Fantastical creatures have coexisted with humans, at least in our imagination, since time immemorial.
By Alejandro I. López
Although their existence belongs to the collective imagination of different traditions and cultures, their manifestations are a clear reflection of human thinking. They’re a window to the past, to that mythical and mysterious time when the world was surrounded by a huge sea where mermaids and sea monsters were endemic creatures. A time when trolls and goblins inhabited the cold and vast nordic forests as guardians of nature.
The monsters that star in most of these foundational legends and mythologies all around the globe have evolved with time. We’re talking about creatures that terrorized entire towns even when nobody could see them; and though nowadays they live only in the mythological realm, they’re still a reflex of our human psyche and social understanding. So, which were the most fearsome creatures in history?
This gigantic and agile wolf is a lonely creature that protects the Arctic. It wanders the white snowy plains searching for unwary hunters. For the Inuit and Yupik, the Amarok is the creature in charge of summoning all wolves to hunt sick and weak reindeers to keep nature’s balance.
In Irish mythology, Banshees have the power to deafen humans with their loud chants. Their sole presence also announced death for the person who encountered it or one of their loved ones. This creature, with a female appearance and attractive looks, is characterized by its long hair, but more importantly, it's known for its close relationship to the Underworld.
Better known as the “King of Reptiles,” a look from the Basilisk is enough to kill any creature. It’s so powerful that even its breath could be lethal. While in some cultures the Basilisk is represented as a giant snake with a crest, in many Medieval bestiaries it looks like a rooster with a serpent tail. The Basilisk symbolizes evil and its sole presence represents death itself.
The deep waters of Lake Texcoco, in Mexico, trembled with the sound of a crying baby. The Ahuizotl, an otter-like fearsome creature with black fur and primate-like limbs, was thought to wander the waters of the lake hunting fishermen and any other unwary victim near them. They answered to Tlaloc, the ancient Aztec god of rain.
In the cold hills of the Himalayas lives this legendary, giant, ape-like creature. For centuries, locals claim they’ve seen it looking for victims to eat. Though it’s mostly related to the Himalayas, there are similar versions in South America and Australia, which talks of a common human fear.
The mighty Kraken, the fear of sailors everywhere. In Scandinavian mythology, there’s no creature as feared as the Kraken, a giant squid that lives in the depths of the ocean. Due to its colossal size, it’s even been confused with an island. With the power of its tentacles, it’s capable of capturing and sinking any ship.
Possibly a descendant of the dinosaurs, the famous Nessie, or Loch Ness Monster, is a solitary creature that has captured interest and scared locals for centuries. The locals have described it as a shy creature that only appears at night escaping from curious people wanting to capture it to prove its existence.
This small and elusive creature has an evil nature. Especially crafty when it comes to ruining machinery, the Gremlin is a nightmare for those afraid to fly or even travel by car. It’s that mechanical failure that happens all of the sudden that could have lethal consequences.
After a strange appearance of dead cows and goats, the myth of a wild creature lurking in Latin American fields to kill animals and suck their blood appeared. The typical description of the Chupacabras is that of a humanoid reptile with sharp claws and fangs with which it kills its prays.
In the early seventeenth century, the legend of a giant spider capable of turning into a seductive woman to lure men appear. It was believed that the Jorogumo would wander through the Japanese prefectures. Once she had captured her prey, she would turn back into a spider and trap them with her webs to swallow them later on.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
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