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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 Crocodile








The largest of the Saurians which we have left us, is the Crocodile; and
it formerly had the character of being very deceitful, and, by its
weeping, attracted its victims. Sir John Mandeville thus describes
them:--"In this land, and many other places of Inde, are many
cocodrilles, that is a maner of a long serpent, and on nights they dwell
on water, and on dayes they dwell on land and rocks, and they eat not in
winter. These serpents sley men, and eate them weeping, and they have no
tongue."

On the contrary, the Crocodile has a tongue, and a very large one too.
As to the fable of its weeping, do we not even to this day call sham
mourning, "shedding crocodile's tears?" Spenser, in his "Faerie Queene,"
thus alludes to its supposed habits (B. I. c. 5. xviii.):--

"As when a wearie traveller, that strayes
By muddy shore of broad seven-mouthed Nile,
Unweeting of the perillous wandring wayes,
Doth meete a cruell craftie crocodile,
Which in false griefe hyding his harmeful guile,
Doth weepe full sore, and sheddeth tender tears:
The foolish man, that pities all this while
His mourneful plight, is swallowed up unawares,
Forgetfull of his owne, that mindes another's cares."

And Shakespeare, from whom we can obtain a quotation on almost anything,
makes Othello say (Act iv. sc. 1):--

"O devil, devil!
If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,
Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile;--
Out of my sight!"

Gesner, and Topsell, in his "Historie of Four-Footed Beastes," give the
accompanying illustration of a hippopotamus eating a crocodile, the
original of which, they say, came from the Coliseum at Rome, and was
then in the Vatican.



Topsell, in his "History of Serpents," dwells lovingly, and lengthily,
on the crocodile. He says:--"Some have written that the Crocodile
runneth away from a man if he winke with his left eye, and looke
steadfastly uppon him with his right eye, but if this bee true, it is
not to be attributed to the vertue of the right eye, but onely to the
rarenesse of sight, which is conspicuous to the Serpent from one eye.
The greatest terrour unto Crocodiles, as both Seneca and Pliny
affirme, are the inhabitants of the Ile Tentyrus within Nilus, for
those people make them runne away with their voyces, and many times
pursue and take them in snares. Of these people speaketh Solinus in
this manner:--There is a generation of men in the Ile Tentyrus within
the waters of Nilus, which are of a most adverse nature to the
Crocodile, dwelling also in the same place. And, although their persons
or presence be of small stature, yet heerein is theyr courage admired,
because at the suddaine sight of a Crocodile, they are no whit daunted;
for one of these dare meete and provoke him to runne away. They will
also leape into Rivers and swimme after the Crocodile, and, meeting
with it, without feare cast themselves uppon the Beasts backe, ryding on
him as uppon a horse. And if the Beast lift uppe his head to byte him,
when hee gapeth they put into his mouth a wedge, holding it hard at both
ends with both their hands, and so, as it were with a bridle, leade, or
rather drive, them captives to the Land, where, with theyr noyse, they
so terrifie them, that they make them cast uppe the bodies which they
had swallowed into theyr bellies; and because of this antypathy in
Nature, the Crocodyles dare not come neare to this Iland.

"And Strabo also hath recorded, that at what time crocodiles were
brought to Rome, these Tentyrites folowed and drove them. For whom
there was a certaine great poole or fish-pond assigned, and walled
about, except one passage for the Beast to come out of the water into
the sun shine: and when the people came to see them, these Tentyrites,
with nettes would draw them to the Land, and put them backe againe into
the water at theyr owne pleasure. For they so hooke them by theyr eyes,
and bottome of their bellyes, which are their tenderest partes, that,
like as horses broken by theyr Ryders, they yeelde unto them, and forget
theyr strength in the presence of these theyr Conquerors....

"To conclude this discourse of Crocodiles inclination, even the
Egyptians themselves account a Crocodile a savage, and cruell murthering
beast, as may appeare by their Hieroglyphicks, for when they will
decypher a mad man, they picture a Crocodile, who beeing put from his
desired prey by forcible resistance, hee presently rageth against
himselfe. And they are often taught by lamentable experience, what
fraude and malice to mankind liveth in these beasts; for, when they
cover themselves under willowes and greene hollow bankes, till some
people come to the waters side to draw and fetch water, and then
suddenly, or ever they be aware, they are taken, and drawne into the
water.

