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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 Sphynx








"The SPHYNGA or Sphinx, is of the kind of Apes, but his breast up
to his necke, pilde and smooth without hayre: the face is very round,
yet sharp and piked, having the breasts of women, and their favor, or
visage, much like them: In that part of the body which is bare with out
haire, there is a certaine red thing rising in a round circle, like
millet seed, which giveth great grace & comeliness to their coulour,
which in the middle part is humaine: Their voice is very like a man's,
but not articulate, sounding as if one did speake hastily, with
indignation or sorrow. Their haire browne, or swarthy coulour. They
are bred in India, and Ethiopia. In the promontory of the farthest
Arabia neere Dira, are Sphinges, and certaine Lyons, called
Formicae, so, likewise, they are to be found amongest the Trogloditae.



"As the Babouns and Cynocephali are more wilde than other Apes, so
the Satyres and Sphynges are more meeke and gentle, for they are not
so wilde that they will not bee tamed, nor yet so tame, but they will
revenge their own harmes; as appeared by that which was slayne in a
publike spectacle among the Thebanes. They carrye their meat in the
store houses of their own chaps or cheeks, taking it forth when they are
hungry, and so eat it.



"The name of this Sphynx is taken from 'binding,' as appeareth by
the Greek notation, or else of delicacie and dainty nice loosnesse,
(wherefore there were certain common strumpets called Sphinctae,
and the Megarian Sphingas was a very popular phrase for notorious
harlots), hath given occasion to the poets to faigne a certaine monster
called Sphynx, which they say was thus derived. Hydra brought foorth
the Chimaera, Chimaera by Orthus, the Sphynx, and the Nemaean
Lyon: now, this Orthus was one of Geryon's dogges. This Sphynx
they make a treble formed monster, a Mayden's face, a Lyon's legs, and
the wings of a fowle; or, as Ansonius and Varinus say, the face
and head of a mayde, the body of a dogge, the winges of a byrd, the
voice of a man, the clawes of a Lyon, and the tayle of a dragon: and
that she kept continually in the Sphincian mountaine; propounding
to all travailers that came that way an AEnigma, or Riddle, which
was this: What was the creature that first of all goeth on foure
legges; afterwards on two, and, lastly, on three: and all of them that
could not dissolve that Riddle, she presently slew, by taking them,
and throwing them downe headlong, from the top of a Rocke. At last
Oedipus came that way, and declared the secret, that it was a man,
who in his infancy creepeth on all foure, afterward, in youth, goeth
upon two legs, and last of all, in olde age taketh unto him a staffe
which maketh him to goe, as it were, on three legs; which the monster
hearing, she presently threwe down herselfe from the former rocke, and
so she ended. Whereupon Oedipus is taken for a subtill and wise opener
of mysteries.

"But the truth is, that when Cadmus had married an Amazonian woman,
called Sphynx, and, with her, came to Thebes, and there slew Draco
their king, and possessed his kingdom, afterwards there was a sister
unto Draco called Harmona, whom Cadmus married, Sphynx being yet
alive. She, in revenge, (being assisted by many followers,) departed
with great store of wealth into the mountaine Sphincius, taking with
her a great Dogge, which Cadmus held in great account, and there made
daily incursions or spoiles upon his people. Now, aenigma, in the
Theban language, signifieth an inrode, or warlike incursion, wherfore
the people complained in this sort. This GRECIAN SPHINX robbeth us, in
setting up with an AENIGMA, but no man knoweth after what manner she
maketh this AENIGMA.

"Cadmus hereupon made proclamation, that he would give a very
bountifull reward unto him that would kill Sphinx, upon which occasion
the Corinthian Oedipus came unto her, being mounted on a swift
courser, and accompanied with some Thebans in the night season, slue
her. Other say that Oedipus by counterfaiting friendshippe, slue her,
making shew to be of her faction; and Pausanius saith, that the former
Riddle, was not a Riddle, but an Oracle of Apollo, which Cadmus had
received, whereby his posterity should be inheritors of the Theban
kingdome; and whereas Oedipus, being the son of Laius, a former king
of that countrey, was taught the Oracle in his sleepe, he recouvered
the kingdome usurped by Sphinx his sister, and, afterwards, unknown,
married his mother Jocasta.

"But the true morall of this poetical fiction is by that learned
Alciatus, in one of his emblems, deciphered; that her monstrous treble
formed shape signified her lustfull pleasure under a Virgin's face, her
cruell pride, under the Lyon's clawes, her winde-driven leuitye, under
the Eagles, or birdes feathers, and I will conclude with the wordes of
Suidas concerning such monsters, that the Tritons, Sphinges, and
Centaures, are the images of those things, which are not to be founde
within the compasse of the whole world."





Next: Apes

Previous: Satyrs



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