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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...



Pygmies








The antitheses of men--Dwarfs, and Giants--must not be overlooked, as
they are abnormal, and yet have existed in all ages. Dwarfs are
mentioned in the Bible, Leviticus xxi. 20, where following the
injunction of "Let him not approach to offer the bread of his God"--are
mentioned the "crookbackt or dwarf." Dwarfs in all ages have been made
the sport of Royalty, and the wealthy; but it is not of them I write,
but of a race called the Pygmies, very small men who were descended from
Pygmaeus. They are noted in the earliest classics, for even Homer
mentions them in his Iliad (B. 3, l. 3-6), which Pope translates:--

"So, when inclement winter vex the plain
With piercing frosts, or thick descending rain,
To warmer seas, the Cranes embody'd fly,
With noise, and order, through the mid-way sky;
To pigmy nations, wounds and death they bring,
And all the war descends upon the wing."

Homer also wrote a poem, "Pygmaeogeranomachia," about the Pygmies and
Cranes. The accompanying illustration is from a fresco at Pompeii.



Aristotle says that they lived in holes under the earth, and came out in
the harvest time with hatchets, to cut down the corn, as if to fell a
forest, and went on goats and lambs of proportionable stature to
themselves to make war against certain birds, called Cranes by some,
which came there yearly from Scythia to plunder them. Pliny mentions
them several times, but especially in B. 7, c. 2. "Beyond these people,
and at the very extremity of the mountains, the Trispithami,[19] and
the Pygmies are said to exist; two races, which are but three spans in
height, that is to say, twenty-seven inches only. They enjoy a
salubrious atmosphere, and a perpetual spring, being sheltered by the
mountains from the northern blasts; it is these people that Homer has
mentioned as being waged war upon by Cranes. It is said that they are in
the habit of going down every spring to the sea-shore, in a large body,
seated on the backs of rams and goats, and armed with arrows, and there
destroy the eggs and the young of those birds; that this expedition
occupies them for the space of three months, and that otherwise it would
be impossible for them to withstand the increasing multitudes of the
Cranes. Their cabins, it is said, are built of mud, mixed with feathers
and egg shells."



Mandeville thus describes them. "When men passe from that citie of
Chibens, they passe over a great river of freshe water, and it is nere
iiii mile brode, & then men enter into the lande of the great Caan. This
river goeth through the land of Pigmeens, and there men are of little
stature, for they are but three span long, and they are right fayre,
both men and women, though they bee little, and they live but viii[20]
yeare, and he that liveth viii yeare is holden right olde, and these
small men are the best workemen in sylke, and of cotton, in all maner of
thing that are in the worlde; and these smal men travail not, nor tyl
land, but they have amonge them great men, as we are, to travaill for
them, & they have great scorne of those great men, as we would have of
giaunts, or, of them, if they were among us."

Ser Marco Polo warns his readers against pseudo Pygmies. Says he: "I
may tell you moreover that when people bring over pygmies which they
allege to come from India, 'tis all a lie and a cheat. For those little
men, as they call them, are manufactured on this Island (Sumatra), and
I will tell you how. You see there is on the Island a kind of monkey
which is very small, and has a face just like a man's. They take these,
and pluck out all the hair, except the hair of the beard, and on the
breast, and then dry them, and stuff them, and daub them with saffron,
and other things, until they look like men. But you see it is all a
cheat; for nowhere in India, nor anywhere else in the world, were there
ever men seen so small as these pretended pygmies."

But there are much more modern mention of these small folk. Olaus Magnus
not only reproduces the classical story, but tells of the Pygmies of
Greenland--the modern Esquimaux. These are also mentioned in Purchas his
Pilgrimage, as living in Iceland, "pigmies represent the most perfect
shape of man; that they are hairy to the uttermost joynts of the
fingers, and that the males have beards downe to the knees; but,
although they have the shape of men, yet they have little sense or
understanding, nor distinct speech, but make shew of a kinde of hissing,
after the manner of geese."

