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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 Kraken








This enormous monster, peculiar to the Northern Seas, is scarcely a
fable, because huge Calamaries are not infrequently seen. Poor
Pontoppidan has often been considered a Danish Ananias, but there are
authentic accounts of these enormous Cuttle-fish; for instance, in 1854,
one was stranded at the Skag, in Jutland, which was cut in pieces by the
fishermen in order to be used as bait, and filled many wheelbarrows.
Another, either in 1860 or 1861, was stranded between Hillswick and
Scalloway, on the west of Scotland, and its tentacles were sixteen feet
long, the pedal arms about half as long, and its body seven feet. The
French ship Alecton, on 30th November 1861, between Madeira and
Teneriffe, slipped a rope with a running knot over an enormous calamary,
but only brought a portion on board, the body breaking off. It was
estimated at being sixteen to eighteen feet in length, without counting
its arms. The legend of its sinking ships and taking sailors from them
is common to many countries, even the Chinese and Japanese thus
depicting them.



Olaus Magnus gives us a graphic picture of a huge Polyp, thus seizing a
sailor, and dragging him from his ship in spite of all his efforts to
prevent him. On the next page is a huge calamary shown with a man in its
clutches. This is both in Gesner and Aldrovandus. But this terror to
mariners had its master in the Conger eel. Gesner, who has taken his
picture from some description of the World, introduces it as a
Sea-Serpent; but Aristotle says that "the Congers devour the Polypi,
which cannot adhere to them on account of the smoothness of their
surface." Magnus also speaks of the antipathy between the two.



According to Pliny, quoting Trebius Niger, the Polypus shows a fair
amount of cunning:--"Shell fish are destitute of sight, and, indeed, all
other sensations but those which warn them of hunger, and the approach
of danger. Hence it is that the Polypus lies in ambush till the fish
opens its shell, immediately upon which, it places within it a small
pebble, taking care, at the same time, to keep it from touching the body
of the animal, lest, by making some movement, it should chance to eject
it. Having made itself thus secure, it attacks its prey, and draws out
the flesh, while the other tries to contract itself, but all in vain, in
consequence of the separation of the shell, thus effected by the
insertion of the wedge.



"In addition to the above, the same author states that there is not an
animal in existence, that is more dangerous for its powers of destroying
a human being when in the water. Embracing his body, it counteracts his
struggles, and draws him under with its feelers and its numerous
suckers, when, as often is the case, it happens to make an attack upon
a shipwrecked mariner or a child. If, however, the animal is turned
over, it loses all its power; for when it is thrown upon its back, the
arms open of themselves.

"The other particulars which the same author has given, appear still
more closely to border upon the marvellous. At Carteia, in the preserves
there, a Polypus was in the habit of coming from the sea to the pickling
tubs that were left open, and devouring the fish laid in salt there--for
it is quite astonishing how eagerly all sea animals follow even the very
smell of salted condiments, so much so, that it is for this reason that
the fishermen take care to rub the inside of the wicker fish-kipes with
them.--At last, by its repeated thefts and immoderate depredations, it
drew down upon itself the wrath of the keepers of the works. Palisades
were placed before them, but these the Polypus managed to get over by
the aid of a tree, and was only caught at last by calling in the
assistance of trained dogs, which surrounded it at night, as it was
returning with its prey; upon which, the keepers, awakened by the noise,
were struck with alarm at the novelty of the sight presented.

"First of all, the size of the Polypus was enormous beyond all
conception: and then it was covered all over with dried brine, and
exhaled a most dreadful stench. Who could have expected to find a
Polypus there, or could have recognised it as such, under these
circumstances? They really thought that they were joining battle with
some monster, for at one instant, it would drive off the dogs by its
horrible fumes, and lash at them with the extremities of its feelers;
while at another, it would strike them with its stronger arms, giving
blows with so many clubs, as it were; and it was only with the greatest
difficulty that it could be dispatched with the aid of a considerable
number of three-pronged fish-spears. The head of this animal was shewn
to Lucullus; it was in size as large as a cask of fifteen amphorae
(about 135 gallons), and had a beard (iti tentaculae), to use the
expression of Trebius himself, which could hardly be encircled with both
arms, full of knots, like those upon a club, and thirty feet in length;
the suckers, or calicules, as large as an urn, resembled a basin in
shape, while the teeth again were of a corresponding largeness: its
remains, which were carefully preserved as a curiosity, weighed seven
hundred pounds."

Olaus Magnus says:--"On the Coasts of Norway there is a Polypus, or
creature with many feet, which hath a pipe on his back, whereby he puts
to Sea, and he moves that sometimes to the right, and sometimes to the
left. Moreover, with his Legs as it were by hollow places, dispersed
here and there, and by his Toothed Nippers, he fastneth on every living
Creature that comes near to him, that wants blood. Whatever he eats he
heaps up in the holes where he resides: Then he casts out the Skins,
having eaten the flesh, and hunts after fishes that swim to them: Also
he casts out the shels, and hard outsides of Crabs that remain. He
changeth his colour by the colour of the stone he sticks unto,
especially when he is frighted at the sight of his Enemy, the Conger. He
hath 4 great middle feet, in all 8; a little body, which the great feet
make amends for. He hath also some small feet that are shadowed and can
scarce be perceived. By these he sustains, moves, and defends himself,
and takes hold of what is from him: and he lies on his back upon the
stones, that he can scarce be gotten off, onlesse you put some stinking
smell to him."





Next: Crayfish And Crabs

Previous: Sponges



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