Friday, January 20, 2017

9 Epic, Underused Mythical Animals for Your Fantasy Novel

So you're writing a fantasy novel? You're going to need a starter bag: Do you have your hero? Check. Your sidekick? Check. Your villain? Check. Your magic system? Check. Your different races (elves, dwarves, humans, etc)? Check. That big forest all fantasy characters invariably have to travel through? Check.

It would seem that your starter bag is full. Now go forth and conquer your story world! *stands back and watches you leave*

Wait, wait! Come back! We forgot about your mythical animals. Phew. That could have been bad.

No, you don't technically need any of the items in that starter bag I just gave you. Just like you don't technically need mythical animals. But you want them. You know you do.
Hannah Heath: 9 Epic, Underused Mythical Animals for Your Fantasy Novel
But, of course, you may not want the same exact mythical animals that everybody else has. What's the fun in that? I mean, I'm sure you already have creatures lined up: Dragons, griffins, mermaids, harpies, Pegasi, minotaurs, pixies, phoenixes, unicorns. Those are all great. You'll probably never run into a reader who is upset that you included a dragon in your fantasy novel (and if you do, that person is probably insane. RUN!).

But what about some new ones? Using less common mythical animals in your fantasy story can lend uniqueness and depth to your world. Plus, they're incredibly cool.

Below are a list of really interesting, underused mythical creatures for you to peruse. If they look cool to you and fit into your world, why not include them in your writing? These poor guys never see the light of day. And, in case you're wondering, these are all actually "real" mythical creatures. I ain't got the brains to make this up:

1. Peryton

Source: FranIlustracion

The head, antlers, and forelegs of a stag, but the wings and hindquarters of a bird, this mythical animal is my personal favorite. Think of what an epic steed it would make: majestic and deadly. All it needs to do is breathe fire (and maybe have scales for protection) and this makes a formidable creature.

2. Enfield 

Image source

There's really no formal description for this one, but it has the head of a fox and the forelegs of an eagle. Sometimes it has the hindlegs of a wolf. I'd imagine this could have a tricky personality (perhaps it acts as a spy?) and I see no reason why it couldn't have wings.

3. Crocotta

Source: Wikia

A fierce hyena-like creature, the crocotta has the body of a stag, cloven hooves, and the head of a hyena or badger. It is the enemy of man and dog, has sharp teeth, and makes noises that mimic the sound of human laughter. Basically a large, angry hyena with hooves. You don't want to mess with it.

4. Wolpertinger

Source: ObeyTheKiwi

So, remember that Jackolope with purple eyes from Disney? The one that taught us that boudin' was the way to happiness? Well, the wolpertinger is like that guy. Except it's the size of a hare and has fangs and wings. While the above picture makes it look adorable, being attacked by a real-life one would probably scare the daylights out of even the bravest warrior.  I feel that this is what the characters in Watership Down would have looked like if Lewis Carrol had penned the story.

5. Chupacabra

Source: LuxDani
The name means "goat sucker," since this animal from North America is said to suck the blood of various livestock, especially goats. It has scaly greenish skin with spikes running along its spine and/or tail. It's actually considered a cryptic (a creature that may or may not exist), as Puerto Rico had a problem with their livestock being drained of all their blood via puncture wounds. Some were convinced it was the chupacabra, while others thought it was a local satanic cult performing rituals. Either way, they'd make great lapdogs for your villains.

6. Karkadann

If you need a creature for a desert, this is it. From Persia, Karkadanns are similar to rhinoceroses: they are large, scaly, have a horn on their nose (though sometimes it can sit higher on their head and varies in length and curve), and dewlap about the chest. Their horns are said to have have healing power, but they are highly agressive, so good luck if you need that horn for some kind of spell. 

7. Kirin

Source: Jill Johansen

It comes from East Asia, the spelling and look of the creature varying from country to country. Some call it the Asian Unicorn, though it can have antlers rather than a single horn. It is a hoofed, deer-like creature that usually has both scales and fur. It is sometimes depicted as being covered in flame, which is awesome. Fantasy 101: Never pass up using an animal that can cover itself in flame.

8. Camazotz 

Okay, so, this one is technically not an animal. It's a bat god from Maya mythology. But I thought the concept was interesting, so I'm including it here: He's a man-sized bat who drinks the blood of his enemies. I'm pretty sure this is what Batman would reincarnate as, supposing he dies. But he would never die. Because he's Batman.

Yes, I may have included Camazotz here solely for the purpose of saying that. I'm not even sorry. 

