. It is much used in perfumery, but not in medicine, at least in
Europe: but in Asia and Africa, it is, in some parts, so used, and also
in cookery.

Olaus Magnus, too, tells us of the benefits the whale confers on the
inhabitants of the cold and dreary North. How they salt the flesh for
future eating, and the usefulness of the fat for lighting and warming
through the long Arctic winter, while the small bones are used as fuel.
Of the skin of this useful mammal, they make Belts, Bags, and Ropes,
whilst a whole skin will clothe forty men. But these are not all its

"Having spoken that the bodies of Whales are very large, for their head,
teeth, eyes, mouth and skin; the bones require a place to be described;
and it is thus. Because the vehemency of Cold in the farther parts of
the North, and horrid Tempests there, will hardly suffer Trees to grow
up tall, whereof necessary houses may be builded: therefore provident
Nature hath provided for the Inhabitants, that they may build their
houses of the most vast Ribs of Sea Creatures, and other things
belonging thereunto. For these monsters of the Sea, being driven to
land, either by some others that are their Enemies, or drawn forth by
the frequent fishing for them by men, that the Inhabitants there may
make their prey of them, or whether they die and consume; it is certain,
that they leave such vast bones behind them, that whole Mansion Houses
may be made of them, for Walls, Gates, Windows, Coverings, Seats, and
for Tables also. For these Ribs are 20, 30, or more feet in length.
Moreover the Back-bones, and Whirl-bones, and the Forked-bones of the
vast head, are of no small bigness: and all these by the industry of
Artists, are so fitted with Saws and Files, that the Carpenter in Wood,
joyn'd together with Iron, can make nothing more compleat.

"When, therefore, the flesh of this most huge Beast is eat and
dissolved, onely his bones remain like a great Keel; and when these are
purged by Rain, and the Ayr, they raise them up like a house, by the
force of men that are called unto it. Then by the industry of the Master
Builder, Windows being placed on the top of the house, or sides of the
Whale, it is divided into many convenient Habitations; and gates are
made of the same Beasts Skin, that is taken off long before, for that
and some other use, and is hardened by the sharpness of the winds. Also
a part within this Keel raised up like a house, they make several Hog
Sties and places for other creatures, as the fashion is in other houses
of Wood; leaving always under the top of this structure, a place for
Cocks, that serve instead of Clocks, that men may be raised to their
labour in the night, which is there continual in the Winter-time. They
that sleep between these Ribs, see no other Dreams, than as if they were
always toiling in the Sea-waves, or were in danger of Tempests, to
suffer shipwreck."

Besides men, Whales had their foes, in the deep, and there was,
according to Du Bartas, one very formidable and cunning enemy, in the
shape of a bird:--

"Meanwhile the Langa, skimming, (as it were,)
The Ocean's surface, seeketh everywhere,
The hugy Whale; where slipping in (by Art),
In his vast mouth, shee feeds upon his Hart."

But it is cheering to find, on the authority of the same author, that he
also has a helpful friend:--

"As a great Carrak, cumbred and opprest
With her-self's burthen, wends not East and West,
Star-boord, and Lar-boord, with so quick Careers
As a small Fregat, or swift Pinnass steers;
And as a large and mighty limbed Steed,
Either of Friseland, or of German breed,
Can never manage half so readily,
As Spanish Jennet, or light Barbarie;
So the huge Whale hath not so nimble motion
As smaller fishes that frequent the Ocean;
But, sometimes, rudely 'gainst a Rock he brushes,
Or in some roaring straight he blindly rushes,
And scarce could live a Twelve month to an end,
But for the little Musculus (his friend),
A little Fish, that, swimming still before,
Directs him safe from Rock, from shelf and shoar."

But we have only spoken of a very few varieties of Whales; some yet
remain, which may be styled "fancy" Whales. At all events, they are lost
to our times. Herodotus tells us that in the Borysthenes (Dneiper)
were "large whales without any spinal bones, which they call Antacaei,
fit for salting." Then, Gesner gives us varieties of Whales, of which we
know nothing. There is the bearded and maned creature with a face
somewhat resembling that of a human being, found only in the remotest
North, and there is the hairy whale, Cetum Capillatum vel Crinitum, or
Germanice, Haarwal, but no particulars of this curious creature are

He presents us with the image of a Cetacean, which he calls an Indian
Serpent--but he evidently is so doubtful of the creature's authenticity
that he tells us that Hieronimus Cardanus sent it formerly to him. He
cannot quite make it out, with its monkey's head, and paws, but points
out that it must be an aquatic animal, because of its tail.

In his Addenda et Emendanda, he gives, on the authority of Olaus
Magnus, a picture of an unnamed Whale--he says it was of great size, and
had terrible teeth.

He also gives us two or three curious pictures of now extinct Cetaceans,
something like terrestrial animals or men. And the first is a Leonine
Monster, and for its authority he quotes Rondeletius.

This creature had none of its parts fitted to act as a marine animal of
prey, but he says that Gisbertus (Horstius) Germanus, a physician at
Rome, certifies that it was taken on the high seas, not long before the
death of Pope Paul III., which took place A.D. 1549. It was of the size
and shape of a Lion, it had four feet, not mutilated, or imperfect as
those of the Seal, and not joined together as is the case with the
beaver or duck, but perfect, and divided into toes with nails: a long
thin tail ending in hair; ears hardly visible, and its body covered with
scales--but he adds that Gisbertus found fault with the artist, who had
made the feet longer than they ought to have been--and the ears too
large for an aquatic animal.

Gesner also gives us (and so does Aldrovandus) pictures of the Monk
and Bishop fishes. The Monk-fish, he says, was caught off Norway, in a
troubled sea: and he quotes Boeothius as describing a similar monster
found in the Firth of Forth. The Bishop-fish was only seen off the
coast of Poland, A.D. 1531.

