June 17, 2016

Mythical U

        And now we enter those dark, inhospitable regions of the alphabet, where few words dwell.  From having to cull down long lists of possible beasts to feature, choosing only those exceptional stars that are most famous or most intriguing to me, I am now reduced to combing desperately through every cabinet of curiosities in the hope of discovering a few obscure creatures I’d never heard of before.  So here we are, with a pitiful handful of U’s.

undine - Elemental beings of water first named by alchemist Paracelsus, undines are always female, and usually to be found in pools and waterfalls.  Sometimes they are simply another kind of nymph.  They are humanoid, beautiful, and often with beautiful singing voices, but nevertheless, undines have no souls.  (European)

Unhcegila - Although a huge monster with a long scaly body, fiery eyes, iron-hard claws, and a fanged mouth obscured by smoke, Unhcegila didn’t need the claws or fangs to be lethal.  Anyone who saw her went blind, then insane, and then died on the fourth day.  The only way to kill her was to shoot her in the heart, which was a flashing red crystal under the seventh spot on her head.  Accounts of her demise vary, but you don’t need to worry any more - she’s dead now.  (Lakota)

umbrellaphant - Very much like an African elephant in size and general appearance, the umbrellaphant has evolved large umbrella-like structures, presumably of skin stretched over a skeletal framework, that function as parachutes and allow it to float downward safely from
great heights.  There are two species of umbrellaphant: the tusk-umbelled umbrellaphant, in which the parachute-like structures grow from the tips of each tusk, and the trunk-umbelled umbrellaphant, in which a single parachute grows from the end of the trunk.  Previously mentioned here.  (relatively recent discovery)

unicorn - Though sparsely populated, U does at least have the distinction of hosting one of the most famous and popular of all mythical creatures.  Previous post here.  (European)

[Pictures: Illustration by Arthur Rackham from Undine by De La Motte Fouqué and Courtney, 1912 (Image from Books Around the Table);
Young Unicorn, linoleum block print by AEGN, 2015.]

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