Fantasy stories are great for kindling the imagination. They’re full of shimmering, shining beasts that seem too crazy to be real, and generally they are. In a lot of cases, however, these fantasy animals got their start from well-known, real-world mythological monsters.
Here are some of the weirdest ones that would be right at home in a movie or novel.
1. The Chimera
The Greeks loved to create mythological monsters. There’s entire bestiaries full of them, and because of their connection to our current Western media, the Chimera is one of the most well-known creatures on this list.
Made up of multiple animals parts that were slapped together—including the head of a goat and the body of a lion—the Chimera was depicted as a fire-breathing demon that first appeared in Homer’s Iliad. It was usually depicted as being female.
2. The Nuckelavee
One thing you’ll see a lot of in real-world mythology is horse hybrids or horse demons. You’ll see horses with wings or flippers, or horses who eat humans. The Orcadian Nuckelavee is part of this collection.
With poisonous breath that can kill anything that has the misfortune of standing in front of it, the Nuckelavee is born at sea and unable to stand fresh water. Descriptions of its appearance are spotty, but it’s consistently said to have a human torso sprouting out of its back. It also has arms that are so long the hands can touch the ground on either side of it.
3. The Manananggal
There are some utterly bizarre creatures that come from real-world mythology, and one of the scariest is the Manananggal, which hails from the Philippines.
A man-eating creature with giant bat wings, the Manananggal is known for severing its torso from the rest of its body, its entrails dangling behind it. It does this so it can fly around, and when it’s hunting its lower half stays on the ground where it left it.
4. The Manticore
The Manticore was an ancient mythological creature from Persia. It has bragging rights with one of the coolest “creature names,” too.
With the head of a human, a lion body, and a scorpion tail to complete the package, the Manticore could shoot quills from its tail and had multiple rows of teeth. It loved to eat humans and was definitely not the sort of creature you would want to run into.
5. The Basilisk
When we think of the Basilisk, a lot of us immediately recall the long, dragon-like creature from Harry Potter that lived in the bowels of Hogwarts: the one that turned unfortunate students to stone whenever it got the chance.
However, the Basilisk in its original form has been around for much longer. Funny enough, it was actually supposed to look like a cross between a chicken and a snake: a very tiny snake, but one so poisonous it wilted the grass wherever it slithered. Maybe its lethality was to make up for its small stature.
6. The Centaur
Last on the list, one of the most common creatures that you see in modern fantasy is the centaur. Seriously though, the centaur is really weird when you think about it. What came first: the horse or the human?
Like the Chimera, the centaur comes from Greek mythology. Half man and half equine—with its lower body all animal and the human part sitting on top where the head should be—the Centaur is a common staple in mythological settings. It’s depicted as very intelligent.
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