The Guide to Creatures of Fantasy
Do you love fantasy creatures, but don't know where to begin when it comes to writing about them? Well quit that worrying, here is your free guide that will get you started!
Did you know that there are different categories of fantasy creatures! That's right! There are more to fantasy creatures than the obviously over done: mermaids, vampires, werewolves, fairies, elves and dragons! And what's even more awesome than that is the fact that you can remake you fantasy creatures however you like, meaning you do not have to stick to the rules. For example, Twilight's vampires sparkle like diamonds and have unique super powers, while the vampires in Vampire Diaries can hypnotize people and move really fast. As the author, you can bless your characters with any rules you please. That means that even if there is a competing book series featuring the same fantasy creatures as you, your book will still stand out because of the unique and consistent rules you've built for your fantasy species!
For more tips on how to make rules for you fantasy world and people, check out my blog: How to Create a Unique Magic System
Before we begin, it is good to know that every fantasy creature has cultural origins. Dragons were first described in Europe and first depicted in China between 4500 and 3000 BCE, while elves were first described in Germanic mythology in 1485. It is good to know such origins to better understand the species, the reason it was invented, and the culture behind the invention.
1. HUMAN-ANIMAL HYBRIDS
As fantasy consumers, we are most familiar to such mythological creatures because of how the amount of modern day adaptions there are. Feel free to write about what fantasy creature you prefer just so long as you keep your story and magical rules unique and consistent to set you apart from the norm.
Vampires- Before Bram Stroker's Count Dracula (1897), the earliest lest depiction of a vampire is shown on a prehistoric Assyrian bowl, afterwards vampire literature began in 1797. During the Middle Ages the plague was on the rise. The appearance of the plagued victims (bleeding mouth lesions) were at the time, tell signs of vampirism, which is why such corpses were permanently 'killed' with stakes to the heart, decapitated, or burned. Porphyria, a blood condition where blisters appear on skin that was exposed to sunlight and is relieved by ingesting blood was then linked to vampirism.
Mermaids- First depictions of these fantasy creatures were in the Paleolithic stone age as cave paintings when humans first began voyaging the sea. Then later, the ancient Greeks wrote about mermaids in the Odyssey. Mermaids were depicted as half woman and half bird appearing in a group of two or three on the water waiting for ships. They were the original sirens, luring sailors into the ocean with their enchanting song and beauty. Other countries began writing about mermaids like Assyria (1000 BC), China, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Spain. Even Christopher Columbus said that he'd seen three mermaids on his voyage to what he thought to be India.
Fairies- there is a big controversy about fairies. Some authors like to write fairies as small tiny creatures with butterfly wings, while others keep them human-sized with supernatural powers. When fairies were introduced in Ireland, people feared them because they were known to be wicked creatures. Traditions arose when those who feared fairies built their front doors aligned with their back to allow the fairies to pass through their homes. Traditionally fairies don't have wings, and they are invisible to us, finally settling in the realm of the "fey" to avoid humans.
As you might have guessed, there are much more human-animal hybrid creatures in folklore like:
1. Draconope – (Germanic) Means "snake-feet". Face of a human woman with the body of a serpent.
2. Echidna – (Ancient Greece) A half-woman and half-serpent with deity parents.
3. Ketu – (Hindu) Human with four arms and snake bottom half.
5. Lamia – (Ancient Greece) woman with lower body of a snake. It is a child eating monster that had an affair with Zeus.
6. Nāga – (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism), half human, half cobra. Lives in an underground kingdom with many palaces and precious gems. Associated with water, and guards treasure.
7. Nü Wa and Fuxi– (Chinese) Wife and husband. Created humanity in Chinese folklore. Human upper body, snake lower bodies.
8. Nure-onna –(Japanese) Head of a woman, body of a snake. Appears in seas or rivers. Feeds on humans, and sucks their blood with her snake-tongue. Seeks solitude.
9. Tlanchana – (Matlatzinca, ethnic group in Mexico) An aquatic deity. Upper body of human, lower body of snake. Also described as a mermaid.