9. Hippocampus 

You've probably already heard of this one, but, outside of the Percy Jackson series, it doesn't really get written into stories. Which is sad. Just look at how amazing it is. 

Those are just some of the more interesting ones I've come across. There are a plethora of humanoid creatures I haven't included here. I also had to exclude these excellent ones to keep this post from running long: Manticore, selkie, wendigo, nian, and wyvern.

Which of these is your favorite? I hope this provided you with some inspiration (and my apologies for any plot bunnies...or wolpertingers). What kind of mythical animals do you use in your stories? I'd love to hear what awesome creatures you have in your fictional worlds. Please leave a comment below and tell me about them!

Related articles:
9 Different Descriptive Settings to Use In Your Fantasy Novel (Without Using Forests)
8 Tips to Improve Your Descriptive Writing
7 Tips for Choosing Your Character's Appearance

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31 comments:

  1. Great article! I usually don't use a lot of mythical creatures when I write, but this gave me some inspiration. An aunt of mine used to have a dog nicknamed Chupacabra, she definitely was a good lapdog for a villain ;)

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    1. This is a really late response, but I have to say: This comment made me laugh. Give your Aunt a high five from me. =D Naming a dog Chupacabra is hilarious. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Hi, Hannah! I've been looking for a blog like yours for, like, ever. You know, something that is actually worth subscribing to. Which yours definitely is. I love your sense of humor, and everything you post is just so interesting! Thank you! :D
    I'm currently working on a fantasy novel - well, more like a fairy tale twist. But the main magical creature I have is called a "Formwandler" (German for shape shifter, which I thought was pretty clever of me...) But anyway, this creature can switch from human form to a certain type of animal form. When in human form, they are dressed in all black (kinda like Batman, haha, though of course it's different). Their territory is the forest, and their HQ is a huge underground maze of tunnels. They're the villains, and they're known for their sneer.

    (visit my blog at thecheapskatebibliomaniac.blogspot.com!)

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    1. Thank you so much, Delilah! I love blogging, so it makes me happy to know that you enjoy reading my posts.

      Formwandlers sound awesome! And not just because they're a bit like Batman. =D Keep up the amazing writing and thank you for the cool comment!

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  3. I was just researching Perytons yesterday. I had never heard of them before, but I found some really interesting mythology behind them. A Peryton's shadow is actually a human shadow until they kill a human. Once a Peryton kills a human, its shadow reverts to the proper shadow for its shape. I had so many questions about the story; I think the myth could be really interesting to explore.
    However, my personal favorite mythological creature is a selkie. I have always loved the idea of them swimming and taking off their skins. (I am also secretly convinced that my little sister is a selkie and my parents stole her and hid her skin. Not only is she really pretty and her personality is right, but when she was little, her laugh sounded like a seal, so much that we actually have a video of her laughing on a beach, and a seal keeps answering her and coming closer.)

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    1. This is SO CUTE ��

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    2. Aww. Your story about your sister made me smile.

      That is so neat about the Perytons! I would love to do more research on that topic. I feel story ideas brewing. =D Thank you so much for the fascinating comment!

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  4. YASSSSS!!! As a mythology-lover and fantasy writer, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for introducing me to some of my new favorite mythological creatures. >v<

    I'm gonna need to draw some of these. o-o

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    1. *gasps* I know this is a late response, but: If you do end up drawing them, I'd love to see your pictures! I can't draw to save my life, so I love seeing other people's work.

      I'm so glad you found some new mythological animals to love. There are so many cool ones out there!

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  5. Perytons are really cool. I'm surprised I've never heard of them before. If I include mythical creatures in my story, I'm thinking about using it and the Chupacabra. They would both fit really well.

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    1. I would LOVE to read a story that has these two creatures.

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  6. This is an awesome blog! Now I have a few more magical creatures on my list to add to my fantasy world. Thanks, Hannah!

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    1. My pleasure, Deborah! I had so much fun putting this post together. =D Have fun building your fantasy world! That is one of my favorite parts about writing fantasy.

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  7. Oh my, this is such a great collection! I am and always have been fascinated by wild beasts, real and mythical, and I loved your focus on the less popular ones. I'm certainly going to use some of these in the future. I was wondering, however, if I can list this post as my inspiration in my upcoming blog post about rare mythical creatures. I'll probably be listing the ones you mentioned as well as many others. Is that okay to reference you or should I just keep it separate?

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    1. Yikes. I'm SO sorry for the late response, Beth! It's probably too late, but: You can absolutely reference this post! If you do put together a post (or already have), I'd love to read it!

