J.K Rowling would do this sort of thing way better. In fact, she has a book on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which covers the Harry Potter Lore about some of these.
Still, I thought it would be fun to read up and talk about all the part animal like creatures that often pop up in fiction, legend and, sometimes, even newspaper sightings around us. Fire breathing or gentle, evil or pure, to part human or god, they are awesome!
Here is my list of Fictional Beasts and Where to Find Them –
If you are a Game of Thrones fan you already dream about dragons. From Shrek to Hobbit to Harry Potter to the popular Young Adult Series Eragon, our minds have been ensnared by fire turned to life.
Lizard-like with a forked tongue and scaled armour, Dragons have permeated stories across cultures. The word has a strong connection to serpents. Some have wings. All breathe fire. No wonder it is easy for them to break through geographical barriers.
As a stereotype, a dragon is often the brutish evil guard outside the tower that holds captive the fair maiden. A hero slays this giant beast, wins the girl and a knighthood. All live happily ever after, except the dead dragon. This version of a fire-breathing antagonist comes from the European mythology.
It’s when the European legends fuse with the Chinese myths that dragon characteristics turn more interesting. Because this is where dragons get depicted as wise beings with a wealth of knowledge they preserve through time.
Bound through magic to his human companion, Eragon, by Christopher Paolini, is one such heroic dragon. Theirintelligence is not always for the good. In Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit, Smaug the greedy dragon (the movies aren’t great, but Benedict Cumberbatch who gives voice to Smaug sure is), uses all his wit and ferocity to collect and protect his treasures of gold in his hidden lair.
With the upper torso of man and lower half of a horse, Centaurs are fascinating. They come up often in Greek mythology, where there is much debate on how they came into being.
One of the popular versions and my favourite suggests that Zeus (King of all Gods..Thunder God) created Nephele; a cloud in the image of his wife, Hera (Goddess of Women and Marriage). This trickery was to test Ares’s (Greek God of War) son, who had eyes on Hera. This son, Ixion, failed the test. He ended up fathering Centaurs as a result of his union with the cloud Nephele.
Centaurs are liminal beings having characteristics of multiple races. There are untamed wildness and wisdom in such creatures. Cheiron is one of the famous Centaurs from old legends. He was immortal but got wounded by Hercules (The strong demi god that needs no introduction.. He was the Son of Zeus..). The story goes, that Cheiron was with Prometheus (Another Titan who was imprisoned by Zeus because he had angered him. I could go into details, but you know how these Greek stories are. One leads to another and you realize you might as well write a book if you have to capture all the connections). Hercules wanted to free Prometheus (and Chieron was around there) and Zeus demanded a sacrifice in his place. So, Cheiron volunteered out of goodness and also since he wanted to free himself of the constant pain caused by his earlier physical wounds.
In Harry Potter, Centaurs can see the future by tracking the movements of the stars. They side with Aslan in The Narnia stories. In Artemis Fowl, young adult fantasy series, there is one intelligent Centaur that liked to invent terrible weapons and be a pain to all.
And remember, don’t confuse these creatures with the satyrs of Percy Jackson series, because those come from the Roman mythology and are half human half goat.
Unicorns are elusive woodland creatures. Horse like in most myths (though they can have the body of a goat in some legends) . They have a single horn. Silver or white in colour, with furry tail, graceful torso; these are pure beings.
The thing about Unicorns is that they are hard to catch. They get drawn to virgin maidens (I have no idea why!) and only when they come close there is an opportunity for hunters to capture them. So, they come close out of love and get tricked into captivity.
Remember Noah and his ark? One version of the tale talks about Unicorns. They were too busy playing amongst each other to get onto the ark. So, they didn’t survive the apocalypse. Else, they might have still been around.
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, unicorns have silver blood that has healing properties. Voldemort drank unicorn blood to hang on to life. Not a very smart idea because it is a sin to slay these creatures as they are innocent of all evil.
Have you noticed that the court of arms for many nations have unicorns? It is believed that these are to signify the same pride in freedom as their mythical counterpart.
More magical mythical creatures coming up soon.
Till then, may I tempt you in an adventure to find these fantastic beasts?
Dragon credit Vishakha