Off The Map: Medieval Monsters and Dark Age terrors.

Between the calligraphy of medieval manuscripts lurks a whole host of illuminated creatures and beasts that would have given any book (in particular a copy of Pliny the Elder's Natural History) owner the heebie jeebies as they were all believed to exist.

Here are just a few of the creatures that were embedded both on page and mind in the medieval era:


Originating from Persian myth, the manticore is a terrifying creature known for using it’s scorpion tail to paralyse and kill victims before devouring them whole. Medieval texts depict a manticore as being composed of several different animals. The most popular depiction being a creature with a human head with three rows of shark-like teeth, the body of a lion and bat’s wings. The manticore regularly featured upon medieval heraldry.

Blemmyes and Headless men

With all their facial features in their chest you might think these guys were going to be a rather monstrous bunch but that was not always the case… The Blemmyes, a famous tribe of headless men who lived in Ancient Nubia, Kush or Sudan, were described by Greek Geographer Strabo as a peaceful people. Although they did help a neighbouring king battle against the Roman emperor Septimus Severus in 197AD.

Headless men were genuinely believed to roam around all the uninhabited parts of the world throughout the medieval era and onto the 1500’s. Explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh confirmed their existence his work, Discovery of Guiana and Shakespeare gives them a mention in The Tempest.


The Cynocephali were reported to have the body of a human and the head of a dog or a Jackal. Medieval writer Paul the Deacon reported in his work, The History of the Lombards, that the Lombards conjured a plan to spread the rumour amongst their enemy that they had Cynocephali in their camp who "wage war obstinately, drink human blood and quaff their own gore if they cannot reach the foe.“ As late as the high/late medieval period Italian explorer, Marco Polo records spotting them on his travels.


Sciopods translates into English as the ‘shaded foot ones’ as this one footed race were reported to use their singular foot to shade themselves from the sun. Medieval writer, Isidore of Seville reported that the Sciopods inhabited Ethiopia and strangely, despite their lack of feet, they were 'wonderfully speedy’.


The Myrmecoleon was believed to be either the offspring of a Lion and a ant or 'The Lion of Ants’. The latter theory describes some form of super ant or creature that lives in the dust and kills off smaller ants. While the former (and more bizarre theory) depicts the Myrmecoleon as a tragic hybrid who having the face of a lion but the body of an ant eats meat but can only digest grain so it ends up starving. 

Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7



The big-headed TurtlePlatysternon megacephalum (1831)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Testudines
Suborder : Cryptodira
Family : Plastysternidae
Genus : Platysternon
Species : P. megacephalum
Subspecies : P.m. megacephalum, P.m. peguense, P.m. shiui

  • Endangered
  • 20 cm long (size)
  • Southeastern Asia (map)

The big-headed turtle is known to readily climb over obstacles in and around rivers and fast streams, using its tail as a prop to extend the reach of its strong claws; it also uses its beak to assist in climbing. It has been reported to climb trees and bushes. It is not a strong swimmer, and when swimming, this species occasionally arches its tail in the manner of a scorpion. The big-headed turtle cannot pull its head in its shell. That being the case, it will not hesitate to use its powerful jaws to defend itself. It is a fish and snail eater.

The big-headed turtle is readily consumed in Asia and is frequently a market item. Hunters capture them on lines with baited straight pins, so this species is rapidly disappearing in the wild.


Gigi with bangs and short hair is a double win (for me at least). Aside from the severe case of glue head anyway. I could tell seeing her inside the box she had issues and the heat from the mailbox didn’t help at all lol. Her neck anchor was encased in the gunk so getting her head off was a tad rough but nothing broke thankfully. All the white-ish junk on top of my little baggie there belonged to Gigi :T. After I cleaned her up a bit and trimmed her hair I finished taking photos. Her dress is pretty interesting and the sides of her glasses look like scorpion tails <3. Her shoes are neat too but I had to add something to balance out all the blue so I gave her new scare-mester Gigi’s belt to match her lips.