Monday, June 7, 2010

From Angels to Zombies

Post by Jenny

Humans have long been fascinated by stories of supernatural creatures. Ancient mythologies, Shakespeare, Gothic literature, and folklore from around the globe are full of them. The vampire fad is nothing new—the female vamp novella Carmilla, first published in 1872, predates the original Dracula by twenty-five years (though its author, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, doesn’t have quite the name recognition of Bram Stoker). Werewolves have been prowling around in some form or other since the ancient Mesopotamian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh, and they’re still hot stuff.

If you’re bored with the current trends in supernatural fiction—from angels to zombies—have heart. There are plenty of lesser-known fantastical beings waiting to hit the big time. Consider the following, culled from one of my favorite reference books, the two-volume Facts on File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend:

· Cluricane (Celtic): A solitary elf who excels at finding hidden treasure, draining wine casks, and riding sheep dogs for fun;
· Dugong (Islam): Herbivorous aquatic man whose tears are believed to be a strong love charm;
· Garboncias (Hungary): A supernatural being, born with all his teeth or extra fingers, who carries a black book and begs for milk;
· Kappa (Japan): A river demon with the body of a tortoise, the limbs of a frog, and the head of a monkey, who can be appeased by cucumbers;
· Krum-ku-dart-boneit (Australia): Evil spirits who wake men at night, take control of their bodies, and force them to hop until they die of exhaustion;
· La Llorona (Mexican/American): The ghostly weeping mother of lost children, with the face of a horse and long, shiny, metallic fingernails;
· Ludki (Serbia): Dwarfs who left Serbia when Christianity arrived because they couldn’t stand the sound of church bells;
· Mora (Slavic): A person possessing two souls, who could often be identified by his/her bushy uni-brow;
· Polong (Malay): A demon “about as big as the first joint of a little finger,” who has a cricket as a pet;
· Seng-don-ma (Tibet): A woman, often with the face of a lion, who stamps out human ignorance;
· Yama-otoko (Japan): Wild men who keep company with human-headed she-wolves; and
· Zupay (Spanish South American): A forest spirit who takes the form of a satyr or handsome young man in order to seduce women.

Okay, so maybe none of these has quite the star potential of a handsome, brooding vampire, but they’d make for some interesting supporting characters. Which one gets your vote?


bfav said...

The celtic one is my fave. Who doesn't want to ride a sheep dog?

Kay said...

Nice reminder that vampires/werewolves aren't the only choices, or elves or dwarves or "tinkerbell fairies".

The folklore sections of most libraries can give you ideas for many different supernaturals. If not the names, at least the attributes and powers.

Eric W. Trant said...

Holy Cripes!

The Mora -- a person with two souls -- is what I was writing about in a novel that I recently put on the back burner to simmer.

- Eric

Jenny S. said...

Hi, b--I guess it depends on where the dog is going :-)

Kay, I've been having a great time reading the myth and folklore books my boys bring home from the library. The children's section can be a great place to start, even for grownups.

Eric, I hope you resurrect your Mora someday! Good luck with your novel.


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