August 19, 2016

Mythical Z

        This is it, the final letter in the alphabet of mythical creatures!  Many thanks to the Slavic languages for so many of these Z creatures, although we’ve also got creatures from Hebrew, Arabic, and Haitian.  Anything beginning with Z automatically sounds rather exotic in English.

ziz - A bird so huge that its wingspan can block out the sun.  It’s the avian counterpart of leviathan and behemoth.  Standing in the deepest ocean, the water reaches only up to the ziz’s ankles.  Some sources describe it as being like a griffin, while others say it’s like a giant rooster.  I’ve chosen to show it in the gallinaceous style.  (Jewish)

zburător - Something like an incubus, this spirit is a ghostly, handsome young man who visits women in the night for indecent purposes.  He especially favors recently married women.  (Romanian)

zitiron- A sort of merperson with the upper body of a knight in full armor.  (medieval European)

zilant - This wyvern-like dragonoid is the symbol of Kazan, Russia.  (Tatar/Russian)

zmey/zmiy/zmaj/zmij/zmej - Slavic dragons, sometimes representing evil, but sometimes extremely wise, magical, and respected.  (Slavic)
     Zmey Gorynych is a green, three-headed dragon that walks on its hind legs and has small front limbs (like a T. Rex?), and breathes fire.  (Russian, Ukranian)
     Zmeu is an anthropomorphic dragonoid that can shapeshift, make and use tools and weapons, and has a magical shining stone on its head.  It has a predilection for stealing precious objects ranging from golden apples to the sun and moon, and with a particular yen for beautiful maidens.  (Romanian)

Zlatorog - A white chamois or mountain goat with magical golden horns that can lead to a treasure hidden in the highest peak of the Slovenian Alps.  (Slovenian, Alpine)

zubat - I felt that I should include a pokémon in my alphabet.  The zubat is certainly not the most interesting of pokémon, but having got to Z, I was out of better options.  (Japanese, universal)

zaratan - another name for aspidochelone, especially prevalent in the Middle East

zombie - A reanimated dead human, previously mentioned here.  (originally Haitian, now universal)

     At one point after beginning this mythical alphabet, I had fantasies of ending with a grand launch of a Kickstarter campaign for my own bestiary project… but then I decided it was all futile anyway!  So perhaps someday you’ll hear more about this scheme, but for now, this is the end of the series.  But don’t worry, I’m sure there will be plenty more mythical creatures to come.

[Pictures: Ziz Eclipse, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016;
Zitiron, hand-colored wood block print from Hortus sanitatis, 1499 Strasbourg edition (Image from Boston Public Library);
Zubat, from Pokémon Go;
Disarmed Zombie, block print by Pete Mitchell (Image from his Etsy shop daspetey).]

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