      Again, I'm so sorry for not responding earlier. I just realized today that I hadn't seen any comments come through on this post. So I check and lo and behold! Here they all were. I didn't get any notifications for some odd reason. =] My bad!

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  8. Nice collection here! I just stumbled on the Hippocampus. Whenever I read that word I think of brains, emotions and memory because well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus

    I guess my favourite mythical creature is the phoenix though I haven't written much about any creatures yet. I'm not really a pet person....

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    1. I always think of the exact same thing when I think of the Hippocampus. I think that could make a really cool story. =)

      I also am not a pet person. Too messy. But I like them in my stories. I don't have to get dirty when I handle them. =D

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  9. I'd just like to add another extremely underused and terrifying mythological creature known as the Nucklavee. This thing is absolutely horrifying, and I can't even find the words to describe it. The only thing I can say is that if the Horsemen of the Apocalypse look like this, then we should be glad there are less films about the End Times.

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    1. So, I just looked up the Nucklavee. And WOW. You are right. I think I would swear off end time films if that's what the Horsemen of the Apocalypse looked like. =D

      Thank you so much for sharing!

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  10. Quite the collection of horror and fantasy here! Very nice. As much as we all love dragons, it's probably a good thing to branch out more with our mystical beasties. Also I love that you drew a few from Persian and Greek mythology.

    A personal recommendation: the wendigo. Scares the living daylights out of me. A version of it exists in the world of my novel, and it's featured in one of my short stories. Truly a creature of nightmare.

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    1. YES! The wendigo! Thank you so much for adding that. Those are scary and so, so interesting.

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  11. This is a great list (so glad to see Perytons on here!), and after reading the comments I felt like adding my own personal faves:
    The Roc, which is a giant bird from Middle Eastern mythology that's big and strong enough to carry off fully grown elephants.
    The Kelpie from Scottish folklore is a water spirit that takes the form of a dripping wet horse, sometimes wearing a bridle and saddle. When people touch it or get onto it's back thinking it's a lost horse, they become stuck it it and it bolts straight for the nearest deep river or lake to drown it's prey in. Wikipedia also states that it's capable of shapeshifting into a human form, but I've never heard of that.
    Another favourite of mine is the Thunderbird, but given how it's related to Native American religion I'm hesitant to use it as a fictional creature to decorate a story.

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    1. All great ones! Thank you so much for sharing!

      I wouldn't be too worried about using the Thunderbird. Many books pull inspiriation from religious stories or symbols. Most of the time people just think it's awesome. I know I do.

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  12. Hello!
    I saw this on Pinterest and am so happy I did. First, I like your blue hair in your profile picture. Second, your writing has a lovely voice. It was fun to read this post, and I'm surprised more writers haven't used these beautiful creatures. I hope I'll be able incorporate them in a novel I'm working on, and I really hope yours gets published. Kudos!

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    1. Hi Adelia! So sorry for the late comment, but: Thank you so much! Both for the hair compliment and the writing voice compliment. =D Put a massive smile on my face. Thank you for making my day!

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  13. This was so helpful! I admit, I wish there were more, because the ones I look up are really creepy.

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    1. Yeah, some of them are very odd and would be hard to work into stories. I spent hours finding ones that I thought were cool and not super bizarre and horrifying. Though I may do a post on those, too, just for fun. =D

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  14. I'm like Adelia. I found you on Pinterest! :) I'm writing a fantasy, actually, and have made up a mythical creature, whose name I won't share just yet, as I'm still trying to work out all the logistics of it. Actually, the Peryton would make a pretty good substitute, but I think I'll keep on working on mine, to see what I can invent. Naturally, there's a dragon (and the heroine isn't sure if it's friend or foe), plus lots of other creatures. (Of course, what I should be writing is the rewrite for the romantic suspense novel my editor is expecting, but the fantasy is something I've been working on intermittently, and added 50k to during the latest round of NaNoWriMo. I'm thinking I need to do a story arc, and it may turn into a trilogy! When I get stuck in the rewrite for the RS, I think about the fantasy.)

    Love this article!!! Thank you so much for sharing it!

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    1. Go you, making up your own fantasy creatures! That is so cool. I love the concept of a dragon who is in the grey zone of friend and enemy.

      Thank you for the fun comment! Best of luck on that fantasy novel!

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  15. I've had writers block since December 2016 and I think I'll use some of the animals in my story to make it more interresting. Thanks

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  16. Fun list! Thanks for sharing this--some excellent beasts on here I hadn't heard about before. When I think of Enfield, I think of the rifle, so now I have this silly image of a sniper fox in my head. ;)

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