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Mythological Creatures: A List Without Dragons

Fantasy has a longstanding relationship with dragons, reaching as far back as ancient Mesopotamian art and literature and as recent as Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa and House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess, both released this year. But there are other fantastic mythological creatures just as fearsome and powerful as dragons. Here is a list of my top six.

Nue, Japan

This creature is a combination of many—a chimera whose features resemble a head of a monkey, the body of a tanuki, the tail of a snake, and the limbs of a tiger. It’s a yokai—a spirit—and its arrival also comes with a storm of black clouds. Think about that the next time your characters are traversing the countryside and see a storm brewing on the horizon. The nue would be an amazing sight to see for sure, and terrifying too!

Nue by BangBooDoragon

Santelmo, Philippines

A fire-creature from the Philippines, Santelmo is sometimes called St. Elmo’s Fire and is known by sailors. The story goes like this: a man drowned near a water source and his spirit grew lost and became a ball of fire; sometimes this ball of fire spirit makes sailors and crews get lost as well. It’s seen on the ocean and rivers, swamps, and fields. What if your character saw a bouncing blue light in the distance across the water? Would they follow it and get lost as well?

Will-o-the-wisp by rob-powell

Inkanyamba, South Africa

This South African mythological creature is a huge serpent-like animal in the legends of the Zulu and Xhosa people. The animal is carnivorous, has a finned mane and giant flippers, and can even control the weather. It has a fiery temper, too, and that temper causes the storms where it lives. Their moods and ability to control the weather have become so interlinked that some people even call them “rain animals.” If your characters encounter a flash storm during the summer months, make sure they look for the Inkanyamba.

Inkanyamba by Valentina-Paz

Roc, India

This giant bird of prey was so powerful it could snatch elephants right off the pathway. Their wings were so wide it was said they could blot out a mountain, and usually they flew their victims to great heights and then dropped them to their dooms. It’s a popular myth with merchants and traveling parties, so perhaps one of your characters could be fearful of them. Always looking at the sky and leaping at shadows that cross their path.

Roc by Plainoasis

Griffin, Middle East

The Griffin is a pretty well-known mythological beast with its origins in the Middle East. The creature has the front half of a bird and the back half of a lion. They loved gold, and it was said they even made their nests with it! There were also stories of their feathers and claws being magical. Are your characters climbing a mountainside? Perhaps they could stumble upon a griffin’s lair.

Griffin by Woari

Amarok, Inuit

A giant monstrous wolf who hunts alone and stalks its pray. Its fangs are often the first thing seen before it kills. In some stories this creature is just a simple wolf, but in other stories this creature is massive spirit of a wolf. Traveling on a dark, snowy evening, your characters would be terrified to meet one of these colossal wolves.

Amarok by tohdraws

See? And those are only six of the fantastical fantasy creatures you could feature in your stories. There are many, many others in all the cultures from around the world, so make sure to pull from these great sources of inspiration for your next book. As fantasy nerds, we all know dragons are great, but it’s also important to feature these other beasts. When your characters are wandering their world, have them stumble upon a creature of a different color.

Title image by Linus Sandvide.

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One Comment

  1. Avatar Ed Basquill says:

    Interesting article, thank you for sharing. I don’t have a real website yet, although I am thinking of starting one. I did share a link to a short story I submitted on reedsy I thought you might enjoy that relates to non-dragon beasts. Other beasts you might consider if you ever do a follow-up: The Jersey Devil, and of course the one from my story 🙂

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