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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 Centaur








This extraordinary combination of man and animal is very ancient--and
the first I can find is Assyrian. Mr. W. St. Chad Boscawen, in one of
his British Museum Lectures (afterwards published under the title of
From under the Dust of Ages), speaking of the seasons and the zodiacal
signs, in his lecture on The Legend of Gizdhubar, says:--"Gizdhubar
has a dream that the stars of heaven are falling upon him, and, like
Nebuchadnezzar, he can find no one to explain the hidden meaning to
him. He is, however, told by his huntsman, Zaidu, of a very wise
creature who dwells in the marshes, three days' journey from Erech....
The strange being, whom this companion of the hero is despatched to
bring to the Court, is one of the most interesting in the Epic. He is
called Hea-bani--'he whom Hea has made.' This mysterious creature is
represented on the gems, as half a man, and half a bull. He has the
body, face, and arms of a man, and the horns, legs, hoofs, and tail of a
bull. Though in form rather resembling the satyrs, and in fondness for,
and in association with the cattle, the rustic deity Pan, yet in his
companionship with Gizdhubar, and his strange death, he approaches
nearer the Centaur Chiron, who was the companion of Heracles.

"By his name he was the son of Hea, whom Berosus identifies as Cronos,
as Chiron was the son of Cronos. Like Chiron, he was celebrated for his
wisdom, and acted as the counsellor of the hero, interpreting his
dreams, and enabling him to overcome the enemies who attacked him.
Chiron met his death at the hand of Heracles, one of whose poisoned
arrows struck him, and, though immortal, he would not live any longer,
and gave his immortality to Prometheus.... Zeus made Chiron among the
stars a Sagittarius. Here again we have a striking echo of the Chaldaean
legend, in the Erech story. According to the arrangement of tablets, the
death of Hea-bani takes place under the sign of Sagittarius, and is the
result of some fatal accident during the combat between Gizdhubar and
Khumbaba. Like the Centaurs, before his call to the Court of Gizdhubar,
Hea-bani led a wild and savage life. It is said on the tablets 'that he
consorted with the wild beasts. With the gazelles he took his food by
night, and consorted with the cattle by day, and rejoiced his heart
with the creeping things of the waters.'

"Hea-Bani was true and loyal to Gizdhubar, and when Istar (the Assyrian
Venus), foiled in her love for Gizdhubar, flew to heaven to see her
father Anu (the Chaldaean Zeus), and to seek redress for the slight put
upon her, the latter created a winged bull, called 'The Bull of Heaven,'
which was sent to earth. Hea-Bani, however, helps his lord, the bull is
slain, and the two companions enter Erech in triumph. Hea-Bani met with
his death when Gizdhubar fought Khumbaba, and 'Gizdhubar for Hea-Bani
his friend wept bitterly and lay on the ground.'"



Thus, centuries before the Romans had emerged from barbarism, we have
the prototype of the classical Centaur, the man-horse. The fabled
Centaurs were a people of Thessaly--half-men, half-horses--and their
existence is very cloudy. Still, they were often depicted, and the two
examples of a male and female Centaur, from a fresco at Pompeii, are
charmingly drawn. It will be seen that both are attended by Bacchantes
bearing thyrses--a delicate allusion to their love of wine; for it was
owing to this weakness that their famous battle with the Lapithae took
place. The Centaurs were invited to the marriage of Hippodamia with
Pirithous, and, after the manner of cow-boys "up town," they got
intoxicated, were very rude, and even offered violence to the women
present. That, the good knights, Sir Hercules and Sir Theseus, could not
stand, and with the Lapithae, gave the Centaurs a thrashing, and made
them retire to Arcadia. They had a second fight over the matter of wine,
for the Centaur Pholus gave Hercules to drink of wine meant for him, but
in the keeping of the Centaurs, and these ill-conditioned animals
resented it, and attacked Hercules with fury. They were fearfully
punished, and but few survived.



Pliny pooh-poohs the mythical origin of the Centaurs, and says they were
Thessalians, who dwelt along Mount Pelion, and were the first to fight
on horseback. Aldrovandus writes that, according to Licosthenes, there
were formerly found, in the regions of the Great Tamberlane, Centaurs of
such a form as its upper part was that of a man, with two arms
resembling those of a toad, and he gives a drawing from that author,
so that the reader might diligently meditate whether such an animal was
possible in a natural state of things; but the artist seems to have
forgotten the fore-legs.



"The Onocentaur is a monstrous beast;
Supposed halfe a man, and halfe an Asse,
That never shuts his eyes in quiet rest,
Till he his foes deare life hath round encompast.
Such were the Centaures in their tyrannie,
That liv'd by Humane flesh and villanie."

--CHESTER.





Next: The Gorgon

Previous: The Lamia



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