They’re all here! I took it upon myself to create an illustration of a Mythological creature or character for every letter of the alphabet, trying to span across a multitude of cultures and creature-types. Another thing I wanted to accomplish with this project was to find some the more unusual and/or obscure creatures that don’t get as much representation in artwork. Individual Tumblr Posts with said creatures’ descriptions are below.
Again, I’ll be making this into a small run of books as a way to test the waters. If there’s more demand for a larger run, I’ll definitely be looking into it!
The Harpies are Greek and Roman mythological creatures with the bodies of birds and the heads and torsos of women. They’d often steal food from their victims and would carry evil-doers to the Erinyes (also known as the Furies). While generally now depicted as malevolent, they were described as beautiful creatures in ancient times and not necessarily good or evil; the ugly-faced, ferocious harpies that are prevalent today are a much later development.
Name: Vegetable Lamb, Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, Scythian Lamb, Borometz Area of origin: Various, Medieval origins
The Vegetable Lamb is a legendary Cryptid Zoophyte; an animal that resembles plantlife. It is said to have been found in Central Asia, and has appeared in different texts from a myriad of cultures across time. The myth goes that there was a plant believed to grow sheep as opposed to fruit or other crops. The sheep that would be grown from its stalks were tied to the plant through an umbilical cord cemented in its roots. This would physically prevent the sheep from wandering too far from the plant, but also only allowed them to graze the land surrounding it. When all accessible foliage was eaten, the sheep would die and so would the plant. Apparently the blood of the lamb tasted sweet like honey, though this detail isn’t present in all variations of the myth. Underlying the myth is a real plant which supposedly is the basis for the creature. Cibotium Barometz is a species of tree fern native to areas of China and to the western side of the Malay Peninsula. The plant had a hairy, wool-like covering and a strange grouping of roots that when cut, resembled the shape of a small quadrupedal animal.
Grendel is one of three main antagonists in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf (AD 700-1000), the other two being Grendel’s own mother and the dragon. Grendel’s description varies according to multiple translations of the story, so no depictions of the character seem to look much alike. Grendel is most often depicted as a giant or monster, with many of the same depictions adorning him with barbs on his body. One theory presents the idea that Grendel was not a supernatural monster, but a Viking Berserker of sorts; a giant terrible warrior. Grendel is feared by all but the young warrior Beowulf, who in battle, rips off the beast’s arm. Grendel retreats to his den to die to be avenged by his mother, a monster described as even more ferocious and unstoppable.
The Faun is the Roman counterpart to the Greek Satyr, but they do have their distinct differences. They were rustic forest gods and goddesses associated with enchanted woods and the Greek god Pan. They were half-human, half-goat, and took on more animal-like characteristics than Satyrs did. Originally, Satyrs were more often uglier and hairier with the ears and/or tails of horses and asses. Satyrs are also traditionally more woman-loving than Fauns, more intelligent and scholarly as opposed to the more childlike whimsy and foolishness associated with Fauns. Fauns also had two central leaders; a god named Faunus and a goddess named Fauna.
In contrast to Saint Nicholas who rewards well-behaved kids with gifts, The Krampus is a demonic figure that deals with those who aren’t so nice. Krampus are described as having dark hairy bodies, goat legs, hooves and pointed horns and oddly, a human foot on one leg. In many variations, their sharp pointed tongue may be sticking out, but not in all cases. They carry chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil, and wield a bundle of birch branches to swat children with. They are also often seen with some sort of basket or tub on their back to carry off naughty children who’d promptly be eaten or punished in some way.
Name: Otoroshi, Odoroshi, Keippai Area of Origin: Japan
The Otoroshi is a yokai from Japanese Mythology. With a name possibly derived from the word, Osoroshii, meaning “scary” the Otoroshi are large hunched monsters covered in a thick matted mane of hair, with protruding tusks and large claws. Despite their name and grotesque appearance, they aren’t particularly dangerous unless provoked. The beasts sit upon the tops of Torii, the great gates at every shrine that separate the human world from that of the divine. They are said to be guardians of these shrines, and will crush and/or devour those that bring disrespect to an otherwise holy site and will eat intruders if they pass through.
Name: Wyvern, Wivern Area of Origin: Medieval Europe
Wyverns are legendary winged creatures with a name derived from the Middle English word, Reven, itself derived from the Old-French word, Wivre which comes from the Latin Vipera, meaning Viper, Adder or Asp. Wyverns are very similar to that of the traditional European Dragon, though they only possess two legs as opposed to the usual four. They are generally smaller than Dragons, and while just as ferocious, they lack the grace and intelligence that their superiors usually possess. Also unlike Dragons, Wyverns do not usually have the ability to speak, and cannot breathe fire. However, they are armed with dangerous barbed tails, are sometimes attributed to having a venomous bite, and are for whatever reason, often associated with cold weather. Wyverns are also typically evil in nature, whereas Dragons are more sentient and therefore capable of good. Wyverns are fairly commonplace in heraldry, and as dragons do, seem to represent strength and valor, though not much information on their symbolism has been recorded, as other variations seem to liken the creature to disease and pestilence.
Name: Ziphius, Water-Owl Area of Origin: Medieval Europe
The Ziphius was a colossal sea beast whose face was vaguely reminiscent of an Owl’s. With its name being derived from the Greek word for ‘Swordfish’, Xiphios, the creature had a large, sharp fin on its back that was said to pierce the hulls of ships. This is in addition to its powerful owl-like beak that could do just as much damage. Along with other bizarre monsters and leviathans, the Ziphius seems to have first appeared as an illustrative embellishment on a multitude of European maps, but nevertheless became a myth unto itself with sightings of the creature being reported around the globe. Though its size was likely to have been exaggerated, the monster has its roots in a real-world animal; Cuvier’s Beaked Whale. While the Beaked Whale is much smaller and avoids ships, it is still a very frequently spotted whale and is the only member of the genus Ziphius, presumably named after the legendary creature.
And with this guy, I’ve capped off my Alphabet Bestiary. Will be getting a small run of books made, and will post them here when everything’s all set up!