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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...



The Barnacle Goose








Of all extraordinary beliefs, that in the Barnacle Goose, which obtained
credence from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries, is as wonderful
as any. The then accepted fact that the Barnacle Goose was generated on
trees, and dropped alive in the water, dates back a hundred years before
Gerald de Barri. Otherwise Giraldus Cambrensis wrote in 1187, about
these birds, the following being a translation:--

"There are here many birds which are called Bernacae, which nature
produces in a manner contrary to nature, and very wonderful. They are
like marsh-geese, but smaller. They are produced from fir timber tossed
about at sea, and are at first like geese upon it. Afterwards they hang
down by their beaks, as if from a sea-weed attached to the wood, and are
enclosed in shells that they may grow the more freely. Having thus, in
course of time, been clothed with a strong covering of feathers, they
either fall into the water, or seek their liberty in the air by flight.
The embryo geese derive their growth and nutriment from the moisture of
the wood or of the sea, in a secret and most marvellous manner. I have
seen with my own eyes more than a thousand minute bodies of these birds
hanging from one piece of timber on the shore, enclosed in shells, and
already formed. The eggs are not impregnated in coitu, like those of
other birds, nor does the bird sit upon its eggs to hatch them, and in
no corner of the world have they been known to build a nest. Hence the
bishops and clergy in some parts of Ireland are in the habit of
partaking of these birds, on fast days, without scruple. But in doing so
they are led into sin. For, if any one were to eat of the leg of our
first parent, although he (Adam) was not born of flesh, that person
could not be adjudged innocent of eating flesh."

We see here, that Giraldus speaks of these barnacles being developed on
wreckage in the sea, but does not mention their growing upon trees,
which was the commoner belief. I have quoted both Sir John Maundeville,
and Odoricus, about the lamb-tree, which neither seem to consider very
wonderful, for Sir John says: "Neverthelesse I sayd to them that I held
y^t for no marvayle, for I sayd that in my countrey are trees y^t beare
fruit, y^t become byrds flying, and they are good to eate, and that that
falleth on the water, liveth, and that that falleth on earth, dyeth,
and they marvailed much thereat." And the Friar, in continuation of his
story of the Borometz, says: "Even as I my selfe have heard reported
that there stand certaine trees upon the shore of the Irish Sea, bearing
fruit like unto a gourd, which at a certaine time of the yeere doe fall
into the water, and become birds called Bernacles, and this is most
true."



Olaus Magnus, in speaking of the breeding of Ducks in Scotland, says:
"Moreover, another Scotch Historian, who diligently sets down the
secret of things, saith that in the Orcades, (the Orkneys) Ducks
breed of a certain Fruit falling in the Sea; and these shortly after,
get wings, and fly to the tame or wild ducks." And, whilst discoursing
on Geese, he affirms that "some breed from Trees, as I said of Scotland
Ducks in the former Chapter." Sebastian Mueenster, from whom I have taken
the preceding illustration, says in his Cosmographia Universalis:--"In
Scotland there are trees which produce fruit, conglomerated of their
leaves; and this fruit, when, in due time, it falls into the water
beneath it, is endowed with new life, and is converted into a living
bird, which they call the 'tree goose.' This tree grows in the Island
of Pomonia, which is not far from Scotland, towards the North. Several
old Cosmographers, especially Saxo Grammaticus, mention the tree, and it
must not be regarded as fictitious, as some new writers suppose."

In Camden's "Britannia" (translated by Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London)
he says, speaking of Buchan:--"It is hardly worth while to mention the
clayks, a sort of geese; which are believed by some, (with great
admiration) to grow upon the trees on this coast and in other places,
and, when they are ripe, to fall down into the sea; because neither
their nests nor eggs can anywhere be found. But they who saw the ship,
in which Sir Francis Drake sailed round the world, when it was laid up
in the river Thames, could testify, that little birds breed in the old
rotten keels of ships; since a great number of such, without life and
feathers, stuck close to the outside of the keel of that ship; yet I
should think, that the generation of these birds was not from the logs
of wood, but from the sea, termed by the poets 'the parent of all
things.'"



In "Purchas, his Pilgrimage," is the voyage of Gerat de Veer to China,
&c., in 1569--and he speaks of the Barnacle goose thus:--"Those geese
were of a perfit red colour, such as come to Holland about Weiringen,
and every yeere are there taken in abundance, but till this time, it was
never knowne where they hatcht their egges, so that some men have taken
upon them to write that they sit upon trees in Scotland, that hang over
the water, and such eggs that fall from them downe into the water,
become young geese, and swim there out of the water: but those that fall
upon the land, burst asunder, and are lost; but that is now found to be
contrary, that no man could tell where they breed their egges, for that
no man that ever wee knew, had ever beene under 80 deg.; nor that land under
80 deg. was never set downe in any card, much lesse the red geese that
breede therein." He and his sailors declared that they had seen these
birds sitting on their eggs, and hatching them, on the coasts of Nova
Zembla.

Du Bartas thus mentions this goose:--

"So, slowe Booetes underneath him sees,
In th' ycie iles, those goslings hatcht of trees;
Whose fruitfull leaves, falling into the water,
Are turned, (they say) to living fowls soon after.
So, rotten sides of broken ships do change
To barnacles; O transformation strange!
'Twas first a green tree, then a gallant hull,
Lately a mushroom, now a flying gull."

I could multiply quotations on this subject. Gesner and every other
naturalist believed in the curious birth of the Barnacle goose--and so
even did Aldrovandus, writing at the close of the seventeenth century,
for from him I take this illustration. But enough has been said upon the
subject.





Next: Remarkable Egg

Previous: The Harpy And Siren



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