"And also, for this purpose, because he knoweth that he is not able to
overtake a man in his course or chase, he taketh a great deale of water
in his mouth, and casteth it in the pathwaies, so that when they
endeavour to run from the crocodile, they fall downe in the slippery
path, and are overtaken and destroyed by him. The common proverbe also,
Crocodili lachrimae, the Crocodile's teares, justifieth the treacherous
nature of this beast, for there are not many bruite beasts that can
weepe, but such is the nature of the Crocodile, that to get a man within
his danger, he will sob, sigh, and weepe, as though he were in
extremitie, but suddenly he destroyeth him. Others say, that the
Crocodile weepeth after he hath devoured a man....

"Seeing the friendes of it are so few, the enemies of it must needes be
many, and therefore require a more large catalogue or story. In the
first ranke whereof commeth (as worthy the first place), the Ichneumon
or Pharaoh's Mouse, who rageth against their egges and their persons;
for it is certaine that it hunteth with all sagacity of sense to find
out theyr nests, and having found them, it spoyleth, scattereth,
breaketh, and emptieth all theyr egs. They also watch the old ones a
sleepe, and finding their mouths open against the beames of the Sunne,
suddenly enter into them, and, being small, creepe downe theyr vast and
large throates before they be aware, and then, putting the Crocodile to
exquisite and intollerable torment, by eating their guttes asunder, and
so their soft bellies, while the Crocodile tumbleth to and fro sighing
and weeping, now in the depth of water, now on the Land, never resting
till strength of nature fayleth. For the incessant gnawing of the
Ichneumon so provoketh her to seek her rest, in the unrest of every
part, herbe, element, throwes, throbs, rowlings, tossings, mournings,
but all in vaine, for the enemy within her breatheth through her breath,
and sporteth herselfe in the consumption of those vitall parts, which
wast and weare away by yeelding to her unpacificable teeth, one after
the other, till shee that crept in by stealth at the mouth, like a puny
theefe, come out at the belly like a conquerour, thorough a passage
opened by her owne labour and industry....

"The medicines arising out of it are also many. The first place
belongeth to the Caule, which hath moe benefits or vertues in it, than
can be expressed. The bloud of a Crocodile is held profitable for many
thinges, and among other, it is thought to cure the bitings of any
Serpent. Also by annoynting the eyes, it cureth both the dregs, or spots
of blood in them, and also restoreth soundnesse and clearenesse to the
sight, taking away all dulnesse, or deadnesse from the eyes. And it is
said, that if a man take the liquor which commeth from a piece of a
Crocodyle fryed, and annoynte therewithall his wound or harmed part,
that then he shall bee presently rid of all paine and torment. The
skinne both of the Land and Water Crocodile dryed into powder, and the
same powder, with Vineger or Oyle, layd upon a part or member of the
body, to be seared, cut off or lanced, taketh away all sense and feeling
of paine from the instrument in the action.

"All the AEgytians doe with the fat or sewet of a Crocodile, (is to)
annoynt all them that be sick of Feavers, for it hath the same
operation which the fat of a Sea-dogge, or Dog-fish hath, and, if those
parts of men and beasts which are hurt and wounded with Crocodile's
teeth, be annoynted with this fat, it also cureth them. Being concocted
with Water and Vineger, and so rowled uppe and downe in the mouth, it
cureth the tooth-ache: and also it is outwardly applyed agaynst the
byting of Flyes, Spyders, Wormes, and such like, for this cause, as also
because it is thought to cure Wennes, bunches in the flesh, and olde
woundes. It is solde deare, and held pretious in Alcair, (Cairo.)
Scaliger writeth that it cureth the Gangren. The Canyne teeth which
are hollow, filled with Frankinsence, and tyed to a man or woman, which
hath the toothach, cureth them, if the party know not of the carrying
them about: And so they write, that if the little stones which are in
their belly be taken forth and so used, they work the same effect
against Feavers. The dung is profitable against the falling off of the
hayre, and many such other things."





Next: The Basilisk And Cockatrice

Previous: Serpents



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