Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Last week I went over High vs Low Fantasy and through that came to the focus that the definite difference in the two was the world in which the story was created. This week and next, I want to take a look at an element that both have in common.
From huge, winged beasts of the sky, to seductive sirens of the sea, fantasy has a whole host of creature types that really expand on and open their worlds into the realms of the supernatural. While admittedly modest in comparison to the lengthy lists of the interwebs, I have put together a bite-sized sampling of some of the most popular creatures found in fantasy.
Top Creatures of Fantasy
Giant winged beasts covered in scales and best known for breathing fire. Dragons are featured often in works of fantasy. In European works, dragons are usually depicted as evil. They steal young girls and hold them captured along with hoards of gold and treasures. However, in Eastern cultures dragons are viewed as wise, often living hundreds of years and a sort of keeper of history. Because of this view, there are many real-world festivals that are held in their dedication.
Almost every culture the world over has stories of these aquatic creatures. They are traditionally female, at least the upper half is, and transition into fish tails in place of human legs. There are male versions as well. Depending on where the story originates, mermaids can be associated with tragic events, like floods, storms, and shipwrecks. In others, you find a much different tone of benevolence, where they bestow gifts or fall in love with humans.
In all the ages, unicorns are maybe one of the most unchanged creatures of fantasy. Depicted as horses, almost always white, with a single large, spiraling horn that points from its forehead. In the oldest of stories, the unicorn is a wild but beautiful beast that acts as a symbol of purity, which is why it is said only a virgin can capture one.
Reanimated creatures of myth, vampires are undead things. They thrive off human blood and ‘rise’ nightly from coffins. These grave beds usually must be in, or contain, soil native to where they were originally laid to rest. Their appearance can range from pale and grotesque, almost zombie like, to supernaturally beautiful.
In Old English, werwulf translates to man-wolf. These human-wolf hybrids have the ability to shapeshift during full moons. The infliction of this ability is referred to as lycanthropy and even had some involvement during witchcraft trials. This was because the idea that the first werewolf was created from a curse placed on a man by a witch. The more modern belief is that one contracts lycanthropy from the bite of a werewolf, or it can be a gene passed on from werewolf parents.
Next week, we’ll finish out the list with another set of creatures of Fantasy!
If you have a favorite, let us know and it may be featured next week!