July 5, 2016

Mythical V

        V seems to be a fairly sinister letter for some reason.  Just about any of these creatures are apt to kill you if you don’t watch out.  But stay away from Eastern Europe, medieval France, and the planet Venus and you should be relatively safe.

vouivre - A serpentine dragonoid, sometimes with horns, a vouivre is extremely aggressive and attacks without provocation.  Oddly, however, when they see a naked human they blush and look away, thus giving an opportunity for escape.  Their exact complement of legs and wings (or none) is unclear.  Etymologically, another common spelling is guivre, but I chose vouivre because I needed more v’s, of course.  Both forms are related to wyrm, wyvern, and viper.  (medieval French)

vila - A sort of nymph, fairy, or spirit, vila have power over wind, often appear either naked or with a long, billowing cloak, and love to dance.  They can sometimes help humans, but are more likely to be dangerous, stealing young men’s breath, or dancing them to death.  (Slavic)

vodyanoy/vodník - When known as vodyanoy (East Slavic), this male fresh-water spirit somewhat resembles the creature of the black lagoon.  He has greenish beard and hair, black scales, webbed hands, burning red eyes, and a lot of algae and muck.  His primary hobby is drowning people.  When known as vodník (western Slavic), on the other hand, he has a more normal humanoid appearance, except for gills, webbed hands, greenish skin, and a predilection for patchy shirts and odd hats.  They like to smoke pipes and play cards, both of which I would expect to be difficult underwater, which is why they often hang out on the shore.  Only some vodníci are evil, but those collect the souls of their drowned victims in porcelain cups with lids.  (Slavic)

Velue - Also known as the Peluda, this beast terrorized a French village until it was defeated by having its tail cut off.  Its name means Hairy or Shaggy One, because it was covered with green quills or tentacles with poisonous tips.  As big as an ox, it had a scaly, snake-like head, neck, and tail, and big, stumpy feet like a tortoise.  Its breath was lethal, though whether because of fumes, fire, or acid is unclear, and it could shoot off its quills like arrows.  (medieval French)

Venusian - A creature from the planet Venus.  Although Venusians are not particularly popular now that we feel sure Venus has no native wildlife and wouldn’t even be a good choice for human habitation, in the early days of science fiction Venusians seemed as plausible as any other space aliens.  First Venus was generally understood to be tropical jungle and/or largely oceanic, then it was presumed to be harsh desert, in both cases with the appropriate fauna.  I haven’t read or seen any of these myself, but according to various sources the Venusians may include creatures that are a blend of elephants and horse-flies (Fred. T. Jane, 1897), spider-like shelks (Charles R. Tanner, 1930’s), serpent or lizard people (Lumley and Lovecraft, 1930’s), green humanoids (C.S. Lewis, 1940’s), giant frog-like amphibians (Captain Marvel, 1940’s), Aphrodite-worshipping fairies (Wonder Woman, 1942), grinning cones (“It Conquered the World” 1956), three-eyed chefs (“The Twilight Zone” 1961), animated plants (Arthur C. Clark, 1960’s), three-headed green Fearians (“Challenge of the Super Friends” 1978), horse-sized bees (Jacqueline Susann, 1979), snakes with sulfur blood (Ben Bova, 2000), or many other variations, especially of humanoids and dinosaurians.  It seems that a very high proportion of Venusians are either driven to extinction by humans, or do their darnedest to drive humans to extinction.  (modern, universal)

        And don’t forget the V creatures I’ve discussed before:
vegetable lamb - As it sounds, this is a sheep that grows on a stem from a plant, and is the only creature in today's list that’s probably safe to approach.  (Central Asian)

vampire - An undead spirit that sucks people’s blood and life force.  One of the more interesting features of the classic European vampire is its ability to transform into a bat.  (universal, but especially Eastern European)

[Pictures: Vouivre, woodcut, 1550 (Image from akg-images);
Velue, engraving by Peter Sís from The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges, 2005;
Dracula, wood engraving by Barry Moser from Dracula by Bram Stoker, 2000 (Image from Prensa Bruta).]

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