March 25, 2016

Mythical M

        The letter M brings us to the midpoint of the mythical alphabet, and provides a nice selection of creatures from all around the world.  There are a nice mix of wood block prints to illustrate them, too, both ancient and modern, both serious and whimsical.

manticore - A fearsome monster with the body of a red lion, the head of a man, and three rows of sharp teeth.  It may have a tail like a dragon or a scorpion, it occasionally has bat wings, and sometimes it can shoot venomous spines.  But all accounts agree that it devours humans viciously, leaving nothing behind.  (Persian)

merfolk - Mer people are humanoid from the waist up, with fish tails from the waist down.  Generally the mermaids are said to be beautiful, with long flowing hair, while the mermen don't get mentioned nearly as often.  Sometimes mermaids act as sirens, luring sailors onto
reefs or causing storms, while sometimes they rescue the victims of shipwrecks.  Cultures all around the world have aquatic humanoids, though not all have fish tails.  See here for a Japanese mermaid.  (Universal)



makara - Another creature with piscine hind parts, but usually with the front half of a deer, crocodile, or elephant.  There are many variations in form, sometimes even with peacock tails, but they are often guardians of gateways or thresholds.  They often also serve as mounts for Hindu gods and goddesses, especially Ganga and Varuna.  (Hindu)

Minotaur - In Greek mythology the Minotaur is not a species but a single monster, the offspring of a bull and a human woman.  Oddly, he fed on meat, and his step-father Minos kept him in the original labyrinth and sent in human sacrifices for him to eat, until he was killed by Theseus.  Now you may encounter other minotaurs elsewhere in fantasy.  (ancient Greek)

mušḫuššu - Also known as a sirrush, a dragonoid with feline forelegs, eagle-esque hind legs, and horns.  Previous post (and picture) here.  (Akkadian)

mokele-mbembe - A cryptid swamp monster of the Congo River area, which looks like a small sauropod.  The name means “one who stops the flow of rivers” in Lingala.  (Bantu)

Menehune - Similar to dwarfs, Menehune are small humanoids who are exceptional craftspeople and built lots of stuff on the Hawaiian islands before humans from Polynesia populated the islands.  Their favorite foods are bananas and fish.  (Hawaiian)

monopod - Humanoids who have only one leg and a very large foot.  They leap about quite nimbly, but sometimes in the heat of the day they lie on their backs and hold up their foot as a parasol.  According to the Greeks and Romans, they live in India.  (ancient Greek)


[Pictures:  And Japheth played the big bass drum (Manticore), wood block print by Ed Emberly from One Wide River to Cross, 1967;
Mermaids, engraving from Le Imagini De gli Dei by Vincenzo Cartari Reggiano, 1624 (Image from Wolfenbütteler Digitale Bibliothek);
Sea Life, woodcut by Bernard Lodge (Image from Bernard Lodge Moonfruit);
Picasso (Repentant Minotaur), woodcut by Christopher Gonzales-Aden, 2000 (Image from Christopher Gonzales-Aden);
Monopod (Umbrella Foot), woodcut by Hartmann Schedel from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);
Manticore, wood block print from The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes by Edward Topsell, 1607, (Image from Internet Archive).]

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