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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 Circhos








"There is also another Monster like to that, called Circhos, which
hath a crusty and soft Skin, partly black, partly red, and hath two
cloven places in his Foot, that serve for to make three Toes. The right
foot of this Animal is very small, but the left is great and long; and,
therefore, when he walks all his body leans on the left side, and he
draws his right foot after him: When the Ayr is calm he walketh, but
when the Wind is high, and the Sky cloudy, he applies himself to the
Rocks, and rests unmoved, and sticks fast, that he can scarce be pulled
off. The nature of this is wonderful enough: which in calm Weather is
sound, and in stormy Weather is sick."



The Northern Naturalists did not enjoy the monopoly of curious fish,
for Zahn gives us a very graphic picture of the different sides of two
small fish captured in Denmark and Norway (i.e., presumably in some
northern region) with curious letters marked on them. He does not
attempt to elucidate the writing; and as it is of no known language, we
may charitably put it down to the original "Volapuek." He also favours us
with the effigies of a curious fish found in Silesia in 1609, also
ornamented with an inscription in an unknown tongue.



He also supplies us with the portrait of a pike, which was daintily
marked with a cross on its side and a star on its forehead.

But too much space would be taken up if I were to recount all the
piscine marvels that he relates.

Aristotle mentions that fish do not thrive in cold weather, and he says
that those which have a stone in their head, as the chromis, labrax,
sciaena, and phagrus, suffer most in the winter; for the refrigeration of
the stone causes them to freeze, and be driven on shore.

Sir John Mandeville, speaking of the kingdom of Talonach, says:--"And
that land hath a marvayle that is in no other land, for all maner of
fyshes of the sea cometh there once a yeare, one after the other, and
lyeth him neere the lande, sometime on the lande, and so lye three
dayes, and men of that lande come thither and take of them what he will,
and then goe these fyshes awaye, and another sort commeth, and lyeth
also three dayes and men take of them, and do thus all maner of fyshes
tyll all have been there, and menne have taken what they wyll. And men
wot not the cause why it is so. But they of that Countrey saye, that
those fyshes come so thyther to do worship to theyr king, for they say
he is the most worthiest king of the worlde, for he hath so many wives,
and geateth so many children of them." (See next page.)



I know of no other fish of such an accomodating nature, except it be
those of whom Ser Marco Polo speaks, when writing of Armenia:--"There is
in this Country a certain Convent of Nuns called St. Leonard's about
which I have to tell you a very wonderful circumstance. Near the church
in question there is a great lake at the foot of a mountain, and in this
lake are found no fish, great or small, throughout the year till Lent
come. On the first day of Lent they find in it the finest fish in the
world, and great store, too, thereof; and these continue to be found
till Easter Eve. After that they are found no more till Lent come round
again; and so 'tis every year. 'Tis really a passing great miracle!"



Edward Webbe, "Master Gunner," whose travels were printed in 1590,
informs us that in the "Land of Siria there is a River having great
store of fish like unto Samon-trouts, but no Jew can catch them, though
either Christian and Turk shall catch them in abundance, with great
ease."

Pliny has some curious natural phenomena to tell us about, of showers of
Milk, Blood, Flesh, Iron, and Wool; nay, he even says that, the year of
this woolly shower, when Titus Annius Milo was pleading his own cause,
there fell a shower of baked tiles!



After this we can swallow Olaus Magnus's story of a rain of fishes very
comfortably, especially as he supplements it with showers of frogs and
worms.

He gives a curious story of the black river at the New Fort in
Finland:--"There is a Fort in the utmost parts of Finland that is
under the Pole, and it belongs to the Kingdom of Sweden, and it is
called the New-Fort, because it was wonderfull cunningly built, and
fortified by Nature and Art; for it is placed on a round Mountain,
having but one entrance and outlet toward the West; and that by a ship
that is tyed with great Iron Chains, which by strong labour and benefit
of Wheels, by reason of the force of the Waters, is drawn to one part
of the River by night, by keepers appointed by the King of Sweden, or
such as farm it. A vast river runs by this Castle, whose depth cannot be
found; it ariseth from the White Lake, and falls down by degrees: at the
bottome it is black, especially round this Castle, where it breeds and
holds none but black Fish, but of no ill taste, as are Salmons, Trouts,
Perch, Pikes, and other soft Fish. It produceth also the Fish Trebius,
that is black in Summer, and white in Winter, who, as Albertus saith,
grows lean in the Sea; but when he is a foot long, he is five fingers
fat: This, seasoned with Salt, will draw Gold out of the deepest waters
that it is fallen in, and make it flote from the bottome. At last, it
makes the black Lake passing by Viburgum, as Nilus makes a black
River, where he dischargeth himself.



"When the Image of a Harper, playing, as it were, upon his Harp, in the
middle of the Waters above them appears, it signifies some ill Omen,
that the Governor of the Fort, or Captain shall suddenly be slain, or
that the negligent and sleepy Watchman shall be thrown headlong from
the high walls, and die by Martial Law. Also this water is never free
from Ghosts and Visions that appear at all times; and a man may hear
Pipes sound, and Cymbals tinkle, to the shore."

Aristotle mentions a fish called the Meryx that chewed the cud, and
Pliny speaks of the Scarus, which, he says, "at the present day is the
only fish that is said to ruminate, and feed on grass, and not on other
fish." But he seems to have forgotten that in a previous place in the
same book, he speaks of a large peninsula in the Red Sea, on the
southern coast of Arabia, called Cadara, where "the sea monsters, just
like so many cattle, were in the habit of coming on shore, and after
feeding on the roots of shrubs, they would return; some of them, which
had the heads of horses, asses, and bulls, found a pasture in the crops
of grain."





Next: The Remora

Previous: The Sahab



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