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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 Toad








Toads were always considered venomous and spiteful, and they had but one
redeeming quality, which seems to be lost to its modern descendants:--

"Sweet are the uses of adversity;
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head."

(As You Like It, Act ii. sc. 1.)

Pliny says of these animals:--"Authors quite vie with one another in
relating marvellous stories about them; such, for instance, as that if
they are brought into the midst of a concourse of people, silence will
instantly prevail; as also that, by throwing into boiling water, a small
bone that is found in their right side, the vessel will immediately
cool, and the water refuse to boil again until it has been removed. This
bone, they say, may be found by exposing a dead toad to ants, and
letting them eat away the flesh; after which the bones must be put into
the vessel one by one.

"On the other hand, again, in the left side of this reptile there is
another bone, they say, which, when thrown into water, has all the
appearance of making it boil, and the name given to which is 'apocynon'
(averting dogs). This bone it is said has the property of assuaging
the fury of dogs, and, if put in the drink, of conciliating love, and
ending discord and strife. Worn, too, as an amulet, it acts as an
aphrodisiac, we are told."

Topsell writes so diffusely on the virtues of these "toad stones" that I
can only afford space for a portion of his remarks:--"There be many late
Writers, which doe affirme that there is a precious stone in the head of
a Toade, whose opinions (because they attribute much to the vertue of
this stone) is good to examine in this place.... There be many that
weare these stones in Ringes, beeing verily perswaded that they keepe
them from all manner of grypings and paines of the belly, and the small
guttes. But the Art, (as they term it) is in taking of it out, for they
say it must be taken out of the head alive, before the Toade be dead,
with a peece of cloth of the colour of redde Skarlet, wherewithall they
are much delighted, so that while they stretch out themselves as it were
in sport upon that cloth, they cast out the stone of their head, but
instantly they sup it up againe, unlesse it be taken from them through
some secrete hole in the said cloth, whereby it falleth into a cesterne
or vessell of water, into the which the Toade dare not enter, by reason
of the coldnes of the water....

"This stone is that which in auncient time was called Batrachites, and
they attribute unto it a vertue besides the former, namely, for the
breaking of the stone in the bladder, and against the Falling sicknes.
And they further write that it is a discoverer of present poyson, for in
the presence of poyson it will change the colour. And this is the
substaunce of that which is written about this stone. Now for my part I
dare not conclude either with it, or against it, for many are directlie
for this stone ingendered in the braine or head of the Toade: on the
other side, some confesse such a stone by name and nature, but they make
doubt of the generation of it, as others have delivered; and therefore,
they beeing in sundry opinions, the hearing whereof might confound the
Reader, I will referre him for his satisfaction unto a Toade, which hee
may easily every day kill: For although when the Toade is dead, the
vertue thereof be lost, which consisted in the eye, or blew spot in the
middle, yet the substance remaineth, and, if the stone be found there in
substance, then is the question at an end; but, if it be not, then must
the generation of it be sought for in some other place."





Next: The Leech

Previous: The Salamander



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