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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 Griffin








There always has been a tradition of birds being existent, of far
greater size than those usually visible.

The Maoris aver that at times they still hear the gigantic Moa in the
scrub--and, even, if extinct, we know, by the state of the bones found,
that its extinction must have been of comparatively recent date. But no
one credits the Moa with the power of flight, whilst the Griffin, which
must not be confounded with the gold-loving Arimaspian Gryphon, was a
noble bird. Mandeville knew him:--"In this land (Bactria) are many
gryffons, more than in other places, and some say they have the body
before as an Egle, and behinde as a Lyon, and it is trouth, for they be
made so; but the Griffen hath a body greater than viii Lyons, and stall
worthier (stouter, braver) than a hundred Egles. For certainly he
wyl beare to his nest flying, a horse and a man upon his back, or two
Oxen yoked togither as they go at plowgh, for he hath longe nayles on
hys fete, as great as it were hornes of Oxen, and of those they make
Cups there to drynke of, and of his rybes they make bowes to shoote
with."



Olaus Magnus says they live in the far Northern mountains, that they
prey upon horses and men, and that of their nails drinking-cups were
made, as large as ostrich eggs. These enormous birds correspond in many
points to the Eastern Ruc or Rukh, or the Rok of the "Arabian Nights,"
of whose mighty powers of flight Sindbad took advantage.

Ser Marco Polo, speaking of Madagascar, says:--"'Tis said that in those
other Islands to the south, which the ships are unable to visit because
this strong current prevents their return, is found the bird Gryphon,
which appears there at certain seasons. The description given of it is,
however, entirely different from what our stories and pictures make it.
For persons who had been there and had seen it, told Messer Marco Polo
that it was for all the world like an eagle, but one indeed of enormous
size; so big in fact, that its wings covered an extent of 30 paces, and
its quills were 12 paces long, and thick in proportion. And it is so
strong that it will seize an Elephant in its talons, and carry him high
into the air, and drop him so that he is smashed to pieces: having so
killed him, the bird gryphon swoops down on him, and eats him at
leisure. The people of those isles call the bird Ruc, and it has no
other name. So I wot not if this be the real gryphon, or if there be
another manner of bird as great. But this I can tell you for certain,
that they are not half lion and half bird, as our stories do relate;
but, enormous as they be, they are fashioned just like an eagle.

"The Great Kaan sent to those parts to enquire about these curious
matters, and the story was told by those who went thither. He also sent
to procure the release of an envoy of his who had been despatched
thither, and had been detained; so both those envoys had many wonderful
things to tell the Great Kaan about those strange islands, and about the
birds I have mentioned. They brought (as I heard) to the Great Kaan, a
feather of the said Ruc, which was stated to measure 90 Spans, whilst
the quill part was two palms in circumference, a marvellous object! The
Great Kaan was delighted with it, and gave great presents to those who
brought it."

This quill seems rather large; other travellers, however, perhaps not so
truthful as Ser Marco, speak of these enormous quills. The Moa of New
Zealand (Dinornis giganteus) is supposed to have been the largest bird
in Creation--and next to that is the AEpyornis maximus--whose bones
and egg have been found in Madagascar. An egg is in the British Museum,
and it has a liquid capacity of 2.35 gallons, but, alas, for the quill
story--this bird was wingless.

The Condor has been put forward as the real and veritable Ruc, but no
living specimens will compare with this bird as it has been
described--especially if we take the picture of it in Lane's "Arabian
Nights," where it is represented as taking up three elephants, one in
its beak, and one in each of its claws.

The Japanese have a legend of a great bird which carried off men--and
there is a very graphic picture now on view at the White Wing of the
British Museum, where one of these birds, having seized a man,
frightens, very naturally, the whole community.





Next: The Phoenix

Previous: Moon Woman



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