Legendary creature  

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"The only imaginary being, resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan; and Prometheus is, in my judgment, a more poetical character than Satan, because, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandisement, which, in the hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest."--Prometheus Unbound (1820) by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Stryge (1853) is a print by French etcher Charles Méryon depicting one of the chimera of the Galerie des chimères of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.
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Stryge (1853) is a print by French etcher Charles Méryon depicting one of the chimera of the Galerie des chimères of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.
True and False Griffins from John Ruskin's Modern Painters (Part IV. Of Many Things), first published in 1856.
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True and False Griffins from John Ruskin's Modern Painters (Part IV. Of Many Things), first published in 1856.

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A legendary creature (also known as a mythological, mythic or fabulous creature) is a supernatural animal or paranormal entity, generally a hybrid, sometimes part human (such as sirens), whose existence has not or cannot be proven and that is described in folklore (including myths and legends), but also may be featured in historical accounts before modernity.

In the classical era, monstrous creatures such as the Cyclops and the Minotaur appear in heroic tales for the protagonist to destroy. Other creatures, such as the unicorn, were claimed in accounts of natural history by various scholars of antiquity. Some legendary creatures have their origin in traditional mythology and were believed to be real creatures, for example dragons, griffins, and unicorns. Others were based on real encounters, originating in garbled accounts of travelers' tales, such as the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, which supposedly grew tethered to the earth.

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Origin

Some mythical creatures have their origin in traditional mythology and have been believed to be real creatures, for example the dragon, the unicorn, and griffin. Others were based on real encounters, originating in garbled accounts of travelers' tales, such as the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, which supposedly grew tethered to the earth (and was actually a type of fern), or the Sukotyro, a elephant- and ox-like quadruped from Java, included in George Shaw's Zoology based on just one sighting in 1563.

Conversely, some creatures downplayed as just storytelling, have been rediscovered and found to be real in recent times, such as the Giant Squid (the Kraken). In Africa, Natives of the Congo told European visitors of an animal that looked like a cross between a zebra and a giraffe. While the visitors assumed the stories were just folk tales, in 1901, Sir Harry Johnston brought back pelts that proved the creature, which we now call the okapi, is real.

Hybrids

mythological hybrid

Often mythical creatures are hybrids, a combination of two or more animals. For example, a centaur is a combination of a man and horse, the minotaur of a man and bull, and the mermaid, half woman and half fish. These were not always intended to be understood as literal juxtapositions of parts from disparate species. Lacking a common morphological vocabulary, classical and medieval scholars and travelers would attempt to describe unusual animals by comparing them point-for-point with familiar: the giraffe, for example, was called camelopard, and thought of as a creature half-camel, and half-leopard. The leopard itself was so named as it was historically believed to be a half-lion (Latin: "leo") and half-panther (Latin: "pardus"). This etymology has been kept until the present day, despite its zoological inaccuracies.

Modern creatures

Other legendary creatures are thought to exist even today, but evidence is lacking. Famous examples are chupacabras, Bigfoot, Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, and space aliens. These are called cryptids by cryptozoologists.

Cultural influence

In medieval bestiaries, legendary creatures are listed together with real animals. Throughout history legendary creatures have been incorporated into heraldry and architectural decoration.

Many legendary creatures appear prominently in fantasy fiction. These creatures are often claimed to have supernatural powers or knowledge or to guard some object of great value, which becomes critical to the plot of the story in which it is found. Dragons, for instance, are commonly depicted as perched on a gleaming hoard of gold which becomes the target of adventurers.

Legendary creatures have also been accepted into many facets of popular culture, most notably in fantasy role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, video games, and Hollywood movies.

See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Legendary creature" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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