1. The Strong Toad
This toad distinguishes itself from other toads in that its back is covered in a turtle shell. This toad gets its name from being so tough that the only thing that can possibly kill it is to reduce it to ashes. Oh and it glows in the dark. Even scarier? It has a stare so powerful it can attract or repel whatever it pleases.
3. The Catoblepas
‘Catoblepas’, translated from Greek, means ‘to look downward.’ According to Pliny, this creature can be found within Ethiopia, near the Nile. It is an almost comedically tragic figure; it has the body of a black buffalo with a boar’s head so heavy it tilts over. Pliny states, “were it not for this circumstance, it would prove the destruction of the human race; for all who behold its eyes, fall dead upon the spot”. His eyelids trap in his only defense, his death gaze, and so he is left acutely aware of his potential but unable to live up to it.
5. The Amphisbaena
The Amphisbaena, meaning “that which goes in two directions” in Greek, is a serpent with two heads. Both heads can bite and harbor “eyes that gleam like live coals.”
It is thought that ants serve and nourish it and if it were ever to be cut into two pieces, the two parts would join back together again.
6. The Three-Legged Ass
An encyclopedic work called the “Bundahish” describes a creature, most likely a donkey (although a human ass is more fun to envision) standing “amid the wide-formed ocean, and that its feet are three, its eyes six, its mouths nine, its ears two, and its horn one.” Each mouth is the size of a cottage, each foot is big enough for a flock of sheep to sleep in, each ear the size of Persia’s northern province, Mazandaran.
Also, it shits amber. So that’s kind of amazing.
7. The Carbuncle
The name “carbuncle” comes from the Latin word “carbunculus” meaning “little coal” or ruby. In 16th Century South America, Spanish conquistadors saw a mysterious animal-“mysterious because no one ever saw it well enough to know whether it was a bird or a mammal, whether it had feathers or fur”.
Martin del barco Centenera, a poet-priest, claimed he saw it in paraguay and described it as a “smallish animal, with a shining mirror on it’s head, like a glowing coal…”
Sounds kind of like a Rudolf who refuses to be anyone’s bitch.
8. The Crossbreed
This half lamb, half cat, imagined by Kafka is a peculiar beast. It’s feline qualities can be seen in the head and claws, the lamb in its size and shape. At home, it’s cat tendencies play out by way of curling up in a ball, in the perfect sunbeam and purring. Out in a meadow, it rushes about so swiftly it is almost mad and cannot be caught. It does not like rats but cannot be bothered with them: “beside the hen-coop it can lie for hours in ambush, but it has never yet seized an opportunity for murder”.
There is only one of these animals and Kafka is its only owner. Within this animal, Kafka sees his only legacy within it and possets: “Had this cat, along with the soul of a lamb, the ambitions of a human being?”
9. The Celestial Cock
According to Chinese tradition, the Celestial Cock, or Bird of Dawn, is a bird with golden feathers. It crows thrice daily: once in the morning as it takes its bath in the ocean, shaking the whole world awake; second, when the sun reaches it’s zenith; third when the sun sets in the west. More unusual than it’s strong voice and three legs, it lays eggs that hatch red-combed chicks who do the cock’s bidding.
The ancestor to all roosters, his nest is in the Fu-snag tree which rises hundreds of miles up.
10. The Hsing-Tien
Probably the inspiration for Krumm on “AAAHH Real Monsters”, this creature is a notable deity of Chinese mythology, who, losing a fight for supremacy was beheaded. Despite this minor set-back, he continues to fight, with his nipples as eyes and his belly button as a mouth. Terrifying and impressive.
11. The Ink Monkey
This is a Northern animal imagined by Wang Tai-hai. It is about 4-5 inches long with hair as soft as a pillow. It’s favorite food is thick China ink; it loves it so much that it awaits writers to finish their pages so it can drink the remainder of their ink. When it’s done, it squats back down and does not fidget, most likely awaiting the next writer to finish their work.
12. The Bird That Makes the Rain
Also known as “Shang Yang”, Chinese farmers called upon this bird in ancient times to bring rain. Having only a single leg, the bird inspired children to hop on one leg, wrinkle their foreheads, and exclaim, “It will soon rain, for Shang Yang is frolicking in the yard!”
Legend has it that a Shang Yang came before Prince Ch’i and flapped his wings and hopped on his one foot with such ferocity that it alarmed the prince. A royal minister was then sent to consult with Confucius, who predicted the Shang Yang would cause flooding throughout the land. Dikes and canals were built immediately, a precaution that averted many disasters.
13. The Buraq
The Buraq’s name means ‘the shining one’. Indian Muslims portray this creature with the head of a man, the ears of a donkey, the body of a horse, and, best of all, the wings and tail of a peacock. This creature is taken to symbolize ‘divine love’ and purity of intention’.
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