10. Zhuyin – (Chinese) A solar dragon. Human face, snake's body. Creates day and night by opening its eyes, and creates seasonal winds by breathing.
At this point there are so many human-snake hybrids in mythology all over the world that I'm starting to think they might be real...
1. Atargatis – (Ancient Greek and Syria) Human face, fish body. In charge of fertility.
2. Ichthyocentaurs –(Ancient Greek and Syria) Upper bodies of humans, lower bodies of horses, and the tails of a fish.
3. Jengu – (Sawa people of Central Africa) A water spirit
4. Matsya – (Hindu) An avatar of Lord Vishnu. Half-man, half-fish.
5. Sirena and Siyokoy – (Philippines) Mermaids and mermen.
7. Triton - (Ancient Greece) Son of Poseidon. Merman. Sometimes depicted with two fish tales.
8. Ceasg – (Scottish) mermaid.
9. Adaro - (Solomon Islands) Evil mermen sea spirits
1. Alkonost and Gamayun– (Russian) Head of a woman with the body of a bird. Makes beautiful sounds for its victims to forget all that they know and never desire anything again.
2. Inmyeonjo – (Korean) Bird with a human face.
3. Harpy – (Ancient Greece) A half-bird, half-woman. Sometimes portrayed with bird wings and legs.
4. Kinnara –(Indian) Half-human, half-bird.
5. Lamia – (Ancient Basques of Spain) Beautiful woman with duck feet. Lives around rivers, combing their long hair.
6. Lilitu – (Mesopotamia) A woman with bird legs and wings, linked to the biblical monster, Lilith.
7. Siren – (Greek) Half-bird, half-woman that lures sailors to their deaths by singing.
8. Sirin – (Russian) Head and chest of a woman with an owl body.
9. Uchek Langmeidong - (Manipuri peoples of India) A girl that turned into a bird by wearing woven feathers to escape her abusive stepmother.
1. Anggitay – (Philippine) human female upper body, lower body of a horse.
2. Centaur- (Ancient Greece) human upper body, horse lower body
3. Onocentaur – (Ancient Greece)human upper body with donkey lower body.
4. Ipotane – (Ancient Greece) A human with the legs of a horse.
5. Satyr – (Ancient Greece) Body of a man with the tail and ears of a horse.
1. Faun – (Ancient Rome) Body of a man with legs and horns of a goat. Depicted as shy.
2. Glaistig – (Scottish) fairy or ghost that takes the form of a human-goat.
3. Pan – The god of the wild and protector of shepherds, who has the body of a man, but the legs and horns of a goat. Plays the flute.
4. Satyr – In the Hellenistic Period, satyrs became humans with the legs of a goats.
5. Krampus — (Germanic) Has the body of man, animal-like facial features, and legs and horns of a goat. In the 12th century, Krampus was related to Christmas, swatting away naughty children with sticks.
1. Adlet - (Ancient Greenland) Upper body of a man, lower body of a dog.
2. Gorgons - (Ancient Greek) Female monsters. Woman's upper half, snakes for hair, wings, claws, tusks, and scales. Kills by looking at people.
3. Minotaur - (Ancient Greek) Body of a man with the head and tail of a bull
4. Piasa - (Native American) Face of a man, antlers, bat wings, scorpion tail, and four legs
5. Scorpion Men - (Babylon) head and torso of a man, body of a scorpion.
6. Manticore - (Persian) Lion's body, human head, poisonous scorpion tail, porcupine quills along the spine.
7. Sphinx - (Ancient Greece) Or head of a woman, body of a lion, and the wings of a bird. Guards treasure.
8. Weretiger - (India, China, Persia, Indonesia, Malaysia) Half human and half tiger. Werecat.
9. Werewolf- (Originally from Ancient Greece and Nordic folklore) humans that shape-shift into wolves.
10. Spites- (European) a common type of fairy that lives deep in the woods. There are tree sprites and water sprites. They give off a faint glow, and get mistaken for fireflies. They like to ride insects or small birds, and they wear petals.