The existence of these marine monsters had, at all events, very wide
credence, even if they never existed, for Sluper, whom I have before
quoted, gives, in his curious little book, two pictures of these two
fishes (more awful than Gesner did). Of the Sea Monk he says:

"La Mer poissons en abondance apporte,
Par dons divins que devons estimer.
Mais fort estrange est le Moyne de Mer,
Qui est ainsi que ce pourtrait le porte."

And of the Sea Bishop:

"La terre n'a Evesques seulement,
Qui s[=o]t [p=] bulle en gr[=a]d h[=o]neur et titre,
L'evesque croist en mer sembablement,
Ne parl[=a]t point, c[=o]bien qu'il porte Mitre."

And Du Bartas writes of them, as if all in air, or on the earth, had its
double in the sea--and he specially mentions these piscine

"Seas have (as well as skies) Sun, Moon, and Stars;
(As well as ayre) Swallows, and Rooks, and Stares;
(As well as earth) Vines, Roses, Nettles, Millions,[38]
Pinks, Gilliflowers, Mushrooms, and many millions
Of other Plants (more rare and strange than these)
As very fishes living in the Seas.
And also Rams, Calfs, Horses, Hares, and Hogs,
Wolves, Lions, Urchins, Elephants and Dogs,
Yea, Men and Mayds; and (which I more admire[39])
The mytred Bishop, and the cowled Fryer;
Whereof, examples, (but a few years since)
Were shew'n the Norways, and Polonian Prince."

Was the strange fish that Stow speaks of in his Annales one of these
two?--"A.D. 1187. Neere unto Orforde in Suffolke, certaine Fishers of
the sea tooke in their Nettes, a Fish having the shape of a man in all
pointes, which Fish was kept by Bartlemew de Glanville, Custos of the
castle of Orforde, in the same Castle, by the space of sixe monethes,
and more, for a wonder: He spake not a word. All manner of meates he
gladly did eate, but more greedilie raw fishe, after he had crusshed out
all the moisture. Oftentimes he was brought to the Church where he
showed no tokens of adoration. At length, when he was not well looked
to, he stale away to the Sea and never after appeared." If this was not
the real Simon Pure, yet I think it may put in a claim as a first-class
British production, and, as far as I know, unique--all other denizens of
the deep having some trace of their watery habitat, either in wearing
scales, or a tail.

Following Du Bartas' idea, let us take some marine animals which have a
somewhat similar counterpart on shore.

Gesner gives us the picture, Olaus Magnus gives us the veracious
history, of the Sea-cow:--"The Sea Cow is a huge Monster, strong, angry,
and injurious; she brings forth a young one like to herself; yet not
above two, but one often, which she loves very much, and leads it about
carefully with her, whithersoever she swims to Sea, or goes on Land.
Lastly this Creature is known to have lived 130 years, by cutting off
her tail."

Olaus Magnus calls the Seal, the Sea-calf; and with trifling exceptions,
gives a fair account of its habits, only there are some points which
differ from the modern Seal, at all events:--"The Sea-Calf, which also
in Latine is called Helcus, hath its name from the likeness of a
Land-Calf, and it hath a hard fleshy body; and therefore it is hard to
be killed, but by breaking the Temples of the head. It hath a voice like
a Bull, four feet, but not his ears; because the manner and mansion of
its life is in the Waters. Had it such ears, they would take in much
Water, and hinder the swimming of it.... They will low in their sleep,
thence they are called Calves. They will learn, and with their voyce and
countenance salute the company, with a confused murmuring; called by
their names, they will answer, and no Creature sleeps more profoundly.
The Fins that serve them for to swim in the Sea, serve for legs on Land,
and they go hobling up and down as lame people do. Their Skins, though
taken from their bodies, have always a sense of the Seas, and when the
Sea goes forth, they will stand up like Bristles. The right Fin hath a
soporiferous quality to make one sleep, if it be put under one's head.
They that fear Thunder, think those Tabernacles best to live in, that
are made of Sea-Calves Skins, because onely this Creature in the Sea, as
an Eagle in the Ayr is safe and secure from the Stroke of Thunder.... If
the Sea be boisterous and rise, so doth the Sea Calfe's hair: if the Sea
be calm, the hair is smooth; and thus you may know the state of the Sea
in a dead Skin. The Bothnick Marriners conjecture by their own
Cloaths, that are made of these Skins, whether the Sea shall be calm,
and their voyage prosperous, or they shall be in danger of Shipwreck....
These Creatures are so bold, that when they hear it thunder, and they
see it clash and lighten, they are glad, and ascend upon the plain
Mountains, as Frogs rejoyce against Rain."

A very fine piece of casuistry is shown, in "the perplexity of those
that eat the flesh of Sea-Calves in Lent," and it seems to be
finally settled that, according to "the men of a more clear judgment,
rejecting many Reasons, brought on both sides, do say, and prove, that
when the Sea-Calf brings forth on the shore, if the Beast driven by the
Hunter, run into the Woods, men must forbear to eat of it in Lent, when
flesh is forbidden; but if he run to the Waters, one may fairly eat

Gesner, in giving this delineation of a Sea-Horse, openly says that it
is the Classical horse, as used by Neptunus; but Olaus Magnus declares
that "The Sea Horse, between Britany and Norway, is oft seen to have
a head like a horse, and to neigh; but his feet and hoof are cloven
like to a Cow's; and he feeds both on Land, and in the Sea. He is
seldome taken, though he grow to be as big as an Ox. He hath a forked
Tail like a Fish.

Next: The Sea-mouse

Previous: Four-footed Duck

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