July 22, 2016

Mythical X

        To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, mythical X creatures are few and far between.  This is where we can take a moment to be grateful that the English language is never as xenophobic as some of its speakers unfortunately are, so that we can welcome words from Chinese, Greek, and other x-otic languages.  And today I especially welcome their monsters.

xiezhi - Something like a lion with a single horn, but possibly with scales and possibly a type of cattle.  The special thing about the xiezhi is that it is instinctively just and knows good from evil.  If two people are arguing or in conflict, a xiezhi will ram the one who’s at fault.  (Asian)

xana - Another variety of nymph or water spirit, especially associated with fountains, rivers, and waterfalls.  They are extraordinarily beautiful, often with long, curly blonde hair, and alluring voices.  They frequently guard treasures, which they may occasionally offer to worthy travellers.  Because xanas cannot produce milk, when they give birth they often exchange their babies with human infants.  These xaninos grow up in less than a year.  (Spanish, specifically Asturian)

xiao - This one is rather confusing and I’d probably have left it out altogether if I didn’t need all the x’s I could get.  Is it an ape-like creature with very long striped or spotted arms and a penchant for hurling stuff?  Is it a flying monkey?  Or is it a bird with four wings, one eye, and a dog’s tail?  You’d think observers would be able to tell the difference.  The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that it’s extremely raucous and noisy.  (Chinese)

xenoceratops - A giant monster with a body like a rhinoceros, a tail like a crocodile, and a beak like an eagle.  Its most notable feature is the horns all over and around its head: one sticking out of each cheek, two on its forehead, and a sort of collar or frill of spikes and knobs all around the back of its head, with two larger ones at the top.  No one knows what magical abilities this creature might have had, because in fact it’s known only from fossils.  Yes, this is actually a real dinosaur, but isn’t its description every bit as improbable as the monsters I’ve been featuring all year?  In fact, it isn’t even the weirdest-looking of the ceratopsians (the dinosaurs in the same group as triceratops).  I like to remember from time to time that nature has just as wild an imagination as any human.  (Canadian)

xog - A flying puppy, previously mentioned here.  (Modern)

[Pictures: Xie zhi, sculpture about which I have no information at all (Image from China.org);
Xenoceratops foremostensis, drawing by Danielle Dufault, 2012 (Image from livescience).]

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