11. Pixies- (England) They are magical creatures that throw parties and bless people. The are tiny and can rest in your palm. They have child-like appearances and play pranks on travelers. Another depiction of pixies are that they are the souls of children that have died unbaptized...
12. Nymphs-(Ancient Greeks) Associated with growing things such as trees. There are four types of nymphs: ash tree nymphs, fresh water nymphs, sea nymphs, mountain nymphs.
13. Brownies-(Scottish) Ugly, with brown skin, covered with hair, either naked or dressed in rags. They come out at night while owners of the house are asleep to help with chores. They are mischievous and play pranks on lazy servants. If angered they turn malicious. Can turn invisible, or shape-shift into animals.
14. Dwarves- (Norse) a species of fairy that live inside mountains. Up to the height of a two-year old child or eighteen inches. Some depictions are that they are beautiful and some say they look like old men with beards and hunched backs.
15. Elves- (Germanic) Live in kingdoms found in forests, meadows, or hollowed tree trunks. Over time elves were known to play pranks and be mischievous. Usually looks like tiny humans. There are many iterations of elves in modern day literature that do not look like tiny humans, for example The Lord of the Rings.
16. Leprechauns- (Ireland) Originated in the 8th century and means "small-body". A spirit merged with a household fairy. Mischievous creatures that make shoes and store their gold in pots at the end of a rainbow. If you catch one, he will grant you three wishes.
What is more magical than mushing a few animals together to make something unique and out of this world! Fun fact: most hybrids were invented by the ancient Greeks. If you're interested in animal hybrids check out this list!
1. Ahuizotl - (Aztec) Dog and monkey cross with five hands. Lures people to their deaths.
2. Ammit - (Egyptian) Female demon that is part lion, hippopotamus & crocodile
3. Basilisk/Cockatrice - (Cyrene, an Ancient Greek city) King of the serpents. Head and claws of a rooster with a reptile's body. Has the ability to kill by looking at its victim.
4. Catoblepas -(Ancient Greece and Rome) Resembles a large buffalo whose head is too heavy to lift. Believed to exist in Africa. Can kill with its breath.
5. Cerberus - (Ancient Greece) The hound of Hades. Three headed dog that guards the underworld.
6. Chimera - (Ancient Greece) Head and body of a lioness, head of a goat coming out of the back, and a serpent's tail that ends with a snakes head. Breathes fire.
7. Formorians - (Irish) Large, deformed bodies made up of animal parts. Sometimes depicted as a monster with the body of a man and head of a goat. Can have one arm and one leg. Come from under the sea or ground.
9. Griffin - (Middle Eastern and Mediterranean) Head, claws and wings of an eagle, body of a lion.
10. Hippocampi - (Roman and Greek) Upper body of a horse, with a lower body of a fish.
11. Hippogriff - (Ancient Greece) Head, wings and claws of an eagle and the body of a horse. It's a Griffin-horse hybrid.
12. Leucrocuta - (Indian and Ethiopian) Horse's head or badgers head. Gums instead of teeth. Body of a lion. Sounds like a hyena or wounded person. Tears its victim to pieces.
13. Lusca - (Caribbean) Sea monster. Large octopus/shark hybrid.
14. Merlion - (Singapore) Head of a lion, body of a large fish.
15. Nuckelavee - (Norse) Horse-like demon sea creature that ventures onto land.
16. Orthus - (Ancient Greece) Two headed dog with a serpent's tail.
17. Perytons - (invented by Swiss writer, Jorge Luis Borges) A deer with the wings of a bird.
18. Quinotaur - (invented by Fredegar in his book the Frankish Chronicles of Fredegar) Sea creature with the head of a bull and five horns
19. Serpopard - (Egyptian and Mesopotamia) leopard, long neck and head of a serpent.
20. Typhon - (Ancient Greece) The father of all monsters. Enormous multi-headed (with some heads of a dragon), hundreds of wings, and a serpent's body. Torso was that of a man, but his legs and hands made of vipers. His main head has 100 snakeheads. His eyes glowed red. He can breathe fire, and he never slept.