But to bring the history of pygmies down to modern times--I quote from
"Giants and Dwarfs," by E. J. Wood, 1868, and I am thus particular in
giving my authority, as the news comes from America, whence, sometimes,
fact is mixed with fiction (pp. 246, 247, 248). "It is alleged by
contemporary newspapers, that in 1828 several burying-grounds, from half
an acre to an acre and a half in extent, were discovered in the county
of White, state of Tennessee, near the town of Sparta, wherein very
small people had been deposited in tombs or coffins of stone. The
greatest length of the skeletons was nineteen inches. The bones were
strong and well set, and the whole frames were well formed. Some of the
people appeared to have lived to a great age, their teeth being worn
smooth and short, while others were full and long. The graves were about
two feet deep; the coffins were of stone, and made by laying a flat
stone at the bottom, one at each side, or each end, and one over the
corpse. The dead were all buried with their heads toward the east, and
in regular order, laid on their backs, and with their hands on their
breasts. In the bend of the left arm was found a cruse, or vessel, that
would hold nearly a pint, made of ground stone, or shell, of a grey
colour, in which were found two or three shells. One of these skeletons
had about its neck ninety-four pearl beads. Near one of these
burying-places was the appearance of the site of an ancient town.

Webber, in his 'Romance of Natural History,' refers to the diminutive
sarcophagi found in Kentucky and Tennessee; and he describes these
receptacles to be about three feet in length, by eighteen inches deep,
and constructed, bottom, sides, and top, of flat, unhewn stones. These
he conjectures to be the places of sepulture of a pigmy race, that
became extinct at a period beyond reach even of the tradition of the
so-called Indian aborigines.

Newspapers for 1866 tell us that General Milroy, who had been spending
much time in Smith County, Tennessee, attending to some mining business,
discovered near Watertown in that county some remarkable graves, which
were disclosed by the washing of a small creek in its passage through a
low bottom. The graves were from eighteen inches to two feet in length,
most of them being of the smaller size, and were formed by an excavation
of about fifteen inches below the surface, in which were placed four
undressed slabs of rock--one in the bottom of the pit, one on each side,
and one on the top. Human skeletons, some with nearly an entire skull,
and many with well-defined bones, were found in them. The teeth were
very diminutive, but evidently those of adults. Earthen crocks were also
found with the skeletons. General Milroy could not gain any satisfactory
information respecting these pigmy graves. The oldest inhabitants of the
vicinity knew nothing of their origin or history, except that there was
a large number of similar graves near Statesville in the same county,
and also a little burial-ground at the mouth of Stone River, near the
city of Nashville. General Milroy deposited the bones found by him in
the State Library at Nashville."

That a race of dwarfs live in Central Africa, is now well known. Ronzo
de Leo, who travelled in Africa, for many years with Dr. Livingstone, at
one time almost stood alone in his assertion of this fact. But he was
supported in his statement by G. Eugene Wolff, who had been in Central
Africa with Stanley, and he maintained that, on the southern branches of
the Congo, he had seen whole villages of Lilliputians, of whom the men
were not over four and a half feet high, whilst the women were a great
deal smaller. He described them as being both brave and cunning, expert
with bow and arrow, with which they readily bring down the African
bison, antelope, and even elephants. As trappers of small animals they
are unsurpassed. In a close pinch they use the lance with astonishing
dexterity, and an ordinary sling, in their hands, is wielded with
wonderful skill.

These dwarfs collect the sap of the palm, with which they make soap. The
men are smooth-faced, and of a rich mahogany colour, while the hair is
short, and as black as night. Tens of thousands of them live on the
south branch of the Congo.

Mr. Stanley in his expedition for the relief of Emin Pacha,[21]
encountered some tribes of these pigmies, but he does not agree with the
account which Mr. Wolff gives of them, who describes them as an affable,
kind-hearted people, of simple ways, and devoid of vicious tendencies to
a greater degree than most semi-barbaric races. The women are
industrious and amiable.

Stanley, on the contrary, found them very annoying, and had a lively
recollection of their poisoned arrows--but, at the present writing, he
not having returned, and we, having no record but his letters, had
better suspend our judgment as to the habits and tempers of these small
people.

Wolff says they stand in awe of their bigger neighbours, but are so
brave and cunning that, with all the odds of physique against them, the
pigmies are masters of the situation.





Next: Giants

Previous: Amazons



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