Cryptozoology is the study of creatures whose existence is rumoured but unproven. How brilliant is that?
“Were unicorns real?”
Many creatures we consider mythical were either real or inspired by real creatures. Here are five examples:
Dragons are the ultimate fantasy monster. They fly, breath fire and are imbedded in pop culture. The strange thing about dragons is that they appear in every culture across the globe during the same time period. The typical European dragon has four legs, a soft underbelly and wings. In eastern culture dragons are more like serpents with no arms or legs but do have the ability to fly. Although these creatures are different in appearance they have both been referred to as dragons, perhaps they were a different breed of dragon? This raises the question were dragons real? Were dragons around in prehistoric times, grappling with pterodactyls and flying across the continents?
There is a link between dragons and dinosaurs, a case of mistaken identity. When skeletons of whales would wash up on beaches or a dinosaur fossil was discovered it would be mistaken as a deceased dragon. The stories created about these monsters would grow in each retelling and be heavily inspired by religion, for example dragons were portrayed as evil creatures because they could breath fire and fire is linked to hell. Crocodiles, from the River Nile in Egypt, could be found further across the globe than in the modern day. They were often mistaken as young dragons resting on the river banks or laying in wait in the water.
2) Sirens and Banshees
Sirens and Banshees are similar creatures. They are both beautiful woman who attract their victims with songs. Banshees are infamous for shrieking and their songs foretell a death close in the future normally that of the listener while sirens physically kill their prey or use their songs to lure sailers into crashing their ships. Sirens can be found across the globe while Banshees are typically found in Ireland.
Sailors were very superstitious, the rumours of beautiful women at sea, when the crew sometimes travelled months without seeing a woman, were common. A particular infamous siren called Lorelei lived on Rhine River Rock in Germany. Many sailors would report hearing a beautiful song as they passed the area which was also a notorious spot for shipwrecks. When these reports continued into the 20th century the authorities launched an investigation. The sounds of the river current combined with the noise of a nearby waterfall bouncing off the sides of Lorelei’s rock and the wind, created an echoing effect that sounded like a woman singing. These currents made passing vessels difficult to control further cementing the myth.
Many Irish funerals were attended by keeners, ladies who would sing a sad song for the fallen. The richer the family was the more keeners they would hire. Keeners fell out of fashion when Ireland converted to Catholicism but the idea of keeners and their mournful songs remained in Irish folklore and evolved into banshees.
A cyclops was a one eyed giant that would terrorise humans. The most famous cyclops is Polyphemus who featured in Homer’s The Odyssey. Odysseus had been cursed by the gods and his return voyage from the siege of Troy took him ten years to complete and involved various misadventures. In one of these misadventures Odysseus sought shelter on an island and discovered Polyphemus’ cave. He was feasting on the Cyclops’ food when Polyphemus returned and captured Odysseus and his crew, vowing to eat the sailers one by one. The Greeks escaped the lair by telling Polyphemus that Odysseus’ name was No-Wun, blinding Polyphemus with a stake and hiding themselves under the cyclops’ flock of sheep. When the other cyclops came to Polyphemus’ aid they asked who had blinded him. Polyphemus cried “No Wun, No Wun has blinded me.” Unfortunately for Odysseus’ crew as they sailed away from the island, Odysseus taunted Polyphemus and told the monster his real name. Polyphemus used the sound of Odysseus’ voice to locate his ships and throw boulders at the fleet, sinking one ship. Polyphemus then prayed to his Father, Poseidon God of the seas who further cursed Odysseus.
The skull of an Elephant looks very similar to what the skull of an cyclops would look like. The socket where the trunk would have been would easily have been mistaken for an eye socket and the size of the skeleton would have indicated a giant monster. Interestingly in the original text Homer never says that Polyphemus was a Cyclops. When the blinding scene occurs the author mentions eyebrows suggesting that Polyphemus had two eyes. It was during the various retellings Polyphemus became a one eyed monster.
4) The Kraken
The Kraken is a giant sea octopus whose existence has been reported back as early as the thirteenth century. The Kraken was said to destroy ships at sea by wrapping its tentacles around and then crushing them. Overtime the powers of the beast grew, when it submerged itself under water it would create a whirlpool, when it attacked it would summon green fog to confuse its prey and instead of staying in the waters around Iceland and Greenland The Kraken became a globe trotter. It has been the subject of many novels plays and poems, most recently been popularised in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. In the second pirates film Dead Man’s Chest the Kraken destroys Captain Jack Sparrow’s ship The Black Pearl and in the third Pirates film the Kraken’s corpse is discovered by the cast of characters washed up on a beach.
The scene above isn’t completely fictional. Giant squid and octopuses have washed up on beaches before. In May of this year (2017 at time of writing) a creature said to be a Giant Squid washed up on a beach in Indonesia. Scientists and Marine Biologists suggest it had been dead at least three days before washing up. In another recent example a twenty two foot squid washed up in New Zealand.
The problem faced by researchers is that these creatures live too deep in the ocean and we don’t have the technology to reach that level of depth and pressure. This clip is said to be the only video of a Giant Squid in its natural habitat.
Is the Kraken real? Maybe but probably not in the size we expect it to be. A better question would be, what the killed these giant squid! To quote Jedi Master Qui Gon Jin
Western culture seems obsessed with unicorns. They’re the symbol of purity, grace, peace and love. They even appear on Royal coat of arms of Scotland. We’re not the only ones obsessed with these creatures. Unicorns are mentioned in the bible, recorded by the Ancient Greeks and depicted on seals that date back to the Bronze Age.
Were unicorns real? Actually there is a good chance there were real but they would have been known by different names. First of all, there are several single horned creatures such as the Oryx, the Eland and most notably the Rhinoceros share similarities to the Unicorn. The horn of a Narwhale is also said to have had healing properties and been mistaken for a unicorn’s horn. As these creatures died out they stories about them were passed on until they were mistaken for a single creature.
To reiterate were unicorns real? Yeah… probably.
Thank you for reading. Do you believe that any of these creatures existed or know of the origins of any other magical creatures? Let me know in the comments below or on social media. Please don’t forget to like this post, share and subscribe if you haven’t done so already to help my website grow.
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