21. Unicorns- (Mesopotamia, India, China, Greek) Horse with white body, purple head, blue eyes, a horn with a red tip, black in the middle, and white at the base. Drinking from the horn will cure many ailments such as poison.
Want to create something original?
There are so many different combinations you could try if you want to get creative rather than use what has already been invented. Don't believe me? Have you ever watched Avatar the Last Airbender of the Legend of Korra? In this fantasy world, there are no bears, turtles, badgers, but rather, Platypus Bears, Lion Turtles, and Badgermoles. Here we see a beautiful example of creating a unique world that seems believable and relatable. These creatures exhibited behaviors of their hybrid counterparts. They were not "magical", and were not linked to any "higher being", but they were unlike anything you will ever find in any fantasy story.
1. Sasquatch/BigFoot- (Canadian/ American) Ape-like creature.Muscular with black, brown, and red hair.
2. Yeti/ Abominable Snowman- (Himalayan) shaggy ape-man with huge feet and sabre teeth.
2. Chupacobra- (Puerto-Rico, Mexico, United States) Means "Goat-sucker". Small bear, with a row of spines from neck to tail. Drains the blood of sheep.
3. Ogres- (French) A large and ugly man-like monster that eats humans, specifically infants and children. Has lots of hair, strong, unusually colored skin. Linked to giants and cannibals.
4. Dragons- Appears in many folklore of countries around the world. Since the high middle ages they are depicted as winged and horned, with four legs that breathe fire. The earliest depictions in Mesopotamian art show them as giant snakes.
5. Jinn/Genies- (Arabian) Responsible for misfortune and disease, while some are benevolent and supportive. Summoned and bound to a sorcerer. They appear human, can change shapes, fly, and make themselves invisible.
6. Kraken- (Scandinavian) A giant squid.
7. Gargoyles - (French) Grotesque stone statues. Frightens away evil spirits, also depicted as vessels for demonic possession.
8. Goblin- (European) Ugly, mischievous, and cunning. Stout and thin, yellow crooked teeth. Can speak human languages and their own with high-pitched raspy voice. They are greedy for gold and jewelry. Similar to fairies. They live in dark places and range from dwarf size to human size. Dangerous to humans. Can make themselves invisible.
9. Gnomes- (Invented by a Swiss author named Paracelsus) Small men with short arms and legs. They live underground and wear robes. Small and humped backed but can grow into a giant. Can move through solid earth.
10. Imps- (Germanic) a small and lesser demon. Though more mischievous than evil. Small, ugly, wild, and uncontrollable. Are described as being bound in magical objects like crystal balls or swords, granting the wishes of the owner. The soul of the owner will go to hell if they don't give the object to a new owner before death.
11. Troll-(Scandinavian and Norse) live in rocks, mountains, caves. Live with their families and do not help humans. Ugly, not very bright, old and strong. Turn to stone in the sunlight. Shaggy hair, unkept and can shape-shift.
4. Spiritual Creatures/ Biblical
Angels- besides the obvious human with wings that are benevolent forces helping humans, angels are also depicted as winged beings with one leg and beautiful faces.
Demons- evil spirits. In Christianity, they are known for the ability to possess their victims...
Ghosts- people that are either punished or decide not to move on to the next world due to unfinished business, fear of moving on, or because they might not be allowed to move on.
Banshees- ghosts that scream, howl and moan in the night.
Spirit animals- a spiritual entity that acts as a guide to a human being.
Giants/Cyclops - (Jewish) the original Cyclops was Goliath, the one eyed giant young David defeated. Giants used to roam the earth in Noah's era. They were wicked people who did very bad things. Most were killed in the great flood except for Og King of Bashan who stowed away on Noah's ship secretly.
Golems- (Jewish) a being created by clay or mud.
I hoped this helped you get your creative juices flowing! Let me know what you think in the comments below. Which of these mythological creatures are your favorite? Do you think any might be real? And always remember, that most or all of these creatures were made up by people. Whose to say we can't invent some of our own?